By: Emelife Uc
Mama Nigeria is a xenophile. She reveres foreigners and welcomes them in open arms. She even goes ahead in giving the foreigner a better treatment than her own children, who were not deserving of any welcome because they had been with her. The return of the biblical prodigal son treatment is a privilege enjoyed by foreigners, while actual Nigerians are embodiments of the first son character.
—The son who goes to his father disappointed and bittered voicing out a rage long bottled, “I’ve been with you all this while, and yet you’ve never killed a fattened cow for me.” Like the father, Mama gives deaf ears.
This explains why foreigners head our construction teams, our bakeries, our football teams, and basically everything that catches the foreigner’s fancy in Nigeria. It is not because there is no better native to do the job, but Mama sees a foreign skin and immediately forgets the competence of her children.
Nigerians, tired of the ill-treatment from one who is supposedly their mother but doesn’t act like it, elope. They abscond hoping to get haven from other mothers. They try Mrs United States, Mrs South Africa, Mrs Lybia etc. with the mindset that since their own mother was so kind to foreigners, they too would be welcomed in open arms.
How wrong they were.
They failed to realise that their mother missed all her antenatal classes where she should’ve been taught about caring for her children as a priority, and these other mothers had a flawless attendance and even did extra courses for extra credit, and so cared deeply about their children over anyone whoever it may be.
Nigerians get a feel of the memo when their feet become sore from the run-around involved in obtaining entry to the new mother’s home. Some give up halfway and return to Nigeria, others try sneaking but are later caught and kicked out or worst killed.
The so-called lucky ones who are granted entry become celebrated by their siblings at home, but they themselves know that the reception given them by their new mother and siblings is not worth celebrating, but they smile for the gram and send pictures suggesting comfortableness. But are they?
When every morning features a condescending reminder by Mrs New Mother that they do not belong here, when the freebies enjoyed by their new siblings only come to them when it’s spoilt or leftover, when they are forced to marry their new siblings if they want to remain because Mrs New Mother is obsessed with her nationality, when their backs have turned passage that their new mother and siblings tread and so are always to the ground, when to go on living means sniffing the bum of their new mother and feigning enthusiasm?
But they are Nigerians whom years of ill-treatment have left in them a single positive trait, survival. So within the confines of a home that loathes them and a reminder that home is still Nigeria – the madhouse they ran away from, the one where weeks before they absconded, things had deteriorated to the point where siblings were killing siblings — they grind till grace, they strive till they thrive ignoring the derogatory remarks they get at the turn of each day. “Go back home to your mother, you outsider” or the harassments that come from their new uniformed siblings that care no less about their legal entry and treat them like savages.
Every day they ask, “Why is mama different? Why does she love my new siblings back at home, and I’m hated here? Why does mother hate me? Why does my new mother hate me?” and somehow they know that no replies would come. Years of unanswered questions have taught them to swallow pain, rage, and turn it to a power surge that spurs them to action.
Amidst all odds, they begin to make sense out of their living. They find out that their new home even though foreign has basically all the utensils they need to cook, that unlike Mama’s workshop that only has two sets of working tools, this one has several boxes. While they rummage the tools to find the best spanner to tighten their lives, they come across many that are identical to Mama’s, then they ask, “Does Mama feed these people and give them our tools as well?” another question they know no answer would come for.
At last, they find the best, one that fits just right. About tightening, Mrs New Mother walks in. Condescendingly she asks in mock-concern, “Do you even know what those are?” Before giving them the opportunity to explain themselves, she bursts out laughing and leaves them to the tools. A stereotypical and prejudiced treatment they’ve gotten used to. At home it is Mama not appreciating their worth, here is Mrs New mother not knowing it. Either way, you don’t put Nigerians in a paddleless boat suspended in the middle of a sea and think they will drown, they will float it to shore for sure, there is so much the hands can do, they are that innovative. It is innate.
They pick up the tools and begin work. They tighten their ankles, their wrists and waists, several moons after, their pockets are tight, their shoulders no longer slouch, they’ve become resistant to the stinky bum of Mrs New Mother and no longer smack. They have now turned content, too content much to Mrs New Mother’s chagrin. So she begins another agenda.
“Why are these people happy? Why are my foster children more successful than my biological ones? They must go back. I do not want them anymore. They must go”
Envy turns into and because she is no Nigeria, she comes for the little ones of the Nigerians first, sets her children to torch them, then slowly advances to the adults, killing them one by one and advises her children to gloat.
“Go! If you do not want to die” Mrs New Mother charges.
This is no middle of the sea, neither is there a paddleless boat anywhere. Nigerians are sitting on a fence made of wood, between hell and purgatory and both flames are sure to engulf them. Come home and die in the hands of Mama and her siblings or remain and die in the hands of Mrs New Mother and foster siblings.
“Home is a sorry state. Abroad, lethal. The problem is being Nigerian.”
Emelife Uc is a student of Literature in English, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. He is as well a Campus Journalist and a literary enthusiast.