The Importance of Envy.

If you grew up in a Nigerian home and do not have what I will call ‘Foundational Envy’, then go find your parents wherever they are, hug them tight and say a loud ‘thank you!’ And if unfortunately, they are no longer here with us, fill your heart with mountain sized gratitude and offer it up to them. You are one of the saved.

A typical Nigerian upbringing ensures from day one you are aware that friends, family, neighbors and generally anyone in close proximity (within your age group) is a potential foe. This is because you are constantly being compared to one or the other. If you ‘lack’ manners, you are compared to your well mannered cousin. If you do not do well in school, you are compared to a neighbor or parents friend’s child who did well. And I pity you if they are financially less fortunate and do not have the opportunities/privileges given to you.  Sometimes this comparison doesn’t even have true merit. And by this I mean,  you maybe came 5th out of 45 and the neighbor’s child maybe came 2nd out of 30. No one does the math to asses that based on numbers, you are pretty much on the same spot, 2nd sounds better than 5th and that’s all there is to it. So your holidays are pretty much spent doing time in your room surrounded by books.

Okay, so let’s say you survived Foundational envy by virtue of your upbringing, but do you think you have survived Environmental envy?

Environmental envy is the one you encounter on the daily constant by those struggling with Foundational envy. If you’ve lived in this environment then all your interactions are done within it. And there is no way, you haven’t at some point worked with, lived with and probably been in a relationship with someone suffering with Foundational envy; you do have relatives right?

Unfortunately, constantly brushing up against this thing heightens your sense of awareness of it. And unless some force field is shielding you or  you are drenched in the love of Christ, slight traces of envy-like behavior might show up every now and then in your behavior. Like refusing to compliment an individual who refuses to compliment you (just a mild example).

Like all things conceptually meant for good, this ‘getting an individual to do better as a result of comparison with their successful peers’ has turned out to be one of the most damaging and unproductive techniques. And its uselessness is increased by the confusing message that one is meant to always be there for their family, kin and the entire village.

The ‘wise’ forefather that came up with this concept obviously did not think it through.

How do I support someone whose success means my life is immediately going under a microscope, and misery might ensue shortly thereafter? How is that suppose to work I wonder? Most importantly, how do I honestly love, encourage and help validate another’s life purpose when them succeeding at it according to some measure automatically means I am failing at mine?

These are questions those of us who want to do better probably grapple with daily.

In questioning myself, I have come to understand that understanding the function of envy is the best way to get over it and eventually be unaffected by it. Paradoxically, it starts with measuring things against themselves.

So therefore, Envy helps us measure:

Our true conditioning. By this I mean our propensity to love or even our understanding of it. I will be bold to say that envy shows just how much you have encountered love in your life. Have you slightly brushed up against it or truly felt its incredible powers? It is true books, philosophers and scientists have characterized love into different forms; but for the purpose of understanding envy, we will sum them all up into one and plainly call it LOVE.

There is a wide range of ways we display envy but I will simplify it into low end and high end which are:

a) Twinge envy: This is just a slight twinge when you see someone that has something you really want for yourself. It does not linger or last and can almost pass for wishful thinking. This is on the low end and inversely means you do have a lot of love in your heart and life but you can only claim this when it is measured against someone you know getting something you really want.

What to do: Further squash that tiny twinge by practicing magnanimity. You can call that person up or send them a message congratulating them. Take it a bit further and wish them more success. Admit also that you would love to encounter their good fortune as well. Can be difficult if you think to hard about doing it but trust me, it is great for wearing the edges off envy.

b) Volcanic envy: It is on the all consuming high end. You are obsessed by what is going on in this persons’s life. Thoughts of something wrong happening to them excites you; and sometimes you go out of your way to make sure something bad happens. My friend, I’m sorry to say this but the love in you can probably be measured with a teaspoon. And no, while we can say some people are a bit difficult to love and I should not generalize; this measure is solely based on your ability to acknowledge another person’s success.

What to do: As a Christian, I will say, if you believe in God, pray hard and confess it ALL. What usually happens is, you open the door to peace that brings knowledge and understanding. This helps you give out love that you were once incapable of and the more you give, the more you receive. And envy will soon become…” what envy?”

If you do not believe in God, the only thing I can say is you may have to fake it till you make it. Painfully acknowledge the envious feeling and immediately work in the opposite direction before it catches up and consumes you. With time your natural response might just be to be happy and gracious in acknowledging someone else’s success. Sorry if this is not too helpful, my filter and response to situations is the bible, anything outside of it is my human intuition and knowledge.

Who runs our lives: us or society?  The truth is every society has it rules and guidelines and they can be pronounced, nuanced or imagined. And there are these guardians that try to tell us what is right or wrong and in this case, who is successful or not. This is only a problem if you allow it to become one.

We all have the ability to question whatever society puts on us and whether it aligns with our core beliefs. But because of the normalization of society’s expectations, we somehow forget we can and sometimes we must question them.

We envy people that a little look into their lives will makes us feel nothing but pity. A dishonest politician’s child might make you envious because society claims being able to effortlessly afford stuff is success. But would you really sleep well knowing you are the sole cause of another’s hunger filled sleepless nights? probably not. Moreover, some of our most satisfying achievements were the ones we worked hard and had to overcome many obstacles to get.

What to do: Question every expectation put on you. Think for yourself and define your own measure of success. Make sure this measure is not a low-key escape from working out your true potential because you will not escape the regrets this will cause you at the end of your life.

Envy helps us tell the difference between Aspiration and Admiration.

The difference: To put it simply, admiration just likes what it is inspired to like in another person. If its a skill, talent or ability, admiration is more than okay with its existence because it provides something to be valued.

Aspiration on the other hand comes packed with motivation and ambition to be like the individual inspiring it.Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

With admiration, we might borrow a mannerism, life philosophy or sense of style from the individual but with aspiration, we see ourselves becoming like the individual, achieving what they have achieved and secretly wanting to surpass them.

Unfortunately for us, thanks to the first mentioned Nigerian bred foundational envy, we do not have the emotional construct to aspire to anyone especially our peers without some very negative side effects.

It is easy to aspire, even with this upbringing, to be like a Scarlet Johanson for example. This is because the physical, cultural and psychological distance between us helps our construct. Your life will never be compared with hers in the same merciless way even though she is your peer.

But to aspire to be like your successful next door neighbor, forget about it. Within a short time, no matter how hard you try to keep it clean, resentment along with envy will start brewing. You both grew up in the same soil and sandbox, and even if you are not told, you somehow wonder about your own short comings. Then you resent that somehow your neighbor was spared, then the blame game begins and in the end, you will be lucky if anyone takes any responsibility.

What to do: If you can tell that you do not want their life but appreciate its existence, then this is admiration. And the best way to build on it envy-free is to show the person you admire them and go further to wish them the best. But be careful that  you do not start veering into the creepy shadowy territory of being a mindless copy cat.

When you badly want to be at the spot they are in, that is aspiration. This is generally not a bad thing but take some time to examine your true motives. Is it just because of the success it brings to them or does it align with your own life’s purpose. Hint: When you picture your success throwing dust in the face of theirs as oppose to the sense of fulfillment it brings you; it time to take a step back.  You will have to do the work in finding your own true purpose. Hint: It is usually located in your natural abilities and your life story (the experiences both good and bad) 

At the end of the day, Envy is something that should bring us to self examination not self sabotage. Because the more we focus on bettering ourselves, the less likely we are to worry about another person’s success.

Instead, we might just have the clarity to see it for what it is and in time we may be able to change this false script of silently competing with each other.

It will be a great day indeed when our peers stop being potential enemies but fellow comrade in arms. A great day indeed.

 

Featured Image via Flickr

 

Guest Post: “Sorry For Your Loss.”

by

Chalya Dul Johnson

There seem to be some phrases that are particular to Nigerians and maybe others, I am not sure, since I have lived in Nigeria all my life. These phrases have managed to transcend the ethnic and religious differences that have torn us apart. They range from being hilarious, confusing and many times inappropriate for the situations in which they are being used. Phrases which are embedded in our culture, expressions of delight, excitement, confusion, fear and attempt to offer comfort to each other. And there seems to be no effort to correct or ensure they are used properly.

Our culture provides very strong support systems especially during weddings, birthdays and other forms of celebrations. This support is also evident when a family member, friend or loved one dies.

Death is inevitable. Like Mo Yan says, “Where there is life, death is inevitable.” Knowing this, I will confidently say we have all lost someone: a father, mother, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, friend (enemy) etc and should be able to understand what this is about.

If you live or have lived in Nigeria, then you must have heard this phrase, ‘Sorry for your loss’ after you have informed someone of the death of a family member, friend or loved one, or maybe it was said to you during a period of grief ,or you heard it while visiting to comfort someone else- or maybe you said it yourself.  It has also become the default message used by many Nigerians on social media in an attempt to offer words of comfort.

I wonder if we really think through some of these phrases and what they must mean to the person or group of people it is being said to.

This phrase ‘Sorry for your loss’ is almost always accompanied by its famous ‘cousin brother’ (another adapter Nigerian phrase) – ‘It is well’.

After the death of her Mom, my friend Yeipyeng brought to my attention the use of these phrases by social media users and the lack of empathy in it struck me like a lightning bolt!

Now I don’t know which is worse, “it is well” or “Sorry for your loss.” But I have just realized how they make me feel.

My cousin had just died and all I was trying to do as I walked into my Aunty’s house was be as quiet as possible. I pressed my back against the wall, trying to merge with the concrete, hoping that no one recognizes and calls my name. I was afraid with my new found knowledge, I might curse anyone that says sorry for my loss. I quickly scan the room and see relatives, family friends and many other unrecognizable faces. Aunty was seated in the middle of the sofa, surrounded. Groups of people periodically walked in and made space beside her, others squatted in front of her; they held her hands, shaking and rubbing them, someone else rubbed her back, another draped a hand around her shoulder in a halfhearted attempt at a hug. Then they all chant the same things repeatedly, ‘Sorry for your loss’, it is well…it is well…it is well, sorry for your loss, it is well…it is well…, Take heart, sorry for your loss, it is well…, Take heart, it is well’.

That day, all that was missing from the scene is a choirmaster to lead the chorus. I even waited for the request that we turn to Hymn 901 from the famous red covered Sacred Songs and Solos and start singing.

As a Christian, I believe in resurrection on the day of judgement, and we comfort one another with the assurance that life and death are temporal, but come on! It can’t be well when all you have left are sweet memories that make you smile and shed tears; along with bitter memories that fill you with regrets and more shed tears. How can it be well when a loved one is gone forever in the flesh? How can it be well when in the midst of your grief all you can think is, “How can I move on?”, “What happened?” and “Where do I start from?”

There must be a thousand and one things going through the minds of grieving people. I personally remember the faces that were there for me more than the countless words I hear. I remember hugs not the words, the holding of hands, the helpful hands and  the presence of people. Probably other people feel this way too because why else do i usually hear, “Thank you for being there for me/us?” and not “Thank you for the things you said to me/us?”

A little more about ‘sorry for your loss’.

When we are truly comforting another person, is it just their loss? Are we not comforting them because we identify with them and want to make them know that we understand? So how does saying sorry for your loss show that I mourn with you when I clearly said it is “YOUR LOSS.”

Now close your eyes after reading this paragraph and imagine that a family member, friend or loved one has died and you are sitting on the cushion like my Aunty, and the first thing you hear is, “it is well.”

Do you truly feel well?

Imagine that the next thing you hear is, “Sorry for your loss.”

What are you suppose to say in acknowledgement?

I just heard myself reply, “My loss, then why are you here?”

Personally I have learnt not to use these phrases when comforting others,  I must not be heard during the grieving period, but  seen. That for me, is truly being there for one another.

And please, what does “take heart” mean?

I’ll just quietly leave that alone.

 

 

 

Freedom or Independence?

I wonder what the general feeling was in Nigeria on October 1, 1960? We all know there was a huge celebration countrywide thanks to archived footage; but what did it all mean to the individuals celebrating? When they were clinking their bottles of beer, what did they say cheers to?

This year’s Independence day celebration really got me thinking about what must have happened in 1960. Maybe because it has been our cheapest Independence day yet; so it was basically no celebration. Last year, billions of Naira was spent on all the pomp but it was cur down this year to a measly 70 million. My sister who lives in the capital city, Abuja said, the difference was extremely clear; everywhere looked boring and ordinary. The previous year was colorful, noisy and all kinds of decoration were on display. I saw (yes, saw) the silence, all the way from Jos and that made me reflect.

And when something really hits me, a movie related to my general thought process begins to play in my head. Now my final question after analyzing the situation is, did Nigerians of 1960 feel Independent or did they feel Free? Let the movie comparison begin…

Today’s feature film is Mel Gibson’s, Braveheart. If you haven’t watched Braveheart, you are missing out on a good deal. This is basically the story of how the Scotland sought and fought for liberation from oppressive Englishmen. It is a film about the first Scottish war of independence. The Scots wanted to liberate themselves from King Edward I of England. William Wallace was the gang leader in this fight and a very inspiring man. What plays over and over in my head and heart however is the last shot of William Wallace, after all the wars, the fighting and just before he was beheaded. Wallace uses his last strength and energy to shout freedom in a way that reverberates, it seems throughout the country and into the hearts of his people and mixed with a little fear into the heart of King Edward I.

Nigeria at that time was nothing like Scotland fighting for freedom but every time I watch the archived footage of the Independence day celebration of October 1st 1960, it seems we ‘partied’ a bit too hard; like we were celebrating freedom not independence.

This year, while taking stock of this country and all the mess going on in it, I have come to the conclusion that we had no clue what independence was about; because if we did then we would have been ready, put in a lot more work and not be anywhere near where we are now.

The first step on the road to true independence will not make you too celebratory. Yes, you may have that heady feeling of finally being your own boss but the fear of the unknown punches you in the gut almost immediately. Essentially because a person wanting independence is really saying, “I am taking sole responsibility for EVERYTHING!” This means successes and failures are all on you; this is daunting, I should know. I burnt all my bridges after studying Geology and Mining to become a writer and a filmmaker; no job applications for me! The harsh reality hit soon enough and I had to make all the necessary adjustments.

This is something Nigeria hasn’t done. We have made zero to no adjustments about our independent state. We are the most dependent independent nation. This mindset is very evident in our discussions and comments as individuals. It is commonplace to see our leaders scampering to other world leaders for help . The irony or paradox of this situation is, we are usually the first on the scene to help other African countries but we can’t seem to help ourselves.

The citizens of Nigeria on the other hand seem to want the government or God to help in every type of situation. It is normal that certain things are expected from the government but when you watch the national news and hear the things people expect the government to work on, it almost seems like a joke. It is more ridiculous when they use the term ‘help’. The government is not expected to do its job but expected to help. “Government should please help us!” is a common expression on the national news. Does this even sound like something that should be coming out of the mouths of independent people?

There was a running joke in my house that whenever something happens we will shout, “Government do something, help us!”. If the neighbors were having a noisy party, “Government do something, help us!”, even a mosquito bite could elicit a, “Government do something, help us!”.

Freedom is a wild, carefree, indulgent feeling and on October 1st 1960, I will argue that Nigerians celebrated freedom from the British not Independence.

To make this nation great again, we must have an Independence education and sensitization program. As a country, both leaders and citizens, we must fully understand what it means to be independent and what that involves.

After all this is done, then we have to declare a new independence day from the old Nigeria. This will be a day where Nigeria and Nigerians acknowledge being independent and accept the responsibility that comes with it.

Here is to hoping…cheers!

 

Lets talk about hair… Baby!

When people meet me for the first time, one of the things we generally end up talking about is my hair. This is because I live in Nigeria and have a different hair texture than most. And the fact that I am dark skinned adds to the confusion, if I were light skinned, it would be assumed I am mixed race and that would be the end of it.

I mean all kinds of people have inquired about my hair: black, white, mixed race, you name it. My experience has been quite varied.

An example is the day two white girls came to me looking apprehensive but with some kind of determination in their eyes. I was suddenly wary because I wasn’t sure I wanted to part of any quest that required both apprehension and determination. It had been a lovely evening. After apologizing profusely for the possible offense they would inflict on me, they asked if my hair was mine, I said yes. Then they apologized again before asking if it was natural, I said yes. The relief and joy on their face was really amusing. One of them went on to say “You have just made my day, my week as a matter of fact, I am just so sick of seeing these wigs and it is so refreshing to see this, keep it up”. I just said will do because really what else could I say. When I was heading out that evening, I didn’t stand in front of the mirror, point to my hair and say, “Hey you! Be inspiring today.”

The truth is, personally, the hair discussions I have had with people has told me more about them than any other discussion we’ve had. Like a mixed race girl who seemed a bit unnecessarily upset that her hair is, as she said ‘ like iron sponge’ while mine is really soft. This told me more about her than any other thing she could have said.

The whole world is obsessed with hair and unfortunately we have been given a prototype: long, full bodied and silky. The one thing we underplay or under show(I guess) is the need white women also have to live up to this standard. I know this not only because of the clip on’s and tracks occasionally showing on Britney Spears head but because after the compliments, after the ‘can I touch’ requests, what follows is the white women saying to me,  “I wish my hair could be this full”. We really are all in this together.

It doesn’t help that for centuries hair has been used to define and validate people especially women. It almost seems as if with a head of full long hair, you are assumed to have been touched by something special. Like you don’t have the same struggles as everybody else. It is even all over the bible, you read stories and see how sacred and important hair was and is, especially long hair. From Esau to Samson, Mary Magdalene and when reading some of the descriptions of the people of those times. In 1st Corinthians 11:15, it says, “But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her for her hair was given to her as a covering”. So yeah…

I have accepted the effect of the importance of hair. However, we need to know, accept and understand that in the greater scheme of things, it is not the most important.

Growing up, I didn’t care too much for my hair. It felt like an Alien who sat on my head whose language I would never learn to speak. It grew in a strange way, it didn’t do anything I wanted it to do (which by the way was lie down flat) and it brought a lot of unwanted attention. The attention was partly admiration, partly animosity but I was mostly called a liar.

“You are lying. You are must be mixed with something. Indian?”

“You are lying. Let me check your hair, Its either a wig or weavon.”

“You are lying. Where is your Father from? And your Mother?”

“You are lying. What brand of relaxer do you use?”

And these are not the most annoying statements but I can proudly say I’ve never lost my patience. This is because intrinsically I understand the obsession with hair and just bear with it.

Somehow having a different hair texture wasn’t top priority at home. In my house, we all have different hair textures, so you just knew someone’s hair was curlier, silkier, one never grew straight, one couldn’t be combed easily and the list goes on. And in primary school, kids didn’t know the difference so no one questioned me. My first experience that fully brought the awareness of my texture was my first week in secondary school. I was called to the principal’s office and she had a pair of scissors in her hand.

The principal was furious with my mom and I couldn’t understand why. She was yelling about us not reading the school’s guidelines and my mom’s audacity in relaxing my hair knowing fully well it was unacceptable. She asked me why I relaxed my hair before resuming and I tearfully told her I didn’t know what she was talking about. Lucky for me, before the scissors descended on my already low cut hair (one of the school’s criteria) a neighbor from my street that was a senior in the school, arrived and defended me. She wasn’t fully able to convince the principal but struck a deal which was to let my hair grow for a month and if a different texture appeared, undergrowth as we call it, then I could be suspended or given the appropriate punishment.

Undergrowth checks was also one of the annoyances I endured, especially during University from people that believed I was lying about my hair. The history of the University experience is too long and not for this particular post but I may touch on it some other time.

This post is about the fact that people think I am lucky to have ‘Non-African’ hair texture or ‘Oyibo’ hair as we call it here but this is what you do not know.

Taking care of this hair daily is akin to waking up every morning and being forced to solve a freaking quadratic equation. Did I tell you I have four. yes the number 4, different hair textures on my head? So every day to take care of my hair, I have to solve for w,x,y and z. This is because the textures do not do the same thing or react the same way to water, the weather and products and I’ve had to learn all these along the way.

Oh did I also tell you they do not grow at the same pace? The back hair grows slower, so no matter what I do, it will always appear shorter than the rest. It is also very curly and coily, so it shrinks very well and mostly appears as half of its length.

The hair at the sides grow a wee bit faster than the back. The hair in the middle grows a wee bit faster than the sides and the hair front and center grows twice as fast as the back. No matter how I cut it or shape it to look even, give it a month and voila! it is back to being uneven.

I have also learnt to apply product differently because one part of the hair absorbs well and the other doesn’t. If I do not do this then parts of my head will look soaking wet while some other parts will look extremely dry.

People always tell me to be grateful that I do not have to deal with relaxers but I personally feel what I have to deal with is its own challenge. I am however grateful not because I fell specially endowed but because I see my entire life as a gift. My heritage, my nationality, my physical appearance, my mental health, my creative abilities, my perspectives; all that is uniquely mine is uniquely mine and I refuse to have it any other way.

As for my hair, I am learning daily to work with it and make it… almost do what I want.

For example when I want it to look short and shrunken, I do not put any product at all.

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When I want it a little bit longer and the curls to loosen up, I know just the right amount of product to put.

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But most times I just braid it up because I do not want to deal with it for a while; even mathematicians need a holiday.

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Other times when I am bored and feeling some Aaliyah vibes, I use it to play around.

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Its hair, it shouldn’t be so serious but God forbid I should tell you how to feel about yours.

Who else has more then one texture? Let me know, for I am sure we are many; just stop paying attention to the prototype, study your own hair and you may just be pleasantly surprised.

Your Nigeria Is Not My Nigeria.

Stereotyping when done in words and not in deed, doesn’t bug me; bear with me, I have my reasons. One of which is: I believe stereotyping raises a lot of very important questions and if we still have questions, then we do not have the answer yet. And we must learn to explore our questions instead of get emotional and irrational about them.

Have you ever heard the phrase or statement, ‘Nigerians love to answer a question with another question’ ? if you haven’t, let me give a rundown of what a conversation can look like.

Person A: Can I come to your house tomorrow?

Person B: What time do you want to come?

Person A: Is 3pm fine with you?

Person B: 3pm in the afternoon?

Person A: Isn’t 3pm in the afternoon?

Seriously, the questions can go on forever before an answer emerges and I am not exaggerating. We, Nigerians, have mastered the art of the question. I used to wonder why we did that. I always thought it was for clarity sake or to be on the same page or something but after our recent elections, I have come to the conclusion that it is because we are too emotional to deal with honest answers. Especially, if the answers are direct, brutal and instant. Somehow and somewhere along the line during our development as a people, we pushed reason to the side and let emotions be the driver of our lives.

Could it be because of modernization? I would like to believe we reasoned more back in the time of the kingdoms and when tradition ruled the land. This is because all the local stories and folktales I have heard celebrated being wise and intelligent. Most of these stories seem to indicate that being wise was a precursor to great decisions and fair judgement. But we have totally lost this; the ability to logically reason things out before our emotions get in the way.

Can we say it is because of religion? Jesus Christ my personal person as we say in Nigeria and my hero, even though a lot of the time didn’t really give straight out answers; he presented things in a way that encouraged us to ask, seek and knock. He was quite brutally honest and candid though when it came to his answers. This is me speaking on the Christian side of things.

As a country, we are so segmented, segregated and sectional (proud of my ‘S’ usage son!) but we refuse to accept this fact. The recent elections just showed our tribalism and how normalized our stereotypes are to the point that they were used in arguments as proof.

However, we do like to claim to be proudly Nigerian, but what does that even mean? I do not know anybody that dresses Nigerian, I do not even know what it means to dress Nigerian. Some may say when we wear Ankara or printed fabrics , we dress Nigerian. Really? Aren’t those fabrics from Denmark or Holland or Somewhere far off? Isn’t our textile industry broken down and virtually non-existent? What really makes us proudly Nigerian? Is it when Chiwetel Ejifor is nominated for an Oscar and we claim him and share in his glory? Because I know we are very vocal and quick to distance ourselves from the international criminals and terrorists that emerge from within. So what is ‘Proudly Nigerian’ really?

When I was going to do my one year youth service, I asked around about what to expect especially during the three week orientation camp. The most reoccurring advice I got was, “Beware of the Igbo girls on camp.” It got really scary when an Igbo girl who grew up in Jos told me the same thing. I wondered why everyone was particular about Igbo girls and I asked “Why not Yoruba girls?”. The only answer i got was you will find out when you get to camp and boy did i ever.

My bunk mate was nastiness wrapped in human form. I can’t even go into the details of how low she stooped to make my life miserable. The worst thing she did was wake up in the dead of the night to pee in my bucket of bathing water. Did I tell you she was Igbo?

I would like to say my experience was enough proof of this Igbo stereotype but on the bunk next to me was another Igbo girl; one of the sweetest people I met on camp. She observed the drama going on between me and my bunk mate and took it upon herself to protect and look out for me. My nickname in our apartment ‘Yankee Bunkee’ came from her and I loved chatting with her. She gave me some perspective as to the general reason for the nastiness but now that I have explored further, I have my own theories which I would share another time.

The stereotype for my people, Plateau people is that we are very lazy and stupid. This stereotype is based on the fact that we are not hustlers and every other tribe comes to our state to enrich themselves with our resources while we watch. Is this true? I do not agree it to be entirely true and this is how I try to educate people who say this.

Most Plateau Indigenes are land owners. I can boldly say at least 90% of the population owns land where ever they come from or have access to it. A typical Plateau person can go to their village and have a piece of land that they can claim as theirs or that belongs to their family (immediate and extended). This means they can farm on it and earn money or explore it in some way so the need to migrate to another state and ‘suffer’ yourself as we see it, isn’t really there.

Plateau parents mostly cuddle and smother their kids, this should be a good thing but notice i said kids. A typical Plateau parent for some reason doesn’t encourage their children to grow up. I don’t know the reason for this and i am still looking into it. Somewhere in our history, something must have happened but I don’t know what yet. Now this means that the things it takes to be a proper grown up has eluded a lot of us. Hopefully as we accept this truth, the next generation will be spared but I am afraid it may not be the case.Because really, have we accepted this truth?

Contentment was also slammed into us from day one. If you have in excess, living/appearing humble is the way to go. It is so easy for us to sniff out and judge the materialistic and vulgar amongst us. And with the hard and heavy ‘righteous’ judgement ready and easy to be dispersed; a lot of people do not want to deal with it.

So we don’t aspire to much because we have enough and that is good…er…enough. This should be a good thing to be content but it is not an excuse to not be productive. It is also not a reason to let our gifts, talents and resources to be depleted and go to waste; to whom much is given, so much more is expected. We are up to the task but squandering our blessings and this is truly worse than actually being lazy and stupid.

I bet my bunk mate in camp heard I was Plateau and naturally assumed based on a stereotype she could oppress me. On the very last day of camp due to my highly elevated ways of putting her in check, she met me and instead of apologizing for her mean ways, she said “I can’t believe you thought it was right to let us go three weeks sharing a bunk without knowing each others names.” I just shook my head and walked away and to this day I do not know her name. I only refer to her as ‘The mean Igbo girl that was my bunk mate in camp,” and I am right in doing this. But would I be right in telling everyone going to camp to beware of the Igbo girls? I don’t think so.

We have 371 tribes in Nigeria, do we even want to assume the number of stereotypes floating around? Even with 3 major tribes and religions, we still haven’t solidified ourselves enough to find a common ground. Is it a wonder we almost killed ourselves online over our choices during the elections? Or am I the only that doesn’t really know what it means to be truly Nigerian?

So many questions yet to be answered…