Have you ever wondered why there is a sweeping belief among those who write for the media in Nigeria that many Nigerians who live abroad are “struggling”? The assumption isn’t so widespread among the folks on the street. It’s only prevalent among those with an avenue to talk to the public…It’s like some public persona they wear whenever they grab the soapbox. Can you picture how politicians make so much hoopla about corruption before they get into office, then unleash a new era of it the moment the treasury key falls into their hands?
“Struggle” is NOT a negative word. Survival is universal. Even Bill Gates with all his billions encounters obstacles he has to daily surmount. No society is so comfortable that the people don’t need to work anymore. The much-touted prosperity that America flaunts today is a synergy of the abundant ideas and energy from a diverse populace that includes Nigerians. The moment a society ceases to be energized, decline will hammer it like the angry fist of an angry God. Only the dead truly escape the need to hustle, right?
Still, think about the context in which the word is used. That is what offends. It is assumed that Nigerians abroad do menial work, suffer, get oppressed and derided, and barely scrape a living. Take a recent The Guardian article titled “Season of Migration to the West.” Attempting to explore why Nigerian Writers jet out, The Guardian claimed “life in exile is not really one of happiness.” (Read my reaction to The Guardian piece).
It needs to be said: unlike the Jews and Italians who have been here for generations upon generations and have had the time to truly invest and acquire cross-generational wealth, Nigerians are barely 30years in America. We didn’t even want to come to the US. The queen’s enclave was the place to go for educational advancement and other reasons. You were called “been to” because you’d traveled to England and spoke the Queen’s English, not because you’d reached the US. The Jews and Italians and other immigrants who have conquered America had their forerunners who – to borrow a Nigerian phrase – “smoked garri,” to thank for it.
In the short time that we have been here, we have done exceedingly well clearing the grounds and digging the foundation for our descendants to build skyscrapers that will touch the sky. In information technology, medicine, law, education, private enterprise, my people shine like newly minted coins, heart wrenching reminders that our country is incapacitated today because of rudderless leadership and runaway corruption.
I glow with pride every time I go to a university or College and see the overwhelming number of Nigerians graduating AGAIN! Check out the Dean’s List. We’re not really pushing ourselves to the limit to get on it. Yeah, we work and school because we see the opportunity and we know the advantages of seizing it. We come from a society where it is a struggle (that word again!) to school, to get current books to read, not to mention educational aid that you don’t have to pay back in most cases. And those of us who earn too much to be entitled to a loan still go ahead and school anyway, choosing to pay the school fees from our double-job income.
And talking about money, we send billions of Naira home annually. Oh yes we do. We keep Western Union and MoneyGram in business, indirectly propping our economy back home. The money is not even tax deductible! The IRS assumes you earned and spent it on yourself, so you pay taxes on it. The parents and siblings and extended family members back home don’t count because they don’t have the SS number to register on your tax forms. That money, kept here, would have done so much more to keep each of us “struggling” Nigerians more comfortable. Even the poorest Nigerian here still sends money home.
Let’s correct this misconception now and forever. Hustling is the curse of humanity, doesn’t matter where you live. It is an American thing. Same as having fun. The way this society is designed, you have to be on the move. It’s a mercantile thing. There’s always money to be made and spent. The only Nigerians who “struggle” here do so either because they are incapacitated by their visas (which makes it BY CHOICE) or they have their eyes on a bigger prize and have to work 2ce as hard NOW to get to their destination sooner. The white man, wittingly or not, will not readily hand over what he controls to anyone. He believes he owns the world. Nigerians, on the other hand, know they’re equal to any Race and like Soyinka’s tiger, don’t have to prove their “tigritude.” So they go ahead and take. It’s just a shame that Nigeria does not allow many of them to display those talents on her shores.
How often do you read about the 28year old Nigerian PhD. holder heading the IT dept of a multibillion dollar multinational enterprise? How about the highflying criminal defense lawyer? The doctor who is the final word in brain surgery? No. It is the 10 Nigerians caught in New York scamming that the world must hear about. The achievements are not worth celebrating, rather, it is what sells the paper. And “struggle” is good for cover sheets, right? Hey, name a better place to struggle if you can!
The “struggle continues,” huh? Ha ha!