Tuesday, February 15, 2011
This Colonialist life
Yesterday, while RoRo and I were sitting in the Clubhaus something suddenly struck me. As I am somewhat accustomed to now, I am used to being surrounded by white people. This is strange in Nigeria for obvious reasons, as Nigeria is an African country afterall. But nonetheless, with my new job comes new things and experiences. I am one of four Americans working here but one of several thousand some expatriate employees. In my office there’s a good mix of Nigerians, Germans, Filipinos, and myself, the one American. But overall, the company is heavily German. And many of these German men are married to Nigerian woman. However, not many of them go to the clubhaus or live where I do in Utako life camp. So back to my story. As Roro and I were playing on Ayo in the clubhaus and eating our brunch (which was quite lovely mind you) it dawned on me as I looked around at the beautiful landscape, the pool, the tables, and the staff dressed in nice uniforms that this was probably what the Colonialists life in Africa, India, and elsewhere was like. I was both disgusted with myself and amused at the same time. It was interesting because life never felt like this in Yola, even though it’s really no different than here. But yes, I am experiencing what colonialism felt like in the modern age. Now, from someone who studied African history this is kind of interesting but at the same time I find it revolting that I am feeding into this system. However, in Nigeria, it’s almost impossible to break free of such a thing. It’s impossible to break free from the ‘oga’ syndrome and I don’t think I will be the catalyst to change things and Nigerians (wealthy and average alike) feed into the ‘oga’ syndrome just as much as I do.
There are certain things I must do to keep myself safe at a time like this in Nigeria. We are rapidly approaching an election that most likely the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan will undoubtedly win. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is not something I am really willing to discuss but nonetheless, this is causing some instability even here in the capital of Abuja. I have travelled alone all throughout Nigeria by road, but that was more because I had no choice but too, but in the future, if I can avoid it, I will, at all costs. Most likely I will not chance travelling by bus ever again, especially not alone without a Nigerian present. However, with a Nigerian or RoRo present, I am not quite sure I will ever risk something like that again, especially in the South. Life is too precious and in Nigeria things can change and attitudes can flare without notice. When something happens and white face is present, no matter how smiley and nice she is, things can go awry quickly and I am often the blame of whatever the issue at hand is. So I will no longer do things like travel alone in a bus in the South of Nigeria. I try not using cabs in Abuja as well, especially alone at night. I do not find life in Nigeria to be scary or unsafe at all. But that doesn’t mean I should not take precautions. Just because nothing serious has ever happened to me in my two years does not mean it won’t. The reason nothing has happened yet is because I do take precautions. I have to make very different decisions for myself than when RoRo is around and with me. When he’s here I have much more freedom than if I am alone.
In December I lived quite freely in Abuja and it was honestly a little too freely. It wasn’t safe. In some circumstances I did not have much choice, but I am being much more cautious now. Especially since I have moved into the housing compound and working for my company. There are expectations one must follow while being an employee of this company and people have an attitude towards the company I work for as well. So this makes me a little lonely and a little more restrained than I was but I know it’s for good reasons and better that I take more caution. However, this does not mean I don’t want to or plan to travel to places that are a little more risky, but when I do that I will do so with caution, preparation, and planning.
However, back to my main story. As much as I am disgusted by this new colonialist life I am currently living, it is bringing me security, and a lifestyle I desire. Also, the company I am working for is also providing work and employment for 40,000+ Nigerians with good salaries and benefits. I know they are making better living wages than those working for AUN and that matters. They are also treated better. That’s why when you walk into an office and you are greeted with smiles, it’s because the employees here are much happier.
And it is like living in a Graham Greene novel here as well. We have major characters around here as well both expats and Nigerians. Sometimes I wish I could be a fly on a wall in some offices or houses.