EXILED TO NOWHERE, UNWANTED AND UNWELCOMED
By Tosin Durodola
I chose to move away from the ordeals I faced in my homeland so as to reorder my life and pursue my dreams, in the hope that I might possibly return one day and help my people out of the quagmire that I left them. I have lived long enough in Ekiti to form an attachment to it, there was some sadness in my heart when I had to embark on a ‘forward looking’ aspiration that constructed home as a site of neglect; I never imagined that gloomy look, as the vehicle carried me away. At that moment, I was faced with uncertainty and no definite assurance of what awaits me outside the land-locked state. I was optimistic of a possible return, even though I set out from home with the mindset of raising ‘new life’ through tertiary education, without which my life would be miserable. In this essence, my original home (Ekiti) was nothing but a make-shift for facilitating transition into a ‘dream space’ in the new destination.
The experience of my exile has been both favourable and traumatic. Despite getting to my destination as a struggling nerd, I have been able to work towards realizing the academic goals of my voluntary exile in ways that have both benefitted the host community. However, the social and psychological costs outweigh the gains. My quest for acceptance in the new town implied the involvement and investment of my whole being and concentration of enormous energy towards the achievement of integration. In so doing, the socio-economic, cultural and political values of the original homeland was repressed in a desperate moment that represents new values of the new town as wholly tantalising and desirable. Like Isidore Okpewho said, “You might well make a good life for yourself when you settle down where you are going.”
In choosing to live in exile, I have been accused by stay-at-homes of being a coward, jumping ship, selling out and several other shades of bad faith. Why? All I wanted was a better life for me and family. What intellectual would have remained in a state where the honest pursuit of truth was either ridiculed or discouraged? How could anything have been set right when the charlatan who once governed us lost his sense of mission in his blind pursuit of power and privilege? When his government abandoned its responsibility to provide the resources for quality education in its schools and institutions and instead diverted them to ostentatious, insignificant schemes? When infrastructural projects became avenue to siphon money into private accounts and property inside and outside the state? When writers, scholars and journalists risked losing their lives for exposing the abuses of their leaders or get assassinated because they dared to criticize them and their misguided acts? The questions raised by my experiences in previous years are too numerous to be tackled in this article.
Let us be fair to ourselves. If conditions at home deteriorated to such an extent that you could no longer guarantee to yourself and family the basic necessities of life: when the book became an object so repulsive that the school bell sounded like an empty bell?; When toilet facilities in public schools breakdown completely so that, in our dire need to relieve ourselves, we picked up diseases floating freely in the severely endangered environment; when salaries were not paid for months, so that parents cannot afford to put food on the table, let alone put their wards in school? When dreams of the young ones were shattered by gross ineptitude of the cruel old order?
Now who, under these conditions, would have resisted the urge to seek greener pastures outside the state just so the family can at least ‘breathe’ or keep the tattered dreams alive? Unfortunately, my exilic journey was never simply a physical matter; it had psychological effect on me. I have become victim of schizophrenia which is ultimately the price I paid for taking the decision to separate myself from my homeland (Ekiti). I feel like the kind of exile Edward Said referred to as existing in a median state, neither completely at one with the new setting nor fully disencumbered of the old.
However, since the homeland (Ekiti) I once constructed as a site of neglect is getting better, can I go back home? How do stay-at-homes perceive me? Can I go beyond tentative returns despite knowing that the space in-between has been filled by stay-at-homes who now consider me a ‘foreigner’? In choosing to live in exile, stay-at-homes often accuse me of being a coward and opportunist, and later, too educated. Hence, declaring that I cannot return home. And in exile, I am viewed with distrust by members of the host community who are unwilling that I should be classified with them, because I am not descendants of the great warriors who finally won their fight for a place in the land.
So where do I belong? Home is no longer home, my travel has gone awry. I AM NEITHER WANTED NOR WELCOMED!
The idea of “exiled to nowhere, unwanted and unwelcomed” is certainly tied to the logic of exile in the new African Diaspora.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
‘Tosin Durodola, writes from the School of Diaspora and Transnational Studies, University of Ibadan.