I was taught to close my eyes when I pray. It would help you focus, it would help you meditate, they said. So I did. I closed my eyes, in hope and in faith. We grew taller while we watched others fall. They had faith like I did and I struggled to understand why their story was different from mine. Did they not pray enough, did God not love them like he did me?
When we were kings, there was nothing we couldn't do, we built spaceships with the dining table chairs, and soared through the stars with imaginary fears. Everyday our vision was painted on the blank canvas of our minds. Fear, faith, anger, love. I never understood the scenes before my eyes. My country had people but somehow it wasn't that simple, even my neighbors were to be seen as the others. Not another Nigerian.
We reached a place where we believed that this land owed us nothing, so we expected nothing. That’s just the way it had to be. But when we were kings, all the words we spoke were the same, voltron was the one you dare not test and captain planet thought us to be the best. I've asked myself what it means to be Nigerian but in-between the lines that describe our identity; we've found an empty definition, one we can scarcely believe in. Now we struggle for sanity in a society that has lost the ability to care. Nothing shocks us anymore, broken promises, broken dreams; we've grown used to it all. You see, sticks and stones may break their bones but tomorrow we'll wake up and hug our own, close our eyes and thank the lord that it wasn't anyone we know. They were just Nigerians.
When we were kings, I was taught to believe. That my dreams were not just a mere figment of my imagination. I want to believe, but it’s getting harder and harder to watch, so I slowly close my eyes.
You see, I was taught to close my eyes when I pray, so I don’t get distracted, so I remember the things I want to pray for, just in case I forget, but how do I forget even if I wanted to. I always believed we could be better, but as our humanity continues to break right before our very eyes, we focus on acquiring more of the things we can’t keep with us when we go, then sleep with one eye open. Indeed, Fear lies beneath this confident swagger that we wear. We can’t look them in the eye on the street anymore, we see right through them, and get angry when the lens of reality show this lands true form. We hide from the truth but they are as obvious as shadows on a moonlit night.
We all have our own versions of the same story. Every day like a different chapter. Every day we see their struggle, say a prayer to God to bless our own hustle and long for the days when we were kings. Back when, blinded by the light of hope we proudly recited the national anthem, pledging all to this land. To be faithful, loyal and honest. But we grew older, and kings became slaves to the system. Many do not make it through the day, but we'll never know about them, they were just Nigerians. Like you, like me.