Blog, Newspaper Column

We Are Our Own Choices

By Morak Babajide-Alabi

Today let’s take a break from politics or any national (or international) discourse and talk generally on what we are facing in the new world dispensation of “development”. Let us go on a journey back in time and take a look at the new styles, the new outlook on life and by extension, the new way of doing things. The many things that, sadly, may not conform with acceptable norms in a normal society.

This piece, written and published in this column on March 1, 2015, did not directly “get an inspiration” from any recent event in Nigeria or in the United Kingdom. But, to be honest, as I watched the various groups of Nigerians gather for and against the presidential candidates in London on February 26, 2015, I know my people have evolved. The realisation of this “evolvement” took a long time for me, though.

The gatherings in and around Chatham House were mixtures of various classes of Nigerians – Christians, Moslems, Atheists, Students, Professionals, Lesbians, Gays, Straights and the confused. While we are used to some of the classes mentioned above, many of us still have not had a one on one experience with lots in these categories. For whatever reasons, more Nigerians abroad are daily turning away from the values that the country is known for through the ages. They are instead, adopting strange ideas.

Far away from the prying eyes of relations, parents, or friends, these “new” Nigerians are not shy to identify with their unique form of “development” and freedom(?). They see nothing wrong in their choices, especially when no one can ask them about their choices.

Let me introduce you to my friend, Adam (not real name). Adam is a thirty-something-year-old Nigerian who came to study in the UK a few years ago. Adam stayed behind, like most Nigerians, after his studies. I met Adam at a function some months ago. Seated on different tables, waiting for the event to kick off, he approached my table and asked if he could sit next to me. “Yes, why not?” I could do with a company.

At the end of the function, it felt as if I had known Adam from birth. But as events will unfold later, I discovered I was wrong.

I left the event with little thought for my new friend. You know, just one of many Nigerians you run into every day on the streets of London, Manchester or Birmingham. You meet them in the library, in stores, parks and always ready to talk, sometimes about ‘home’ or just willing to keep you company or get you annoyed. Some of these countrymen and women are interesting, while some you silently pray to walk away and let you be.

Adam appeared to be genuinely nice, though curiously overboard in his hand movement and gesticulations.

A few weeks ago, I ran into Adam again at the City Centre. I barely recognised him, but he did and called out my name, excitedly. To be honest, at this time I could not recollect his name as my memory failed me.

We shook hands and I “jumped start” the conversation in a bid to remember his name. “Buddy, you got me. For you to still remember my name, you must have a good memory.”

God answers prayers. He said, “I, Adam, never forgets a name.”

“Yeah, Adam”, I chorused.

I had just a few minutes to spare and not in the mood to encourage much banter, especially in the City Centre. Sensing my eagerness to “move on” Adam stretched out his hand again for a handshake. I caught it and he held on to it, looked into my eyes and said in a conspiratorial manner, “You know my status has changed. I am married now,” showing off his wedding band. I stylishly touched mine on my finger and was reassured it was still there.

I did not remember him telling me anything about his partner or love life the first day I met him. However, I feigned interest and shouted “What? Adam, congratulations. I am so happy for you.” He ignored my remark and continued: “I got married to my partner two weeks ago”.

“That’s good news, Adam,” I managed to say as I tried to gain freedom for my right hand. But he was not done yet. He said: “You know what? My partner and I do not want to change our surnames, so we decided to both keep them,” he said.

“How come?” I asked curiously. “Is she not meant to bear your surname or better still keep hers if she does not want to bear yours.”

“No, you do not understand. We love each other so much, but at the same time, we do not want to lose our identities. So we are have decided to bear both surnames,” Adam said, with a big smile on his face.

“Brilliant, sort of compound name? But is your wife’s surname gonna be before yours?” I sounded alarmed at this strange arrangement.

“Yes, Morak, it’s the modern thing. I know it has not caught up with us back at home, but times are changing. Our culture back at home is too restrictive for people like me,” he said. Now I moved from being alarmed to confused and concerned and all I could say was “Really?”.

Adam continued: “I have been running around changing records to reflect the new name. I have to change my bank cards, notify my employer and utility suppliers. It’s been hard work, bro,” he said.
Now I really felt out-of-place with Adam and wanted to move on so I congratulated him again ready to leave, “Adam, let me wish you a very happy married life. I can assure you it is an enjoyable life. Extend my warmest regards to your wife and tell her I hope to see her one day.”

“Oh, you mean to see him one day?” Adam said, laughing.

Shocked, I said “Him?”

“Yes,” he replied in a nonchalant manner and continued “I love him dearly. He means the world to me,” he said.

“Adam, I am really happy for you. I wish you a very happy one,” I said as I hugged him and did a few back slaps and hurried off.

Throughout the day, I could not get the thoughts of Adam and his revelation out of mind. Adam is a completely adorable person, so I cannot fault his decision or choices. But I find myself trying to “cook up “an excuse to avoid him when next I run into him. But a word of caution came into my ears, “you cannot judge him based on what he just told you or his choices”.

Yes, I have no right to judge him. Everybody has choices. Adam has made his choice and as an adult, he has this right. So who am I to fault him?

I tried very much to justify Adam’s choice to the society he has found himself. Is it to conform to some values or to fall in, as many people do? Was it a case of a trial and error that went wrong? I longed to know about his journey to making this choice, but I lacked the courage. I wished I could spend more time with this young and amiable guy so he could pour his heart out to me. But I already judged him and made my conclusions based on his choices.

He made his choices, as long as he is happy, I do not really matter in the scheme of things.

This article was first published in this column on March 1, 2015. Reproduced for the Diaspora Matters column, Sunday Vanguard, of May 12, 2019.

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