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Simi Fajemirokun: Home And The Prolonged Catharsis

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Home. Where is home? They say home is where the heart is. It implies comfort, a place you are free to be you. You don’t have to impress anyone at home; it’s thatone place where you can just be. It symbolizes a place of rest and peace. Regardless of the type of home, whether it’s a hut, an apartment or a castle, home is home. Its more psychological than physical as the popular phrase ‘home sweet home’ captures the warm feeling you feel when you’ve been away from home.

Now the idea of home transcends beyond that physical single property we refer to, but also extends to the community one resides in and to the nation one belongsto. When I think of the community, I’m reminded of the old T.V show ‘Cheers’ and I can hear the theme songquite loudly in my head- “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”. It’s that ward, village, neighborhood, area where people recognize you. Although, with the advent of online communities, facial recognition may not be themajor determinant, it’s more of your written voice, what you stand for, the topics you typically post or comment on. Either way it’s a sense of belonging and it’s home.

On a national level, when passing through immigration on a good day and the officer asks you where you’vebeen and then ends with ‘Welcome Home’, despite the heat and sometimes stench that envelopes you as you arrive, that statement still causes one to smile.

So, No place like home? I guess so; living abroad makes that more evident with the loss of freedom felt when one has to conform to a new set of societal norms that are simply foreign. One that easily comes to mind is boarding a train and seeing newspapers with faces buried behind them as opposed to hearing the usual morning banter of ‘Oga good morning? How family? We thank God’. Although there are many psychological associations with the idea of home, the most powerful one is the element of freedom. The freedom to wear pajamas all day if you felt like it, to say what you wanted to eat without being shy, to express how you feel happy or sad. Freedom is home.

Traveling to 14 States across the country by road from the North to South brought the idea of home on a national level to life. From eating brabisco in Kano, to breaking masa in Bauchi to eating gigantic size fruits in Jos, to white soup in Anambra, amala in Oyo and garden egg sauce in Benin all this proved to me that Nigeria isindeed home. The hospitality in places I might have considered strange was second to none. The phrase ‘sister come and eat’ was common in each place and breaking bread was not a kind gesture but an obligation on the side of the host to his guest.

Our objective of our road trip was to conduct focus groups across the country to find out people’s perceptions on leadership in Nigeria. Although, we had to deal with the fear and distrust people had especially in the North (due to the insecurity), once the conversation started, people felt comfortable to express themselves like they were at home. The conversation was funny and entertaining for the most part but uncomfortable at some point. The task was to imagine our dream Nigeria, dream leader and discuss what aspirations the people had. Apparently, that was a tall order. The concept of a dream Nigeria was very difficult to imagine and leadership was just some group existing in orbit somewhere- the disconnect was glaring. So we can complain but we can’t really imagine what we want? When we asked people ‘what do you want in a leader?The most common answer was…wait for it…..”Whoever God Put There?”

In terms of leadership, people completely abdicated their sense of freedom, as though their voices didn’t matter.The thinking was that leaders emerged in spite of them and ruled despite them so why bother with choices you don’t have. Another common phrase was, “let God touch their heart let them do well”. This feeling of distance reminds me of living with family friends or relatives for a period of time. What I wanted to eat was not priority;whatever they were eating is what I ate. No matter how nice the host family was, you just didn’t feel comfortable to display your madness, as you didn’t want to disgrace your parents. Your opinion didn’t matter much either and you would tip-toe around issues to avoid being assertive. Walking around with my head down was much easier than being noticed for taking too much space in another persons’ house.

Therefore, if our people are walking around with theirheads down, not even daring to dream or imagine a better Nigeria it begs the questions- is this home? Or is there another Nigeria we are waiting for?

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Article written by Simi Fajemirokun

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