Who are you, really?

My most prevalent thoughts on this road trip were around identity; the things that inform who others say we are, who we claim to be.

Photo by Emeka Okereke
On Mount Patti, Lokoja (Photo by Emeka Okereke)

In Lokoja, we went up Mount Patti and stood in the place where history records that Flora Shaw stood. Looking from that vantage point down below, to the place where Niger and Benue meet, she declared that we would be called by a singular name: Nigeria. ­

On this trip, I have met people with different responses to this question of a common identity, a ‘Nigerian’ future.

In Osogbo: ‘We [the different tribes and cultures in Nigeria] are not related. Let us stop deceiving ourselves.’

In Benin: ‘Nigeria cannot divide!’

In Yola: Our future as a nation is in trouble if we cannot change our values and thinking.

In Enugu: ‘It is what binds people together that makes them a country. We do not know what binds us together in this country.’

In Umuahia: The individual ethnicities in Nigeria are not strong enough to stand on their own. ‘Can you make it if you break apart?’

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Perhaps to think of identity as a fixed thing is to start off on a faulty premise. Just like people, places and cultures evolve, perhaps identity is a fluid thing: constantly unfolding, expanding, changing.

It has become even clearer to me with this road trip that there are questions to be asked, conversations to be had. If we were named Nigeria by one British woman, and our borders carved out by a foreign people, do we have to remain bound, over 100 years later, to these same definitions if they do not suit us? Or do we talk, about what we have been called, who we want to become?

Who do we say we are?