Meet Eze, Andrew’s overly enthusiastic successor. There was a time Eze was only known to go to school. This school, of course, was either next door or within a not too distant radius from Eze’s home. For over two decades, however, Eze’s destination has been abroad, and it doesn’t matter what constitutes abroad, for Nigeria is the home country of many an Eze who would rather be anywhere than in Nigeria. Not minding the actual reality of abroad, Eze obtains some strange yet deep measure of gratification from being abroad and is necessarily in a state of perpetual superiority to his/her countrymen who are back home in Nigeria. It explains why Eze’s once dull social media accounts suddenly spring to life once he/she arrives in the abroad as Eze begins to update not just his/her profile, but also his/her minute-by-minute engagements and location from a train station to a sports event. And no, it’s not because of the electricity challenge nor the exorbitant costs of internet connectivity in Nigeria. Oh no, it’s certainly not. Eze’s reasons for these are well-nourished.
On more occasions than not, Eze’s compatriots are in a temporary stay at home for to emulate Eze as soon as possible is the primary aspiration of these countrymen of Eze’s. It is why Eze is convinced that his/her love and service to his/her creator is why the creator has been so faithful as to make way for his/her being abroad. For those compatriots still back home, Eze has one key advice: love and serve the creator better! One has outlined three overlapping courses through which to examine this phenomenon of Eze’s passion for being in the abroad.
Socio-economic: It has been severally argued that the income generated from the Diaspora (Ezes) into Nigeria outweighs any other single source of national revenue earnings. There is also a school of thought that is convinced that the Nigerian’s personal and professional development are best served abroad. Indeed, it is why it has become the norm to have a stake in the national soccer (all sports) team once an athlete is based abroad. As the argument goes, “if you are so good, you’d be signed up by a foreign club”. The same is the case with education. Outside the reward norm of ‘going abroad for studies’, academics in Nigerian universities recognize a postdoc even though there is no known Nigerian institution offering a postdoc. As such, a postdoc for the Nigerian academic doubles as an opportunity for study leave abroad!
Socio-cultural: One is aware of many an Eze who schooled in one of Nigeria’s tertiary institutions – from the less prestigious to the more prestigious – and subsequently obtained a degree. In 2, 4, 5 or 6 years, or more, these characters never got a selfie with the backdrop of their alma mater’s gates/entrances. However, once Eze got abroad for masters or for employment with some foreign firm, Eze’s social media got awash with selfies in the mold of worship. The obsession with which Eze adorns selfies with foreign institutions in the background is akin to the importance of the crucifix in a catholic church. Eze is a worshipper of anything foreign. He may lay claim to serving/worshipping God, but Eze’s true god is this or that institution in the abroad.
The excitement of being abroad as evidenced in members of those meaningless ‘Association of Nigerians in XXX’ is palpable. Never mind those from families in the lower and upper middle class whose parents have charged them to avoid Nigerians abroad and ensure to enter into wedlock with a foreigner. This, according to their justification, is their response to the political elite back home that ensure to only enter into wedlock with fellow politically/economically elite families as a means towards generational security. We are all witnesses to how an electorally active/visible Zahra Buhari suddenly became Zahra Indimi before we could spell cabinet. She since disappeared into the political economy of marital bliss!
Away from the digression, we, Ezes’ compatriots and all the bona fide Ezes in the abroad, have on our hands a country where at the slightest opportune moment; parents are in a show of supremacy over their foreign-based children’s locations. Parents get off on knowing that the neighbors are well aware of their status as ‘Papa and/or Mama Eze’ in the abroad. Some skewed prestige! It is why there exists those emergency Nigerians – particularly among the female folk – whose sole criterion for dating is that he be foreign-based (or a foreign-based returnee, at the very least). Even in the mediated space, it is a genuinely profound ‘wonder’ that neither Kizz Daniel nor Davido could break up with a girlfriend whose bigheadedness had become unbearable without the threat of a one-way ticket to ‘obodo oyibo’!
Socio-political: It is needless to rehash the affinity of Nigeria’s political class for the foreign hospital, the foreign junket/shopping and the foreign investment/real estate. In truth, this reality is only an extension of Eze’s typical make up. Perhaps the loudest illustration of this in recent times is Diezani Alison-Madueke. As petroleum resources minister in the Jonathan administration, fate had bequeathed these characters with an opportunity to elevate the Niger Delta from the ravages of poverty and environmental hazard into a space of Arabian-isque development. Alas, Ms. Diezani and her accomplices frittered away what ought to have been golden years on the altar of a lifestyle of private jets for herself and her broods while in cahoots with foreign-based financial sharks. These are emotional subjects which are only compounded with a certain anyone’s boy unable to help himself from photo-ops with pillagers of the commonweal all in the name of ovation journalism.
It is more worthwhile, therefore, to assess this facet of Eze from a more nuanced example. Nigeria’s contribution to peace-building and conflict resolution in Africa is arguably second to none. While it has become fashionable to rubbish the tag as the giant of Africa, this appellation remains incontrovertible as far as that subject goes. The progressive voices of apartheid South Africa probably knew no better ally than Nigeria. The commitment of successive military regimes and even the Second Republic government to putting an end to apartheid in South Africa is well documented. The records by Nigeria’s reggae stars through the period remain abiding referents as is the case with Sonny Okosuns’ ‘Fire in Soweto’ and ‘Papa’s Land’. Even more celebrated is Majek Fashek’s reverberating cry in ‘Free Africa, free Mandela’. Yet, in spite of Nigeria’s collective and unequivocal condemnation of apartheid, Nigeria barely ever got any gratitude. Today, South African-based Ezes live in fear as his/her compatriots have been on the receiving end of the ugliest manifestations of xenophobia. But our successive abroad-serving governments continue to massage self-ego as big brother Africa with the most generous albeit unappreciated foreign policy on the continent.
In Nigeria, charity went abroad. For Nigerians, being charitable only becomes a virtue abroad. Consequently, Nigeria is that geographical expression where folks live through ad hoc measures, never bringing their A-game to bear. This is true for government officials as it is for private sector personnel and within domestic relations. Welcome to Nigeria, the land where charity begins abroad…