I’m halfway through the Borough Press’ Of This Our Country and its a transpicuosly cogent painting of Nigeria and what it is to be a Nigerian.
The 2021 collection of essay features pages of literary exquisteness from 24 of Nigeria’s most acclaimed and award-winning writers including Sefi Atta, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chigozie Obioma, Caleb Femi, Okey Ndibe, Lola Shoneyin, Umar Turaki and many others. The personal essays are collections of memories that paint a clear, subjective yet collective picture of what being a Nigerian entails.
The book begins with Ayobami Adebayo’s nine-page essay, Clarion Calls. A very fitting opener, as a clarion call is a call to action, an urgent prompting, one that can be believed to be a starting point of national duties one must perform as a Nigerian. The short essay recalls the authors’ journey as a dutiful Nigerian, a journey that begins before one understands what it means to be a Nigerian. From mindlessly chanting the national anthem in primary school, to reciting a pledge that is footling to young children, it traces the early inductions we had to committing to duties that were inapprehensible.
After the relatable and giddy essay that Adebayo delivered, Caleb Femi’s Home History aptly captured a different reality of what is it to be Nigerian from outside Nigeria. A reality only those with a similar experience could feel close to and identify with.
While some of the other essays like Inua Ellams’ A Brief History of Suya are not as easily compelling or linear as Adebayo’s opener, it still captures the writer’s experience and literary portraiture of that experience that cannot be taken away from him.
Irenosen Okojie’s Of Country and Reverie told a brief story of the relationship between a young woman and her father. It’s a story that can be easily interpreted as a metaphor for Nigeria and its citizens, but doesn’t fail to capture the beauty and complexities of a father-daughter relationship.
So far, this book has felt like a warm embrace from my countrymen. Although I am unable to relate to every experience shared, I understand what it means to go through them, the bits and fragments of the unique experiences are common to many Nigerians. That shred of commonality is what connects our experiences as Nigerians regardless of class background, geographical location, ethnicity or even religion.
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