It was a quiet evening in the suburbs, as Chuks sat at his front porch watching his Caucasian neighbor, Mr Gary Rivers, play with his two kids . “Hey Chuks!”, Mr Rivers hollered, as his first daughter waved frantically at Chuks. She had a smile of a million bucks despite her missing front tooth. Chuks waved back with a fake smile, wondering to himself when he’d have a family and acquisition to consider himself ‘settled’.
It’s a familiar position, sitting at the porch as the year comes to an end. In few hours, it’ll be a new year. He sure misses home. He reminisces on how it would have been a fun fare in Nnewi during such period. He misses his early years in life, how his mum will scold him and his little brother over stealing her money to buy packs of ‘knock-outs’ during the festivities. They are all grown men now. His brother Chidi, still lives in Nigeria. Always asking to be sent dollars for ‘Mama’ and building the family house . Chidi lives large, constantly powering his big generator, small generator, inverter and rechargeable fans in all his rooms. A costly way of trying to beat the epileptic power supply. That’s Nigeria’s way of showing affluence now. What a terrible way. If you can generate your own electricity, day in, day out, you are a big man.
“Oh, that’s true. I need to call Mama”, he suddenly remembers. Trying to call his mother early to say happy new year before the clock strikes twelve in Nigeria. He looked towards Gary and envied his family while he dialed his mom.He thought to himself, ” Gary is just 27. Married with two kids, a dog, a house and a truck and he is just a handy man. The system works well here, I swear”. Interrupted by a sweet but frail voice on the other end of the phone, “Nna…..Nna…..Chuks…..Nna…..”
“Mama, ozugoooo, I can hear you!”, Chuks emphasized.
“Ok, network adighi nma. Kee kwanu?”, she asked sweetly.
“Odi nma Mama, Ahu m di okay”, Chuks emphasized.
They spoke for long, exchanging pleasantries and when the call ended, he felt satisfied but still home sick. It was not just about his mom, he knew it was more. “I miss home. I miss walking free without being overly cautious. I miss Abacha and ugba done the right way. I miss my old friends, I miss…..”. The phone rings and interrupts his train of thoughts. “Who’s this?”, speaking with an american accent, sounding apprehensive.
“Chuks, it’s me Pascal!”
Chuks excitedly switches to his Nigerian accent, “Pascalito,my man. Na today you remember me,abi? Longtime! Good to hear from you bro!”
Pascal: “My brother, I wish I called earlier but this is not a good call. Just called to say Sly’s sister passed on yesterday during childbirth”
He rushes to her Facebook profile page while still on the phone. To his horror, condolence messages have started trooping in. He was distraught. Sly’s sister; Sheila was the love of his life, unfortunately she didn’t feel the same so she married someone else. Pascal’s voice seem to fade while Chuks thought deeply if things would have been different had it been, Sheila married him and moved to the States.
“Are you there?” Pascal asked .
“O boy! I’m here. What is really happening with the healthcare system? I’ve heard about 4 deaths in the space of one month……Let me save your credit, let’s talk on Skype instead”
“Which Skype? Have I seen enough power to charge my laptop? O boy, no light oh, to usher in the new year! Gotta go now, we will chat later”, Paschal says and ends the call.
Chuks, still having serious thoughts on coming back to Nigeria. Torn between his love for his country and living comfortably in a foreign land where his basic needs are met. “I’m 39, yet to be ‘settled’ . Mama has sounded it countless times to get married. The closest I was to getting married, was receiving an engagement list from Vivian and her family in Nigeria. I just couldn’t understand why I needed to buy four sewing machines and other ridiculous items demanded. I’m assuming the four sewing machines were for her, her mom, her grand mum, and her late great- grand mum. Dem don see American boy, think say na mugu. Not for me “ . He shrugged his shoulders at the thought.
“Hey babe, dinner’s ready”, an Oyibo sweet female voice screamed loudly from the dining area. It’s Vivian. No, not the Vivian demanding for four sewing machines. This is Vivian from Tyler, Texas. She is an Oyibo with Oyibo wahala. She wants a relationship but doesn’t want marriage or kids. She is cute, lovely, caring, a great companion but her food tastes like sh*t. He takes a bite of her usual burnt waffles, cringes to take a painful swallow and reminds himself why he needs to go back to his country. She joins him at the table and he automatically loves the food, just not to hurt her feelings. They talked about their expectations for the new year. He swore in his heart, that this would be his last year in the States. They picked up their jackets and set out to watch the firework display to usher in the new year. “Three….Two… One….Happy New year!!!!” Every one cheered and kissed partners as ‘Auld Lang Syne ‘ was sung.
Feeling enthusiastic the next day, he tries calling Chidi to prepare for his return. Chidi picks and tells him how ‘Naija is hard’.
“What do you mean Naija is hard? The other day you posted a picture of you and a full cart of items in Shoprite and tagged it ‘This is how I roll #workhardplayhard’, “, he interrupted Chidi loudly.
To confirm his most feared news, he found out that the family building project has been slow and far from being finished, because of poor funding. Apparently Chuks’s hard earned money goes into Chidi’s lifestyle.
Chuks has had it. His mind is made up. He needs to come to Nigeria. He starts making plans to come home. He contacts the travel agency to find out his travel costs and cargo fares. When the bill was sent, it was overwhelming. He’s thinking of a good place to stay. He heard that standard doesn’t come cheap in Nigeria. Bills! Bills!! Bills!!! and he is not sure about getting a job when he gets in. His friends in Nigeria don’t make it easy for him to decide. He’s told all sorts of discouraging news despite his eagerness to return home.
3 years later, Chuks is still singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, with his girlfriend to usher in the 4th year, wishing that one day, things would eventually go as planned. Well he doesn’t seem to be in a hurry for now. He just heard forex has suddenly spiked to 300 Naira/ US Dollar in the black market. Who no like beta thing?
This is pure fiction but it was inspired from random real events. Most Nigerians miss home and want to come home but the situation and condition of relocating and adapting is what scares them the most. If basic amenities like electricity, water, good health care system, are met without stress, I bet 50% of Nigerians will come back home cos let’s admit, THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE
PS: I am not Ibo, so If I sucked at the the language, I should be excused. LOL.
*Auld Lang Syne is a Scottish folk song sung in most western countries, to bid farewell to the old year and usher in the new year. Listen to Auld Lang Syne , in case you don’t know it.
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