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Ene Abah: Is This Some Form of Identity Crisis?

Ene Abah

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Ene AbahThere have been different instances of Nigerians living abroad saying such horrible things about Nigeria. We must understand that when the media reports certain things, they are blown out of proportion. Everything makes the country seem unappealing in every sense of the word to return to. However, bear in mind that with the media, no news is good news!

In the light of this, a friend and I were chatting about some of the ongoing crisis in certain parts of Africa. We ended up having a lengthy chat about the crisis in Central African Republic. At a point, she wrote AFRICA! I asked what about Africa. Was it any different in the United States, where she stays?

I asked her if people were not being killed in broad daylight with not much being done about it. I asked her if she had had to go through the painful speech with her sons of how to behave and how not to behave in public. I asked if she had warned them not to wear hoodies, if every day she didn’t live in fear with the hope that nothing would happen to her children. I also asked if the many threats, some that are not even reported are not terrifying enough in the U.S. I am not in any way saying that one conflict/any form of killing is better than the other, but I do not understand why there is the need to ignore the problems that exist in front of us, while we are so quick to point at other people’s? Note in this case, that every person apart from her nuclear family lives in Nigeria. She was born and raised in Nigeria but relocated with her family to the U.S. about four years ago, then all of a sudden, the very place that raised her and accounts for most of who/what she is, is now talked about with disdain. We ended the conversation with her writing, “abi ooo nobody is safe anywhere”.

Another friend was talking to me about my job and some of the risks involved in what I do. I love him and his family and could understand his fear. I assured him that I was and will always be fine and safe. I asked when next he would visit home and he said he had no intention of bringing his son to Africa! Ah! Africa?! When did Nigeria become Africa? Well, I reminded him that Nigeria was in Africa, but was not Africa in its entirety. He talked of the conflicts and the many attacks going on in different parts of Africa. I equally pointed out that the same was going on in many Western countries at the moment. We also talked about the conflicts and attacks, then, I asked the same questions I asked my friend above. We went into a bit of law, talked about human rights, and that sort of thing. He brought up the issue of gay couples and the intolerance there is for people in this category and my argument at this point was simple. I agree that there is intolerance but he has to admit that this is something that is seen as foreign in Africa.

Now, for us to reach a certain level of acceptance of this phenomenon, someone has to take up the responsibility to do some sensitisation. One statement, however, that put me off was: ‘I am glad my children will not be raised in that part of the world’. I told him I was happy also that his children would not be raised in this part of the world, as we would not like for them to grow up in confusion about who they were. I would rather they grew up feeling American than suffer from an identity crisis like their father was suffering at the moment. I was upset with him because there were certain truths which I cannot write here, that he could not own up to.

From my many conversations with him, he has at some point seemed unsure of himself. He has been in the U.S. long enough and is naturalised, but does not feel American. There is a certain acceptance that is not necessarily granted. In so many cases, the black person has to put in double the effort to be recognised, then a foreigner? This friend of mine identifies more with Nigeria than any other place, so why? A good number of us including him were raised in Nigeria for the most part and turned out alright, didn’t we?

This applies not only to those in diaspora! There are some at home, in our very domot, whose lives are lived through television, which is not even reality. They get so confused in their minds and can’t draw the line between real life and wishful thinking. Those who think they are better than others, yes, some are better than others in different ways, but a good number of the most hardworking people I noticed are the least opportune. So shall we call it luck? Eventually, some of these confused ones find out that living abroad comes at a great cost. I have seen many Nigerians in Western countries living such lowly (for lack of a better word) lives, they would do far better at home!

One time when I was at a train station in England, a Nigerian was on the phone, his Yoruba accent was unmistakable, he was cleaning but lying right there about the office he was in. I have asked some why. Shame! Shame would not let them come back, but they live hand to mouth and on social media, put up a façade! Eventually, they come back ‘home’ to the very country they’ve spent so much time thrashing to try to make a fresh start. Look, this is in no way generalising (reason why ‘some’ and ‘many’ appear a few times) but it has happened often enough and by so many for the issue to be raised.

On the issue of conflicts, I asked my friend some thought provoking questions and there were some cases where he pointed out that Western countries had fueled the conflicts, these countries have provided and continue to provide all the war equipment needed for destruction. There are vested interests that have to be protected, some have to be created, some countries cannot be allowed to attain certain heights, while others could kill themselves as there is nothing to protect. With the rising number of security concerns around the world, I do not think anyone should be making out that these concerns are different anywhere. People should be more concerned about their safety.

I do not in any way say that Nigeria does not have problems, I acknowledge that we have a host of problems which will take a life time to fix. In fact, thinking about our problems brings out so many emotions in me: anger, resentment, despair, I could go on, but gosh, all these guys, behave yourselves! Attacks, wickedness, corruption, everything is universal. Instead of all the bashing, can we not at some point put our heads together to try to figure out the way forward?

I was told as a child that we are the leaders of tomorrow! I am an adult now but I am yet to see my generation take the lead in this country. If all we do is thrash our country, then make noise on social media without backing all this with action, when ever are we going to lead?!

Ene Abah is an adventure lover, naturalista, food lover, travel lover, writer and is particular about sending positive vibes to others. Some of her interests are in writing, travelling, reading and generally enjoying life. Ene’s writing has been published in Top Chic magazine, Imbue magazine and on Imbue's website. She blogs at http://belletammy.blogspot.com.ng/ Follow her on Twitter @tammyabah and on instagram @belle.tammy

25 Comments

  1. mrs chidukane

    August 22, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Hmmm, you have stirred the hornets nest. Prepare for the consequences of your article. I will be back.

    • Manny

      August 22, 2016 at 6:31 pm

      My thing is this —- when this matter of naijas in the diaspora are discussed, the only example used is the Nigerians doing menial jobs. You say you do not generalize but when there is a pattern, that disclaimer doesn’t fly. Nigerians hold diverse positions in the diaspora. Plus, my dear that cleaner’s paycheck is steady. It may not make sense to you but some people are so low on the socio-economic and educational ladder in Nigeria that being a cleaner abroad is a blessing.
      It’s not even clear what this post was about. You started by talking about identity crisis then ended it in a way that made it seem like living abroad is jumping ship callously. Read up on the contribution of remittances to our economy. If you had focused on identity crisis, it would have made sense. Yes, we all know idiotic Nigerians that bash Nigeria at every opportunity. That’s not right. However, it is allowed to talk about the ills of our society. If I tell you I’m traveling to 9ja and I pray I don’t get sick while there. I’m not bashing Nigeria. It’s the bloody truth.

  2. Spirit

    August 22, 2016 at 7:42 am

    I am no expert but I think that in general, we all need to appreciate the journeys that African countries have made and continue to make in general. Is Nigeria the same country it was 30 years ago? No. Is it where its citizens want it to be? No. I think we can all agree that things need to change but there have been some major political and economic improvements.

    It is easy to look down with disdain at your country of birth when you are in the U.S. etc. but don’t forget that those left behind are working hard to improve it and the least you could do is appreciate the effort of those who have found a way to make a home at home, contribute to its cultural richness and general growth (they are tougher than you are).

    Lastly, lift your head up and take a look at other countries. If the Ethiopia you know is that of the 1983-5 famine, get to know the Ethiopia of today. If the Tanzania you know is of empty shopping shelves in the eighties after the failure of their socialist experiment, get to know the Tanzania of today etc. etc.

    So yes, I agree. Africa and Africans face a host of challenges but I salute my fellow citizens because their diligence and ingenuity are the reasons why life goes on.

    • LEM

      August 22, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      I wish I could love your comment multiple times. This is what the article is all about, not a diasporians vs Naija thing. Yes, some people are doing very well abroad, nice jobs, housing, healthcare etc. The simple fact is always remember you are a Nigerian and there is no need to bash Nigeria and look down your nose just because you happen to live in a better environment and are well off. Those that are still there either by choice or otherwise are working hard to improve things in YOUR COUNTRY. The most annoying is the way Nigerians would trash their Country to foreigners just to appear cool or whatever. You don’t do that, like never ever, no matter how bad your Country may be. Like Michael Corleone said in the Godfather ‘Don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family ever’ FAMILY here being your Country.

  3. Inferior complex

    August 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Whatever! Nigeria is a cesspit and you guys just like to console yourselves that it’s getting better when it’s clearly got worse over the years. Pls leave us in diaspora alone, we are fine were we are. And not all of us are cleaners, you all know that too, but to feel better about yourselves and to put us down you continually call us cleaners and second class citizens. If some of you get the chance to come and live here and better yourself you will jump at it! With your fake lives, terrible infrastructure and awful economy. You are pathetic!

    • Uby

      August 22, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      Thank God we have you representing the cesspit in diaspora. ????

    • Observer

      August 22, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      We are not complaining we are happy here in Diaspora. Pls leave us alone, I don’t know why its always paining you people for us. We are fine, have access to good education, jobs, healthcare, in a much safer environment we can travel and generally enjoy life and sleep with both eyes closed. To you we might be second class citizens, but we know we are not and will not bother arguing with you. Pls let the matter rest!

    • chekwube

      August 22, 2016 at 3:26 pm

      Clap for yourself!!! You sound so frustrated ..sorry o. Manage the situation in your diaspora …not knowing when the bomb will go off in your child’s school, not knowing when the bomb will go off in your train stations, not knowing when one white supremacist will offload the bullets on you and other blacks from cesspits like you…I won’t pretend to feel your plight at forever been looked down on as a second class monkey but I can manage to murmur a soft pele o…I really feel for you.

    • Observer

      August 22, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      Eyah! Pele! I know Naija can be hard and it must hurt in your heart that some of us actually do enjoy and get along well in Diaspora. If anyone sounds frustrated its you, for you to descend to the level of calling me a monkey. The chance of a bomb going off in my childs school is very much unlikely, however the chance of your child being abducted, waylaid by armed robbers, being bitten by mosquito, being misdiagnosed in a hospital etc is highter… I will take my chances here thank you.

  4. Johnspeak Uwangue

    August 22, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Great men and women have risen from Nigeria and Africa in general. I’d respect an African who made it in Africa despite all its challenges both physical and WINCHI WINCHI (with the voice of ISIO), than any new generation American or European billionaire or even trillionaire.
    We may not have gotten to where we dream of, but we’re not where we used to be.
    I DUFF MY CAP FOR ALL AFRICANS LIVING IN AFRICA.

  5. Johnspeak Uwangue

    August 22, 2016 at 11:23 am

    I must admit that we have challenges as a nation, but we’re well able to overcome them.
    The only problem we’ve as individuals and as a nation is the problem of the ‘lack of wisdom’ to handle our challenges.(Johnspeak Uwangue)

  6. Outsider

    August 22, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    I like this article. I think Nigeria bashing has become so common place that people don’t even think of what they say before saying it. I see this happening amongst Nigerians living in Nigeria and those living outside too. Our default positions is to utter hateful things about our country. We have conveniently forgotten the many things that make Nigeria a good country. I understand that we have a lot of bad governance, corruption and poverty going on in that country, but that does not take away from the fact that Nigeria in other ways is a good country. We need to remind ourselves that we are the only ones that can build up our country, through hard work, smart innovation and re-branding. I’ve run out of many instances where how things in Nigeria are done are called into questions because people are directly comparing them the way they are done in ‘the abroad’, What people fail to understand is that some things are better done the Nigerian way. We’re not them for a reason and we have to find solutions that work for us, not copy copy and lose who we are. Abeg I don talk enough.

    • Tolu

      August 22, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      I’m genuinely curious, what are the good things about Nigeria that you talk of?

    • Outsider

      August 22, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      The sense of community, the food, the weather, the beauty of our landscape, we generally don’t suffer a lot of natural environmental disasters, we’re hospitable and we’re survivors. I could go on and on. I’ve lived in the UK for 13 years and had my formative years in Nigeria, so I’m in a very good position to form this views.

  7. winnie

    August 22, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Insightful article. #Truth

  8. And so?

    August 22, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    One thing I have noticed about these so called ‘Being in Nigeria is better than abroad’ articles, is that it is always written by someone who lives in Lagos with its few manageable amenities and infrastructure and also has a few coins coming in, who only shows the best part of their life on social media. The question is, will someone living in the North of Nigeria say Borno, Maiduguiri, Benue or any other Boko Haram heartland feel the same way?

    You talk as if Nigeria is manageable and better than abroad despite the fact that millions in the North are displaced, have no food, live in camps et.c… are they not Nigerian? Will they too say ‘UK/US etc also have issues, but we are still better off in Nigeria’??! I hate these kind of articles. You guys who live in Lagos and other ‘peaceful’ cities in Nigeria are living in constant denial. Keep fooling yourselves. Identitiy crisis Ko, Identity crisis ni? who needs that when you are facing death and starvation?!

  9. pearl

    August 22, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    @ spirit I commend ur comment. U hav spoken intelligently. The Nigeria we dream of and look forward to is still a work in progress. We must in our own little way contribute to the growth of Nigeria from wherever we are. Change is a gradual process and its all our responsibility to ensure we build our country.

  10. Bridget

    August 22, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    A wonderful, beautiful and lovely article. It is a poverty mentality that will make u look down on your country of birth. If u are previledged to live a good life in Naija or any other African country you will always hunger for home. By good life I don’t mean money but having good neighbours, nice friends,colleaguesand family relationship.
    One thing I know is that no matter how successful u become in the diaspora, u will always feel a stranger. U can never be fully integrated so make we leave matter.
    I love nigeria I no go lie! Very spontaneous. Never a dull moment!!

  11. Alesha

    August 22, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    @ And so? I agree with you. This article is going on about attacks and conflicts… that happens everywhere so it has no bearing really. Anyone who has ever lived in the abroad will struggle to live in Nigeria even after initially living your first 18 or so years in the same. Nigerians in the diaspora (and I hate that word -diaspora) put the country down not for things like attacks and conflicts, but for the basic amenities the country lacks. Is it Nepa that I want to start dealing with, or the horrendous daily traffic that wont let someone be great. Horrible roads that kill people daily nko or the pathetic speed of internet. How about sending a txt that may not reach the recipients for 2 weeks. Ok, lets look at work ethics – I cant even get my head round that one…. running after my boss, having to kiss ass and call them Sir or Ma? Hospitals nko, where the only thing that can be wrong with you is Malaria and/or Thyphoid. My dear mother went to a dentist to have her wisdom tooth removed, she came back with half of her lower and upper lips numb forever.

    It is only in Nigeria that a job is regarded as menial. In the abroad, a job is a job dammit! That cleaner at the train station in England, leaves work at 6pm or whenver knowing that he’ll be home within the hour and not wallowing away in traffic. not only that, he is guaranteed steady electricity when he gets home and fast internet access to boot. Life is hard enough as it is, to get home after a hard’s day work, whatever the work is and have no light!

    Nigeria is not a country, it’s a state of mind and that mind needs some serious renewing otherwise people will keep running away and those in the disapora will keep putting it down #onlymyopinion

  12. esteem

    August 22, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Nonsense: if am given the opportunity to visit western countries, off-course i will but that shouldn’t give you the right to insult your home land or speak less of it. No place is safe in the entire life despite that some countries have put drastic measures to tackle insecurity. Nigeria is my home and we living in it wears the true green white green in body and in spirit, a lot of you ran simply because you want to come back and be respected, you want to be address as one who have been in the white man’s land. Many will come back and want to stand tall among equals but let me tell you hardship has created bond making us to be our brothers keepers, boko haram have made us understand terrorism of any sort is does not understand neither languange, religion nor tribe, lack of infrastructures has made us to improvise even in the absence of nothing. Indeed we r strong we shall continuing to encourage ourselves until it gets better(a living dog is better than a dead lion). Pls when naija gets better endeavour not to bring inn you copied culture like homosexuality to the country u were not part of its growth. I love naija jor cos am a true Nigeria idoma boy for that matter we no dey lost for outside o.

  13. nene

    August 22, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    nigeria and nigerians are terrible but the people make the country bad. so whether you are in the diaspora or nigeria, nigerians are bad all round. horrible people. those abroad just feel better because they live amongst good people, but you always know a nigerian even abroad, except those who were born abroad. i live in lagos and i always complain but even when i lived in london and houston, it reminded me of home, the same horrible attitude and character nigerians have is endemic.

  14. artklub

    August 22, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    I am a Nigeria basher, (and I enjoy to do so) but only cuz i love it. Nigeria and Africa is wasting and wasted and we NEED TOUGH LOVE, nothing less, to make it through. We need to RISE and examine our TRAUMAS and commit to LONG TERM changes, first. And we MUST come TOGETHER, no matter how great the divisiveness. Examine HISTORY – from African & Western perspectives.I will always be HARPING and RIBBING Nigeria into the right direction. Truth hurts, but helpful. Diasporans, what can I say – there is only 1 HOME. No matter what, you can do your part to help fix it and you are doing that by sending millions of dollars/pounds/euros to Nigeria yearly, breaking racial barriers through your successes abroad etc. We are PROUD of YOU. However, there comes a time when the Black Man/Woman will realize that assimilation in Western world sometimes leads to Self-Alienation. We are THIRD CULTURE PEOPLE by default, that is we weave through multiple cultural identities and that creates interesting complexity and confusion too. You will need your HOME to lean on for your SOUL FEEDING. Don’t DISS it and write it OFF, NURTURE & take care of it. Your welcome!

    • what?????

      August 25, 2016 at 1:56 am

      ?????? what are on about?????

  15. Meera

    August 25, 2016 at 6:27 am

    I think the problem is greater than Nigerians living abroad. I live abroad and I notice Nigeria bashing comments from Nigerians abroad and in Nigeria. Even the people who make negative comments about people living abroad are often jealous and wish they were too (because they do not really appreciate Nigeria). It is not healthy. I live abroad, not because I am less “strong” or tough but because in Nigeria, I did not have the opportunities that some are afforded. There are people commenting on Bella Naija who earn more than 1 million naira a year, can travel to London, live in Victoria Island or Ikoyi or Lekki or Abuja, yet they are the first to say that Nigeria is doomed. They forget that there are people in Nigeria who are happy if they can make 5,000 naira a month, who never see any electricity, who have nothing that an armed robber would want to steal. Those people who have so much (relatively) and do nothing to improve electricity, roads, schools, etc. annoy me the most. I am happy that I am abroad (because I won’t have gotten an education otherwise) but Nigeria is my homeland. There are many things that frustrate me yes, but I understand that for things to get better, someone has to fix them. America is America through the labor of Africans sold as slaves. Yes, Africans are looked down upon, by whites, Asians, and blacks (even if you are cushy). People think nothing of owning 2, 3 guns, under the guise of “freedom” and shooting an innocent child playing in her home. How can I consider such a country home? I am not one of those Nigerians who has a cushy life abroad. I do not pretend to either. I am still abroad because being from my background, I understand that it is my job to make the most out of this country so that I can go back and open up opportunities for people like me, who are from minority ethnic groups that have no say whatsoever in the running of Nigeria. I plan to do my best to contribute to Nigeria. I hope you all do the same, whether you are in Nigeria or abroad in whatever ways that you can.

  16. Meera

    August 25, 2016 at 6:35 am

    Sorry for the long epistle. I love Nigeria but it upsets me that some people ruin it for everyone else. I am not good at those things, so I will focus on helping through my own strengths, but can I challenge those who are still in Nigeria to make positive change (if you aren’t already). If someone from abroad comes and says “change” everyone will ignore it even if they know better. Since you guys have more knowledge of how to get things done in Nigeria, can you push for NEPA to provide consistent service to all, for companies like Etisalat to give good reception so that people don’t need 2 or 3 phones, for schools to reform? Thank you to everyone who does this already.

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