I have a declaration (and a further confession) to make and it goes thus “I am an African. I am a Nigerian!”
Now I do not know what image and or feeling the words “African” and “Nigerian” brought to your beautiful minds but I can tell you what thoughts the words “African” and “Nigerian” used to bring to MY mind.
(Usher’s “Confessions” playing in the background)
(Ahem) The words “African” and especially Nigerian used to bring to my mind the image of “A dark skinned, boorish consumer, thick and ungaily in tongue, utterly incapable of being on time, handling opportunities and who finds his entire sense of value in possessions (the bigger and flashier the better)”
You know what happens when you carry this kind of idea in your head? It leads to you either living up to it or instead doing everything that you can to escape it. The latter is often celebrated by many but I wonder are as Nigerians and by extension Africans not operating from the wrong foot? I can only speak for myself but I believe that I have been sold a tub of lies.
WHAT makes my skin color any less beautiful than another? What makes my skin color a thing to be ashamed of. Like literally what makes Black=ugly, dirty?.
WHAT makes my accent something to be ashamed of and done away with fast for the “sophistication” of an English or American accent? WHAT makes my cultural language (in my case Yoruba) something that showcases me as inferior for speaking fluently? You know I have recently found it amusing that a French, Spanish or Greek man speaking English badly is considered to be very sexy but let an African try the English language and his output is considered “thick and repelling to the ears”
WHAT makes my cultural food “local, inferior, Aje-pako*” and foreign meals the food of the elite and “happening?” Where did this spell come from? Where did this conditioning that makes me see everything unique about myself, tribe and nation as something to be eradicated so that I might “blend in”
WHAT makes my name (and African names) difficult and unwieldy to pronounce? There is a friend I have called Uto Mfon. When I first heard I name, the programming of “ugly and unwieldy” kicked in and instead of speaking her name with relish, I instead called her for months by her other name “Precious” When i came to see the foolishness of interpreting African-ness as negative, I stopped with the “Precious” and now refer to her only as “Uto”. I remember the scene from the TV adaptation of the book “ROOTS” where Kunta Kinte was forced to abandon his name under heavy whipping. He was to call himself “Toby” from henceforth (think about that)
WHAT makes me incapable of being on time for events? Who the hell invented “African time”?
WHAT makes me so empty as a Nigerian that I seek worth in material possessions and things outside of myself? (And breed a lot of stealing, killing and destruction as a result)
I don’t know about you dear reader but I personally have been under a spell for a long time now and have been a part (directly AND indirectly) of distorting what it is to be a “Nigerian” and “African” but no more.
No longer will I equate being black, Nigerian and African to being anything less than fullness and utter beauty. I am no longer waiting for Hollywood or anyone else to give me kudos or depict me as I truly am. I am the image and likeness of God. All of me is glorious. If you can’t deal with it well I got 6 words for you: You are on a long thing*
I am waking up. What about you?
* Aje-pako: Literally means “Eat planks” and is a term used to refer to someone who lives a “hard knock life”
*You are on a long thing: You are deceiving yourself