Africans in the Diaspora: Tears and Cheers!

Nigerians abroad, in their majority, are not doing badly given the recently released fund remittance statistics involving Africans living and working overseas. According to a World Bank report $3.3 billion was remitted home last year by Nigerians in the Diaspora who topped the list. Some 400 billion Naira approximately wired home is indeed a great feat and it goes to show how Nigerians take home seriously and think about their loved ones living in a difficult country we call ours.

While Nigeria has had the problem of brain drain to grapple with the diffident and vacuous political leadership in the land accounts mainly for the reason behind the exodus. The abiding urge to head abroad faced with the generalised rot back home is getting stronger by each passing day. A visit to the various Western embassies in Lagos and Abuja reveals a teeming jobless and hopeless mobile generation desperate to hit abroad abandoning the social and econo-political circus show at home.

Some unfortunate ones have had a harrowing experience to tell, stories that are as touching as they are terrible; tales of rape, robbery, detention, starvation, and even death on their way out. Some had had to be brought back to the land of their birth with little or no life left in them, drained by both security officials and the thought of coming back to the hell escaped! Osamuyia Aikpitanhi was murdered air-borne by overzealous Spanish security agents forcibly deporting him from Spain last year. Given the misery index at home late Osamuyia never envisaged returning to Benin City.

Among us can be found the best and brightest in their chosen fields of endeavour. Among us also are ‘419’ scammers, drug dealers, morgue attendants, corpse cleaners, fruit pickers, writers, doctors, engineers, international sex slave merchants, credit card hustlers, oldbreed and newbreed prostitutes, and scholars of high repute. And found overseas also as compatriots are illicit fund launderers, that is those who act as middlemen receiving and banking looted funds from home by our devious politicians.

Few weekends ago I came back from the beach after some blissful hours out there and watched an interesting investigative documentary on a French TV channel titled “Envoyé Special”. In the programme it was shown how some Africans were deported against their will from Paris. A Nigerian man, a Moroccan man and a Congolese lady and many other “sans papiers” arrested and awaiting deportation. The Nigerian had his legs and hands bound and he was shouting that he was being abused physically but the French security forces would not have any of such protestation. In the airport he was carried like a corpse into the aircraft inside where he continued to protest his innocence and humiliation. And of course Lagos as final destination point!

When it came to the turn of the Moroccan man who was not tied up since he pretended all along that he was ready to go back home the French police officials were rattled when the man came down from the police van in the airport and created a scene throwing his bag at the police and running amok exclaiming: “je vais nul part! je vais nul part!! Je prefere mourrir ici que de monter dans cet avion là!!!” (I’m going nowhere; I’m going nowhere! I prefer to die here than to board this aircraft!!). The policemen reached for diplomatic language calming the aggresive man down and taking him back to the detention camp.

On the part of the Congolese lady she was shouting and raining curses on the cops as they forcibly took her into the plane. She shouted on top of her voice aboard: “laisser-moi, laisser-moi! Je veut pas me retrouver en l’enfer je viens de quitte!” (Leave me, leave me alone, I don’t want to go back to the hell I’ve just left behind!”) When the aircraft finally departed the Nigerian and Congolese must have been traumatised and subdued!

The moving melancholic true-life story of Koffi in Lome is worth telling here. Koffi in his early thirties was managing a provision store in the Togolese rural capital when suddenly his childhood friend from Bruxelles Belgium returned home. He came back in a big way with a car and was building a house. When he visited Koffi the latter was happy with him as they cruised about and celebrated his success in Belgium together.

On a second visit Koffi was begging his friend to make way for him to follow him back to base. Initially his friend refused to heed his pleas advising him instead to manage his life back home as no place could ever be comparable with home. Koffi kept pestering him and the guy buckled under his intense pressure. He suggested to Koffi that to make it to Bruxelles he needed to get the sum of 2 million CFA Francs with which to process his travelling documents and buy his ticket. Koffi told his friend he had no such money but that he would do anything and everything within his power to raise the demanded amount.

As soon as his friend left Koffi swung into action getting cracking on how and where he had to go to put together the required sum. Soon afterwards he met up his elder sister in town who promised some financial assistance. He sold his shop but the money he was hunting for remained much more to complete and time was not in his favour. He went to his aged mother who was against his plans. The old woman who happened to be the treasurer of her age grade co-operative meeting group counselled her son against such a mission whose outcome could be bitter.

When the woman went out one fateful day Koffi ransacked the house and took away 850 thousand CFA the mother hid away under her bed! He dropped a note intimating the mother that he did take the money but that she should not worry much or entertain any fear as within three months he would send home more money than he had ‘stolen’.

The poor old woman could not contain her exasperation and disappointment as she broke down in tears saying in-between sobs: “Koffi, Koffi mon fils, pourquoi tu ma fait ca, tu ma tuer!” (Koffi, Koffi my son, why have you done that to me, you’ve killed me!). For three months running no one heard from Koffi in Belgium. The mother was more than worried losing some pounds of weight.

Weeks gave way to months as Koffi kept everybody guessing over his condition abroad. Meanwhile the ultimatum the meeting women group gave Mama Koffi to balance up account elapsed and they sought the help of the police to force her pay up. As the police served the old woman with an arrest warrant in her house she collapsed! Medical efforts in the hospital to bring her back to life failed as she died. Yes the woman kicked the bucket!

Was Koffi a liberator or a murderer in the light of the tragedy that befell his poor mother? One concludes that he must have meant well for the good and prosperity of his miserable family but in this unfortunate case he was more of a murderer than a liberator.

Whether Koffi finally made it wherever he is presently is more or less inconsequential. For many potential Andrews in Nigeria waiting patiently and impatiently to check out the Osamuyia and Koffi tales of sorrow and blood would definitely fall on deaf ears. For them anywhere is better than home! And they are not to be blamed!

For the families of Koffi and Aikpitanhi in Lome and Benin City respectively however it was tears galore but for the families of those thousands who partook in the wired billions of dollars last year it has been cheers all the way. It is a classical case of different strokes for different folks.

Written by
SOC Okenwa
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  • Like a friend says – Isn’t it true that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the septic tank? It stinks on both sides but each side manages it’s stench differently. Finally, Here we all are immigrants with stories to tell. Some were stolen away on ships, some stole away by land and the others descended on land by air.