I want so desperately to be proud of Nigeria – The country, the society, space, mentality.
I want so desperately to comfortably invite people to visit Port Harcourt without being so overly concerned for their safety.
I want so desperately to not be overcome by fear at the mere thought of visiting home. That when I land at Mohamed Omotala international airport in Ikeja, I am not overcome with shame.I want so desperately to not have to carry a roll of toilet paper when I’m traveling to Nigeria because if I am pressed there might not be any in the airport bathrooms and if there were, that I would not have to bribe the bathroom attendants to give me enough for a clean wipe.
I want so desperately to give my family my exact itinerary. I have not done this since 2008. The fear that they will be overjoyed and share the news which in return endangers me will not let me.
I want so desperately to take a walk in my neighborhood- to be sure that in the raining season I am stepping into a puddle and not a gutter. I want so desperately to never see the sea of maggots that line the tops of rotten gutters in places where children play- images that crawl into your skin and fester.
I want so desperately to take a selfie in Port Harcourt with a background that is not framed in rot and despair.
I want so desperately to not fear to take my camera out and comfortably take a photo of an object I find beautiful without be harrassed by an impoverished police officer or a frustrated unemployed youth, or worse beaten and accused of witchcraft.
I want so desperately a Nigeria without churches on every corner like liquors stores in Brooklyn b.c 2005. Preying on the frail hopes of poor, desperate, dying souls who simply want a Nigeria that they too can be proud of.
I want so desperately to travel around my country. To visit Owerri, and Calabar, and Sokoto and Benue, Ahoada and benni. Places it now seems I will never see due to safety issues. I want so desperately that my Nigeria does not begin and end with Lagos.
I want so desperately to create in Nigeria. But I need light. Not the light from gas flaring that light up villages at night. Not the light from kerosene filled lanterns or the light of white candles waxed on cement floors or loud generators and spiked petrol.
I want so desperately to know my cousin will be ok. She’s traveling from the village to see me but will enter a local bus with non-functioning brakes or headlights, windows that will not roll up or down, doors that that only open from the outside and only by the bus conductor at a full stop.
A bus that is meant to only carry 10 but will carry 22 – That will be driven by an unlicensed bus driver who has not eaten that day operating solely on a high from bitter kolas and the local gin. Who will speed on bad, gallopy roads in an attempt to make multiple trips to cover the cost of renting his bus and the bribes he will make throughout the day from expired and fraudulent driving papers. No, the police will not check to see if the car has a brake or if the windows work or that the bus is over-crowed or if there is a pregnant cousin who will be squeezed thin like sardines in a can.
I want so desperately to tell people that I’m Nigerian without their eyes moving this, that way, and that way before looking back at me. That every time I want to put the Nigerian flag on my Ig bio, I do not take a deep knowing sigh and ax the thought.
I just want a Nigeria I can be proud of. A country, society, space, mentality, and behaviour that I am not constantly running away from.