Friday, May 25, 2007
I'll be going home in a few weeks and I am bracing myself for my homeland. I have always had a bittersweet relationship with Nigeria. As a child of the eighties, I guess I was fortunate to have a childhood when Nigeria was at its best, especially Warri, which was booming with N.N.P.C, D.S.C, SHELL, CHEVRON, JULIUS BERGER, TEXACO, DUMEZ, I can't remember them all, but life was sweet. Thus, I have that wonderful memory, coupled with village headmaster, new masquerade, cock crow at dawn, ahhhhhh, I am sure you all know what I mean. Life was sweet. Then, I have Nigeria of my teenage years, the nineties, I remember the matron of my boarding school, ringing the bell for a special announcement:"Let us all pray for our country, we don't know what this means, or what will happen in the next few days... there is going to be a change of government".The first thing I thought of was Warri, what did that mean? more curfews? You see, by the time I left Warri, our lives had become limited by "curfews", if it was not urhobo and Itsekiri fighting over land then it was Ijaw and Urhobo or all three of them, then, lets go over to the armed robberies in broad daylight. One of the most frightening time in my life was after secondary school, you know, that "house-girl" year, when you waited for JAMB and SSCE results. I decided to do GCE just because I wanted to cut my house girl duties, unfortunately my center was in "inside inside Warri" as we say. A real rough neighbourhood. One day, as I and my friend left our center, we saw a pick up truck of police men shoot all over the place, there was chaos, everybody fled, behind them, another pick-up truck of armed robbers chasing after the police men. I kid you not. Bullets wheezing over my head, I sought shelter in a nearby house, the doors were open, I went in and hid in a wardrobe. Yes, a stranger's house. Thats how bad it was, I stood there shaking and thinking "I have got to get the hell out of this hell hole". I had lost my friend in the chaos that ensued but later found her behind a rubbish dump crying. I hated my life, I hated Warri, I hated Nigeria. Over the years, Warri and the whole of Niger Delta is now "at your own risk". It is not the place of my childhood, it is something else. Thus, on one hand, I love Warri for giving me the best childhood ever, but on the other hand, I hate it for giving me the worst teenage years ever.