Never mind me – Are you fine?
2023 presidency: Hubris and complacency are Atiku’s Achilles heel
In 2016, shortly after the Brexit referendum result was announced, I breathlessly called up my friend in Manchester to ask how he was doing. Fine, he said, why did I sound so worried? But Brexit, I said, wasn’t I worried about the potential for the British and European far-right to become more energised, resulting in more race-motivated attacks against black and brown people?
Didn’t he see that he and his family could potentially be in danger? His response changed my entire perspective on life – and possibly changed my life too.
His response contained only four words, but those four words seared their way through my mind and forever changed how and from what point of view I interacted with the world.
Whereas, I had previously been happy to occasionally get lost in political role-playing of other people’s problems from halfway around the world, this reply brought me right back down to earth with a sharp thud and provided the sort of piercing, devastating short-term clarity that only a well-timed slap of sufficient velocity delivers. His reply? He just said:
“Bros, you get light?”
That was it. Just one sentence, and my entire make-believe political world stuffed with contrived and imported realities from Southampton and Indianapolis came crashing down around me in a heap of smoke.
You know why? Because I actually didn’t “have light” when I was making that call. At the time, I was living in a two-bedroom apartment in Bariga where electricity was something you could only count on when I put on my noisy 1.5kva petrol generator mounted on a used tire just outside the metal security door.
“Bros, you get light?” was not just a painfully casual dismissal of my concern for his Manchester-based reality, but a scathing rebuke of my willingness to ignore my own realities – which were significantly worse than anything available in the UK – to inject myself into UK political discourse.
Heck, if just half of the UK’s everyday reality suddenly meant spending as much time without electricity as I did in Bariga everyday for just two weeks, it would become the biggest political issue in that country since the end of World War 2.
The Prime Minister would lose his job. There would be protests and riots in the streets. Countries would have to issue travel advisories concerning Britain if British people were made to go through my everyday reality for just two weeks. Yet, here I was ignoring the electricity pole in my eye, pun fully intended, to bellyache about the toothpick in my Mancunian friend’s eye. Ridiculous? Sad? Unbelievable? All 3?
This is the anecdote that would influence much of my subsequent decision-making within my journalism career, including my decision to pivot away from writing for foreign audiences on foreign platforms on foreign issues such as the Christchurch Mosque Shooting in New Zealand, and instead focus on writing for African audiences on African issues for African platforms such as this one, wherever possible.
It is also the anecdote that fills me with great pity whenever I open my private messages on social media platforms and I see people whose lives are objectively far less enjoyable than mine, throwing all kinds of threats at me because unlike them, I have refused to bend my knee to the Golden Calf of Bourdillon Road.
Read also: We need more disrespect for Nigerian leaders
Do you people have light?
Sometimes, they promise to find me wherever I am in the world and “do the needful,” whatever that means. Sometimes, they express a deep wish that I would return to Nigeria, ostensibly so that I would be murdered there. Sometimes, they completely lack the words to express their bile and instead send barely intelligible voice notes screaming at me in their grammatically woeful, heavily accented “Engrish.”
When I listened to one of these the other day, all I could make out of it was some kind of anger at my exposé on the drug peddling history of the Golden Calf of Bourdillon.
When I checked out this individual’s profile, he turned out to be a student at LAUTECH. His profile photo revealed an individual with a bony, sunken facial profile, possibly indicating a long term lack of proper nutrition, and occasional comments under celebrity posts.
With due respect to this individual and the life he presumably hopes to create for himself someday, I wonder – what makes him look at me and think that I am where his problems lie? We might be immediately accessible to each other on the internet, but in the real world, I am notionally as well as physically half a world away from him.
Where he is currently idling away at home due to an ongoing ASUU strike, nobody in my family or peer group ever knew or experienced anything concerning ASUU beyond newspaper pages. I never wrote WAEC, NECO or JAMB. I attended university on another continent.
Throughout university, I only worked because I wanted to, not because I had to. When I returned to Nigeria, I got a decent job within four months of completing my NYSC programme, followed by a successful career in Television, Content Marketing and Journalism. I am in a committed relationship now, but a year or two ago, I could have pretty much any woman I wanted – and I very regularly did.
So at risk of coming across as conceited on the pages of a national daily, I must now ask the visibly under-nourished, involuntarily celibate and perenially unemployed Ibrahims, Kunles, Kayodes, Tundes and Sodiqs who constantly bombard my Twitter DMs with death threats that they have no power to enforce – what is in it for you? If there is any such thing as a Nigerian Dream, I have already lived it.
Some would even argue that living in the diaspora is another extension of the Nigerian Dream, which would mean I am still living it. If I am living this dream and I find it so unsatisfactory that I am doing everything in my power to see some kind of change happen, then why do you – who has never entered an aeroplane before – see me as your enemy?
If I am doing the little I can to make it such that someday you and your children can enjoy all the things I have enjoyed without needing billionaire parents to do so – which is the case even in neighbouring African countries – then what is your problem with that exactly?
Are you seriously OK with having a standard of living that even Ghanaians would consider to be unacceptable for their house pets? Why on earth would you imagine that the Bourdillon Golden Calf – or any other Nigerian politician whose primary source of livelihood is stolen public funds that should have built your roads, schools and hospitals – shares the same enemy as you? What have they promised you? What have you got out of it?
What really is in it for you?