Exile, however sweet,
for home makes the heart yearn.
Àjò kìí dùn
kónílé gbàgbé ilé.
I colored the Yoruba proverb above for emphasis.
Because everybody living in Nigeria is a hero.
It is often akin to being a kamikaze pilot in WWII.
They just survived the #EndSars uprising.
They know not what the wind will blow next in their direction.
The hazards are immense—physical, spiritual, and psychological.
When I was in Ile Ife for three months in the summer of 2019 before the Covid, I hardly slept a wink from the noise pollutions coming out of the churches near my residence.
And that was the least of my neighbors’ worries because they considered me privileged
As far back as 1992, when I was teaching at the Obafemi Awolowo University, I remember sending a note to Rowland Abiodun, who had just left the OAU faculty to settle at Amherst College, USA.
The note read, WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE SALUTE YOU.
Those who know the literary context of the statement understand what I was saying.
It was the salute of the gladiators at the Roman Colosseum, just as they were about to battle hungry lions for the pleasure of the Emperor.
Too many people living in Nigeria are the Roman gladiator, constantly facing hungry lions, at the pleasure of their rich and fat politicians, who consider the lives of the citizens a mere sport for their enjoyment.
Except as heroes and sheroes, how else would you describe people who, with hardly a frown, live in a country that denies them all forms of basic civil necessities of life, people who continue to be patient while waiting for their politicians to recognize their humanity, and throw a few crumbs their way, as these rulers engorge their stomach with nourishments and resources meant for the consumption of the entire people?
But the good people of Nigeria continue to watch, to hope, and to pray.
I beg Olodumare for such a temperament.
If I were in their shoes, would I not sink my teeth on the nearest oppressor and not release my fangs until death does me part?
But exile, which is my choice, brings few consolations.
It only makes the heart yearn homewards.
Exile reminds one of the Biblical songs of Babylon in Psalm 134:
By the rivers of Babylon,
there we sat down,
yea, we wept,
when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps
upon the willows
in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive
required of us a song;
and they that wasted us
required of us mirth,
saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
How shall we sing the LORD’S song
in a strange land?
I paint in exile.
I write of home.
Exile, however sweet,
for home makes the heart yearn