Why Dem No Want Hep Me Enter America?

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

I know a childhood friend who won that diversity immigrant visa thing. Before he eventually made it to America, he borrowed a lot of money here in Nigeria to pay his air fare and have some money left in his pocket before he began to make his own money. The picture we all had then was that all of the stress in the family would vanish as soon as he landed in America, another Songhai-Ghana empire of the pre-colonial era where gold could be picked up from the floor at dusk. The bobo na strong guy:he was able to pay off the excruciating debt in record and agreed time. Thereafter, he braced up to the daunting task of first surviving in the shark-infested waters of American life as an immigrant and then balancing all of that with being the sole breadwinner to a very large family. At first he appeared to be doing well, what with the fact that he was able to attend to the very basic needs of his nuclear and extended family. From the way I saw it, he did two or three jobs so as to be able to carry out his responsibilities to his folks and from what I did not see, he also put a huge chunk of his life on hold – he had no degrees from Nigeria and getting one in the US like that na die; he was too young to get married before he left and according to him, the American babes are chinese wey too tear eye.

Before the weight of the burden he had to bear began to tell, I managed to convince him to try get somebody in as some kind of back up to reduce the stress of bearing an entire family’s responsibility. Initially, he was enthusiastic about it but seemed to have backed down when the cost of bringing in the relation bore in on the bro. No, not that he couldn’t handle that simple thing, but that there were other projects that he had embarked upon that had put a huge hole in his little pocket. Mind you, this kind of guy I’m talking about is the straight-as-a-ramrod kind of guy that would never do anything illegal no matter the circumstances. The way things are now, the guy is hibernating; he has cut everyone of us off and that’s a good thing to some extent, if you ask me. I think that for him to be properly organized to attend to the many problems at home and abroad, he needs to be left alone to focus, strategize and have a life.

But not the same story with this other story: my friend’s brothers too in the US are a whopping five from the very same household but from a polygamous circumstances. Two of them got in via the same visa lottery thing while the other two got in by serendipity. Before they left this shore, they said they could not understand why their big bro who is a big dude in one big university there could not use his big office to get them in. They were full of the wonderful things they were going to do for every member of the family when they got to yankie.

Now, you must know something of the physical and psychological attitudes of these men: they are not people you could term as being physically very fit though their mental alacrity is unquestionable. While here, they were not people you could reckon with in terms of financial fulfillment and attainment. They had no university degrees, were not married and just made do with waiting for the evening meal. At best, we could say they were ordinary vulcanizers, that is, ask anyone of them how life treats him and the response usually was, ‘we dey patch am’. But this other dude is still here in naija, has a body that a normal American lady would lick like ice cream off the glossy pages of any British gossip magazine. He has been to university and is a qualified professional. His brothers have all come home severally looking very well indeed, have exported the girls they had here as girlfriends as wifeys to yankie via very rigorous conditions stipulated by the American government and some are landlords in Nigeria and America. They confirm that gist that the American girls, black or white too tear eye. Today, the life they lived in Nigeria before they left for the US is one big contrast. And na who dem go put sugar for him mouth we no go wan lick am? Naturally, my friend would love to go live in the US too – he has played visa lottery since inception, has attempted serendipity, has made SOS calls, and now he feels utterly betrayed and left in the lurch. All he has in the American dream from his brothers are mere promises, promises and nothing but promises.

There is something wrong. I don’t want to believe that these people have left their bro here because of the prevailing polygamous relationship with him. After all, the big bro in that big university who got there first and assisted them all to settle down is also a product of that polygamous stock. We gather that that yankie environment is one that detribalizes, denationalizes and depolygamouses you (this is not English; I’m just being crazy). I also don’t want to believe that they have a plan to keep him here because they need someone to take care of the family compound or that he is the last kid in the house. That is simple thinking. Abi they are afraid of his tomorrow? It is said here in Nigeria that no be the person wey first reach America they first make am o, seemingly to suggest that because he looks a little better endowed physically and psychologically, he may become the joseph of the house in due course. The gist is that a lot of Nigerians live the life of the average Lagosian in America, giving strength to that credo that ‘to go Lagos no hard but na to return…’ As a result of the many serendipitic ways some of our bros get there and because they have got to regularize their stay and papers, they spend nearly all their yankie lives living to fit in a system that seemingly is better organized than where they came from. Therefore, you may have a person who may have lived in the US for more than a decade with nothing to show in terms of the Okonkwoic ‘solid personal achievements’ that Achebe talked about in Things Fall Apart. On the other hand however, the other person may just show up today and finding himself in one legit arrangement that nurtures his professional skills, would just blossom and bloom. But even at that, is that a good reason why my guy has been abandoned, seemingly, by his brothers?

I hope there is another reason to it which I hope you guys living in America could volunteer. Otherwise, what is the big deal in this America sef?

Postscript: I am doing this postscript because I realize that there may be others reading this who may not understand our Nigerian pidgin. I’m so sorry that I have had to leave you out at some points of this gist though it is not a deliberate thing I have done. I reckon that for you to have picked an interest in this essay, it is possible that you have a certain ‘Naija connection’. Now, wouldn’t this be a good time to activate that connection of yours by getting one naija man come over and explain some of these lingo to you?



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1 comment

Rosie October 31, 2006 - 2:46 pm

Hmm …"detribalizes, denationalizes and depolygamouses you." I have never thought of things here that way. True. Have you ever given in to the thought that perhaps, these have to occur in order for you to survive in an individualized society? Our Nigerian relatives will not understand that life here is structured in such a way, that if you're not careful, it becomes a rat race … with you not getting anywhere, unless you pay attention to yourself first, pay your dues, then build your life. Then you can help others without stressing you life. Just last week, a relative called and said, "I need 500 today. It's an emergency." I ask am, "ah-ha somebody die?" Him say, "No, I just need am for something." I tell am make im commot for road. I never pay my rent.


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