Now, that Nigeria has become this engulfing bazaar of made-in-china products, a quiet kind of anarchism continues to creep in as rain clouds do, and Nigerians are constantly being threatened by our own government. In these times of national uncertainty, as violence continues to have currency in the land and the government responds with sheer brute force, I think about young people who are fashioned as vessels for these terrifying times to be used by leaders who still believe that our bodies are proof that hate and fear-mongering can take one far. In the early 1950’s, with colonialism at its end, the colonialists employed many approaches to keep the natives under their own control; they had after helped end slavery.
When I think about such times, I’m reminded of my own father who would have been fifty-eight this year, I imagine what it must have been growing up for him in the shadow of colonialism, at the dawn of independence. I suppose as a boy, he was raised with the benign knowledge of Civis Britannicus Sum; that potent notion that under the British Empire they were all one. Speaking a language shared by Shakespeare as a boy growing up in small town southeastern Nigeria, sharing the same education as his peers in London and Sydney and Delhi with the feeling of being completely free. Now that notion was based on falsehood, but the colonialists were clever enough to use a Roman technique of governing that allowed power to only go as far as the administrators under colonial rule, but even after colonial rule this continued and remains in the Nigerian educational system. A false inclusiveness. In my father’s lifetime was the fall of the colonial empire, yet what interests me to still see is that that idea that fueled the many success of that empire; how to wield and keep power against the maligned, is what it seems the Nigeria government uses against its own people.
Living as we do now under these climates of misdirection, the millions of us who are still young in a world that heaps indignities on our personhood: sucking hope out of us, sexualizing us beyond recognition, targeting us as a constituency for consumption causing us to live side by side with ghosts of anger and hunger, of under-employment, of terror. The thing it seems to me to do is to leave home, to reach out into a world that doesn’t take kindly to our pine-green passport. Yet leave as a necessity to dismantle their functionality. Leave because it might mean the only way to see the life that is your own, as you break new frontiers, and denude unfamiliar cultures. So that when you travel whether to South Africa or Russia, when you eat sushi in Japan or feel the warmth of the Caribbean sun, you just may understand the bigness of humanity. When you embrace newness, be it privately or openly, try not to lose your values.
As you plant yourself into new spaces, become a progenitor so that what those that come after you might inherit isn’t the Civis Britannicus Sum, but a different agenda placed forward centuries ago by Publius Terentius Afer; Homo Sum Humani: I am a human being. Let this knowledge run deep in your children and their children, so that when your bones are dry and gone, the knowledge will remain as streams always do; running forward. As much as your fortunes allow, break new frontiers
And as we make giant success and suffer small human indignities in navigating life, we need to listen to pressed wisdom of old. We need to sit still and listen to ancient wisdom. Knowing that in these lie answers that will lift us out of inertia. How were those who had come before us able to not overreach themselves or implode from within? Understanding that there’s a wisdom in your person, same gentle wisdom that is pressed into that black African gem of a song “Children go where I send thee . . . I’m gonna send you twelve by twelve.”
We of the now must ask, the people who appoint and reappoint themselves leaders over us: is what you fear the feeling of powerlessness? How long will this Machiavellian tactic hold the people? Has any empire lasted forever, especially one against its own people?
Maybe things will become worse, and then better. But in the now, I implore you with all deliberate speed to do yourself a great kindness leave home without thinking too much about how you will be received, go to corners of the world where nobody knows your name. You might think that you have nothing, but know that you have youth or at least a youthful spirit and can do everything with that spirit. It would be ingenuous and based on falsehood if we imagine that these will be without tribulations, but rather the real test is whether we have heart; heart enough to know that we will face brutes and bigots but with enough heart we will understand that we rise above them. The real test is whether we have commitment enough, to know that facing the limitations is one thing rising from them is the gallant success. But I implore you to explore, but if you think that the spirit would flourish when it remains in the same accustomed place and nothing can uproot you, remember that there’s really no hiding place down here.
Because I know that whether or not you plant yourself into new earth, new horizons will seek you out and only in answering can we realize that the home we have is the one we carry with us, in our own mind. Sometimes it might be a voice just at the back of our right ear in the cadence of a loved one, other times it might be the people we have left behind; only as we remember them. These too could be home, the knowledge that you never really leave home.
The 19th century lyricist put it right when he (might have been a woman, I’m not really sure about that) said, “There’s no hiding place down here.”