This will be the last post on this Identity issue. When you come to think of it, it is really not complicated, you know this search for a community to fit into and for people who understand you. I suppose as human beings, we are constantly searching for companionship and I do recognise it’s importance. I’m in my Halcyon days now and I worry that I’ll lose this care-free happiness soon. But I try not to think too much and instead live my life as best as I can. I am going to stress that validation will only come from within. As someone who is unique or different, I believe it is necessary to accept who you are first before you can truly enjoy life. My only wish is that other ‘different’ people can find this blog, read it and identify with it.
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I actually care what people think, I want to know what is on people’s mind, why the make certain decisions and act in certain ways (I know I should have studied psychology…then again I should have also studied anthropology, history and theology). The difference is that now I accept people’s opinions and don’t suffer trying to change them, most of the time. I love a good debate and when I do, I want people to respect my opinions too. Usually when I get into debates, I have to actively hold myself back to make sure that I do not judge the people I’m debating with or force them to change their opinions. I like the ‘live and let live’ mantra and I respect that not everybody on Earth will agree with my opinions. And that’s really OK. Side note: I’ve noticed that individuality is not encouraged in Nigerian society and I really wonder what we can do to change this.
On to the main point of this post, I realised a few weeks ago that I’ve never identified as ‘proudly Nigerian’. I’ll say now that it doesn’t really matter what I choose to identify as. The thing with me is that I think a lot, it may be one of my flaws. I never let things rest. Now I call myself ‘eccentricyoruba’ before I called myself ‘lafemmeafricaine’ (The African woman). ‘Eccentricyoruba’ defines me really simply, I’m eccentric and I’m Yoruba, more information will be discovered later n__n. There was never a stage in my life where I used Nigerian to define myself. And me being me meant I questioned myself because I question everything. In conclusion (because I really didn’t spend too much time thinking about it) I decided that I’m not a proud Nigerian. This gives me encouragement in a very odd way. When I realised that I’m not proudly Nigerian, I think ‘why’ then I make a list of all the things that can be changed and I wonder if I can make any sort of change. I don’t know what my life will bring but I feel I can make a change. By the way, that’s what my real name means ‘Someone that will be exalted’ so I hope to leave a legacy behind me. I’m very ambitious trying to live out my name.
Nigeria has improved because that is what they keep on telling us and I’ve also seen and felt myself every time I returned to Abuja things looked better. I understand that we should be hopeful. However I have a feeling that some people are using this ‘proudly Nigerian’ thing to slack off and say that Nigeria is good so they don’t have to anything to help improve it. I see room for improvement though, I’m not entirely happy with the treatment of women in Nigerian society and I’m also not happy with the (colonial) mentality of some Nigerians. I’ll give an example, my aunt’s husband and I got into this ‘debate’. He kept on proclaiming that he was proudly Yoruba and that more people speak Yoruba than Japanese because Japanese is only spoken in Japan while Yoruba is spoken in other countries, including Brazil. Using this logic, I was supposed to drop Japanese fast because it didn’t make sense to learn it anymore. He then picked up on the Yoruba in Brazil and kept on going on about how proud he was blah blah blah. I didn’t know about Yoruba in Brazil then, so naturally I researched on it. I then discovered that in the Bahia region of Brazil, descendants of Yoruba slaves still practice Yoruba religion. I also discovered Yerba Buena (pictured below), a Latin American band and I could swear listening to some of their songs that they were singing in Yoruba*. It turns out that indeed they were. So it’s a great thing that Yorubas in South America have held on to their culture but should we Yoruba in Nigeria really be proud of this? The first question we should ask is this; ‘How did the Yoruba get there in the first place?’. No, they did not land in Brazil from the moon, their ancestors were slaves. And we really should stop kidding ourselves that most slaves were stolen. No there weren’t, we sold our own brethren into slavery. I used to believe that the Yoruba never practiced slavery that was before I learnt about Madam Tinubu who was a ‘trader in slaves, palm oil and guns’ and was the power behind the throne in both Lagos and Abeokuta** in the 1800s and other people like her. I feel that pride has to come from something meaningful you know. My aunt’s husband mentioning the Yoruba in Brazil refused to acknowledge the reason Yoruba are there in the first place and made it seem as if there was a tribe found in Brazil that spoke the Yoruba language.
Usually when I have asked Nigerians what makes them proud, they usually quote the rising Nigerian hip hop musicians and Nollywood. I don’t think those two are sufficient enough, I’ll truly be happy if I met a Nigerian who said they were proud because of our history or because of their ethnic heritage and what not. I will like to see that more often. Most importantly I’ll like to see a time when individuality will be accepted. I have mentioned that I believe in the power of education and one of things I will like to see is history taught in every Nigerian classroom from primary to junior secondary school. A people must know their past to know where they are going. I remember once hearing a girl complain that we were learning African history, she wanted to learn American history because it was ‘more interesting’ this girl also claimed to be proudly Nigerian. I was very disturbed by her placing of American history above African history when it is not our history. And I’ll choose African history anytime of the day because it is truly interesting and fascinating. Whether we are talking about ancient Egpyt or Abyssinia (Ethiopia) or Benin Kingdom, we’ve got it made. I’m not saying there is anything wrong in being proudly Nigerian once again it is the reason behind it that matters.
I’ll like to conclude by saying that in my opinion it is better when we get pride from our history as opposed to Nollywood. Most important, I stress that self-esteem has to come from within. These two points are connected, the love and acceptance coming from within and from history. When I learnt Yoruba history I was shocked to say the least, I didn’t know when I had sub-consciously accepted that Africa didn’t have a history. Though I had studied history in secondary school I had still somehow accepted that European history was more valid that African history. I knew almost everything about European history yet I didn’t know my own. Now I know better, learning history made me a proud Yoruba, yes there are some things that I’m not so proud of e.g. slavery however my history helped with my identity. Yoruba history turned out to be something I could claim as my own because I’m part of the ethnic group with the Orishas and complex divination system. It is not much but it means the world to me. Similarly in accepting myself, I had to look inside not outside. In other words, I had to stop caring what people thought about me and I had to stop allowing myself to be labelled by other people. I hope all the eccentric ~insert ethnic group~, eccentric ~insert nationality~ and eccentric Africans out there hold their heads high and are proud.
*The song is ‘La Candela’ you can listen to that and others at Yerba Buena’s website
**’Madame Tinubu’ 1960. In Eminent Nigerians of the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge
***Last picture: The Happy Eccentric by Carmen Cilliers