FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, January 7, 2019
abi1million@gmail.com

I DIDN'T COME TO AMERICA TO LIVE IN NIGERIA

"I didn't leave Liberia, to live Liberia in America - Thione Niang

unty Shalewa works as a Certified Nursing Assistant alongside the sister who got her the job twenty years ago. She lives in the apartment she was welcomed into as a newlywed. She fellowships at a Nigerian worship center, dances at Nigerian parties decked in gorgeous aso ebi, and has her townsfolk on speed dial. When you visit, she cooks egusi so authentic that you taste the earthy flavor of ogiri undiluted by lengthy refrigeration. You then proceed to enjoy Nollywood movies on tap, dance to Aiyefele, and join the prayer line when it is 4:00am in Ibadan. Aunty has never voted though she's been a citizen since 2008.

Like Aunty Shalewa, some of us live in this country like we never left Africa. We don't talk to anyone whose house we cannot point to with a twist of the lips. We exist in a triangle of home-work-church that proscribes any 'foreign' experiences. No new friends, neighbors, or acquaintances.

You know what Dino did last week but not the name of your county assessor, senator, governor, etc. Who makes the laws that govern your life? True, it's a balancing act of caring for self, family, and natal country; but, shouldn't you know? If you don't know, how would you vote for candidates who share your values?

You work three or four lower-end jobs to make ends meet then send most of your money "home." The houses you built in Nigeria are grander than the place you live here.

You idolize your kids - the Americans - and leave them to their own devices. Unfortunately, some skate the edge of the law and graduate into higher levels of illegality - credit card fraud, romance fraud, identity theft, healthcare scam, drug smuggling, and worse.

Anyone coming to your house recognizes it by the unkempt state of lawn and garden, broken-down car in driveway, and general look of neglect. You don't see that things can be changed nor move to improve them.

You cross yourself thrice before entering any room fearing the witches and wizards that followed you from the village. Fearing the health system so never get a checkup. Fearing ejire, you live like a fugitive rather than regularize your papers in a legitimate manner. Fear rules where you go, what you do, and whom you trust. It rules your decisions.

Whereas, we live in a country that has such incredible opportunities that blow the mind. There's really no excuse not to chase one's dreams. Why not become a dreamer and thrive? After all, you can't come to America to live in Nigeria.


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