I am what you classify an IJGB ( I Just Got Back) so you would naturally assume by the slight pitch in my intonation that I cannot bargain in the local markets and I most definitely cannot eat at this Buka. For you, if I ever attempt any of these acts it will be classified either research for lack of knowledge or tourist activities. I have heard my fair share of assumptions about myself since I got back so let’s start at the beginning.
At this point, I want to implore you to devoid your mind of all Cliches. Actually, picture an empty whiteboard and a teacher in front of the whole class. Right now I am the teacher and you are the student, you and the gang of mockers you call friends. As you sit there and eat your pounded yam, you are currently under the spell of my pitchy voice and I will take you through a literature class. Today we are focusing on the background of the poet.
The title of the poem is
Like asking a fish can you taste the water?
My ears know the sounds
More familiar than the pattern to unlock my phone,
My legs no longer hurry beyond what I used to call home,
Now like a prison yard I am locked in
Not with lock and key
Like asking a baby how are you today?
With hopes for English words in reply
It amuses me how you utter such words with a smile.
baffled and befuddled
I simply live as I do over there,
All by myself because it is no different here.
Your words uttered in ignorance form a lock and key,
They bind my feet not in fear but in frustration
Your words a sour repetition
A clear indication of ignorance and deep-rooted penance
Forming iron curtains that cause some to starve and others to thrive.
I am the poet, and this is my story.
My name is Oloruntobi Ogunbiade and I am the first child of five children. Before you start your assumptions again let me clarify; my dad did not die and leave my industrious mother to train all five children, nor is my grandfather a multi-billionaire who left money for one of my parents as the stereotype goes. No, we were just a typical middle class family.
Growing up, neither my father nor my mother earned much however, when they got married they opened a trust fund for me and my siblings in hopes of a better future. Thanks to the reliance on oil in our country, very quickly that money disappeared into shady investments and my only option was student loans. That is how I ended up “in the abroad” as you people say.
My first year was brutal, I was different, my Yoruba accent did not help and combined with my H factor I felt completely isolated. It even affected my grades so by my second year I had to sit up and get with the program. I spoke differently in order to be understood. I got two part time jobs to enable me to eat and I got an IPhone and a MacBook on an installment program (And yes you guessed it, I only had to pay $20 a month for 5 years).
I studied hard, to get scholarships for the next semester. Not once did I step back into Nigeria during this period because it was too expensive. By my third year I had learnt most of the ropes so I was able to ease my younger brother into the system. I pressed him to study hard and apply for as many scholarships as possible and he got two, saving my parents the burden of another student loan.
Prior to his arrival I had not had any Nigerian meal in a while because over here across the sea Nigerian food is almost as rare as diamonds. When my brother came, he brought garri and groundnuts, some egusi and crayfish as well as some iru. All the food I had been craving but were out of my reach. When I caught the first whiff of iru, I realized how homesick I was because the pungent smell was welcome.
After graduating I stayed back for a masters and got a job but all this was not a walk in the park. It was mind blowing hard work. I saved until I could afford to buy my own plane ticket without burdening my parents, and that is how I got here.
So when I finally come home and have a pitch to my voice tame your tongue, nothing in life comes easy. You Nigerians think so highly of people “from the abroad” yet you do not understand that just because the struggles are different doesn’t mean they are non existent. I will conclude my class with this: I once heard a bus conductor say “you are not truly Nigerian if you have not struggled” so I have laid out all my struggles here for you today. Know that I am as Nigerian as any of you, know that we share the same blood despite the pitch in my voice.