Quite a lot of us Nigerians who have not had the so-called good fortune to visit God’s own country are often regaled with the phantasmagoria of what we miss. And indeed we do. The sweet stories vary from the real to the surreal. I should talk about the things I have experienced first of all before dwelling on those that resemble fables. I have known certain people from my backyard, whom Nigeria had been most unkind to. They had committed the offence of hardworking and dedication to the things they set their hearts. A lot of them have done this, have done that and nothing seems to ever fall in place for them. Before anyone realizes it, some seem to vanish into thin air and when they resurface, they do so with the sort of wellbeing normally ascribable only to the lucky few in Nigeria who have access to those who control our common purse, or are in the yahoo-yahoo business. You now find out that some of these people who found their way either to America or to Europe, are now able to dash you money.Money that could take care of your transport in Lagos for two months. Other put up structures with their third and fourth generations in mind and can now live a life equivalent to that of a local government chairman in Naija. This is just the summary of that story of Nigerians whom life treated unfairly here in their own country and who on getting to America or anywhere else in the world just transmute from the semi-animals that the system reduced them to, to normal ordinary human beings. So, the young man who does not have the ‘liver’ to carry a gun and rob either on the highway or elsewhere or who does not have that unscrupulous mentality to wrest some money from a mugu via the internet, America presents this other alternative. But here in this write-up, I hope you don’t expect it of me to tell whatever it is that some of our people do to live the good life in the US, reason being that I never reach there-yet and should not be in any position to tell.
But there are other stories told by some Nigerian-Americans. What you observe about these been-tos is the tendency to foneticalise almost every syllable as they gist with you. But what do you expect? Here is this dude who has travelled go jand and you want him to come back here and still be the same guy yarning and breaking pidgin like no man’s business? Of course not! If I were in his shoes, I would do whatever it is to bamboozle you with my newly acquired accent and talk through my nose like those Brits with the cockney air. Recently, I took a language course in Unilag and once as we were having a discussion with our teacher, he said something about ‘communicative efficiency’, something on how it is important to get your message across without the encumbrances of putting the message nicely via our accent. In fact, I had observed before this time that I had five teachers with five different Englishes, depending on the area they handled and maybe as a result of wherever it was that they got their training from. But as the class got under way, we discovered that almost everyone of us (students) spoke different English, the flavours emanating from our different geographical locations of the East, West, North and South. We raised this issue with the teacher and it was here he pointed it out that even in the United States, there are differences in the speech patterns between the poor White American and the rich; between the White American and the African-American; between the Latino-American and the African-American; between the African-American and the Nigerian-American. This was new and news to me. And when I called my dude Fidelis on a matter unrelated to this, I bantered with him why it is that he had spent almost nine years in the US and he had never foneticalised when he talked with me. Laughing, Fidelis confirmed what the teacher had said and went on to say that our Nigerian brethren who began to live in the US as adults and foneticalise when they yarn with us are merely ‘forming’, that it was indeed a difficult thing, to assume the accent of the Native-American in all its ramifications. Well, are you are.
The one other way that one can get another clear perspective of the American educational system (one that we thought was one of the best in the world), is through the eyes of our brethren who lived there. Let me explain it like this. Because of my work, I know that the SAT and TOEFL are specialized exams taken by those who have a desire backed up with the wherewithal to study in the US. There are agencies here that coordinate these exams just the way they are coordinated elsewhere in the world. In truth (and particularly with the SATs), these exams present a level playing field to just about anyone anywhere in the world who is sharp enough to withstand the mental abracadabra of the College Board. Right now, I have a semi-nerd who had an all high score of 2,100 out of the 2,400 marks. The school he applied to has offered him a full scholarship of $40,000.00 yet the boy dey make yanga. He has plans to shoot the moon down and keep it all to himself. He expects to attend any one of the Ivy League in the US and I hope his dreams come true. I hope also that he gets an Ivy league place because a lot of us here believe that attending American schools and attending school in America is a rare opportunity to connect to that super-system or those super-brains that nurtured the likes of Professor Emeagwali and made him blossom the way he did. All of this time that I have assisted one young un or the other to process their admissions to American schools, I have done this believing that somehow, I function as catalyst in the development of our political-cum-economic life.I have convinced myself that if some of our young people study abroad and mostly in the US, there is the possibility that they may one day become leaders in the mien of those in whose countries they studied. Look at the first generation of intellectuals that fought against the colonial masters-Azikiwe, Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Sedar Senghor, and Marcus Garvey. It was their education and the fact that they lived right by the master’s scions that gave them the confidence to fight that good fight of emancipation. Apart from this, if you take the statistics of students who enter America mostly to study the sciences, about three quarters of them are Chinese. The Chinese provided the enabling educational environment for their people to excel. Is it any wonder then that the Chinese are giving the Americans sleepless nights with their burgeoning economic growth occasioned by the advances made in the area of technology and in industry?