My kids are about to enter university and I’m seriously under pressure from within and without to “give my kids the best” which I can afford with harder work.
This is the time for me to be circumspect for myself, Nnewi, my town and for the future of my race, preservation of my traditions and possible conscious exportation of my children abroad.
I need no one to advise me on the merits of sending my children to Canada, USA or UK to study, possibly get jobs after graduation and to settle down for a more purposeful life abroad better than they can get in Nigeria.
I also know about the better education, health facilities and opportunities obtainable offshore Nigeria. By staying abroad, my children can file citizenship or permanent residency for me which will entitle me to free medicare at old age.
It looks all beautiful.
I have myself have traveled to Europe and America, used their facilities and can tell between RUGA and SUYA.
While thinking of how to manage my family challenge, I am deeply involved in solving a related problem in another family.
I felt very aggrieved as I watched the corpse of a very wealthy man from my village whose friendship I had valued so much but his death taught me a great lesson. The will surely help me to solve my own problem.
My older friend’s corpse had been in the mortuary for 14 months and no one knew how much longer it would remain there.
I had adopted the late Chief Ukwachinaka as a father (l had lost as a child) and he took me as a handy son.
Chief’s highly educated son and daughters had been so busy abroad.
I recall how the Chief, on my various visits to his home in Surulere, Lagos, would relish his narratives on how well the children were doing abroad.
He would tell me how the son was the valedictorian of his graduating class in prestigious Yale University in the USA and how his two daughters also did so well that Caucasian men rushed and married them. They were too good for black men.
Indeed, Chief Ukwachinaka had brilliant children.
All his three children (consisting of a boy and two girls), gained admissions in top schools in the US on scholarships.
Chief Ukwachinaka only had to foot the children’s travel expenses to the top schools for resumption. What a good luck!
The living room of my older friend was sequentially decorated with enlarged photographs telling the academic and career success stories of his the children.
The pictures alone could induce envy even in the mind of a very righteous or contented person.
But, my closer association with Chief Ukwachinaka revealed a life of a very sorrowful man.
He was to confide in me about the pain and void he struggled with and how a tale of his children’s success had become a soothing balm to assuage his masked agony.
“Anayo, I have given the world brilliant children who add no value to my extended family, community, town and country,” the chief agonized.
“I lack nothing money can buy as I visit my children as long as I wish but I have refused to relocate to the US as I don’t want to live or die and be buried in a foreign land.
“Their mom enjoyed the enhanced status of living in the US and would travel to stay with her children as much as she wanted before she died and was brought home for burial here in Nigeria.
“Perhaps, the kids think that I’m being difficult” my friend said with a forlorn look.
“They don’t understand why I should insist on living in Nigeria, in a country they deem backward and in which nothing works and in which nothing would change in the nearest future”, he said.
“That was not my plan and idea of having a family. It’s a horror to me and a dream completely shattered.
“My dream was to be surrounded by most of my children and grandchildren at my death bed but this has become a pipe dream.
“When people hail and envy me, I wallow in self pity as members of secret cult groups do when people envy their wealth which they earned at huge costs.
“Oga, you can see that we are taking very good care of your friend?” The mortuary attendant said, as he nudged me on the shoulder.
I was still lost in deep thoughts when the audaciously annoying dead people’s attendant reminded me that I had promised to gaze not to mope at the corpse.
Chief Ukwachinaka’s steward had called me one fateful Saturday morning to tell me that his master couldn’t wake up from sleep. The much I could do was to notify his immediate relatives in Lagos and we arranged to deposit his remains in the mortuary.
My friend’s funeral arrangements shall be as announced by his children; and that is yet to happen.
As I was leaving the mortuary that afternoon, I prayed silently that the highly educated children of my wealthy friend find time to come and give their father a befitting burial and a passage to the land of his ancestors.
I don’t know if any parent is caught in this same web as me. I will soon solve the problem in such way that I won’t make me to be like Chief Ukwachinaka my dead friend.
Perhaps, ị họọrọ ụmụ chie ha ọzọ, họọrọ ndị ọzọ gbuo ha ichi meaning not putting all my eggs in one basket might be the solution.
From where I’m standing, I cannot take the abroad risk with my first son. He must stay here to love his town and country with all his strength and might as I do. We must stay here and tap the opportunities herein. Others might go abroad to study.
If my son agrees to going to school only, spending every holidays in Nigeria no matter how short and returning immediately to Nigeria upon graduation and if his mother will surety him, I will reconsider a school in the UK not USA or Canada. My son must be within maximum of 6 hours access to his aging parents. That’s why I begot him. He is my prized asset.
For clarity sake, those citizens that make Nnewi thick, sustain its wealth and ingenious achievements in trade, manufacturing and general commerce mostly graduated from Nkwo Nnewi, Idumota and Trade Fair Universities. The town and its people don’t rely on the diaspora to survive.
Don’t blame or castigate me in a hurry until you hear and see what I’m hearing or seeing in the families of much older parents that took the risk of sending all their children abroad without checking well. They cry silently.
No reasonable Nnewi man will ever use his two legs to check the depth of a river.
Nobody should get me wrong. There are many success cases of parents who sent their children abroad and they all came back or are home-minded. However, but nobody makes a conscious choice of misfortune.
My people say “na ọ bụ onye jelu na Nwagene ka Nwagene na eri” meaning “that it’s the person who wanders on the bank of the Nwagene river that could get drowned in the river”.
By Anayo M. Nwosu