Saturday, May 31, 2014

Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - STAR LAMENTATION: Yankee Diasporans, Clipped Wings - by Dan Akusobi

Dear Prof. Aluko:

Thanks for sending Dan's piece along to the USA-Africa Dialogue list. Aging of recent African Diasporas is a serious problem that will become an even bigger crisis in the next ten years or so. Many of us who came to the US in the mid-1980s for school and stayed behind--I call them "accidental immigrants"--are now between 50 and 60 years old. Whereas most people in this age bracket are still healthy and keeping active life, reality will soon set in in the next ten years when they will be 60-70 years old. Most of us don't even realize our children may not be there to take care of us when the time comes. How many of our sons are marrying their African sisters?

Unfortunately, very many of us are not "connecting" with home in any meaningful way; and some will definitely not be able to find their way home from Owerri or Ibadan without help--simply because these "homes" have undergone tremendous transformations since these fellows left or last visited about 25-30 years ago. I recently met a Nigerian who was animated about the goings-on "in the East and the Midwest" and had no idea where Imo or Abia states were. Another pal was reminiscing last month about the girl he had wanted to marry back in 1984--and was actually planning on reaching out to her again--only to learn that the woman had not only since married but actually passed away three years ago!

And then, there was this even that I witnessed in 2013. A diaspora Nigerian's corpse was brought home for burial in his Igbo village which I will not name. This fellow left the village in 1971 to Lagos, and then on to the USA in 1974, and never for once visited in over 38 years! He had nothing to identify him with the village except his umbilical cord remnant that was buried beside a young palm tree eight days after his birth (as is the custom of the Igbos) in 1950. None of his three former American wives accompanied his remains home; only one obviously confused and pitiful son in dreadlocks did.

As the casket headed to the local church from the mortuary, a group of young men barricaded the entrance to the church and insisted that the funeral service would not hold. The man had not paid any church dues and levies for almost 50 years and the resident pastor had illegally cut his family a slack and agreed to the funeral service without insisting on payment of all arrears of dues according to church policy. Besides, they wanted to teach a lesson to all sons and daughters who had similarly turned their back on the community that expected much from them, like their counterparts.

Meanwhile, another group of youth went to the deceased's family compound and chased away those digging the grave. As far as these young men were concerned, this "efulefu" (never-do-well) was never going to be interred in that village. Tufiakwa! They reasoned that if every "abroadian" (those who lived "abroad"--which includes internal migrants to other parts of Nigeria) had failed to contribute to the up-keep of the church and the village like "this Americana", the church building would long have collapsed and the premises overgrown with bushes. The intervention of the local Police detachment wasn't sufficient to get these young men to back down. 

Eventually, the fully decorated corpse was returned to the mortuary. The burial feast (put together by the deceased's family to minimize the shame brought on the village by this man whose "send-off" party had been a much talked-after village affair in 1974) was aborted. A week later, negotiations between the elders and the youth resulted in the Americana being allowed a pauper's burial. Perhaps, the community did itself in: why did they "send" him "off" back in 1974?

The moral of the story is that it's no longer sufficient to claim Nigerian citizenship, especially at the micro levels, simply because you or your parents were born there. Membership at these levels comes with certain obligations that sustain the moral economy of communal life. Among the Igbo, for instance, every condolence gifts/presents given to you is actually an insurance premium that must be returned to the giver whenever he/she is bereaved. Those who mourn the dead are said to be actually mourning themselves. So, if you've not been participating--virtually or physically--in the community's life, why should they care about your corpse? Or, if you go home when you've only four more miserable weeks before you go and meet your ancestors?

Finally, I would like to share this profound statement with you: "When the Nigerian elite wants to educate themselves or their children, they go to Europe or America. When they want to go on vacation, they go to Dubai or South Africa. When they are sick, they go to India. But when they die, they come back to Nigeria to be buried. Is Nigeria a cemetery?"

Peace as always!


On Sat, May 31, 2014 at 2:18 AM, Mobolaji Aluko <> wrote:

Edited for non-Ebonic-ness


May 30, 2014

My people.

In one of my rare visits to a joint here in New York (NY), Uche Restaurant, I encountered, once again, some Nigerians who I suspect have thrown away their travel documents and secured a free place for their internment whenever it becomes their turn to quit the earth. Some are 70 years old or more and most smell like they have not passed over  Atlantic Ocean by air since they left town ( Nigeria) . One of them sneezed and got wet from something that smelled like human urine coming from himself. The other talked like he created Ebonics language .

Such scenes and people make the new but donkey year olds here wonder if we shall one day see ourselves in such an abnormal sociology for an African abroad.

Sad to say that most of the Nigerian men I have seen, and  of this grade being described are from Orlu and Ngwa areas of Igbo land. I had some talk with a couple of them over a three-month period on major issues of aging and going back home.

Some of the  narratives I heard are no simple matters. Most disheartening among other huge reasons are issues of loneliness. One proudly said his wife refused to go home with him and he could not manage life alone in Lagos (another big city outside NY),  so he ran back.

Another advised me to go home and marry and leave her there so when I go back eventually, I would have someone to care for me at that age.

I am bringing up this issue in light of Lawal and Amadike's crusade on this issue. They mistakenly personalized it on Eke even when we know it is a common and unfortunate problem that a lot of us here are missing being real men, in the sense that we knew our Dads are or were when we were growing up. 

So I am urging a re-direction on this debate so we can examine the issues of aging and life at home and here at 65 and beyond.

I happen, in one of my other numerous jobs, to know that aging and loneliness and health related issues and money are a great challenge to Diasporans at 65 and up especially for some of us that missed early planning for retirement.
My friends Lawal and Amadike and Peter, should read this piece so they can re-direct  or spread their anger more appropriately to more involved people here than to Eke and Dan who can very conveniently survive anywhere here or home.

If you really want to help, I will be forwarding you some names of Igbo people especially from our side of IMO state and Ngwa who are 67 and above and cannot go back home because of one or more of several reasons:

1.   There is no own home to go to.
2.  There is no money for travel  ticket.
3.  No wife, children or parents to go to.
4.  No friendly brothers and sisters to go to.
5.  No papers to guarantee a return.
6.  They may need some new hearts and kidneys.
7.  Blood pressure and prostate pills are more potent and affordable here than at Orlu or Eke Oha.
8.  The doctors at home, some anyway, do not know how to treat diabetes and other 'going problems'
9.  Viagra here is original and more potent.
10.  Nothing to keep busy on on retiring at home.
11.  Adult pampas  are very scarce at Orlu.
12.  Do not know to swallow fu-fu any more.
13.  There is not McDonald yet at Afor Umuna.
14.  Don't want to miss their welfare and food stamp checks.

etc.  etc.

Shall I say more?

I think we can talk about how to better prepare for future life at home on coming to America than pelting on the innocents.

Concluding,  a lot of us here have lost their home at home for neglecting it for long. Surprising? No. Anywhere one finds himself, like some people say, becomes his burial ground. 

Sad indeed.



My People:

The above very timely piece, was delivered rather inimitably humorously, by Maazi Dan Akusobi, to who all questions should be directed at dakusobi <>

Chai!  Tufiakwa! Omebiriemebi !

Bolaji Aluko
Shaking his head


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