“He told me he would not help me unless I repeat my question in French. Experiences like this are the basis of my impression about Europeans.”
You were educated in London. Why did you choose to come back to Nigeria?
There is no place like your country. Though many people are trying to leave Nigeria in search of greener pasture, the truth is, as an immigrant in another country, you will never be fully accepted. You will still, for instance, be a British Nigerian. The day you do something wrong you become a Nigerian.
My grandpa has two brothers. So I have three grandpas. One grandpa lives in London. The other lives in a Nigerian city. And one lives in the village. My London grandpa once told me his bothers in Nigeria did better than him, even though he lives in London where basic social amenities are available. “I worked for all these years just to acquire this tiny house in West London. I don’t think that is a life anyone should live,” he said.
If you are Nigerian who is educated or, say, you have the advantage of an international education, you can live a meaningful life here, even if all you are is a principal in a school, as long as you do one thing right that is meaningful, you will be more fulfilled here than working in the UK.
What insight did you gain from your travels?
One: Nigerians are really hardworking.
The first time I travelled to South Africa, to make a presentation at the Centre for Human Rights, the driver of the cab that picked me from the airport asked me a lot of questions. What brought you to South Africa? How old are you? At length, he said: “In South Africa, you will never see a woman like this. All the women want to do here is to be slay queen.” The man himself was a Zambian driving taxis in South Africa.
The average Nigerian understand struggle. Because that is what we do daily. My grandfather once told me while they were growing up, people come from other countries to study in Nigeria. In our times, we do not have a government that do things for us. Because of that, we don’t even expect anyone to do things for us.
Two: Nigerians are united.
If you want to know if Nigerians are united or not, wait till you witness someone try to molest one of them inside a train in London for instance. The moment they discern that the victim is Nigerian, they would all unite to defend him or her.
There is something unique about Nigerians you won’t notice it until you step outside the shore of the country. Somewhere in the US, I was on a train and one man just picked me out randomly and said, “You are a Nigerian.” I was wearing a UN tag. He said, “Nigerians are the only Africans that come here and do well. I am American and White, the black people say the system is against them, yet Nigerians come to the US and they become medical doctors and they work in the UN.” He said to me: “See, you are wearing a UN tag. I don’t even get the tag that you are wearing, and I am American.”
What is your impression about Europe?
Europeans are cold, not very friendly like us. My recent trip was to Brussels. I travelled through a number of European countries including Germany and Belgium. The night I arrived in Brussels, due to some mix-up, I was stranded sort of for the night. I had my ATM but no cash. After eating the typical European meals for days, I was hungry for tasty food, so upon arriving in Germany, I went to eat in a Japanese restaurant. The menu was nice, after eating, the woman who ran the restaurant told me she’d rather take cash. Where are you from? She asked.
Africa, I said. Where she insisted. When I said Nigerian, she looked hard at me. I offered her my ATM card, with a promise that I would return the next day to give her the cash. But she said I should keep my card, that she was also an immigrant in Germany, but back in Japan, someone in her village had once told her Africans are nice people, and that Nigerians, especially are nice. “I know you will not run away with her money,” she said.
I told her I would bring the money in the morning. But I couldn’t go to her shop until late in the evening due to a series of meetings. I opened the restaurant door at 10 pm, and when she saw me, she said, “I know you will bring me my money. If you hadn’t shown up today, you will another day.”
Majority of Europeans are not nice, especially when they don’t speak English. I have been somewhere in France and had to ask someone for direction. He stopped and spoke to me in English. He told me he would not help me unless I repeat my question in French. Experiences like this are the basis of my impression about Europeans.
I have been to two cities I love so much: Geneva and Paris. There is something about Paris that when you are there you want to fall in love. It is just like Lagos, but less dramatic. Though, I have been robbed there once. Everyone you see in Paris is a tourist. You see everybody going and looking and nobody is pushing the other person unlike in New York, where they would push you out of the way, clearly telling you, why are you slowing down. Geneva is calm, its one of the richest cities in the world. Everyone there is rich and life is expensive there. A mechanic in Geneva can earn thrice what his counterpart in London earns for the same service.
How were you robbed in Paris?
France is an African country in Europe. You see poverty there too. It’s pretty much an open system and because they have a lot of immigrants, there are lots of hoodlums on the street of Paris. On that day, I had used my ATM card and unwittingly attracted a group of boys who wanted to rob me but couldn’t because a lot of people were on the street. Instead, they trailed me to a shop. I left my bag at the counter to do my shopping. By the time I was done, I discovered that they had taken my phone and left the shop.
What’s your travel advice?
Always plan ahead. I will be attending a conference in Japan next year. I want to use the opportunity to visit a destination close to Japan. I have already commenced planning for the trip.