It was October 1st, the day Nigerians celebrated Independence Day. My favorite jingle, at that time, was blasting from my mommy's Sony television set. "Nigeria is 25" the singer sang. His voice was melodious and conveyed an enthusiasm that was infectious. I was a very young child then and although I was a curious and rambunctious child, I had little context of what 'Independence' meant. My family had just returned to Nigeria after years abroad and although my teacher had given us a quick lesson on the basics of Nigerian Independence, my young mind did not truly appreciate the significance of what 'Independence' meant.
Nevertheless, I knew that whatever 'Independence' was, it made me happy. I knew that whatever 'Independence' was, it made my beloved and now deceased grandmother, whom everyone called 'Mama', ecstatic. She told funny stories in her colorful Pidgin English about the original Independence Day and the pride everyone felt. She shared jokes about her old neighborhood at Pike Street and how on Independence Day, a fight broke out between two drunken neighbors. As she spoke, my lovely cousin Vicky sent me to the kitchen to get Uncle Max (RIP) a bottle of Star Beer. I would usually grumble at such an errand, especially whilst listening to the sweet gist my Mama always had. But, on that day, Nigeria's 25th birthday, I was happy and nothing could have soured my mood.
Yet, at the same time, I can't help but feel proud. I have always worn my Nigerian citizenship and heritage with pride. It has served me well a majority of the time and yes, it has brought me pain many a time as well. However, I consider the challenges Nigeria faces and I am amazed at the fact that Nigeria has not fallen apart. I am encouraged by the happiness in the voices of those I speak to back home who, despite their problems, are thankful for what they have and grateful for the blessing of life.
Yesterday, Nigeria's 48th birthday, was a day I spent wishing to go back to the blind optimism of 1985. Today, on the morning after, I chose to be optimistic. Not blindly optimistic, however. After all, the mind of a child cannot compare to the intellect and experience of an adult. Despite that, I choose to believe that Nigeria, despite the stalled starts, the many steps backward and even the outright failures, will emerge from its drunken stupor to a bright morning after. And, I continue to commit myself to play a role in ushering that morning after.
I hope you will too.