The above titled piece written several weeks ago basically captured the effect and transformation that living in this country can trigger in any individual no matter how refined and was inspired by a friend’s totally ‘out of character’ reaction to a particular situation.
My friend, an Afro-American returnee was gracious enough to explain his reaction… I thought it worthy of sharing…perhaps we can all gain insight. Enjoy.
“…I do not think it takes years for the base nature inherent in all of us (especially diaspora returnees) to surface. It is not a slowly developing reaction, but many times a spontaneous and angry response to events and situations that one simultaneously finds so unexpected, unsettling, surreal, and unnerving. In short, situations that you have probably not had to confront in years or which you’ve long pushed to the deepest recesses of your mind because of the ‘civilized’ climes one may have become conditioned by.
Immediately upon one’s return, you are faced with mayhem, madness, and mindless chaos. The response is sudden, rapid, and I am not proud to say, sometimes as crass as the irritating situation you are confronted with.
Where does one begin? Is it policemen, bank security guards, immigration and customs officials and a whole range of public officials, who instead of doing the work they’ve been hired to do, have perfected the art of groveling, begging and sycophancy? You are not used to having your senses constantly assaulted and confronted by phrases such as “Anything for the boys?” or “Your boys are loyal, Sir! or the more irritating “Happy weekend.”
Not too long ago, I was in a reputable electronics store. I had made a substantial purchase, and as would have happened in the country in which I have been domiciled for 25 years, expected to hear a simple, courteous, and complimentary “thank you for your business.” Instead, I was caught off guard by the female cashier who said since I looked famous, I should “do what celebrities normally do.” I asked, “and that would be?” Without batting an eyelid she said, “drop something for the girls.” I don’t know what I found more offensive — her rudeness or her brazen but yet casual request.
But let me go back to the incident you referred to in your piece. Yes, I instinctively gave a lorry driver three dirty slaps. I am not proud of this. I am actually mortified by my response to an act of blatant injustice.
However, let me put things in perspective. What had happened was that a truck pusher was trying ever so gingerly to meander through the corner of the Alausa and Agidingbi intersection in Ikeja with his ‘omolanke.’ A lorry driver comes up behind him and even though it is obvious there is only enough space for the poor truck pusher and his omolanke, the driver throws caution to the wind and proceeds to take the corner at the same time. All he needed to do was wait for 5 seconds. But no, his ego, stupidity, or both, gets in the way. Instead, he forces his lorry through the narrow space, his back wheel completely crushes the omolanke, and the hapless truck pusher escapes with his life, just by a whisker.
As if that was not bad enough, the driver looks out of his window, ignores the damage and simply drives off. This would never happen in many seemingly civilized parts of the world. But not in Nigeria. The size and ‘importance’ of the driver’s lorry simply trumps the truck pusher and his omolanke.
Consequently, when I caught up with the lorry driver, my response to his blatant callousness took me by surprise. “Where did that come from?” I would later ask myself.
Ours is a society where perceived might is right. Ours is a society where the thugs and goons of Government Minister’s, Governors, and yes the occasional pastor, terrorizes other drivers and pedestrians with whips and the cacophony of their sirens even when it is all too evident that traffic has come to a complete standstill.
Nigeria has a way of getting to you. No wonder heart attacks and strokes are at all time high for 40 – 50 something men and women. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to be back home in spite of the craziness that is Nigeria.
However, I daily pray that I not lose my sanity in the process and that the Lord delivers me from my own susceptibility to ugliness.
May God help us all.”