5 Our Children Are Coming (1/1)

Contrary to what many Nigerians at home think, living abroad has numerous downsides. Many who migrated abroad nd out after a while that they do not belong to either the society they left at home or the new one they inhabit abroad. Aside from all the problems a.s.sociated with surviving in a foreign land, those abroad miss a valuable opportunity to grow up with their extended family and friends they made in the early stages of life. Often, some simple pleasures of life, usually underestimated, come together later in the course of our adventure abroad to make life awful, if not miserable. I have heard an elderly Nigerian complain that his greatest loss was his inability to marry his high school sweetheart as a result of his decision to emigrate. By all accounts, the most frightening downside of living abroad is the possibility of losing our children to the new society.

The Nigerian child born abroad is at best a hyphenated Nigerian. More often than not, these kids are not Nigerians in both nature and nurture. The forces of the society they were born into usually frustrate every attempt by parents to raise them up as Nigerians. As these children grow, parents are at a loss as to how to imbibe in them the things they had while at the same time giving them the things they did not have. It is the greatest dilemma of life abroad.

What has been proven beyond reasonable doubt is that, no matter how much parents tried, Nigerian children born abroad who had no chance of forming a strong attachment to Nigeria are most likely to see their host country as their home. This leaves most parents in an unpleasant position where they face the possibility of spending their retirement years alone in Nigeria or in a nursing home abroad. It is one prospect no Nigerian parent wants.

Many parents are currently trying various approaches to the problem with little success. There seem to be a consensus that the only way to make the children born abroad develop an attachment to their parents' home country is to have them live for a while at home or visit often. When to visit home and how long to visit is still not clear. When to send the children home and for how long hasn't been ironed out.

The logistics of sending a child home are enormous. There is the question of who will take care of the child at home? There is the anxiety over insecurity at home and lack of basic healthcare facilities. But more importantly, there are questions about the very nature of the knowledge today's Nigeria will be able to impart on these kids. No doubt, the Nigeria of today is a far cry from two decades ago. How much of what rubs o today's Nigerian youths do parents want their kids to pick up? Are the admired values acquired by these parents few decades ago still obtainable in Nigeria?

Currently, a good number of parents send their children to Nigeria for their high school education. The reasoning behind this is that it is manageable at that age. Most parents cannot emotionally a ord to send a toddler home even when they have reliable relations. And by the time a kid has nished high school abroad, it is much more di cult to get their cooperation. Also with persistent strikes and closures, college education in Nigeria has become unappealing.

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There are other formulas being tried out. In some cases, one of the parents opts to go home to raise the kids. This could only work in few cases where the nancial and marital health of the couple is strong. There are cases where regular visits to Nigeria for holidays is the approach being adopted. But again, very few people can a ord this. Some parents in big cities try to create a home away from home. They establish networks in which Nigerian children relate with one another and in some cases attend language cla.s.ses, seeking means to encourage courts.h.i.+ps leading to marriage.

Despite all these e orts, the success rate of children born abroad identifying with the home country of their parents is relatively low. They seem to be overpowered by the pressures of their host country's mainstream culture. The most likely direction of these children is the adoption of the lifestyle of their peers in an e ort to belong. This often ranges from minor irritations like tongue piercing to major concerns like interracial marriages. What follows are decisions that greatly reduce the chances of the child ever returning to Nigeria. Which means that most Nigerian parents abroad would either retire in a nursing home abroad or alone at home. That is one unpalatable possibility that stares many Nigerian parents in the face.

A look beyond the rst generation born abroad presents a bleaker picture. For even in those rare cases where the parents succeeded, there is an even slimmer chance that the second generation of Nigerians born abroad would succeed in stopping their children from completely a.s.similating into the new society.

What this means, then, is that Nigerian parents abroad are basically ghting a losing battle. One hundred years from now, their lineage at home would be forgotten entirely. Their epitaph would read like those sold into slavery 400 years ago. The big houses some are currently building in cities and villages across Nigeria would be taken over by relatives left at home. Many who are already seeing this possibility and cannot live with it are beginning to regret the very day they went to the foreign emba.s.sy to seek a visa. Some, though very few, have returned home to face whatever challenge they encounter at home.

In a recent discussion of this issue with my friend, Obinna, he came up with a cla.s.sic macho plan to resolve the problem. His plan is to marry one wife in America and another in Nigeria. When he is ready to go home and retire, he would have a family at home to spend his twilight years with. Next week, I will visit Obinna and essentially discuss his plan with his girlfriend, Ify. I can't wait to hear what she thinks of Obinna's plan.