BY SAMUEL OSHO
The present struggles that characterize the travails of Africa tend to obfuscate the perception of its inhabitants and they build castles in the air about realities that are possible on foreign soils.
In a recent chat with one of my friends, he joked about the current state of economic recession in Nigeria. He said that it will take only a week for Nigeria to be “empty” if Nigerians were given free entries void of hassles and bureaucracies to the UK, US and Canada. The joke tickled my thoughts to find answers to some questions.
An average African believes that folks living in Europe, Asia, South America and North America belong to an exalted social class; a superior class to the standard of living obtainable in Africa. This perception can be attributed to the spontaneity of the social media which stimulates the vivacious side of Africans living in the diaspora. An African leaves his country for London and there is an automation of camera flashes with an instant flooding of social media pages with pictures of them doing different things at diverse locations. This mannerism reflects an ostentatious display of places perceived to be better than their native countries.
In most cases, the lives of Africans in diaspora accessible to the world via their social media pages is usually in sharp contrast to their real lives. Africans are hard working, diligent and talented but it is quite unfortunate that a lot of Africans living in diaspora have untapped competencies because in their workplaces, they are usually round pegs in square holes. These are foreigners, far away from home and strongly driven by a survival instinct. The need to survive and make ends meet designates them as employees of several kinds of hard jobs. The primary goal of securing such jobs is to pay bills, survive in a hostile economy that presents debts and credits as the best form of life and ultimately ascend to a level of buoyancy that affords them the opportunity to send some cash home. In the face of many, at home, they are millionaires since 2,500 US dollars is a million naira, but in reality, they are working round the clock in a foreign land to maintain a revered status of second class citizens.
The chorus call which heralds the migration of Nigerians to foreign countries sounds like an earnest search for greener pasture. What is green about Europe and Asia? Does that imply that the Nigerian flag is an antithesis of its intellectual interpretations? I grew up accustomed to a Nigerian flag with two of its three rectangles covered in green. Ceteris paribus, Nigeria should be the green land as insinuated by TY Bello’s song, Green Land; a land where the nations of the world should gather to feast on green pasture. Africa should also be viewed via the same lenses as a land of abundance in a world that is rapidly embracing xenophobic extremities.
It is rather disturbing when traveling out of your country is seen as an achievement that should be celebrated with pop and party. I thought traveling was meant to be a form of education and a move to experience the realities of the unseen world around us. Is it wrong to travel out of your country to explore opportunities outside of its shores? NO! But when traveling to Europe, Asia and America is presented as the only source of survival available, it is disheartening. The heightened proclivity for VISAs to foreign countries amidst African youths thinking that this is their only lifeline to success is alarming.
The basic social amenities of life are food, clothing and shelter. Everyone needs these three for survival and existence regardless of their location in the world. Over the years, the media has failed to give a full picture of Africa to the world; the developing continent is suffering from gross misrepresentation. A huge chunk of what makes it to the front pages are stories of war and tumult, pictures of the destitute and downtrodden, songs of heroes emerging from ghettos, plagiarized speeches of corrupt leaders and the misfortunes of a dysfunctional educational system. If this is a true representation of Africa, these stupendous anomalies have the sufficient potency to cause an uninterrupted decimation of the continent.
Nevertheless, there is a plethora of information regarding life in developed countries which is hidden to the sight of desperate migrants. The dark sides of developed nations are usually invisible in the seraphic ‘selfies’ and captivating shots; the grandeur of the architectural edifices and towering skyscrapers, all swimming in a sea of cinematic scenery. What if I tell you that there are people who beg for food in the malls of New York? Will you believe me if I tell you that there are homeless folks on the cold streets of Canada? I am usually startled by the craving of Africans to desert their homes thinking that the natural laws of supply and demand are suspended on soils beyond their shores. There are intelligent people with brilliant CVs who roam the streets in London in search of jobs, unemployment is a thriving weed in every economy and not peculiar to African soils.
Honestly speaking, why do Africans chase citizenships of developed countries like winning a trophy? Even the most developed nations of the world have good days smeared with horrible incidents and mass casualties; these are gaping lacerations in their security fabric and lapses in safety measures. They have terrorist attacks, motor accidents happen on the good roads, they have a list of unsolved theft cases and they have cities replete with kidnapping cases. In the end, it is not a bed of roses! Often times, the fake lifestyle portrayed by Africans living in diaspora has enslaved the thoughts of their colleagues at home in a hypnotic admiration. Hence, they see the glamorous city centers but are blind to the gloomy streets and they behold the flawless beauty of glacial rivers but are oblivious to the subtle risks of racial discrimination.
There is a fallacious ideology rapidly entrenching itself in the majority of underdeveloped countries which asserts that people living in developed countries have a better quality of life and have tendencies to be more successful. Success is relative and it is unfair to make excellence a subset of geographical location. Our personalities are strongly instrumental to success in life and are more important than the locations where these exploits occur. Locations may dictate the availability of resources and the atmosphere may influence the viability of ideas but they are mere contributing factors to the possibilities of our success stories.
For every Mark Zuckerberg in Menlo Park, there are more than a thousand innovative African entrepreneurs with an equally bright future, taking after the like of Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote, Angola’s Isabel dos Santos and Tanzania’s Mohammed Dewji.
It is true that Africa is viciously battered by the remarkable ineptitude of its leaders who have enthroned themselves like saviors, some of these egoistic leaders despite their overt senility have aggravated the woes of the people by chasing agile youths away from the doors that lead to the corridors of power. But the truth remains that Africa is beautiful and it is not a crime to be an African.
Life is the same everywhere; European and American spheres are not void of natural laws that endanger lives and properties. Maybe, they have an edge – they have a crop of amazing leaders and they have a country that was built over the centuries by patriots who defied all odds to erect the pillars of a nation where peace and justice reigns. It is highly imperative for Africans to note that the safe castles they run to for help, christened their second home, will not ameliorate the state of living in Africa.
At the end, no place can replace our homes because this is where our tender roots lie.
Osho, a mechanical engineer, award-winning writer and public speaker, writes from Winnipeg, Canada.