“Hell,” David said simply, nodding his head. “Definitely hell, nowhere else. I mean, guy, come on.”
“I don’t know, man,” I said, scratching my beard. “That just doesn’t seem…”
“Likely. Possible. Realistic.” Amina said, glaring at David. “You’re an idiot, do you know that? Like, are you aware of how stupid you really are?”
“Woah woah.” I said putting my arm between them as David was about to reply. “You guys, just calm down. We’ve been working on this for some time and we’re all just tired and stressed out, that’s what’s happening.”
David folded his arms. “Fine.”
Amina didn’t even respond.
We’d been sitting at the desk all day trying to somehow find the answer to the question we had been pouring over for weeks. We had a group assignment that was due the next day and we hadn’t found even a ghost of an idea of what we were going to present. At first, we picked it because we thought it was going to be a ball in the park but now that we were in the thick of it…
“Dammit,” Amina said, staring at the board with all the threads on it, linking the most horrible Nigerian politicians we could find, which wasn’t actually that hard considering…
“What do all these men and women have in common?” She said quietly.
“Okay, okay,” David said, raising his hand. “I have one.”
“I swear to God,” Amina muttered, her face in her palms.
“It’s cool,” I said, “let’s hear it, David.”
“I think that looking at most of the people on our fancy board, and comparing it to the data we have — ” He snuck a look at Amina and dropped his voice, staring at me. “I think we can single out a specific part of the country that, you know, most of them come from.”
Amina furrowed her eyebrows as she tilted her head. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
David raised his hands. “All I said was that maybe a single, you know, geopolitical zone could be blamed for — ”
“Otitọ,” She said, turning to me. “How attached are you to David?”
I shrugged. I just met him this semester and I was —
“Wait!” I shouted before Amina threw her chair at David’s cowering figure. “David may actually be on to something.”
“What?” Amina said, mid throw.
“What?” David said from between his fingers.
“Think about it, whenever something happens,” I said, “we blame the politicians and their traits. Traits like…”
“Well, corruption,” Amina said, lowering the chair but still glaring at David. “Greed”.
“Lack of empathy.” David said, staring daggers at Amina.
“Superstition, I guess.” Amina said, shrugging. “I really don’t think God cares all that much about our country, no matter how many times we pray or call his name in speeches.”
David shook his head and muttered. “Atheist.” Amina raised the chair again and he promptly shut up.
“Basically,” I said, “we stereotype all politicians as greedy, selfish bastards who are horrible scum of the earth.” I walked towards our board and said quietly, “Then what does that make us, the people who voted them in?”
“What’re you saying?” Amina said staring at me.
I looked at her and then David as an idea slowly blurred into my head. “David,” I said. “Say the first things you’d do if you ever got into office.”
“Deffs steal money,” he said without missing a beat, “I’d still like do some stuff for the country and all but cash has to enter my pockets, I mean, everyone before me did it. Oh and probably jail all the homosexuals, for good this time, though.”
“Oh my God.” Amina said, dropping the chair as she realised. “Oh my God.”
“You know,” David said, “for someone who doesn’t believe in God, I won’t lie, you say his name a lot sha.”
“David?” I said walking closer towards the board.
“It all makes sense,” Amina said, joining me. “We’ve been treating them like they come from some other dimension that spews out disgusting men. We’ve been thinking they suck because they’re politicians, while all this time, they’ve sucked because they’re…”
“Us.” I said, my voice low. “Nigerians.”
“Abeg,” David chirped up behind us, “can someone please explain what’s going on?”
Surprisingly, Amina turned and answered. “You.” She said. “You’re the answer to the question.”
“I am?” David asked.
“Yes, you bag of bricks.” She said, her arms out. “You’re a disgusting, misogynistic, tribalistic and homophobic piece of trash and if you ever got into office, you’d carry that in with you because you are inherently scum.”
“Nigerian politicians don’t come from hell” I said, sitting down. “They don’t come from space or Dimension X. They come from us. I feel we’ve been so critical of them because we don’t want to face the bigger truth. Nigerian politicians are Nigerian people who were once Nigerian children — ”
“Raised by Nigerian parents.” Amina said, putting her chair down, sitting on it.
“With Nigerian values.” David said, sitting on the table, finally catching on.
“Who then grew up into Nigerian adults.” I finished. “This whole time, we’ve been looking for some far away place we could pin them down on and we looked everywhere except here. Our home. Nigerian politicians are Nigerians. They’re us. We’re right to complain and riot and call them names but that’s not the complete truth, is it?”
I looked at them both. “Is it?” I sighed. “They’re horrible, tribalistic and superstitious, but…are we any better? I mean, we put them there and every other time we divide ourselves as much as they do. Just look at social media and that’s just a tiny population. We’re all so religious and immoral, tribalistic and ignorant. What if there are so many corrupt Nigerian politicians, not because being a politician is intrinsically evil like we thought, but because we as a people are evil and they’re the best we can do.
“Maybe they suck because they come from us, and we, utterly, and truly, suck.”