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You have never been a citizen of Nigeria

WELL, the elections were postponed.

Well, the Chairman of INEC has bluntly refused to apologize.

Well, he insists that saying “INEC regrets…” should be enough. He even takes time to scold Nigerians for being too pesky about adjectives.

Well, I’ve been wailing on social media that nothing short of “Fellow Nigerians, I am truly sorry…” is acceptable.

Well, I’ve been predictably reprimanded by some Nigerians, those who are in more direct need of an unqualified than me, as I am here in Canada and would have received direct, humanizing apologies from officials in similar circumstances. I forgive them because, like many of our people, they have never been citizens of Nigeria. They have alsways been subjects. They just don’t know it. Hopefully, the short narrative below will put things in perspective for them. There is a difference between citizen and subject. This happened to me a few weeks ago in Ottawa. Here we go:

My mood is completely ruined.

I am miserable.

I am despondent.

Ottawa. Canada. Winter freeze. It’s been snowing non-stop since yesterday. We are completely snowed in. You can’t go anywhere. I’ve been restless and irritable all morning – the feeling of being trapped in a burrow. And there is that craving for guguru oloyin Offa Garage that has compounded my situation.

Sometimes in this freaking life of a diasporan, your taste buds can go rogue and suddenly develop a yearning for things available only in Nigeria. Oyinbo people imagine they have pop corn. They coat it in caramel or butter or maple syrup. I laugh. In all the countries I have been to in this world, there is nothing like Nigerian pop corn. And the ranking of Nigerian pop corn, there is nothing like guguru oloyin sold in Garage Offa or Gaa Akanbi area in Ilorin. And that is precisely what I am craving, trapped in snow in far away Ottawa, Canada.

I am irritatble. I am irritated.

I receive an alert from Lekan Wasiudeen’s LibraTV – a fantastic Yoruba movie channel on YouTube –  that a new movie has been loaded. I try to settle down to watch it while eating imaginary guguru from Ilorin.

The doorbell screams and interrupts everything.

“That must be Asaju”, I tell my wife.

My cousin, Daily Trust columnist, Asaju Tunde, had asked me to bring something from Accra. I had travelled to Accra, Ghana, late January, for seminars at the University of Ghana. Asaju had asked me to buy him a Ghanaian costume and had abandoned his order with me since I returned to Ottawa three weeks ago, mounting excuse after excuse like we all do in winter weather. Nobody wants to go out.

“Asaju oniranu”, I mutter under my breath as we make for the door. He has been dodging his Ghana danshiki all this time only to set out in a snow storm?

We open the door. No Asaju.

Hello, I am Pierre Poilievre. I am your MP, representing you in Parliament. I am going from door to door checking on my constituents. Are there any issues you’d like me to raise in Parliament?

My wife brightens up. Like most Canada and US Naija Pentecostals, she is conservative on the assumption that she and Oyinbo Christian conservatives share the same Christian values.

I frown. I am Liberal. Even my corpse will never vote conservative.

Madam is discussing jobs and sundry issues you’d expect to hear from an immigrant. He is out there in the cold, answering every question like her employee that he is.

He looks at me expectantly. Any questions for me sir? Any issues you want me to raise in Parliament?

I am no longer frowning because he is a conservative. It is true that my Liberal ass is represented in Parliament by this Conservative at my door. However, I console myself that my people down south across the Canadian border are worse off. My Naija-American liberal democrat friends, Moses Ochonu, Dapo Rotifa, Folake Oyetosho are all governed by Donald Trump. Who am I to grumble about my Conservative MP? It could be worse.

I hear him as he is trashing my man, Justin Trudeau, Madam readily agreeing with him.

I am frowning but my frown is fed by other considerations far away.

Full blown winter storm. Horrible, below zero freeze, and this employee of mine is out here reporting to his employers, the people, for duty?

There is no election in sight. He is just doing what he is elected to do: serve the people and report periodically to them.

I am thinking of how many times somebody in Nigeria will abuse my father and my mother and call me names this coming week on Facebook and Twitter for insisting that this is the sort of treatment he or she deserves from their elected representatives.

I am thinking of the hordes who feel slighted that a President was heckled or a presidential candidate was questioned too harshly.

I am thinking of those who will hiss, shrug, yinmu, and say that this type of humane treatment is “not in line with our reality on the ground. You are alienated”.

I am thinking of perfectly rational mediocrity-rationalizing people who will say: “we are accepting the crumbs we can get. If you want the miracle of 100% immediately, that is your headache”.

I am thinking of the 1001 ways my people will find to justify, rationalize, cut and slice why they are not and should not be treated like this for there is no greater creative genius than the Nigerian finding reasons to justify his mistreatment by his own elected officials.

I am thinking of all these things.

Then I banish those Nigerians from my thought. Whoever feels they deserve to be treated like floor mat by elected officials is welcome to continue to exercise their God-given intellect to find creative justifications for the Nigerian status quo. That is is their headache.

This is my country too.

Conservative or no conservative, this snow-beaten man at my door is my MP. He is my employee. He has come to render account and ask if I have issues for him to raise in parliament. I am going to make the best use of this quality time with him as his employer. I brighten up. My mood changes. I join madam in grilling him.

End of story.

Colonialism created subjects, not citizens. We were all subjects of the throne of England. The challenge, since independence has been how to become citizens. The leadership of Nigeria has never allowed this to happen. They perpetually under-educate the people in order to enslave them. The Nigerian state and her apparatuses will never make a citizen of you. You must insist. Insistence starts with something as simple as demanding a clear and unequivocal apology from the chairman of INEC and knowing deep down in your soul that you deserve an apology because you are his employer.

The path from subjecthood to Nigerian citizenship starts in your head.


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