The American Dream is real. Ask Obama. Son of a foreigner today, king of the clan tomorrow. Ask your cousin. Only a month away and in the pictures he sends, he already looks content – the unmistakable glow on his skin, the extra, but cute layer of chubbiness resting on his cheek – something our fufu and the African sun could not achieve in three decades of his life. Check out the ambience of his new environs,newly acquired accent, the hard currency.
But for those of us who are yet to cross over to the other side of Jordan – maybe by choice because we have never felt any form of affinity for any other country, or by the sleight of hand of fate that keeps dealing us unfairly, making one appear before disgruntled Visa officers that thumb their noses in the air and keep denying us entry into the promised land – what is the Nigerian dream? Why do we stay on jobs that neither meet our talents nor stretch our mental sagacity? Why do we crow before the cock does, hitting the road before the crack of dawn and retiring late into the night? Why do we hustle and bustle? There has been a recent rash of suicide spreading around the country and it is saddening to watch people hit rock bottom and give up completely. But I believe there is something to live for. To wake up to. To roll up the sleeves for.
I could sum up the Nigerian dream in three main factors: the pursuit of comfort, the pursuit of respect and the pursuit of affection. It is a common phrase to judge people depending on how “comfortable” they are. Before most chics would go out with a guy for instance, they check how comfortable he is; does he have at least a generator so that heat will not kill the both of you? Does he live in at least one bedroom apartment or is he still squatting, uncomfortably? Does he crouch to sleep or does you have enough space to lie sprawled like a drunk in deep slumber? The Nigerian dream of comfort is your accessibility to running water and constant power supply. Many people looking for new homes are always quick to ask agents, “Do they use to have light and water in that area?”
The pursuit of respect follows quickly because ever since I was a child, I have always heard people blurt out in the middle of heated arguments, “Do you know who I am?” The Nigerian ego is quite brittle and easily bruised. Maybe because of the constant shaming we put ourselves through daily. So there is the struggle to elevate from the primitive level of mere existence and little comfort to respectability. That is why we put in more effort, look for better paying jobs, bootlick our way to promotions so that we can have enough wherewithal to leave the one room apartments into more spacious ones, why we save up for a car to avoid the constant embarrassment of public transport, why we get another scholarly degree and another degree to compete with the thermometer, why we save up for that vacation abroad so that you will not look lost when people start discussing their own vacations, and that is why a large percentage of the population get married. When a man is married, he can humble another woman who dares him with a lash of his tongue by simply saying, “I have someone like you at home who bows to me, whom I feed and clothe comfortably” and the woman can reply, “I don’t blame you; you are talking to me like that because my husband is not here.”
And the third factor is the pursuit of affection. Based on logistics, Nigerians are one of the most prolific people on the face of the earth. Under the sun or in the rain. Recession or no recession. Naming ceremonies and child dedications every week. Why do you think we are the most populous nation of black people? Because after you have attained comfort and respectability, whether you be male or female, something begins to thug at your heartstrings: who do I share the vastness of my kingdom with? Your mother starts to bother you about finding a life partner; you pastor prays for you every Sunday. The pursuit of affection is why Zee World and Eva have a great audience here. We love “love”. And venery too. Many attain affection without matrimony but these are the ones who have drowned the dictates of the Nigerian society that holds matrimony in such lofty regards. These are the ones that do not care for respectability. Who has it really helped?
So if you are thinking of ending it all, standing on the brink of the lagoon, do not be dissuaded yet. You will find comfort, save up enough to buy your own generator, leave your uncle’s house, buy your own car and find your own bae. There is light at the end of the tunnel or better still, jollof rice at the end of the reception.