Exodus and the Reality of Diaspora

by Taju Tijani

Professor Tam David-West’s highly inspiring book, “Philosophical Essays”, was my muse for this article. In his infinite wisdom, he reasoned that every Nigerian abroad, must, at a stage, return home because ‘home is home and no place is better than home’. I find it hard to contest this exodus sentiment. Even though I live in a prosperous European city with limitless opportunities, I still regard my yearly travel to Nigeria a social and cultural regeneration worth dying for!

I cherish my yearly ritual of ‘suya’ delicacy, watching truly curvaceous black African women, struggling with commuters for a seat in ‘molue’, shouting at ‘okada’ motorcyclists in their unique and brave manoeuvres, participating in heated arguments over our complex political make up and enjoying many other things that are sadly absent in London.

But in brutal reality, Nigeria, like money is a fiction. The less you think about it, the less it bothers you. To millions of Nigerians lost in the pit of diasporic survival, the determination to reject David-West’s wisdom is becoming stronger because of Nigeria’s ongoing and irreversible political, social, economic and cultural regression.

These stay behinds may be seen as cowards. Yes, but they are cowards with attitude and cool common sense! When you consider the
social, economic and political madness back home, any clever sojourner might want to dig deep and avoid Nigeria at all cost.

Majority of Nigerians abroad fled Nigeria for valid reasons. The biggest reason would be in the intoxicating dream to conquer the white man’s terrain and return home in a blaze of financial glory. The purpose of exile remains to toil and make enough money to secure mid-life phase and enjoy comfortable old age.

Over the years, I have become a good observer of Nigerians in the Diaspora. They are the typical economic migrants—the maligned and despised specie in the Western world. I have seen both victory and defeat etched permanently in many young souls. I have watched with dismay the wasting away of innocent lives. I have also recognized some Nigerians living exciting and successful lives abroad.

They are radical realists who want to work hard and save enough to return home. But God’s reality is a shade different from human dream. And what is the dream of an average Nigerian abroad?
I have come to realize that most Nigerians abroad dream of owning a house or houses back home. And because Nigerians are people obsessed with social and financial comparisons, they toil day and night and lap up white man’s insult for a plot of land at Magodo, Victoria Island, Lekki Peninsula and Sango Ota. Also, remember that our society never forgives and forgets failures. And whose failure is more visible than Ade, Emeka and Nosa who, after many years abroad, are yet to confound cynics with an overgrown parcel of land or houses!

The terrible price of perceived failure and imminent rejection by family and friends back home will not persuade our Ade, Emeka and Nosa to return home just like that. The pressure to succeed and show the world that one’s years of ducking, hiding and diving, both in winter and summer, is now in concrete form at Lekki or Dopemo is soul killing.

This is the ticking time bomb worn like necklace by all Nigerians across the Atlantic. This is the first headache underpinning the dilemma of homecoming. Matrimonial ties and children is the second enemy of David-West’s judgment. We in the Western diaspora can go potty over our children. We love them to death. ‘Tokunbo’ children are like priceless jewels. Our sentimental attachment to them keeps us anchored to their harbour forever. We want them to imbibe the white man’s ethics and culture. We are proud to see our children speak in faultless Queen’s English and in accent that is beauty to the ears. We want them to develop proper English manners, respect for duty and fairness. However, there are some degenerate Nigerians who will not speak Nigerian languages to their children. They want to breed true ‘Brit’ or what in my zany moment, I call ‘Britishco’.

It is true that the white man’s society is conducive to better education than what we have back home. Schools here are functioning. In the UK, most boroughs have over 8 well-stocked libraries brimming with books, audiovisual equipments and computers. Education is well funded. I have never heard of ASUU-like strike here! So, the dream of shaping the future of our children through careful educational strategies makes returning home a gamble, if not madness.

Enter the joy of freedom. When you take away racism, the Western world is a liberal and fair society with limitless opportunities. Living abroad has changed the destinies of many Nigerians for good.
The mass of life chances here have changed once destitute and penniless Nigerians into rich and highly enlightened people. To this set of Nigerians, the call to return home will cut no ice. They will not exchange the peace and tranquillity of a leafy community for the noise and mayhem of Lagos. Nigeria, to them is fiction. They are not ready to barter the joy of chilled Buxton’s natural mineral water for ‘pure water’!

Also, the social, economic and political barometer in Nigeria still make grim reading. The mosaic of stories about Nigeria from newspapers, magazines, books and the internet have built towards a depressing picture of a country that is still in crisis. Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua has returned Nigeria back on to the life saving machine. His ‘sebun boints azenda’ has turned into a nightmare. His first constituency is no longer the people of Nigeria but PDP and his acolytes.

Internal power play and party squabbles have replaced real governance. We in the diaspora see Nigeria as a country still coated in corruption. Yar’ Adua’s go slow orthodoxy has grinded Nigeria and sent it back into medieval retrogression. His sleepy gentleness, which was initially perceived as a mark of determination and messianism, is actually an offspring of a deep insecurity about the nature of the Nigerian project and its durability. The guy has no clue. He is preoccupied with fighting off the Niger Delta demons who are demanding a more equitable resource control. To the Nigerians abroad, returning home when Nigeria is still in the third phase of primitive struggles is nothing but suicidal. Majority of Nigerians in the Diaspora hate patriotism without electricity.

They hate patriotism without opportunity. They hate patriotism with primordial police brutality. They hate patriotism with heartless armed robbers. It is also time we ended the sentiment of regarding our country of birth as home. The ‘homing instinct’ among Africans have denied us the brotherhood of having a stable, strong and thriving Nigerian community in the Diaspora. Unlike other immigrants—Irish, Japanese, Italian, Polish, and Cubans—-who are less taken in by the sentiment of original home.

They have terrific community with a network of support and assistance for one another. I believe, through every day experience, that any country which offers you economic haven and opportunities which are missing in your country of birth is your true home. This is the reality of Diaspora that fights the sentiment of exodus. I have to say that countries that have given Nigerians abroad the chance to reconstruct their destinies, remit money home to extended families, shield them from ubiquitous armed robbers, reshape their buried creativities and the joy of being optimistic for the future is their true home. And who can blame them?

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Nkechi March 4, 2009 - 11:20 pm

Good reading , however a king is only respected in his town. Does not matter how long one stays in diaspora it is not your home.

Most Africans will never get the chance to progress and end up living on a ‘day to day’ basis. Not only is it demotivating , it is demoralising. I believe one day Nigeria will rise and I shall be back then to celebrate

Folabi Arogundade March 3, 2009 - 8:25 pm

Taju tells it as it is!


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