Warning for Nigerians Who Want to Leave Nigeria

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Nigerians in flag waving in Abuja

By Farooq Kperogi

In light of the ruthlessly agonising existential torture that the Buhari regime is inflicting on Nigeria, more people than ever before are talking of fleeing the country.

But here’s a warning from someone who has left the country for nearly two decades: even if you leave Nigeria, Nigeria won’t leave you!

In spite of being thousands of miles away from Nigeria—or, perhaps, precisely because of it—I find myself deeply emotionally invested in what goes on there.

No effort I’ve made to create an emotional distance from Nigeria for my own sanity has been successful.

In moments of extreme despair, I often proclaim that I’ve given up on the country and won’t bother with it anymore. But my self-imposed moratoriums don’t usually last more than a month and are now a source of humour for my wife.

Even my claim that I’d renounce my Nigerian citizenship if certain corrupt, airheaded charlatans become president next year is ironically motivated by the same emotional investment in the country that makes it impossible for me to sever my umbilical cord from it.

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In other words, should any of one of those knuckleheads become president, as unlikely as it seems, I most probably would eat crow. Instead of renouncing my citizenship, I would mostly become even more searingly critical of the dysfunctions they’d trigger.

Just yesterday, I discussed this issue with a fellow diasporan who has temporarily returned to Nigeria, and her humorously superstitious explanation for why we have a hard time emotionally disconnecting from Nigeria after leaving it is that our umbilical cords are literally buried there!

The Nigerian Pidgin English proverb that says “Na where dem born you dem troway you” captures this sentiment.

Diasporan Nigerians are not alone in this. In his book Kinship and Diasporas in International Affairs, Yossi Shain pointed out that people who leave their natal countries to resettle elsewhere often think of themselves as being “outside the state but inside the people.”

It is this sense of being “inside the people” even when physically separated from them that drives many of us. So, ultimately, you can’t escape being a Nigerian once you’re a Nigerian. The fact that there are exceptions doesn’t invalidate this fact.

*Twitter: @farooqkperogi

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