Moving to the East was proof of what you already knew – Nigerian parents are annoying.
Everyone and their mama was going to Uniben, Delsu – or even Babcock. The rich people’s children were going to Canada. It was the first time you heard the word. Canada! To you, it sounded like snow, cold and suffering. You were not interested.
There was no money for Babcock, you knew this. But it wasn’t your fault – He lied! He promised you Babcock or Covenant, to make up for Newcastle, which you are starting to think was another lie, like the socks he promised you when you were 3.
Again, Nigerian parents lying unprovoked.
Oh! It’s not like you haven’t gotten socks since then, loads and loads of them, from Primark, and George and all the other stores he visited on his trips. It just wasn’t the socks he promised you. Your readers do not know the difference or why it is a problem, but that is not their business.
He saw the way you scrunched your face when he mentioned University Of Nigeria. What was that? The ghetto? Must be.
He knew, if he let you, you’d put Uniben like everyone else, in class of ’13. So he did it himself. Registered you.
You were going to the east, even tears wouldn’t save you.
You do not know how to tell your friends. First, you imagine the pity that would engulf their faces. The East was a nightmare, one you only saw in movies or in the one week a year that you visit for Christmas. Christmas wasn’t too bad, because everyone else in the house came from cities too – Portharcourt, Abuja and some, from abroad.
This time was different, and you knew it. So, as you entered the bus headed to the land of perdition, you promise yourself that you would not talk to igbo boys. You would graduate and come back for that Itsekiri boy, or maybe even an Urhobo one, or Ijaw. Oh, your father would have a fit, but anything would be better than Nna Mehn.
You see, you’ve always been the good igbos, the model ones. You kept quiet when they talked about ‘igbo people’. You even agreed that they were annoying and would cheat everyone.
Every time someone exclaimed,
“Hey, there’s igbo tone in your voice”
You would be afraid, snap your fingers over your head in a circle and say,
Everyone would laugh, you inclusive. Because, you see. There are many things you should not be. Errr… You can’t help it being igbo, but for the love of God, do not sound like them.
You know you do not sound like ‘Them’. You are the good igbo. The one who fit in. The one who spelt igbo as ibo.
When you visit your friends and hear their parents tell them how bad igbo people are, you raise an eyebrow because you do not understand. But, you agree. Igbo people are not good. You don’t know why, but it is, what it is.
You come down to the East and from the first day, you know you are different. Special, even. Because there are people fascinated when you tell them you’re from Warri. They would look at you like a cute puppy and ask you to speak pidgin.
You stutter, because you do not speak pidgin. It’s not even like you grew up in plenty wealth. You were just living on the edge of the good life, going to one of the schools the important people sent their children to. So, they must understand when you say you do not speak pidgin. It is the ghetto.
They do not understand. How can you live in warri all your life and not speak pidgin.
You are a disappointment, but they do not say it. They’re still impressed that you came from the south, so they will manage. Some even mistake you for someone who grew up in Lagos or Abuja. You do not know why this is a compliment, but you accept it and tell them you get it a lot.
It makes you all the same not want to be associated with anything igbos.
However, it’s not all blue skies. Much earlier than you expected, you realize not knowing igbo was going to be a problem.
Everyone speaks igbo here, even in their little conversations, or gists. In the lecture halls, too. You don’t know why they must act like villagers. You wonder why they can’t just speak English that everyone understands.
They know this. So, they intentionally talk to you in igbo, and when you reply in English, they come for you, and tell you you’re a disgrace.
“Are you not igbo? Why can’t you speak your language?”
You do not know why, but it’s not your fault, you see. Nobody spoke it to you, growing up. They wanted you to speak the white man’s tongue, as if somehow, your dialect would disgrace you.
There was something about being igbo in the south. They do not like you, and somehow, you feel it is your fault. So, parents shield their children and they grow up speaking only English.
No one would know you’re igbo unless you told them. You do not even answer your igbo name, everyone dropped theirs when they entered senior secondary. You are not different. You do not even like the name. You grew up around people mocking igbo names and mispronouncing them.
Every Chioma was shoma. Chinedu was Shinedu. They called you Ishoma, for good measure – a bastardized version of your name, but you do not correct them. You just drop the name altogether.
Your eyes did not open, till your school made it compulsory to study Nigerian People and Culture. The text had an interesting title – In Biafra, Africa died.
Growing up, Biafra was a taboo. A forbidden word. You don’t know what it meant but they were bad people, causing commotion in the country. So, you do not like them. Troublemakers. It’s off brand for you.
So, it’s surprising that this school is making you read about them. You wonder if the Vc would get in trouble for it. However, you need the A, so you read it anyway.
Then your eyes open.
Nigeria lied to you, all your life. You sung ‘The Labor of our heroes past, shall never be in vain…’ with gusto, in secondary school. But, Nigeria lied to you. That labor was in vain.
Ojukwu was not the monster they painted him to be. Even Major Kaduna Nzeogu you were taught to hate was misunderstood. You finally understand, that the people who write the history dictate what goes into it.
Coming to the East has opened your eyes. They’re not even as bad as you thought and their food is top tier. Their men, too. Everytime you remember how you promised to go back for delta men, you laugh.
Because look at you now, Mbaise boys have shown you something, Enugu boys too, and now nwoke anambra state na gbaka gi isi.
Oh,your igbo is not there yet. You know, but you don’t care. You’re improving and that’s what’s important.
People still mock you for not speaking it properly, but you’re getting there and you know your children will not have the same story as you.
Because they will not be ashamed of being Igbo as you were brought up to be.
You are igbo today. Tomorrow, if God agrees, you may be Biafra. It sounds very igbotic.
But you don’t care.