The Nigerian Label in ‘‘Of This Our Country.’’

I read ‘‘Of This Our Country,’’ a collection of stories by acclaimed Nigerian writers on the home, identity and culture they know.

I was drawn to this book immediately from the title. The topic of home and identity are very important to me and it’s been a significant factor to understanding who I am.

This book was a great read because it brought to light notions that surround what it means to be a Nigerian and how Nigerians identify with Nigeria either at the home base or abroad.

Some of my favourite topics highlighted in this book can be found below.

Home Is Rooted In Culture

In ‘’Rites of Passage,’’ by Anietie Isong’, her narrative draws on her experience of going to the village for a burial.

She finds herself feeling connected by understanding the passage rights.

Isong states that ‘’I often avoid unfamiliar social gatherings. But in my hometown, I found myself at ease with large gatherings, interacted freely with the villagers, listened to their stories. I was made to understand that in my hometown, there is no particular day for burying the dead but ensuring a burial does not take place on a market day is key.’’

Isong’s narrative is interesting in that it brings to light how we associate the knowledge of understanding culture to home.

The Nigerian Excellence Out of Shores

In ‘’Nulli Secundus,’’ by Nels Abbey, the author discusses how Nigerians are often deemed very bright and intelligent. How Nigerians achieve great heights but often outside of the country.

The author writes that ‘’Nigerians achieve amazing, globe-beating feats. But there is one issue that I’ve long been bothered by, especially in modern times: why are Nigerians able to walk on water abroad but often struggle to crawl on concrete on home.’’

In the narrative, the author discusses growing up in England and Lagos. How his experience in Nigeria changed from childhood to adulthood due to corruption, poor infrastructure and instability in the education system.

I found it interesting when the author mentioned that in his last visit to Nigeria, he asked a brilliant teenager what he wanted to be when he grows up and he said American or at least British.

The narrative stung me but it made me reflective of my early days in Nigeria. It made me remember my National Youth Corps Service Days (NYSC).

At NYSC camp, when other corps members knew I studied abroad, the rhetoric that followed pertained to ‘‘why did you come back”. Some even said they felt sorry for me for coming back.

I remember speaking to a medical doctor, who I believe his nickname was ‘‘Oxygen.” He told me that he would hope to leave Nigeria. That things are difficult. That even while studying in school, they lacked the necessary facilities and items needed.

As more years passed by, I realised that it’s a common theme for Nigerians to want to leave. They often bemoan the leadership structure, our infrastructure and education.

I’ve had conversations with hairdressers who say that once they make it out of Nigeria, they know that they will excel. Uber drivers tell me that life abroad is better. That one can’t thrive here due to the lack of security from kidnapping and banditry.

I dwell in both sides of the conversation. On the one hand, I would like to be patriotic and hail Nigerians because we are a hardworking and resilient group of people.

On the other hand, it can be difficult to be in Nigeria. I’m grateful to have not experienced what is often being stated in the news from kidnapping and banditry which has become a norm in certain states and areas.

When it comes to the question of Nigerian excellence, I believe that if you find yourself in Nigeria, living a good life in not impossible.

If you find yourself abroad, then of course, you can strive to excel there and live the good life there.

Ultimately, I believe that no one has a perfect life. There are problems in Nigeria. There are problems in America. There are problems in Europe. We can’t escape from problems.

The Education Factor in Nigeria

In ‘’Education as Saviour,’’ by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe, the author writes about the education factor.

How he came from a family that believed in the value of education and how this impacted him and he developed himself as much as he could. He is a lawyer and writer with many degrees.

The writer states that ‘‘my degree has been the avenue to other things: scholarships, graduate degrees in Canada and several employment opportunities. Although I have had to learn many more things through the years, I have often felt that I had a solid foundation to explore the world.’’

I like the fact that the author hails education as creating a pathway to opportunities and how it can help one advance both in Nigeria and abroad.

However, the author also laments the condition of the educational facilities in Nigeria. That he would not be comfortable sending his children to public institutions.

He also laments the nature of insecurity in Nigeria. The kidnapping of children in the northern part of Nigeria.

He writes, ‘‘I reflect now on what parents did without thinking, back in the Eighties: sending children across Nigeria to a boarding school, many kilometres away from home. Education is no longer a saviour for many in Nigeria, it seems.’’

I believe in the power of education to change lives and create opportunities. Yet, the unfortunate reality in Nigeria is that education has been used as a form of threat and targeted for violence. Schools are not safe. This issue must be tackled with.

Final Thoughts

‘’Of this Our Country,’’ was a good read because it brought to light what identity and home means when you associate it with Nigeria.

As for myself, my identity in Nigeria is rooted in my family here. Nigeria means home to me because that is where my immediate family resides with my parents and siblings.

Nigeria is also the place where my nationality is rooted in. When I am in Nigeria, I am in my own country. I’m not in anyone’s land.

Lastly, there are days when I feel a sense of pride in being in Nigeria because I know our people are bright and smart. There are other days when I feel remorse because of the suffering and poverty that is visible.

Ultimately, I pray that the hearts and minds of more Nigerians changes so that we would do what is right and lift our people out of poverty and violence.

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Isioma Ononye

Isioma Ononye

I write about finding yourself, developing your self-esteem, faith, mental health and communications. Email me at isiomaononye@gmail.com I tweet @isiomaononye