For a Nigerian to feel at home in a foreign land, is to end up in jail, our normalcy is their own insanity, our order, the very meaning of chaos.
Before I came to Lagos in 1985, I had lived my entire life in Ibadan. I went to primary school in the ancient city, and for my secondary school education, it was to my mother’s hometown, Fiditi: the home of fruits. The unsuccessful attempt at A’ Levels was in Oyo town, and the last gasp effort to pass WAEC and thereby avoid my father’s threat of a mechanic workshop apprenticeship, was made in Ile-Ife. I was your archetypal “Arokean bogey”.
I found the Okokomaiko of 1985 not too much of a culture shock. But the madness that I had to negotiate from the drop off point at Ojota, were harrowing experiences for me. At least it was, until I began to embrace the lunacy myself. The love affair with insanity did not come by accident. Yet it did happen by accident. It was at Oyingbo Bus Stop.
The Coaster buses to Okokmaiko had their own dedicated lane at the stop, but it was at the peak hours of the day, and must have been around 7PM. There were at least 20 people for every available seat on the buses. I came from a culture of polite orderliness, and Ibadan buses were rarely ever full. We never rushed like the war that I daily witnessed with perplexity in the badlands into which I had been dispatched in coming to a university in Lagos. I must have missed untold number of buses because of my reluctance to join the melees to enter them, until desperation enabled my factory fitted, and uniquely Nigerian madness.
I was all of 17 years old, and I was seeing aged men, less agile, women, young and old, securing seats in the buses as they filled up and left, and I determined to get with the program as well. A couple of failed tries later, and I was at the door and on the ramp, blocking my path was a wee young babe, I was still busy admiring her elvish beauty, when she shoved me aside, I landed on the concrete tarmac with a few bruises, and a lesson learnt: insanity is the normalcy in this town. Toughen up, or die.
I went back to Ibadan at the end of the semester, a true Lagos boy. Or I had at the least began my journey to becoming one. Everyone and everything seemed too slow when I returned home on holiday. I was convinced that they were all fed something that worked to slow down the day, the people, and just about everything else. The genteel courtesy of the Ibadan road users became extremely irritating, seemingly unnecessary, and time wasting in my view, and I had little patience with the patient courtesies that are part and parcel of the Ibadan way of life. I had become estranged from the land of my youth. Lagos had adopted me, and I had been orphaned by Ibadan.
The normalized insanity that I embraced in my acculturation to Lagos and the frenzied existence that masquerades as “living” in Lagos, has overtaken Nigeria itself. We have become a post apocalyptic society, insanity has been completely normalized to the point where to be sane in Nigeria, is to be truly insane. We have inverted normalcies beyond the point of recognition.
Nigerians are “fantastically corrupt” said David Cameron. The howls of derision and protests that followed his knowledgeable declaration, served to obscure the true intent and meaning of his words in the consideration of the plebes, but those cursed with the capacity for thought, were able to decipher his words: what he was seeing in Nigeria, with the benefit of his access to classified and privileged information, did not qualify as corruption, because he couldn’t even find the benefit derived by those that were doing the stealing, and he could see how long that it had been going on, and he couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact of our very humanity, in the face of the evidence that he beheld. He was charitable.
We are not corrupt. There is nothing about us that is fantastic either. We are not fantastically corrupt. We have been fantastically perverted. For a Nigerian to feel at home in a foreign land, is to end up in jail, our normalcy is their own insanity, our order, the very meaning of chaos. We are a land untouched by sanity.
Perversion is an abuse of purpose. We are not corrupt, we are perverted. The many years in which corruption have become normalized, have served to have the effect of rendering several generations of Nigerians perverted, with a schizophrenic mindset that recognizes the validity of law and order, outside Nigerian territory, but instinctively and as a matter of reflexes, discards the very same laws and order, to embrace the pervasive, and endemic insanity, of the Nigerian state, once within its territory. A failure to embrace the insanity, might endanger your very lives.
We are getting to an inflection point in the history of the Nigerian state: we are going to be deciding soon, whether we are crazy enough to birth the Nigerian nation of our dreams, or if we are mad enough, to allow our collective insanity, to become the normalcy we bequeath to the coming generations.
Engage your brain, the evening tide cometh.
First published February 20, 2020.