My stories and their stories too - P.M. News

My stories and their stories too

Johnson Babalola

Johnson Babalola

Johnson Babalola, a Toronto, Canada based immigration lawyer, uses dialogue style to address the myriads of problems that make many Nigerians seek refuge in the West. Examples are in the areas of electricity, water, public transportation, healthcare, education, the justice system, infrastructure, safety, pension and others

My Stories and their stories too

 By Johnson Babalola

“Good morning. Can you tell me about yourself please?”

“Good morning ma. I am 17 years old; I came to this country from Nigeria when I was 15 years old. I am now in Grade 12 hoping to study Psychology as my first degree and then head to law school thereafter”

“Can you tell me about your family?”

“I have a brother and a sister. They are both older than me . My father is late, but my mother is alive. She is a businesswoman. My living relatives are all in Nigeria”

“How did you make your way into this country?”

“My aunt assisted me through a smuggler because of all I was going through in my country”

“What were you going through?”

“A lot of psychological and mental abuses”

“Who abused you?”

“Many people. My teachers, religious leaders, security agencies, political leaders, neighbours, news reporters, friends, and others”

“Did you know them all and did they know you?”

“No. Most of them did not know I existed”

“How could they have abused you, if you never met?”

“Ma, it is a long story. Like most, if not all Nigerians, my life was and is still about stories”

“Stories? What do you mean?”

“Every Nigerian has a story to tell. Some are different from others, but most are the same”

“What accounts for the differences in stories?”

“Age, sex, education, ethnicity, religion, economic status, health status, social status and other reasons”

“Can you tell me about the psychological and mental abuses you suffered in the hands of those that did not know you?”

“Where do I start from? Not only did they not know me, but I also did not know them”

“Can you share some of the abuses?”

“I have too many stories that will take me days if not weeks or months to tell. But let me start with the positives”

“Are some of your experiences positive?”

“Yes ma. I am a Nigerian saddened by my many negative experiences in the country but will acknowledge the positive experiences too. My positive stories would include genuine care for each other in my nuclear family, true friendship, and a rich culture built on love and care. My parents would tell me stories about how they benefitted from free education, free health care and free scholarships to study in the best universities outside of Nigeria. They would tell me stories about the importance of hard work, integrity, and education. They raised me well. That is a positive story. Within my extended family, we shared true love and care notwithstanding our religious differences. I miss all these positive stories because it can be lonely here. However, I hold unto them in my heart. Nigeria is a beautiful nation with potentials to be the greatest black nation on earth. I have heard that story too many times. The story of hope. My parents heard it and their own parents too. But nothing has changed. That is the foundation of my psychological and mental abuses.”

“You want to share those negative stories?”

“Of course, ma. Please do understand that I am not saying all these to put my beautiful country down. I weep within me as I speak about all these, but this is my own story. My truth.”

“Do you need a break to gather your thoughts?”

“No ma. I will be okay. My therapist told me how to use my breath to pull through. I want to continue speaking but thank you for asking.”

“No worries. Just remember that you can take a break at any time. Are you sure you don’t need a break now?”

“I am sure and thank you, ma. You are very kind. I wish the people that were responsible for the death of my grandfather were this kind”

“What do you mean?”

“He served in the civil service for 35 years and after retirement, was denied the payment of his pension. Politicians and other civil servants embezzled the money. I was told the story of how he would line up at the government office with others begging to be paid. He never got paid and died of heartache. You see ma, that is not just my story but the story of many Nigerians. I have not recovered from the psychological effect of that on me. Just the thought that human beings can be mean to one another to that extent bothers me still.”

“Did you know him?”

“Yes, I knew him, but I never knew the people that deprived him of his entitlements. Just like I did not know the people that were responsible for my father’s death’”

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“You mind expanding on the situation surrounding the death of your father?”

“He was a good father. He cared and worked hard to provide for us. His car was involved in an accident, and he was rushed to a nearby hospital, but the hospital staff refused to attend to him requesting for Police report first. As a result, he lost too much blood and died. I never met the hospital staff that refused to offer him medical assistance, but their decision has caused me mental anguish till this day.”

“What would be the reasons for refusing him medical attention given his condition?”

“Ma, many Nigerians will be able to answer that question as we have heard stories of why hospitals often refuse to help victims of road accidents or others brought in for medical assistance: Police unreasonable interference, concerns about payment of fees, unavailability of medical doctors, incompetence of medical personnel and so on. I often wonder if we care about the lives of fellow Nigerians”

“Why would you think Nigerians don’t care about the lives of others?”

“I must be clear that many Nigerians are very caring about others but ma, my stories tell me to question our level of care for others. Multiple times in a week on my way to school while in Nigeria, we would see dead bodies by the roadside. My parents would always have a story about each one even if they had no direct knowledge of the event that led to their death.”

“What would they tell you?”

“They would tell me that maybe the individual was an armed robber or a kidnapper who met his or her untimely death in the hands of a mob. You see, jungle justice is very common. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time can easily lead to your death in my country. How do you recover from that mental anguish?”

“Anything else they would tell you?”

“Several. They would tell me probably the person was a victim of an auto accident, money rituals, mental health, domestic violence, political assassination, police brutality, kidnapping, sexual abuse, ethnic clashes, religious clashes and many more.”

“And you would see dead bodies by the road regularly?”

“Sure. Not just by the road in some cases for days but also splashed recklessly on TV screens and newspaper pages. Journalists don’t care about the effects of their actions on innocent people.”

“So, a lot of irresponsible news coverage?”

“Well, maybe they did not know better. Nigeria is a tough place. What other news is out there? The few positive news is overpowered by the negative ones: corruption, abuse of power, sex for mark, kidnappings, unemployment, political thuggery, brutality by security agencies and so on.”

“Any more stories to tell me that affected you psychologically?”

“Too many more ma but will speak about a few more. On our street, armed robberies would occur occasionally, or we would hear stories from friends and relatives about armed robbers invading their houses. Thanksgiving services in religious places were mostly about escape from one negative situation or the other.”

“Was life tough for you out there?”

“It was tough. I am here but not happy as there are millions of young people like me in the country who will narrate negative experiences about things, I take for granted here”

“Like what?”

“Electricity, water, public transportation, healthcare, education, infrastructures, safety and many more. I grew up hearing stories about why there was no electricity or public water in our community for years. Government employees are not paid for months and in some cases years. Yet, they must show up for work and be patriotic!The public-school buildings are dilapidated and lack academic facilities. Yet, the students are human beings like me and must compete in the same world like me. I grew up on stories about family members dying for one reason or the other due to lack of medical facilities or attention. I take all these for granted here. Yet, the children of our leaders are here attending the best schools often with the resources of the state. Are all these not enough to affect one psychologically?”

“Is there a relationship between your gender and the way you feel about your country?”

“Yes ma, that will however be a talk for another day, if we are not done today. Briefly though, I have heard stories about how women because of their genderare deprived of any input in issues that would affect their wellbeing and lives. They are subjected to verbal, sexual, and psychological abuses and are exposed to some barbaric cultural practices including forced widowhood rites and levirate marriages in some cases.

“So, you were exposed to all these through direct knowledge and stories as a child?”

“Yes ma. Well, talking about children, I had direct knowledge of some friends of mine forced into early marriages against their will. Students are often kidnapped, and many children are on the streets hawking. Children are afforded little or no rights in my country ma. I still cannot shake off my experience that children during festive activities in my church got fed last. The Police also target youths for no reason. I know that some Nigerians will hate me for saying all these and I am sorry, but I am just being truthful”

“Glad you are being truthful. Why your interest in law?”

“I just want to give back. I want a professional platform to advocate for others with no voice”

“Any thought about the judicial system in your country?”

“Disappointment. The judiciary is responsible for the psychological and mental breakdown of many in my country ma. There are stories of corruption and delayed justice. Criminal suspects who are presumed innocent, are subjected to mental abuse through open media questioning organized by the Police. How fair is that? I think the judiciary truly needs to be the last hope of the common man. Unfortunately, that is not the case presently”.

“If I allow you to stay in this country, what are your plans?”

“I want to give back to my new country and my country of birth. But as painful as it is, I have no plan to return to my country of birth. I have found peace in a foreign land, and it is now my home even though my young soul cries for Nigeria daily. I have met many Nigerians here whose souls are not at rest too. Yet, many are leaving Nigeria daily. The best and the brightest. A focused child of a labourer with no hope of academic excellence in Nigeria who finds his or her way here suddenly becomes an accomplished academician. Yet, nobody is taking any concrete steps to address why they are leaving. Since I came here, I have been writing new stories. Mostly positive ones and I am getting used to that.”

“I agree that you have been subjected to a number of psychological and mental abuses in your country at such a young age. Welcome to Canada! May you find peace here and may that peace extend to your home country too. You have anything else to add?”

“Thankyou, ma. I thank you for listening to my stories, which represents the stories of many Nigerians. Sadly, not many people truly care to listen to our stories. You will hear good things about me in future because a positive story about us Nigerians is that despite all the negatives and adversities, we excel. I continue to pray that Nigerians will shun financial influence and elect purposeful leaders who will genuinely listen to their stories resulting in us telling positive stories about the country and ourselves. Have a good day ma”.

*Johnson Babalola is a Toronto, Canada based Immigration Lawyer

Email: [email protected]