Inside Soala’s Head (Part One)

I’m back.


(I hope. I’ve started writing at least a hundred times and stopped and I really hope this time I see this through.)

To everyone who has asked me to write again, this is for you.

I’m currently writing this very part at 1:30am, when I said I would be doing my research work, but ehn, tomorrow is another day.

For as long as I remember, writing has been my escape, it’s truly the only way I know how to sort out the issues in my head. And since I love to write, it seems like I hit the jackpot right? However, I’ve written less and less as the years have gone on. I’ve tried to pinpoint exactly why and I think I figured it out now. My resistance to doing this thing I love started at ALA because of one thing, reflection. Everyone that has passed through those gates at 1050 Printech Ave is all too familiar with reflecting. We reflected before class, after class, in between class, before seminal readings… you get the point. Well, I started to hate reflecting, honestly just because at the core, I’m a contrarian. My natural instinct is to reject (what I guess should be) the natural order. I don’t like accepting things that just are. My immediate reaction to something that everyone does is to ask why. So slowly, I started hating reflecting. As time went on at ALA, I wrote shorter, less honest reflections. By the time I graduated, I only reflected when it was absolutely mandatory. The worst part of all this is that reflecting is actually healthy and in my case, is actually necessary to survive. Some of my friends and family know I’ve been dealing with some… er…things, and instead of writing to release, I kept things bottled up. I spend all my time inside my own head. No more. I’m hoping this is the beginning of me starting to cope with life in a healthy way. So welcome to Inside Soala’s Head Part One.

So where to start.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about privilege. I think I’ve lived quite a privileged life. I’ve spent almost half my life on some sort of scholarship that has seen me through really good boarding schools in Nigeria, South Africa and now college in America. I’m currently getting paid to do a research internship at MIT, in spaces where few others I grew up with could probably picture. However, one question has been plaguing my mind for about a year. What would other Nigerians accomplish if they were given the opportunities I’ve had the privilege of enjoying. Or even half of it. And this isn’t about me playing down the role I’ve played. I’ve worked. I do believe I deserve to be where I am. But I know I’m not the most hard-working. I’m not the smartest. My journey started because my mother saw an ad for Day Waterman College in the newspaper. My path completely changed because of that, even though my innate ability has probably been the same level it has always been. People get on stages, give Ted Talks and preach about how their success is because of their hard work. I don’t think they’re lying. I just think it’s a small part of the truth. No one wants to acknowledge the role luck has to play. We all know poor, unsuccessful people that are incredibly hard working. They just haven’t landed that opportunity. I think successful societies rise from the pool of opportunities that exist in that society. Being in America, I’ve seen how people piss away opportunity after opportunity, and still have another opportunity that they ride to success. I did the same recently, if you know, you know (adlib: yeugh), and almost lost everything. It humbled me. Thankfully, I have the privilege of being able to make mistakes. The rules are different for many Nigerians. One mistake might be the end of the road for some. The vast majority of the country might never have that one opportunity in the first place. Nigeria is now officially the poverty capital. We have the most people living in absolute poverty, taking over this ‘prestigious¬†honour’ from¬†India. India has over a billion people. We have just under 200 million. So instead of advancing, we’re taking multiple steps back. Fewer and fewer people are going to have access to opportunities so that they can succeed. It’s a sobering thought.

For about four/five years now, I’ve known that my biggest passion is development in Nigeria. It has informed every educational and career decision I’ve made. It has pushed me towards research. It’s the reason I want to get a PhD. It’s my only motivation to get into politics in Nigeria. And every step I take towards that goal, it’s really overwhelming how huge the task is. And I don’t mean that in some saviour kind of way. I don’t think I’m going to ‘save’ Nigeria. Even if I do everything I want to do in this life, Nigeria will probably not be close to where it should can be by the time I die. And if I don’t do anything, Nigeria won’t miss me. I just mean… Nigeria’s problems affect lives, real lives, not numbers. It’s easy to read the news and see “181 people killed in attacks” and say, damn, that’s sad. But that’s 181 different lives, just as unique and as precious as your own. An estimated 87 million Nigerians live in absolute poverty. That’s 87 million people that will probably never reach the potential they have because of the lack of opportunity around them. That’s probably why I’m so passionate about development, no one should be cursed to a life of poverty because of something as random as birth.

Well that’s it for Inside Soala’s Head: Part One.

life update: i pulled a muscle on the treadmill this morning. in my honest opinion, this confirms what i’ve always known that running is of the devil and of course has nothing to do with my ridiculous habit of never stretching.