I never really planned to come back home. The thought lingered in my mind but never fully formed. It only became real when I called my parents and asked them to please change the date on my return ticket; I was coming home.
After missing my first train to Manchester, an uncomfortable flight to Frankfurt and a sad breakfast of overpriced toast, I was finally on my way to Abuja, my city, the Buj. I wasn’t excited and it bothered me. Although, I’m never really excited about anything, I thought this would be different. Perhaps it was the knowledge of my law textbooks tucked away in my suitcase, a sad reminder of work undone or the news of the Germanwings crash just the day before, floating gravely in the still air of the plane. The flight seemed longer than it was. I had started watching American Hustle and had fallen asleep−bored and tired. I had made sure I was sitting alone, tucked away in a corner by the window at the back of the cabin, saying no to drinks so I wouldn’t have to use the toilet on the plane. I said yes sometimes. I thought it made the flight attendants feel good, like they were being of service.
Newly non-meat eater, feeding on the plane was a bit of a hassle. I had forgotten to mention this earlier and so there were no alternatives for me. I never liked “plane food” and I didn’t mind not eating. I usually just took the bread and chocolate, mashing and stirring the rest with my fork to make it seem like I ate something. (I didn’t want the flight attendants to feel bad) But the flight attendant I told of my non-meat eating ways gave me a tray anyway, without the meat containing components. She offered to try to get me something from Business Class and I smiled, hoping she wouldn’t return. But she did, with her Business Class vegetarian appetizers. They were horrible but I was grateful. I didn’t eat them.
I spent the rest of the journey wondering what I would do the moments before the plane crashed, if it did. I wouldn’t scream, of that I was sure.
The plane didn’t crash. Abuja was boiling. I didn’t have the energy to indulge the theatrics of the immigration officers or porters and so I forged ahead, sweating, unsmiling, and willing not to be approached. I stepped out to my mother’s smiling face, her waving excitedly on sighting me.
On the drive home, I asked her about Abuja, about the elections, whom she thought would win. I told her the things I had to do before I left− renew my passport, go to the bank, start my dreadlocks. She told me of the fuel scarcity, thanking God she had queued to buy fuel the day before as we passed by the filling stations with the never-ending line of cars. People were leaving the city; motor parks were full. The elections were coming, violence looming. She said she doubted they had Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs). She didn’t have one. She said people were frustrated and that ‘Buhari is supposed to win. He is for the poor people, the masses. People are tired’. I could sense that she too, was tired.
I was looking forward to the elections. I had been actively following the updates since the primaries. To avoid being distracted, I recorded the results on Excel as they were announced and I endlessly refreshed my twitter timeline to keep up with the news and the jokes, some failing terribly to be funny. It was surprising how tribalistic some tweets were and it was refreshing to be able to mute such accounts.
Our driver told us of how he hadn’t been allowed to vote after he had been accredited. His explanation wasn’t very clear. Something about his name not being ticked. He was going to vote for the PDP. ‘That’s why,’ my mum had said, ‘instead of you to vote for the APC. Anyway, that’s good. That’s one lost vote for the PDP.’ We had all laughed. She often chanted ‘Sai Buhari!’
I expected the Buhari win. I feared what would happen if he didn’t win. People were tired. ‘Ojay, you’ve just experienced history being made’, my dad had said. And as I sat there, a smiling Buhari on the screen, I smiled too, −assignments forgotten and worries buried− glad to be in Nigeria to witness this big little victory of our young democracy. For after 16 years, the people had voted out an incumbent government.