Two days ago, Mrs O, an elderly acquaintance, a woman I have known for many years, came by my house to tell me she would soon be retiring to the village with her aging husband. “I dey go home finally this august” she said. I could hear the barely contained excitement in her voice as she said this, then she went on to tell me about how they no longer had a house in the village to retire to, and how her church was building a home for herself and her husband. I could hear the uncertainty in her voice as she told me this. She had come to see me to ask what I would be contributing towards her ‘send-off’.
This is a woman I have grown quite fond. She is one of those people who have over the years, become semi-permanent fixtures in my life. She could always be seen at her roadside shed selling whatever fruit is in season or roasting boli(roasted plantain) or corn. Always ready with a warm greeting and a smile. A hardworking woman, barely scrapping a living, but always positive, always hustling. I have seen her sell everything from tomatoes, to herbs for curing malaria.
I couldn’t help but wonder if the long sojourn was worth it. Why leave the village in the first place? Why leave the relative safety and peace of mind for the hustle and bustle of Lagos ? Roasting plantains and corn by the roadside, under the hot sun and barely making enough to send her children to public school. Why do people leave this country and then spend 20 years in other countries, only to come back with nothing to show for it?
The never-ending search for greener pastures, better opportunities for the children, the Golden Fleece, call it what you will. Human beings have always migrated in search of better opportunities. For previous generations, it was mostly rural to urban migration; moving to the big city. Nowadays its more international. Out of over a thousand Nigerian contacts I have on Facebook, three quarters of them stay abroad, and most of those who don’t are planning to migrate. However, there’s yet another wave of recent migrations, those who have given up the search for the golden fleece in ‘obodo oyibo’ and are returning, anxious to find it back home.
I understand why, Mrs O and her husband are returning to the village in their old age, now that the children are all grown up, they would like to live out their last days in peace, to die and be buried in the only place they can call home.
I will miss her warm smile and cheerful countenance though.
They say the grass is greener on the other side, I say, let’s make it green on our side.