The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional, and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
This week’s Abroad Life subject is a Nigerian couple who’ve lived in America for over 20 years. The husband was born and bred there while the wife relocated from Nigeria in 2001. They share the ups and downs of living in America and being catalysts for change in Nigeria, despite not being able to vote.
How did you migrate to America?
H: I was born in the state of Delaware and automatically became a citizen. My dad moved to America in 1976, but he travelled back to Nigeria often for visits. During one of his travels, he met my mum, and they entered a long-distance relationship until they got married. My mum moved here ten years later, in 1986, because they had to wait five years for a visa, and another five years to get her permanent residency. I was born three years later, in 1989.
W: I moved to America with my family in 2001, when I was in my early teens. We were in Florida for a year before we moved to Atlanta in 2002. My family moved here because my father got a H1-B visa, which allows skilled workers to migrate to the U.S. It took five years to get it, but we eventually moved with him in 2001.
What would you say are the ups and downs of living in America?
H: I’d start with the ups. It’s the land of opportunity. I believe America gives opportunities to all immigrants as long as they work hard. One has access to basic amenities like power, good roads, and so on. However, I’d admit it’s become more difficult to get jobs due to the rise of polarised politics and —
Wait, what do you mean by “polarised politics”?
H: This is when the two major political parties no longer have the same fundamental ideas, which is not supposed to be the case in a democracy. The polarised politics was caused by the rise of social media — people sharing their own news through their pages — and independent media — the rich spend billions of dollars to establish media agencies that report their own version of the news. I believe that’s what has caused the U.S. legislation to change, especially towards immigrants and visas. The immigrant votes have been known to be discounted during elections in the U.S. That’s the only thing I don’t like about America.
How does this affect immigrant jobs? Well, the quality of jobs largely depend on the ruling party. If a Republican was President, then you would be less likely to find good immigrant jobs (as they are biased towards non-Americans).
W: I’d say the same thing. Yes, America is where most of your dreams come true. For instance, I’d never earn up to $1k per week as a medical doctor if I lived in Nigeria. However, in terms of election and governance, immigrants are treated as second-class citizens. We could stay in polling booths for hours and not have officials attend to us. Even if they do, it’s with disdain, like only Americans by blood should be allowed to vote. I don’t mind taking part in the upcoming 2023 elections for Nigeria. But too bad I’m in America, and I can’t.
H: Because by law, Nigerians that reside outside the country are not eligible to vote. Also, it’s hard for me to relate to Nigerian politics because I have very few memories of the place from my childhood visits. However, I can say diaspora voting should become a thing for people who want to vote. I see Kenyans, Mexicans and so many other immigrants vote with their passports in their various embassies. It should become a rule of law for Nigeria too.
W: I’m definitely not like my husband in this regard, LOL. I have so many childhood memories of Nigeria, and it sucks that I can’t vote here due to “some law.” I attended Peter Obi’s diaspora rally at Howard University, Washington D.C., and he had clear visions of how to govern the country. If I could vote for whoever I wanted here, best believe Obi would get my ticket come February 25. I hate that Nigeria is in turmoil and there’s absolutely nothing Nigerians here can do about it. We’re more than cash cows for diaspora remittance; we’re Nigerian citizens. Our location shouldn’t dictate our right to vote as Nigerians.
But what about the other candidates?
H: Both Atiku and Tinubu have past records of corruption. Tinubu is even worse, with his allegations of drug trafficking. And I don’t see why I should vote for a candidate who lies about the smallest things, like his age. They’ll just maintain the usual style of governance.
W: About Tinubu, he was the governor of Lagos when me and my immediate family at the time were living there. I can remember passing through Ojuelegba to and from school every day, and seeing agberos, many of whom I later learnt were under his command. For his dirty past record and much more, I don’t think Tinubu is up to the job at all. Neither is Atiku. They’re not forward thinkers. They’re only thinking about enriching their coffers while in office, just like this current president and the president before him.
Did you attend their rallies?
H: I wasn’t aware of any rallies for Obi’s rivals close to the Washington DC-Maryland-Virginia axis, so, no.
W: Same here. Tinubu and Atiku, to the best of my knowledge, did not campaign in our area. Peter Obi took his time, visited and campaigned for the presidency in about ten or so different cities in North America. He cares deeply about getting Nigerians in diaspora involved in the next election, especially through donations.
How do you plan to show support ahead of February 2023?
H: Well, largely because of my wife, I’ve been researching the political candidates for the National Assembly (NASS) and governorship elections. I’ve also donated money to Obi campaign groups here in Washington.
W: My friends and family know me as the loudest voice for Peter Obi. I’ve been encouraging my relatives back home (Nigeria) to vote for him. He’s never taken a dime from government funds and has an economist background that could fix up the nation’s economy. All the good roads in Anambra were made so because of Obi. I can go on and on.
I may not be able to vote here, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a catalyst for change.