Good morning people! Never have the Monday morning blues overcome me so strongly, damn it. Can every week end with a long weekend please? I much prefer this. Ugh. The only comfort is in the fact that this week is also a short week! God just knew what I could handle and finessed the whole bants for babes to be very honest. Anyway, down to the business of today…
So recently at work and over the long weekend, I seem to have been having a lot of conversations about Nigeria. Maybe it has something to do with our upcoming independence day, our lack of ministerial cabinet, our power supply… Who knows? All I do know is that whenever I have conversations with Nigerians about Nigeria, there seems to be a recurring theme and that is “How Nigerian are you?” You see for some reason, here it is not enough to just be from this our great nation; everything must always somehow devolve into conversation that I personally find tedious. However, I think I’m going to address it anyway because it bugs me and I really don’t understand the notion. So here’s how it usually goes; there are a bunch of people talking, chilling and trading stories sometimes these conversations get heated, especially when it comes to politics and then all of a sudden, one random party in the group decides to declare “You, do you even speak your language?”
That’s supposed to be the trump card. The line that says “If you do not speak your mother tongue then all your opinions on any matter involving Nigeria are invalid.” And I HATE that. I will unashamedly admit that I speak my mother tongue, Yoruba, haltingly at best, just to get that out of the way. However, I promise that is not my reason for hating the statement. For me, it is the undercurrent that it implies that really irks me. There is this unshakeable concept of “otherness” amongst Nigerians that I feel is even sometimes directly displayed in our lack of camaraderie towards one another. Everyone always seems to want to outdo the next person, and not in a competitive way that can then be attributed to producing growth, but in ways that cut each other down. There are Nigerians in the diaspora that have a fear of returning home lest they are labelled “Not-Nigerian-Enough” when really, some of these people speak their languages more fluently than other ciizens who have been in the country all of their lives.
Depending on who I am trying to relate to at the time, I either feel not-Nigerian-enough or too-Nigerian. The constant back and forth of trying to blend in and code-switch is extremely tiring and I know I can’t be the only one to feel this way… Am I? What does my ability to speak a language have to do with my opinions on financial or political matters? When the good people from international companies around the world come and tell us how to run our country, does anyone ask them stupid unrelated questions? The short answer is no. I suppose it’s a lot easier said than done to ask people not to judge a book by its cover, but before you ask someone an insensitive question about their language speaking abilities or upbringing, stop for a second and consider that it is possible you know nothing about the person, their background, their struggles or their accomplishments.
With all the immigration stuff going on and refugees fleeing their countries in droves, I could easily start a conversation on “What exactly is a country?” but we’d leave that for another day. Today I want to hear from you guys, have you ever been accused of being too- or not Nigerian enough? Do you believe there is a continuum on which a persons Nigerian-ness is determined? And how does it affect the way you relate to them?
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