The Young and Disenchanted

“Gasping for air makes the righteous path harder to chose” – Africa, Part III

Posted on: 29 December, 2009

I’m finally home. And it’s fabulous. I’ve been back on the continent for 5 days now and I’ve been soaking up all the heat and family love and good food that I can. Obviously, this is Africa and it’s not perfect – as I’m writing this the generator that was providing our electricity has cut out and because there’s no mains supply at the moment, it’s dark as hell and hot in the house. The road leading to said house is paved only directly in front of us – otherwise it’s a sandy, pot-holed filled “adventure” ride to and from the rest of the city. And, of course, a fellow countryman just attempted to blow up a US aircraft meaning that the Nigerian global public image is going to be even more shat on than it is already (not only are we scammers and militants, now we’re terrorists on top? Walai talai!)With all that said and done though, I’m still so incredibly glad to be back, away from the cold and gloom and exams of NYC and enveloped in the dusty warmth of Lagos, watching the sun set through an open balcony door with a cool drink in hand and Fela on the speakers.

But yet, I am not completely content. Off that same balcony I can see families squatting in the compound next door, living in impromptu shacks while I am surrounded by cement and metal and granite. My parents tell me about the stresses of African city living: road building projects left unfinished for months, spawning 4 hours of go-slow for already overstressed workers; power problems that have made businesses fold up and which burn up the petrol that is my country’s economic lifeline in generator engines; the continuous poverty most people grapple with day-to-day that is only further exaggerated by the excesses of wealth shown in glossy magazines, shaded by tinted car windows and cushioned by the finest imported jacquard and Swiss lace. In summary: this shit is problematic. A couple days ago, I was in the car with my mother and my sisters listening to Original Sufferhead, a Fela album, as we drove to visit a family friend. My mother frustratedly remarked how the problems Fela sang about over 30 years ago – lack of water, food, house – are still present today. The same names Fela mentioned in the 1970s – Obasanjo, Buhari, Yar’Adua – are still enjoying the wealth of the nation today. The same colonial mentality that Fela warned against is still in control of the minds of so many Nigerians today. Despite all the “progress” that has been made, all the malls that have been built and all the oil that has been sold it’s still the same old shit. I guess it’s like Homer said: the homecoming is inevitably bittersweet.

I was incredibly fortunate to have been born into the position that I was. I have benefited from good nutrition, a supportive family and a quality education that means that I have the chance to go far in this life, to fulfil the name that was given to me at birth. I have far more than most of my fellow 1 billion Africans were given. But all of this protective padding isn’t enough to shield me from the reality of life for so many in my home city. Just because I live in a bubble of sorts doesn’t mean that its walls are too opaque for me to see out of and to observe how much injustice there is on this continent – injustice that could be so easily rectified if only enough people cared and were willing to do something tangible. I’ve been concerned about these issues for a long time, but the classes I took this semester at college (my “black fist” classes, as I like to refer to them) and reading Gandhi (not a fan, but still), Fanon, Achebe, Senghor, Lamming and Tully have me more fired up and critical than I’ve ever been. Things have fallen apart – they need to be put back together again, but better than before. This time there has to be real change.

Unfortunately, I feel limited by what I can achieve. After all, I’m only a college senior. As one individual I don’t have the resources or strength to challenge the forces of neo-imperialism in a meaningful way. I alone can’t solve world poverty. More importantly, I’m not even sure if I’m the person to do that: for two reasons.

One, I have other obligations. I owe certain things to my family, to my social position: getting a good job, marrying a good man, giving birth to good children. These are the things that all the support I have been given for so long are meant to culminate in. And these are things that I want for myself too. I do want to go into publishing, and maybe go back to grad school after a few years of working life and get that PhD in literature (as long as I’m surrounded by books, I’ll be happy). I do want to find someone to spend the rest of my life with. And I do want kids – especially after spending the past few days with my adorable and beautiful nieces. But I wonder if that will be enough for me – if I won’t find myself wishing that I could have done more, been more, seen more by choosing another path.

Another part of me wants to say, “Fuck it – you only get one life to live” and pack my bags and travel somewhere and do.  Forget Jeffrey Sachs-style pontificating from the comforts of the Upper West Side, I want to fight and build and save and live among the wretched of the earth, rising to reclaim it for their own. But then that second nagging thought creeps into my mind: “Who the hell are you to do that?” It seems so incredibly egotistical to think myself capable of being a campaigner, a warrior woman sans frontières, the kind of person who could change history. No seriously – I’m sitting here saying to myself, “Really though? You really think you could do all of that? C’mon son. Fuckouttaherewiththatshit.”  Not only do I have no semblance of a game plan, my cushy bougie life hasn’t exactly prepared me for the realities of the “real world,” especially not the African real world. My inner revolutionary was cultivated in classrooms and libraries, not on plantation fields and mountainous jungles. Who am I to speak for the masses?

But even though I’m not certain that abandoning everything that I’ve lived thus far wouldn’t smack of insincerity, deep down I feel like if I don’t try to make a difference, I’ll live regretting it from the comfort of my air-conditioned safety net.

Realistically speaking, I know that this dichotomy isn’t the only option: I can create a middle path for myself that balances out what I owe to the home and the world. I’m just one of those people who believes in going hard or going home, which is why I’ve presented it as so black and white… I don’t know. Like my sister said, I have more than enough time to figure this all out. So I’m going to take my time with it, enjoy the rest of my holiday and prepare for the challenges of the new decade.

P.S. The title is kind of random, but I remember loving this N.E.R.D. album so much way back when…


14 Responses to "“Gasping for air makes the righteous path harder to chose” – Africa, Part III"

By far your best post– at least, for me. I love the sincerity and you can count on me to support you in the making of Nigeria’s first female president 🙂 I truly believe in you gal. This post was just too much.

Thank you Biola.. I’m blushing.

Happy New Year my dear!

Nice post! Shared paradox of life in silver spoon alley!!! Just don’t follow Farouk Abdul Muttalab’s path in fighting for the underdogs, Lol. 🙂 . I expect to hear grand things about you in the near future!

Welcome home. Hope to see you around.

Lol… J’Beezy – I’m glad you remembered that name! I’ll try and come by the office to see the crew. Happy New Year to you!

Hey girl, really random but I loved reading this post. I saw the link up on my twitter feed and am glad I decided to click it. I hope all is well and Happy 2010!

P.S. You are capable of changing things regardless of the road you take. The key is to “do”…whatever that “do” is is yet to be determined by the future, but “do” and “do” to the best of your ability.


Thank you sweetie! And happy new year to you too 😀

P.S. by really random I meant my comment is random not your post =)

Ah, don’t forget. Now added to the list of societal pressures and obligations Nigerians like you and me have to face is ‘Ensuring that your children do not grow up to disgrace the country.’

Lmao true true.

This was a good way to round out your blogging year boo. Great flow, I could actually hear you = BOMB.COM!

We are going to save West Africa together. Don’t think that you either can’t or aren’t in the place to. If not us, then who? We just gotta come up with a gameplan. Because of recent developments, I don’t think militant is the way to go, but we can talk about it 😉

Girl, I’m making my fight global though, not just West Africa – Fanon has me rethinking stuff… But yes boo, I’m excited for our gameplan too 😉

i must say really interesting… i sure did enjoy reading this.. for some reason i had goose bumps.. lol.. but yeah… we are young and disenchanted.. hopefully God wld put us on the right track.. happy newyear

Nigeria needs more women politicians. Testosterone-fueled, selfish minded, empire-building male politicians have ruined the country for too long. All it takes is one team-minded person of impeccable character, charisma and intelligence to lead the country out of these problems. Just one person who realises that the road out of chaos is long and challenging, and cannot be solved by a luck, a ‘quick score’ or by their ideas and influence alone. That person is probably (although not definitely) a woman.

Happened on your blog and it’s interesting. Love the spirit and sincerity of your posts…

Do check out

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