About three months ago, I finally landed in my home country after about 16 months of a chosen exile. I had arrived minutes past midnight so I’m guessing that was the reason for the scanty airport and grumpy faces of the officials who attended to me. I was welcomed with immense heat and my months of mental preparation for the weather seemed futile. On the ride home, my mother turned to me and noticed beads of sweat trickle down my face and between my breasts; “Truly, you are hot” she had noted as she assisted in taking off the last layer of decent clothing I had on.
Like I said, I had spent months mentally preparing myself for my return for many reasons amongst which, I didn’t want to annoy or hurt people with my I Just Got Back (IJGB) behaviour. For those who are not familiar with this term, it is a phrase used to tag Nigerians who have just returned from ‘the abroad’. This behaviour is characterised by unwelcomed complaints of how hot the weather is, the power situation, indiscipline of citizens and every other normal insanity that goes on in Nigeria. I thought I had prepared myself to conquer this; I had thought wrong.
Without any effort and try as I may have to avoid paying attention, it seemed like everything wrong was being flashed in front of me. I spent the first two days thoroughly washing all the window panes and nets in my home. I couldn’t stand the dust. I had failed to prepare for that and my mother had watched me with so much pity that I would shed all the weight I had managed to gain.
I avoided the sun like a plague sometimes running into the house because of how hot it was outside. I dedicated a whole week to recover my bank account partly because of the bank’s incompetence but also because I couldn’t stand the undisciplined crowd I always encountered at the bank.
I am reminded of the character Ifemelu in Americanah, specifically of the part where Ifemelu requests for tiles to be fixed in her bathroom and how upset she had been by the amateurish result. I remember wondering to myself, ‘what is this one feeling like? Americanah indeed’. But here I was, unable to entertain my own people’s uncoordinated behaviour after just a few months. I also remember finding it unfair that during my NYSC people who schooled abroad were given some sort of special treatment compared to those of us who schooled in Nigeria. I am still infuriated by that but for a few seconds while at the bank, I had hoped the customer care assistant would somehow figure I had just returned and immediately attend to me.
I do not take pride in feeling this way; if at all, I was disgusted by my attitude. I sometimes imagine myself as an outsider pouting and saying: Kuku go back to where you came from nau since you cannot tolerate your own country. I do not feel as overwhelmed with my surroundings as I did when I had just returned but whenever I do, I am quick to remind myself that Nigeria in its own way is not like England or America and I don’t think it even wants to be that way. Therefore, it is important for returnees like myself to strike a balance between striving for a positive change in the country and embracing some of its abnormalities in exchange for our mental sanity.