Airport

Opemipo
2 min readOct 2, 2023

The Nigerian identity is interesting. When I’m abroad, it’s rooted in a sense of place — where I’m from. It’s in my voice and accent. It’s in my stories and friendships. But when I’m home, that changes. I feel more Lagosian than Nigerian. My sense of national identity goes out the window as I’m quickly reminded of all the geographic and socioeconomic fractures.

I think this is why religion is so popular. See also sports, music, work and all the creative activities that manage to transcend ethnic divisions. Because most of us are not actively involved in nation building, these are the things we find shared identity in. Politics may be irreversibly biased, but with a shared goal, you can suspend your animosity for the next man.

Religion and popular culture can provide a temporal sense of shared identity, but I think the true gem is history. Archives are so important to a shared identity. You cannot be something you don’t remember. And just like my family identity is lost to me except it’s passed down in stories and pictures, my national identity is similarly lost if I can’t access it.

But I digress; this is a story about the airport.

When you get to the “Nigerian gate” at an airport, you can feel it in the air. Regardless of the mix of people, you can feel the hustle, the curiosity, the energy, the anxiety, the intensity and the pride of the Nigerians. It doesn’t matter what tribe, religion or socioeconomic status, there’s a certain levelling that happens at the airport, and this creates the strongest sense of Nigerian identity I’ve personally experienced.

The transience of the airport creates a kind of safe space. The shared destination creates something for people to bond over and complain about. And the rudeness and animosity of airport staff often creates a common defensiveness among us travellers.

What it means to be Nigerian is so broad and diverse that it must encompass the entire human experience. Pride and shame are both sides of the same coin. I am just as Nigerian as everyone else — no more, no less. Nowhere else is this more real for me than at the airport.

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