Summer in America

Summer in America. It’s that time of the year again! Humidity is single-mindedly assaulting your going out and coming in. Skyrocketting electricity bills protest your attempts at counter-measures. On the street, you see many capitalizing on the season to show off what they’ve got (or haven’t!). Summery days are here again!

And graduation!

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not talking about that high school “passing out” ceremony the Americans call graduation. I mean the real thing, graduation as we know it back in the real world! Sombre cloaks and caps with tails, solemn march down aisle to embrace a scroll and handshake in whatever order they come, the surge in the heart of a mixed audience temporarily united by pride…Universities, friend! Colleges if you will. That’s what I’m talking about here. It’s graduation season in the old U.S. of A. and my people are in the forefront, not spectators. Partakers, not statistical hands clapping.

I attended one of these occasions at a nearby community college recently. It was the “pinning” really, a sort of departmental prelude to the actual graduation. The venue looked like a festival ground, some sort of reunion for the Nigerians in NJ. I soon found out why when I browsed through the program. Six of the twenty graduands were Nigerians and all their families and friends came fully decked out in colorful attires, a clear reflection of how seriously we take events such as this. My people never pass on any opportunity to “show color!”

The hall was bedecked with balloons of all sizes and shapes, light of all hues, cameras of all brands and ovation that stood on its head in sheer hilarity. My people stood out in their George and red caps and aso-oke and abada. It suddenly struck me that all over the United States were other Nigerians doing exactly the same thing. Guess what else struck me…I realized the future of Nigerian presence in the US is very bright!

The rest of the world ought to be intimidated and scared at the rate Nigerians are getting educated. We come from a society where the level of National discourse is high and we get introduced early to cross-continental happenings via newspapers, TV news and beer parlor deliberations. In spite of the negating efforts of the perplexed players in the public sector, we still manage to hold on to our intellectual icons: the Achebes, the Soyinkas, the …

Even if it is for the sake of better understanding our soccer opponents, Nigerians study the countries of the world beyond the boundaries of high school geography. How many times have you seen Iya Silifa with an extended bilala/koboko, wrapper flying in many directions as she chases a wailing child to the nearby Jakande school? Even our parents know the value of that education many of them never had, and so they make it clear to us that it is our stepping stone through the fast flowing river of life – to the other side where the bank (pun intended!) promises heaven.

But this piece is not about Nigerians graduating in all corners of the world. It is about Nigerians succeeding at what they do, college degree or not.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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