Kathleen Ndongmo: Going AWOL – Africans in the Diaspora (YNaija FrontPage)








There are so many things about leaving home for “greener” pastures that turn out to be much less glamorous than advertised.

“And the Olympic gold medal for seeking asylum goes to… Africa!”

That’s not my line.  It’s a cheap gag I found on the Internet and it irritated me a little more than cheap gags off the Internet should.  Because it is true.  At least a little bit.  Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, the DRC and Cameroon all come up on the first page of Google search results for “asylum” and “Olympics” in the last month.  I want to say it’s incredibly embarrassing.  But I have no idea what situations those athletes are fleeing so I’ll withhold judgment for a while.

Having said that, the subject of AWOL Africans is not that far removed from what I’ve been thinking about this week.  Which is: People like me.

Certain races are regularly criticized for emigrating thousands of miles to other countries – only to then set up communities identical to the ones they left behind.  They eat food from the motherland, speak their native tongue, hang out in communities made up only of their countrymen and do zilch to integrate.  After decades in a new country, they are running corner stores with signs in the window announcing “Ice Slod Haer”.  To them, that’s progress.

Africans in the Diaspora tell me, – do you gravitate towards your homeboy/homegirl or do you steer well clear?

There are so many things about leaving home for “greener” pastures that turn out to be much less glamorous than advertised.  Incredibly long hours. Demeaning jobs natives of the host country would rather die than do.  Paltry pay.  Living from hand to mouth because once you’ve sent money home and paid your bills you are back at zero.  It is a situation many Nigerians (and Africans) abroad find themselves – though few will ever admit it.

So when living far from home, do you stick with your own, for those meager comforts that can mean so much?  Or do you prefer to carve your own path, independent of patriotic ties?

Stick with your own…

The community feel of having a home away from home makes the distance between you and your loved ones seem that much shorter.

You want to be with people who just get it. Accent, slag et al.  These first world types need everything explained to them – even when you are speaking the exact same language.  No, I can’t just pop over to France for the weekend – it doesn’t matter how cheap the tickets are.  I need about a year’s worth of banks statements, police clearance certificates, mortgage payments and clear blood tests first.

What kind of self-hating senorita avoids the camaraderie of her fellow countrymen anyway?
They look like you, they talk like you.  They don’t find your food weird or your jimmied vernacular incomprehensible.

You will never – ever – have to explain the difference between “Yoruba” and “Ayoba” to someone who saw one World Cup match on TV back in 2010 and now thinks that Africa is, indeed, a country.

Steer Clear…

Who flies thousands of miles to a brand new continent only to slip right back into the exact same lifestyle they left behind?  Want to talk the same language and eat the same food with the exact same people?  Then stay at home and save yourself a hefty airfare and a soul-destroying visa process. Let’s be honest:

You could do without being labeled with the sleazy stereotypes that follow some nationalities around – you know the ones I mean
Just because they were born in the general vicinity of where you grew up, it does not make these people your kin, or your friends.  It just means that you both won, or lost, the same geographic lottery.

Africans in the Diaspora can be a pretty spiteful bunch.   An immigration lawyer friend of mine once told me that most Zimbabweans deported from the UK were first reported to the police by fellow Zimbabweans.

They can also be a gossipy group of ne’er-do-wells.  Always up in your business and complaining that you don’t do enough of one thing – or you do too much of another. Then they take the gossip across the airspace to your family back home who’ll wake you up at 3am with one of those calls.

Of course, a healthy balance is probably best.  Somewhere in between setting up a Little Abuja in the East End of London and joyfully renouncing your Nigerian citizenship as soon as you hit the tarmac at Heathrow.  But if you had to choose…?

Over to you.


*Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (2)

  1. Love this piece. Honest truth

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail