I used to think being African was exclusively equivalent to originating from Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria. Then, I really hated being African. Despite the fact I was very young, I indeed was very choosy and local things were never in my choice list.
Uche was my class mate and I admired his skin colour, I also admired the way he doesn’t speak Akure dialect but English language unlike the typical pupil of FUTA Staff Primary School.
Even the times he managed to speak in Yoruba, it was not clear and his communication was usually plexuring. To me, Uche was the first non African (oyinbo) man I ever knew and I admired him a lot.
Everyone’s lunch box usually contained rice, beans or other local Yoruba meal but Uche’s was different. He eats rice too but there was this day I saw him swallowing something that seemed to look like eba, but this time it was very yellow. I salivated and approached him to ask what he was eating; It was then that I noticed the soup with which he swallowed the solid substance. The soup was leafy with little oil kindly and wealthily garnished with different sauces. Then i asked him “Uche, what are you eating” he replied, “its gaari and edi kang ikong” His response was a serious confusion because I knew gaari wasn’t a solid food and we Africans drink gaari but the oyinbo man’s gaari is solid and he choose to use a JET LEE soup to eat it.(I termed the soup jet lee soup because it looked exactly like the soup I watched in Chinese movies)
My love for things that are not African grew more and i regretted that I didn’t beg Uche to give me part of the food simply because my mom warned me not to collect food from anyone in school.
Another amazing thing about Uche was that he doesn’t go to the toilet to excrete like every other pupil. It further confirmed my postulation that he wasn’t African because I knew that it’s only Africans that go to toilet.
I wanted Uche to be my friend but he didn’t like me. It was only the African girls in my class that associate with me.
Ukwa was the saviour that unveiled the cover from my face and made me see things that I couldn’t see before. It was later I knew what it was.
Uche was eating one of his strange foods on this faithful day during the popular primary school’s short break. I salivated and committed the crime my mother termed “ojukokoro” by begging Uche to give me some of his food. The food looked like beans and something shaped like cake was placed on it. Despite the fact that he didn’t like me, like every other non African, he wasn’t selfish, so he gave me some of it. It tasted strange (thou delicious but strange) to my receptors but I ate it just to show that I wasn’t a typical African.
The kind of stomach ache that woke me up from sleep was very unfriendly, it disturbed me so much that I couldn’t do anything, my teacher took me to the University health centre and I was attended to. There, I vomited the Ukwa I had eaten. After vomiting, I saw my mom right in front of me, she hugged me, carried me gently like a teddy bear toward a chair, sat me down and asked me what was wrong with me. Like the prodigal son, I explained to her how and why I ate the food and she laughed uncontrollably while i was narrating my long epistle.
She explained to me what meant to be African and every one born by any man or woman outside the map boundary is African (I really can’t remember the adjectives she used to qualify map boundary such that it fitted my understanding). She took time to explain the values and advantages of being African and she included that all human beings go to toilet and non Africans are not physiologically different from Africans.
Apart from the fact that I had learnt my lesson, my ideas over the years had seriously changed.
I can now say it anywhere even in an assembly of racial discriminators that my name is Omolere Oluwatobiloba, I live in Akure and originate from Oka Akoko in Ondo state, Nigeria.
I am proud to say I don’t like rice and beans is one of my best food, I am proud to say I like egusi soup and asun. Most importantly, I eat termite and grasshopper and I am so proud of it.