I grew up in Osogbo, a town filled with airiness and monotonous irregularity in landscape. It was impossible not to see a building standing in a path where it should not be. No one cared for urban environmental planning; they just built their houses on plots of land however way it pleased them. It was hard to call it ugly because it was the same everywhere and so there was nothing to compare it with, but it was not exactly beautiful.
But it was home and the warmth will forever stick to my soul. It did not used to bother me while growing up; I did not care how houses looked or how they were planned. I stayed indoors for most of my life and my imagination expanded because I was not limited to my immediate environment. Movies and books were powerful tools which aided my orientation. Let me put it this way, I was your typical Osogbo kid who could speak Yoruba and English fluently and would still write funky stories about Pooh the Bear or Mufasa from ‘’The Lion King’’.
(I wish I kept those old exercise books of mine where I wrote my unlimited stories by a 8-year-old kid)
What I am trying to say is this – I did not let my environment affect my interests and abilities. I grew up learning from both worlds. And now that I am grown and I realized how sad it is that Osogbo has not really grown from what it was twenty years ago, I am still not going to let it affect my perspective.
Thankfully, digital age swept through southwest regions including Osogbo. So you can search Osogbo on Google map and it can be found. I won’t promise you that you will like what you see. There is not much to begin with, just peace, fresh air and a lot of farmers markets.
I am writing this because I always find it amusing when I tell people I grew up in Osogbo and they make a face of calculated disbelief.
‘’Really? And you don’t sound local’’
The sixteen-year-old me would take this as a form of compliment because in her head it made her feel like she was among the privilege elite kids from Osogbo who had proper education and were not ‘’mixed with the typicality’’.
The eighteen-year-old me would just smile and change the subject because she was tired of hearing the same thing over and over again.
The twenty-year-old me had had just enough! I had grown to realize how inherently stereotypical that response was. What would really set my eyeballs on the roll is when someone says to me
‘’I honestly thought you lived in Lagos… and that your name ‘’Susan’’… is it your real name or just a nickname?’’
What the actual fuck?
First of all, not everyone who can speak ‘’proper English’’ grew up in Lagos. Articulation is not limited to a particular environment. We are both Nigerians after all.
I used to be pissed and not say anything. I did not have to prove anything to you though. I certainly do not need to explain myself to you. I am indeed a product of my life experience. However, stereotyping people to a particular version of story that suits you is not good enough.
So next time such scenario pops up again, I will tell you this;”Yes, my name is Susan (Sue). No, I am not Igbo. Yes, I do speak Yoruba. And yes, I grew up in Osogbo.
Yes, my name is Susan (Sue) and it is not a nickname. Yes, I do speak Yoruba. And Yes, I did grow up in Osogbo.
Writing this, I remember what my mum told me about a trader’s nonchalant attitude towards making sales somewhere along Odi-olowo. I shook my head and said ‘’Osogbo people don’t care if they make sales on time or not as long as the trader next to them has not opened his shop’’
My mum took a pause and said, ‘’osogbo people or not, you sha grew up here’’
She was right. Asides from the stillness that has been associated with Osogbo, it is still home.
So what I am trying to say is, you do not need to tell me things about Osogbo that I already know. Osogbo is home and it will always be part of my story but it is not all there is to know about me. I have grown up to understand that no one should be limited to a world view.
Oh! Where did you grow up?