I sang and danced and embraced but something was wrong with my glorious homecoming. At the end of my first day in Ubulu, the only thing I had written in my notebook was, “Why is the road still not tarred?”
As I moved through the village over the next few days, I was delighted and dismayed by how little had changed. Ubulu was still as beautiful as it had been in my childhood. The squalid, grey urbanisation that certain types of “development” bring to Africa had not touched my village. There were still wild places to run in, tracts of free vegetation, acres of sky filled at night with stars you could see. I bit into mangoes seconds after they had fallen from trees. I breathed in clean air, fresher than the smog we inhaled in Lagos.
But yet, after a decade, Ubulu still had no electricity, no local industry, no municipal authority to collect the heaps of rubbish around the village, and no computers in the village school. The villagers were still the same wiry, hardened people who were quick to smile a greeting – but poor. Very poor.
Because squalid, grey, urbanisation is the process of a place becoming rich you fucking fool.