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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #4 of 52: The Alienating Nature of Criticalness | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #4 of 54: Botswana »

January 22, 2006

Nigerians in Exile

by Chibuzo Onubogu (USA) --- There was a time (for Nigerians) when going abroad (later overseas) was just for studies. Most of these Nigerians ran back as fast as they could to help in the building of their nation. There were those who went on scholarship, those who couldn’t pass Nigeria’s local entrance exams, and those who went because their rich folks could afford it.

There was also another group though very small, that went for higher degrees. If you met these proud folks today they would tell you how it was that they didn’t feel there was any need to remain after their studies. Could you imagine a Nigeria without Zik, Awo, Ojike, and Mbadiwe? These are just a few of the names that could have been lost in exile if they had decided to stay back where they studied. Ojukwu? What would we be today without him? What we have today is more of a voluntary migration/mass exodus by Nigerians. It is a sad commentary that we continue to lose people and yet the reasons they are leaving could be easily addressed. Nigerians are now found living in countries where they never even considered visiting. This is just what continues to dwarf Africa’s giant.

The question to the ruling elite is this, “do you really care enough about the Nigerian people and its welfare? Despite tribal and religious differences can any of you work for true nationalism having patriotism as your driving force?” The Nigerians living in exile (both forced and voluntary) are gradually having children many of who will never have anything to do with the country of their parents’ origin. What a very sad situation! Further brain drain isn’t it? I may sound like an alarmist, but I don’t think I am an extremist. At least, I have not found myself using words like “lost generation” which is what prompted me to write this piece. I would be remiss in my duty as one who has deep love for my country of birth if I just let it be.

In my observation and opinion, there are many reasons why many Nigerians chose to remain in exile even when they know that they no longer want to live in foreign lands where they find themselves. Yes I know that many more are trying to escape, but I can say with some authority that conservatively speaking, about 70 to 80 percent of those in exile want to come home. Yes, that high of a percentage! I don’t know if most Nigerians ever realized that despite all the mess we have, it is still very unique to be a Nigerian. It’s not only because of our very universe within a universe of multiple languages and tribal differences. How about our several different religious expressions? I don’t think it’s just our numerous cultural and traditional and differences. To me, the uniqueness of a Nigerian is, our flair for the dramatic, our flowery ever growing coinage and connotation for every event, moment, and occasion that presents itself to us. How we make up nicknames for cars, telephones, flashlights and all other necessities. Where else could a Nigerian feel more in his/her element than at home? It’s quite unfortunate that for many of us in exile, coming home will continue to be a case of a dream deferred.

The most troublesome factor/reason why Nigerians choose to stay in their exile locations I believe is lack of security and the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that accompanies it. It begins almost immediately after one arrives at any of our airports. The unnecessary grandstanding being put up by the government functionaries at the airport; the searches, the open demand for bribes, the harassment meted out to folks who don’t to part with their money. Just the feeling of general malaise that is associated with being in a facility run by government employees. After going through all these hassles, and your relatives are not picking you up, the safety issue involved when you have to take a taxi which may end up being your last trip. Then you embark on your final destination, which may involve several stoppages by the police. I have heard people express the opinion that sometimes they cannot differentiate between the police and the men of underworld. Finally when you arrive home you worry about wherever it is you are staying whether you will be there and truly enjoy your stay with your folks. Could you really close your eyes and sleep without worrying about home invasion? Could you drive out on visits without worrying about being accosted by the men of the underworld? There is crime in every country, but in most developed countries most people don’t often experience the crimes of home invasion and being waylaid by armed robbers, which are both deadly and humiliating. Either way it occurs you are either lose your life or you come out afraid and scarred for the rest of your life. I have heard this loony argument being put up by a lot of misguided Nigerians citizens about how unsafe it is in many major cities in the United States. Now here is the poser… Truthfully and honestly for those of you who have lived in both Nigeria and the United States: On which streets and time of day would you feel safer, any major Nigerian city at 6pm or any major US city at 2am? I am by no means an apologist for any thing that involves the US, but facts are facts and love country cannot make me blind to the truth.

The other major reason for most Nigerians in exile is the lack of what most regard as the most basic infrastructure that makes it easy on life, which leads to the enjoyment of liberty, and ultimately the pursuit of happiness. If you don’t agree with the US Constitution that these ought to be our goals, then The Dalai Lama cannot be wrong too because for him (a world renowned guru) “ our sole purpose In life as human beings is the pursuit of happiness”. I’m not going to give this dead horse another thorough beating. I will just reiterate these basic infrastructures, and they are; creation of jobs and job opportunities, access to housing and shelter, adequate supply of water, good and accessible roads, access to basic education, and services. I have not listed these infrastructures and amenities in any particular order, but I believe that however you list it the above listed are the pertinent ones.

For personal reasons I decided not to list power generation under basic amenities, for it would be an unjustified and inexcusable action. The major reason being that “NO NATION BOASTS OF ANY MEANINGFUL DEVELOPMENT WITHOUT POWER GENERATION” Imagine if you can the 19th century industrial revolution in Europe without power, or of more recent memory the ones in South Korea, Taiwan etc. We will continue to fool ourselves if we think that the current anaemic rate of power generation in Nigeria will take us anywhere. I have heard tales upon tales of how Kainji and Shiroro can provide all we need , well if that is the case we should now categorise it as a bonafide fairy tale because it is just that. I am 42 years old, and in my lifetime the diseased power supply system has been a constant feature in our national psyche. If you have a dog and its name is Bingo, you cannot remove the shame it brings to you by changing its name to Lucky. You have to either put it to death, or train it. So, from NEPA to PHCN what is the difference? Now here is my solution, please decentralize power generation. We have so many rivers in this country don’t we? Dam them all. I don’t care if one dammed river provides power to just one state. We still have the Oji river power station don’t we? Raise it from the dead. How about Afam power station? We can learn from countries that use coal on the know how of doing it without too much pollution. How about windmills? We can employ Dutch coaches to train our boys in football, why not an age-old technology, which they have mastered? How about learning the solar power generation from the Israelis? Sunlight is one thing we have an over abundance of.

Instead of all the tribal and religious idiocy going on in this country why don’t we try for meaningful development? I am willing to bet my life on it that if we have some of these pertinent issues alleviated people will not have time think of who is Yoruba, Hausa or Efik and what their differences are. Its obvious Mosques and Churches are different in looks. Islam and Christianity may never agree on how to reach the almighty, but a well-fed stomach with a job or a job prospect and opportunity may not want to start a stupid and useless strife against hi/her fellow Nigerian for some dumb and trivial reason.

Yet another reason is the continued belief and use of juju, voodoo, and all other sorts of magic and fetishes. Here is a parallel story to what I am talking about. In European History, we learnt about the dark ages, the period of inquisition, and all the other negative events of their past. The practice of witchcraft, magic and alchemy was frowned upon. It was not a good thing that many people were put to death for both real and trumped up reasons, but the eventual cleansing and revising of these acts and practices gave birth to science and today technology. I am not saying that these practices have completely ceased to exist in Europe, but its now on the minimal and used in most cases fro the betterment of society. Could we as a people in the entire continent of Africa stop using juju to kill each other? Could we stop using it in trying to prolong our lives? Could we stop using it to stay in power? Could a majority if not all the medicine men in Africa decide to join forces and turn their medicine into science instead of the so-called “dark arts”. Come together and refuse to help people who have come to kill their brothers and, those who want to use their wives and children to get rich quick. The people of Amazon are using their medicine to help mankind by giving them to drug companies to make medicine that will treat many illnesses and diseases. Why can’t we do the same? Truly spiritual people of all Religions should help in this endeavour. Whether these jujus are effective is still a subject of open debate, but I know that many Africans strongly believe in it. Africa will continue to lag behind in development and progress if the black magic of toady is not turned into science, and then technology.

Finally, the last reason is shame. Yes shame! The same shame, that has over the years prevented people from going home from Lagos after fruitless and unsuccessful attempts at making it there. Some eventually brave the cajoling, the insults and the derision that come from vitriolic and venomous mouths of losers in the village and go home. Some chose to stay and die in the cities where they are just regarded visitors. Some of the insults even come from parents and immediate family, some of whom have front seats in the church pew and read about the prodigal son every Sunday. Yet they choose to be so spiteful to their fellow humans just because they had not made or stolen baskets of money wherever they were coming home from. I have listened to the agonizing tales of these who are Nigerians living abroad that want to come back with the little they have garnered over the years but are afraid of being deemed as failures. These gossips running their mouths should look in the mirror and realize that not everyone makes it rich in life.

Government cannot provide all the services on its own, but as President Clinton proved, good Government will only facilitate meaningful development in any society that it is applied in. Much of what goes on the in the United States is so because it’s a Constitutional Republic where much is decentralized and the Constitutions of the Federal and State government guide most if not all they do. In contrast we have a juggernaut behemoth of a Federal government, which doles out as it wishes to the state and the local governments, hence all roads of criticisms and admonishment will always run through there. Rome was not built in one day, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Let’s take the step towards making our country a batter place for all. I do believe that an example set by Nigeria towards a patriotic nation building will only be a model to be copied by other African nations.

Everything I have pointed out is a call to duty and action. I don’t believe that anyone should feel his or her ox is gored. I will always believe that to whom much is given much is also expected. A country of such immense resources cannot continue to lose its citizenry to other nations and keeps wondering why it cannot move forward.

Chibuzo Onubogu writes from the USA.

Posted by Administrator at January 22, 2006 10:46 PM


Chibuzor my dear,
You have given both our federal, state, and local goverments a big food for thought. You have also advised all our self exiled folks overseas that there is no place like home, a visitor is still a visitor no mater how long he/she wallows with the natives. It's about time we all acted like the Israelis, come back home en-mass to help our goverments to reclaim our land, rebuild our country, and instill the rule of law in Nigeria.

Posted by: Dr. Ambi Nzeakor at January 26, 2006 09:26 PM

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