Africans At Home and Abroad

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

For most Africans, life in America is tough; it inflicts both physical and mental pain. It can be disorienting. It weighs on the soul and saps ones energies. Life in America is not as is being portrayed to those Africans who dream of crossing the oceans to this part of the world. It is neither a painting nor a picture; but more like a series of never-ending nightmares or prolonged dream-paralysis. For most Africans, life in America can be likened to a whirlwind of shattered dreams or unmet expectations. For these unfortunates, life in America has become a source of sadness, deep-seated anger and disillusionment.

That most cannot, or will not pack their bags and leave for their countries of origin, is a testament to the hold this country has on most; and so they live like androids because America has messed with their minds and brain cells. To be sure, America is a land of almost inexhaustible opportunities. It is indeed the land of those who are daring and have the courage to extend frontiers. It is a land that rewards those who work hard and smart. It is a land that rewards those who persevere and keep going even when they fail. It is a land of law and order, of those who believe in the rule of law, of due process. America is the land of God and gods, a land for the believers and non-believers. It is a land of dream merchants, of fabulists, tale-spinners; and of high and low achievers. It is also a land of pipedreams, broken dreams and untold anguishes.

America has been very good to a select group of Africans. For this august group of men and women, America is the ultimate destination: a land of roses, fast cars, fancy homes, beautiful women, and expensive and exclusive life style. These Africans amassed their wealth the old-fashioned way: through hard and smart work. These are men and women who toiled night and day and all the hours’ in-between to get to where they are in life. There are honest bunch of people who pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and made it to the top of the mountain. They live the good life. They live the American dream.

And then, there are the middle incomers who live a steady but banal lifestyle. They are hanging on. However, the vast majority of Africans live almost on the margins: no extra disposable income, no fat bank accounts, no investment portfolios, no annual vacation to top tourist destinations, no fancy homes and no material possession of high value. Mostly, they live paycheck-to-paycheck. But for the grace of odd jobs and providence, they’d fall off the slope. For this group, life can be rather cruel.

Africans living in America have much more to contend with than just financial and class status. There is also the issue of race; culture and values; and the perception of Africans by the Whites and others. Mostly, to be African is to be thought of as having a lower IQ, of not capable of complex tasks, of needing constant direction and supervision. To be African is to be patronized and looked at with pity. It is as if they feel sorry for us, as if we are les than humans. Although one must admit that not all Whites, Asians and Hispanics are guilty of such condescending attitude, still, the aforesaid mind-set is routine.

At home and abroad, Africans are hired hands. In some African countries, the Indians and the Lebanese run the economy. The Lebanese especially are in charge of some of the most sensitive part of the economy. They hire and fire. In other African countries, the French are in charge and they also hire and fire. It is also a fact that in some of these countries, the elected or imposed president can’t make important decisions without seeking and getting permission from Paris, DC, or London. And in places like Nigeria, the British, the Germans and the Americans run the show even if indirectly! Foreigners run a great number of the businesses — with Nigerians at the lower rung of the corporate ladder.

Take the oil companies for example, how many Nigerians are on the Board of Directors or senior management position? It is our oil and it is our land, isn’t it? And even here in the U.S and other Western countries, Nigerians are not on the B-of-D of these companies. In order words, at home and abroad, we are incapable of managing anything — not even the dog shed. Isn’t that the message?

For how long shall Nigerians, and indeed Africans, remain in the shackles and servitude of our corrupt leaders and their conniving foreign partners?

It is time Africans fashion a way to take their continent back. It is time they design a blue print for how to govern and manage the affairs of their respective countries. Having succumbed to the push-pull factors of migration, it is time Africans embark on reverse migration. Although it is easier said than done, still, it can be done! In Nigeria at least, the problems, it seems to me, is how to contend with the uncertainties of NEPA, fetid environmental conditions, armed robbers and freewheeling bandits, illegal police checkpoints, parasitic corruption, and weak political institutions. Today, it is better to die than to seek medical services in Nigeria. Dogs and cats in rural Alabama and elsewhere receive better medical care than humans in Nigeria.

In spite of all these, there is something about Nigeria that grips ones heart and soul. The irony is that this is not a country that cares about the vast majority of her citizens; it is not even a country that brings out the best in her citizens; yet, Nigerians love her. They love and adore her. They dream about her and have fond memories of her. There is something about Nigeria that makes Nigerians teary-eyed when they speak about her. It must be love. It must be love because even in their moments of melancholy, they can’t help but kiss and hug that land. Seneca, it was who said, “”Men love their country, not because it is great, but because it is their own.” It is unfortunate that Nigeria is a country that is incapable of reciprocal love. Sad, isn’t it?

The aforementioned problems seem insurmountable. They really are. But the fact is that Nigeria is not the first and only country to have encountered such tribulations. History has a long list of countries that were in worse shape than Nigeria. But with the right leadership, political institutions and a populace that was willing to fight for and take their countries back, progress was made and success was achieved. What was the political and economic situation of Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong some two to four decades ago? What are the human and natural resources these countries have that Nigeria or Africa lack? In other words, Nigeria is not in a hopeless situation. And indeed, Africa is not in a hopeless situation considering the fact that Latin America and Asia was once in Africa’s place. The wind of change and progress should not stop at Africa’s doorstep.
Norman, Oklahoma

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Maverixz May 3, 2005 - 11:03 pm

Kudos Playa! Those were words that warmed my heart!

George, Kerley Sowunari May 2, 2005 - 12:08 pm

Sabidde, we are challenging current reality and we are winning. Success may be slow, but the boat is on course. Even though we may not own the technologies, methods and processes that drives business process excellence, we will leverage our position as key stakeholders to ensure that we are not relegated to the background anymore. For those of us from the Niger Delta, this is the challenge. Develop pathways to critical knowledge centers that will enable local people have access to the knowledge and wisdom they need to acquire marketable skills which they can use to create, build and sustain wealth. We cannot help but win. We have everything it takes to challenge the laws of gravity!


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