Change is Inevitable…. Sometimes all we have is our Memories…..

Q4IS Series: Part 4- Guest Writer Ajoke Moshood

KKB and 1st Guest Writer for Kilonshele-KKB.com

KKB and 1st Guest Writer for Kilonshele-KKB.com

My name is Ajoke, I was born in Ogun State, Nigeria. My childhood years were formed in Ijebuland; my teenage and early adult years in Lagos; and have spent most of my adult life in Great Britain. I have decided to share my story with you, with the hope that some of you some will be able to connect with my experiences.

During many conversations with my fellow Nigerian’s in diaspora over the past 20 year years, I observed that most of us reminiscence about life in Nigeria. We like to believe or (hope) that most things (people and places) would remain as we left it. We reminisce about our childhood years with fondness, the environment and community that we had lived, and would like to think that we are still part of these communities. I nurtured this same belief albeit subconsciously, that is until I went home and was faced with reality.

I have always remembered the Islamic Eid –el Adha celebrations with fondness during my childhood. I loved the way it brought families and neighbours together, it was a time for sharing and togetherness. As children we would engage in play such as Ram (cattle) racing and fighting within the neighbourhood in the days leading up the Eid el Adha. The day before Eid, the ram would be washed and groomed; its coat will be spotless, ready for the next day. All these activities added to the fun.

It was a day when all the family members came home from far and wide, an opportunity reunite with distant relatives and meet new additions to the family. After assembling at my father’s house (the Imam), the whole local Muslim community would all walk together to the praying ground at the edge of town. The procession would be led by horse riders with pomp and pageantry followed by the faith leaders and the worshippers chanting and praising Allah in solemn mood. After Eid prayers, we would greet friends and families, and old acquaintances. It is tradition to take another route on the return journey home, everyone would be dancing to music and the air is generally filled with so much joy and laughter. On arrival at my father’s house, breakfast was served and we will all gather round to eat together as a family at the balcony. The ram(s) was then slaughtered after a small prayer. The whole family would gather round where the meat is being carved up and divided. The atmosphere would be electric as every one is fighting for space and competing for pieces of meat. We as children ran errands distributing meat to friends and families around town. The more errands you ran the more gifts of money you received.

The first time I spent Eid in Nigeria after I arrived in the UK was in 2003, after 14 years. After I got married, tradition dictated that I remained with my husband family during the Eid celebration. The only opportunity to visit my father’s house was after the Eid day itself. I have visited at other times before then, it was not possible at Eid times due to children school holidays. I didn’t go to my father’s house because my parents had already passed away. I had the opportunity to spend my 2nd Eid in my own town 20 years after I got married. Over the years, I had visualised my community and have always wondered how much had changed. I wanted to re- live the nostalgia of my child hood. I took it for granted that my siblings living in Nigeria would still pay the traditional homage during the festival, I wanted to surprise them, so did not inform them of my pending visit. The chance to see what is left of my extended family, old friends and neighbours filled me with exhilaration. I was so much looking forward to a joyful re-union- with my childhood memories.

Alas, I was very disappointed to say the least. My siblings did not travel back to the family home anymore since all our parents passed away. Their families have grown bigger and they all remained in their normal abodes in the other parts of the country. There was no more gathering at my father’s house either. The Eid procession from my neighbourhood had stopped, no more horse rides. Individual families now drove to the praying ground; only a small number went on foot, instead of going collectively as a community like we did during my childhood. Furthermore, when I got to the praying ground I did not recognise anyone and no one recognised me apart from two of my brother’s friends. I guess like me, most of my friends were now married and they had gone to seek greener pastures.

I noticed that the size of the families had grown larger, modern cars, buildings and bigger rams and cows were slaughtered for Eid. There were fewer bikes on the roads, and children spent their time indoors watching T.V. and playing games. There were less interactions as most of the houses are now fenced with gates. The town had now expanded and changed beyond my recognition. Most of the houses were deserted, with few older generations living in them. The new ones were now occupied by non indigenes. All my friends and school mates either lives abroad or had relocated to new areas in town.

I felt completely lost, deflated and now felt like a total stranger in my place of birth.

My sense of happiness at home was now hollow, I could hear all the voices and echoes from past years, but there were neither old jokes nor memories to share. I became bored quickly and there was a big hole of emptiness in my heart.

I went to my aunt’s house where I spent most of my time as a child, after her passing, the house was now occupied by tenants. I stood outside the house looking in from across the road; I did not see any face one that I recognised in that neighbourhood. I was asked by one of the tenants if I required assistance. She had the impression that I was lost- lost it in the town of my birth. She asked me if I was new in the town, I told her that I used to live in that house, she murmured her sympathy and left me alone.

I drove round the town, I was not able to locate my old school on my own; the farm lands and empty grounds where we played were now built up; I could barely recognise the local stream when I got there, there is now a small bridge over it.

I had always thought t that my community would remain the same even though in reality I expected some changes. Our child hood is our first love and experience of live. Every other experience that comes afterwards is usually mirrored on out first love.

This experience showed me that ”home is where the heart is” may not necessarily mean our ancestral home. It may also means familiarity of people and places and where we are most comfortable. Living in a foreign land has also taught me that when we migrate for greener pastures in another land, our homestead looses its fabrics and all that we associate with it.

As we contribute to our new communities in diaspora, I ask you the question “Are you getting more or less?

By Alhaja Ajoke Moshood

Guest Writer- A.Moshood

Guest Writer- A.Moshood

7 thoughts on “Change is Inevitable…. Sometimes all we have is our Memories…..

  1. You are not a lone in your experienc, and I am worried about the future of our community ie villages in Nigeria. People say change is good but is this a good change?

  2. The growth of urban and technological development in the last 25 years has made change inevitable. The problem is, we are definite getting less because the family unit in Nigeria is no longer stable or inclusive. There is no longer a moral code or a common value system as a reference point. Creed, the growth of celebrity culture and being rich over night is now the norm. We need to go back to the basics; learning, understanding and appreciating the importance of the family bond in sustained thriving communities.

  3. I’v learned from the writer’s brief memory lane that urbanism and the search for greener pastures while it is good for us as individuals is a big threat to our culture and to sustainability of society. The composition, fabric, fondness, pomp, history, memory, tradition and even heritage which she mentioned are all facing the threat of extinction. Now, the beautiful collectivist system which defines our society is fast declining. Every where we look, what one sees is the rising culture of individualism but this is not who we are. O ma se o. We of the Millennial generation especially seem to be fine celebrating festivities such as Eid and Xmas alone without necessarily caring whether our families are with us or not and we are definitely getting less for it.

    What history would we tell the coming generation as the author has expressed in her own individual make? I consider the big rural urban migration of the last 30-35 years to be largely responsible as everyone wants to live in cities abroad to survive. We can mainly change the situation through balanced economic development which can only be achieved through better policy making but there is a lot that individuals can do too.

    What can we do as individuals?

    KKB, this is definitely a topic to visit on its own.

    More of guest blogging please and thanks to Alhaja for taking us down memory lane.

    • My Brother…I am nominating you as the next guest blogger for Kilonshele-kkb, all the comments you have made over the past few months would amount to about ten posts on their own….

      what can we do as individuals? I suggest sir, that this is a topic that should be raised at your Nigerian Thinkers Forum. what say you?

  4. Well, before I take on the challenge remember I still have an outstanding subject to debate with you. Also, about what we can do as individuals – we have discussed this times without number at NT and it continues to be the core of our discussion.

    Amongst previous solution discussed is that we should start contributing to community projects back home – be it heritage or cultural ones that can help retain the fabric and heritage of community or small development projects in which we can support small and local people in business to grow.

    I’d like to see something like a diaspora fund in which we can raise millions of dollars and pounds monthly/yearly to support local development back home.

    I remember our lengthy discussion about paradigm shift and how we can change people’s mind for the better if we invest in education projects. There is much to mention but this is a subject on its own.

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