Some things are just plain wierd, occasionally funny, depending on who you ask. Nigeria is a country, as is the Republic of Benin, or Togo, or even Gambia. Those other countries are almost as big, or as small, as some “states” in Nigeria; small enough, sometimes, to be called a local government in such a “big country” as Nigeria. But that is talking about geographical size. In population, Nigeria seems to dwarf them all. It is said that one in every five Africans is a Nigerian. Then I went to the US and found that the Nigerian country by geographical dimension is the size of Texas – one out of fifty American states. The truth, of course is that Texas is a country of its own with distinct history, language and culture.
What am I driving at here? I have spent almost three decades in Nigeria and could say that there are so many places that I’ve never been, that form a big part of the country’s history. Yet in one year of an exchange programme, I saw more places in a different country than I’ve seen in mine. Guilt form this, in part, has motivated my desire to see as many places in Nigeria as are important either for history, or for recreation. Lagos alone has more recreational landmarks than can even be counted on two hands, and yet many of us busy folks in day jobs spend so little time exploring them.
Who has been to Whispering Palms? I got a chance to go there as an undergraduate, but didn’t take it. Could this be the appropriate time? What about Seme, the trade town in the neighbouring Republic of Benin? What about Obudu in Cross River state or the Tinapa trade zone? What about Kano and its ancient city walls? What of the slave castle in Elmina, Ghana, or the old markets in Timbuktu, Mali? What makes a country is not just the people, but the history and a repository of lore passed down from generations to generations. And they abide in the monuments, and old landmarks. And as difficult as it might turn out to be, it is my resolve to connect myself to the very many spaces that make Nigeria and us its people the kind of people we are, beginning now.
Yet, the last time I invited an old friend from Delta to come with me on my planned journey back to Jos where we both had our Youth Service, his reaction was unrehearsed and spontaneous: “Why didn’t you invite me when you were going to the US?” or was it, “Why don’t you invite me when you’re going back to the United States instead?” ? Just when I thought it could be exciting.