“Settling Down in a Japa Destination”

By Akin Ojumu

You are a Nigerian, born and bred. Up to this point in your life the farthest you’ve been from home in your entire life is that single trip you took to Lagos many years ago. Since then, the entirety of your life has been confined within the boundaries of your village somewhere deep in the interior of Nigeria.

One day, during the course of your tumultuous life, you conclude that the land of your fathers is a killing field of hopes and a cemetery for aspirations. Besieged on every side by chaos and confusion, you realized that to continue living in Nigeria is to condemn yourself to premature death.

So, you decide to pack it all up and relocate to a foreign land thousands of miles away from home to a people whose language you speak with a heavy accent and whose culture is alien to you. With no idea of what awaits, you decide to take a chance anyway because its the logical thing to do given the circumstances you face at home.

Here you are now in a foreign land trying to find your way around. The first thing you realize is that you need to wipe the slate clean and start your life from scratch. All the multiple degrees you brought from home quickly end up in the trash bin because, over here, they arent worth the paper they are printed on.

The most your combined bachelor’s and master’s degrees get you is a minimum wage job flipping burgers at McDonald’s. With your PhD, you are told you are qualified for the night shift as a security guard in a warehouse where they manufacture toilet paper.

When you summon the courage to bring up your medical degree, the best job you get is as a personal care aide to a demented senior citizen and your duty includes cleaning up when the client messes on himself.

Still, you are full of gratitude every time the $7 per hour pay from your multiple jobs hits your ban account on a regular basis. You are thankful you can sustain yourself on this small salary and still have a little something to spare which you send to help folks back home.

On this meagre earning, you are able to afford many things that people back home can only enjoy in their dreams. You live in a well-furnished one-bedroom apartment and drive a fairly used Toyota Corolla which, even with the more than 100,000 miles on it, still drives like a tear-rubber.

The fact that you can go to bed at night and not entertain any fear that armed robbers will break into your home and murder you just so they can steal the flat-screen television you purchased a few days ago, is a reality for which you are profoundly grateful.

Even more so is the number of times you leave your old glory Toyota Corolla outside with the doors unlocked and the windows wound down. Yet, each time you come back to it, you find it exactly where you left it; untouched and with the 4-wheels still intact.

Something else you can’t seem to get over is the pristine condition of the roads and highways. They are so well maintained, and so often, that it seems as though maintenance work is done all year round. Then you cast your mind back to the potholed dirt paths they call highways at home, and you can’t help but burst into tears.

The other thing that makes you cry for your homeland is the uninterrupted power supply you enjoy. At no time since you’ve been living here have you heard anyone yell, “Up NEPA!” Power supply has remained steady with not even a blink. It takes a while for you to get rid of the occasional thought that pops into your mind, like it used to back home, when, unconsciously, you quickly want to iron your clothes “before NEPA takes light.”

To be continued...


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