Distilled into three main components:
- Be the best husband, father, brother, son and friend I can be;
- Excel in (Corrosion, Materials and Welding) Engineering;
- Live in, and contribute to life in, a great church and a great city.
Not quite as simple as it sounds, but tiny first steps are all that count, no?
It is a bright, sunny day outside. On the radio as I come in, the weather forecast – tacked on to the end of the news broadcast on the BBC – promises great things for the weekend; 12 to 15 degrees and sunshine, loads of it. If there is any doubt that our summer, typically bipolar at best is finally here, this dispels it.
Inside, in the open plan office I share with the team at work, it is quiet. It is early too, just past 8.00am and I am the only one in; perfect timing to chase down my regular Friday piece of junk food and savour the quietness – unusual in the last year I have worked here. That was the back story to how, and why I was humming in my head and chewing noisily on a bit of roll and bacon as I ambled towards the coffee machine for a free brew to wash down my breakfast.
I have already hit the button on our old, creaky coffee machine when I spot the two of them in the corner. They are speaking in hushed tones, one has a hand on the other’s shoulder, the other has her head bowed and is pressing a very wet handkerchief to her nose. I hear her sniffle, and conclude she has been crying.
It has always seemed to me that time slows down when you want it to speed up – Friday afternoons after lunch are a case in point, as are long flights with only dodgy movies for company, or worse inveterate snorers. This, discomforting emotions all bared, ranks with the worst of those.
I don’t know who is more embarrassed, the crying woman or me. I wait the seemingly interminable 30 seconds it takes for my cup to fill up, nod an apology and head off, suitably quietened.
At my desk, looking out across the room it is still bright and sunny outside. Inside, there is the slight tinge of sadness for what I know not.
In the immediate aftermath of the Woolwich murder, once that truly harrowing video had surfaced and the Nigerian connection was first mooted, I found myself cast in the unwilling role of the Nigerian ‘expert’ at work. For most of the people in my corner of the world, I was the most handy Nigerian they could talk to. The odd attempt to parlay it into banter did come up, but for the most part, these were people looking to get some perspective on what was both vicious and senseless.
My initial response was one of disavowal. Afghanistan has never really being a bog standard concern of the typical Nigerian as far as I am aware, neither is the typical Nigerian so disconnected from self preservation that he/she would take to causes without a personal dimension of gain involved. Additionally, the name being bandied about that night on twitter wasn’t Northern Nigerian in origin, precluding a Boko Haram connection.
The initial media reaction predictably focused on the Nigerian heritage of the two suspected attackers. The BBC’s Nick Robinson went as far as using the cringe-worthy turn of phrase ‘of Muslim appearance’, which he later apologised for. There were a number of ‘reprisal attacks’ – the likes of the EDL using the opportunity to perpetuate their own brand of dialogue.
Interestingly, within the wider circle of my (Nigerian) friends and colleagues, there was a certain reluctance to discuss the attack. Eventually, the reluctance did seem to go away, replaced by two main narratives – one largely focused on the privileged life the perpetuators led (these were young men born and bred in Britain, so the narrative goes, who were radicalised in the UK and had nothing to do with Nigeria) and the other focused on how just much harder the lives of law abiding Nigerians the world over, already stigmatised enough by the green passport , would be thanks to the additional scrutiny they would be afforded at border posts.
Barely a year ago, the likes of Mo Farah, Lutalo Mohammad, Nicola Adams and others were roundly feted as heroes post the London Olympics. In fact, a few days after Woolwich, Andrew Osagie, a name as Nigerian as they come would be roundly hailed for his performance at the IAAF Diamond League Meet in new York.
I suppose therein lies the conundrum of the visible immigrant – acceptance is tenuous at best, predicated on good behaviour, and heroic action. 😦