The first time I resumed at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. I stayed in the University Hostel. In my block and the nearest one, I was the only Hausa boy from Kaduna. Soon, I realised that everyone laughed and ridiculed me whenever I spoke; my living in places like Lagos and Delta states corrupted my Hausa accent and diction.
At first, it surprised me more than it annoyed me because back when I was in Nigerian-Turkish College, my friends and I laughed at other students who we thought spoke funnily. It took me time to realise that I was now the object of ridicule.
I soon moved out off-campus, but most people around me still addressed me as “Kaduna boy”, for once I never thought to discourage anyone from that or become ashamed of myself. At the end of the session, I won Mr Einstein in my set for my academic results. And I also got two awards, including the most popular student in my class.
The first time I attended an academic programme with foreigners, most Nigerian students would instead tell other people that they were from “West Africa” than “Nigeria”. At a point, my roommate pleaded with me to stop saying that “I am a Nigerian” whenever his friends visited.
For once, I have never been ashamed of my identity; whoever knows me will know that I am a crude Hausa man from Zaria. In all my essays around the world, I wrote from a Nigerian perspective. Whenever students were required to compare International literary and communication regimes (usually the expectation is countries such as the UK, USA, Australia and Japan), I will deliberately contrast them with the Nigerian Literary System. Scholarly blame its flaws on the British Colonial Government by adopting British customs and conventions for its colonies.
Some months after we finished, when one of my professors was involved in research for an International Organisation on laws of ‘Censorship and Press Freedom’ in West Africa. As a European living in Europe, he subcontracted me to write from a Nigerian perspective on the existing Censorship and Freedom of the Press laws.
Though my article for the company was later discarded for the controversial views and questions I raised, one thing was that it was factual and practical.
Years later, the professor emailed me and said that the organisation wanted me to do a job for them and that they were willing to let me write without nudging or filtering my ideas.
Some time ago, we talked with a Belgian woman, and I told her that I am a Nigerian; when one of my friends came to call me, he laughed that I am a novice to say to people that I am a Nigerian.
I don’t understand why people are not proud of who they are. I don’t think a Nigerian should be ashamed of his identity.
Ethnic jingoists and chauvinists should be ashamed and scurry in darkness, same with LGBTQ people. The only thing I owe myself when I am in a foreign place is to work extra hard and excel just like them or better. If a British person is not ashamed of the evils his grandfathers committed against African people, why should I be ashamed of the crimes committed by some Nigerian people?
Why should I be ashamed of who I am?