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The first place I remember my family lived was Isiala Ngwa. Yes, Ngwa. A village close to Aba in Abia State that is reputed for allegedly eating human flesh and killing strangers. I heard my family lived in Okigwe when I was born. Okigwe, a town that has sworn to it’s god to never develop. I also heard that my family lived in Obollo before then. Obowo, a small town at the border of what is Imo State and Abia State today.
There is this unspoken belief that growing up in a rural area, or living in one is some sort of disadvantage. And in the fear of not “falling” into this disadvantage, almost everyone migrates to the city. Civil servants shy away from being posted to rural communities, and count themselves as unlucky when that happens. People desert offices in rural areas, or at best, come to work only when something important is happening. That is really unfortunate. In politics, overlook the grassroot at your own peril. Most people at the top of the pyramid in the Civil Service today once worked in rural communities.I really don’t know when all this started. I don’t understand the fuss about life in the city. Growing up in the places I mentioned felt normal. We were not dirty, we were not poor. And there were lots of activities to engage in. Life is life, and it’s worth living anyway.
What is it about cities anyway? Most of them are overcrowded, have heavy air and noise pollution. Rents are charged at inflated cost, and competition is stiff for everything. The street is filled with diverse characters and influences, making it very difficult for parents to control what impinges on their child. Yet, somehow, everyone prefers it to the serenity of the countryside.
They say children raised in rural areas have limited opportunities and lack exposure. I laugh. You know Chimamanda Adichie grew up in Nsukka. Yes, Nsukka, as in “Nkoli Nwa Nsukka” Nsukka. We all know what and where she is now. I know they say small waters make small fishes. Say that to the UK-based son of a Judge who grew up in Bende with his family when his then Magistrate-father worked there. Or the successful Port-Harcourt based Engineer who grew up in Uburu because his mother worked as an Administrator in the Hospital in that village. Anybody can launch from anywhere. Anybody, anywhere!!!
Talking about lacking exposure, I don’t mean to brag, but I remember watching CNN as a child. I knew Bill Clinton. I always lurked behind my father while he read the national dailies. I knew Tom and Jerry, I watched Sound of Music, Coming to America, Sharafina, etc . I knew The Eiffel Tower. I went to an International School. I spoke rudimentary French. My siblings and I were chauffeur-driven to school. We had Multi-Choice. I remember answering the landline and saying hello. I remember eating popcorn. I remember all the birthday parties. I remember all these from the mid-90s. Please, remind me again what exactly I missed been exposed to. Children are exposed to experiences their parents provide them. What do they watch? What do they read? Even the people in the city depend on Television and magazines for the latest trend in fashion, breaking news, new song release, etc. And thanks to Internet, the world is right in everybody’s palm.
I did not go to Abuja until I was 15 years old, and I first visited Lagos when I was 21.I must confess that there is this vibe I get when I travel to big cities. I enjoy the contrast, and I feed my eyes well. But it’s easy to notice that residents of these towns do not feel the same way. You know why, because all the “fanciness” loss appeal to them over time. Nobody goes to Shoprite or SilverBird Cinema everyday, not the rural dwellers, and not the city dwellers either.
Nobody lives in the center of anywhere. Whether you reside in Lagos, Abuja, Maimi or London, your territory is just one corner of the town. And at the end of the day, all everyone wants to do is to go home and enjoy some peace and quiet.
People dream dreams everywhere, and become what they aspire to and work towards. None of these are the exclusive reserve of people living in cities. Not dreams, aspirations, nor hardwork. And these are just about what it takes to become or achieve anything, everything.Tags: Ezinne Arua, rural area