An African child

*Sufferhead: One given to perpetual suffering; always the one to be blamed in ANY situation.

If you’ve ever had a reason to visit any African country, or simply done a study, read an article or a book about any African country, I would like to assume that Nigeria isn’t strange to you. Nigeria is home to many. However, beyond all the effizzy* that Nigeria offers as a nation, growing up as a Nigerian child is an entirely different tale, which is pretty unimaginable in many ways.

The average person has an idea of what growing up should involve. I mean, from all the movies we see and the novels we’ve read, we just want to have ‘normal’ and somewhat perfect lives with our parents – and siblings, if you happen to have them. Can I jack you up a little? Wake up from that fantasy. Don’t get it twisted, there are quite a number of Nigerian households where everything works mostly according to plan, and even when they don’t, issues and events are handled in the best ways possible, creating a loving, serene and happy home for all to thrive. However, this is something you’re likely to experience with one in every hundred Nigerian households. Who knows? The statistics may even be worse.

Like every other nation of the world, the birth of a child in Nigeria is welcomed and celebrated with so much fanfare. Everyone seems to be all over the child – loving, caring, and doting on him/her as the days go by. And then, it all begins to crumble. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s the way our parents were raised or the survival skills they had to develop as they journeyed through life. Whatever it is, or whatever they are, the results are glaring, and in more cases than none, they are terrible.

Respect is great, courtesy is excellent, but not at the expense of truth and fairness.

Let’s begin with the toxicity that rules many Nigerian homes. From parents to uncles and aunts, and even older siblings, the tale remains the same. I believe that somehow, they think they’re instilling discipline and grooming perfect kids for the future. Unfortunately, this is hardly the case. Almost every Nigerian child has had to suffer living in very toxic homes, listening to horrible ‘versions’ of themselves, all laced with threats of the nonentity they would turn out to become if they fail to heed these instructions and advice dished out in ‘love’.

You can guess where this ends. More than anything, Nigerian kids who still live and depend on their parents have come to resent them. And not only their parents but every other ‘adult’ that plays a role in this menace. For instance, many Nigerian kids are under intense pressure from the home front to perform excellently in their academics. While this desire seems great and achievable, the failure to live up to expected standards automatically creates a living hell for the child back at home. Some common phrases you’d hear parents say in cases like these are:

  • What about the student who came first, does she have two heads?
  • Do you know how hard I work to ensure you go to school? You’re nothing but a waste of money!
  • I wish I had the opportunity that you have, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Look at you, wasting away.
  • Keep digging your own grave. I’ve done my bit and heaven bears me witness.

Urgh! I’m in no way supportive of a lackadaisical attitude towards one’s education, but I know for a fact that this is no way to go about fixing things. Sadly, if you happen to be Nigerian, this is one of the realities you’d most likely deal with, growing up.

There is also the ‘Respect For Elders’ drama. In plain terms, if you’re young and Nigerian, you do not have a voice. It does not matter if you’re right, you must learn to obey your elders, allow them to speak first, speak only if you’re permitted, and if not, just suck it up. Respect is great, courtesy is excellent, but not at the expense of truth and fairness. So many Nigerian kids have been forced to lose their voices because of this very cultural virtue – respect.

As though your childhood and teenage years haven’t been laced with enough damage, Nigerian parents take things a notch higher when their kids are grown and self-sufficient. The sense of entitlement with which they make sometimes ‘unreasonable’ demands would beat anyone’s imaginations. It’s not uncommon to hear things like:

  • After everything I’ve done for you, I deserve this and that
  • My friend’s children are already getting married, when will you give me grandchildren?

All these may sound like fiction, but they’re very true. Thankfully, the upcoming generation who have suffered lots of these seem to be ready to make necessary changes where applicable. Of course, we love our parents regardless, but we know we can do much better with our kids. And we will.
Effizzy* – Flashy trappings