Nigerians in US:The Need for Rebranding

We give ourselves Nigerians too much credit, even assigning value to what most say ‘Nigerians are the smartest’ people in the world. What is being ‘smart’? How come that this has not translated to meaningful and sustainable growth and development in the world’s most populous black nation?

Ok, let’s excuse the Nigerian in Nigeria who is not exposed. Look at the Nigerian abroad. Apart from piling up on degrees and seeking jobs, which is mostly trading hours for Dollars, what are the other measures of economic and/or political presence Nigerians have outside of Nigeria?

Immigrants in US are measured by zip codes, census tracts, presence in certain industries, charitable engagements, financial institutions such as community bank or credit union and employing their own, among others. Using some of these measures, can one mention a Nigerian run non-profit in US that has presence? By presence, I mean paid staff, physical office, annual budget that is reported according to law and devotion to addressing the needs of its core membership. Can one mention a zip code and or census tracts that Nigerians dominate or businesses that Nigerian own that dominates? Hardly.

If not for US America diseases led healthcare sector anchored on fat checks from US Department of Human Services – Medicare and Medicaid programs, and insurance companies co-pays, where most Nigerians run over and on top of each other, and those manning classrooms in some universities/colleges, what or where else are Nigerians in US? Even in the home healthcare sector where many have presence because of ease of pay and associated fraud, of which many Nigerians have been caught for defrauding Medicare, what else is left to jump up and down about?

Nigerians appear to be attracted to industry where there is ease of making money. Remember the days of IT certification of network technicians called engineers? Many Nigerians jumped in but as soon as that industry was clamped and shrunk, Nigerians looked for the ‘next butter to spread.’ Then comes Home Healthcare agencies, where many are called Administrators. Every ‘Nweke, Tunde and Musa’ changed career and wanted a nurse as spouse so they could make money. I once approached some in the industry and suggested they have an advocacy group to be in the know of what may change how they do business. What I got was a stare, like, we are in this to milk the system. Some have done so, but guess what, they are doing the time.

Having a choking communal sense is a far cry from sense of community that drives most immigrants into striving to thrive in US. Most immigrants do not belong to plethora and often dysfunctional and badly structured, fractured and fragmented associations that Nigerians in US get marooned and swallowed by, which often is driven by Communal Sense. Other immigrants imbibe and imbue strong sense of community, co-invest, share useful information and in turn push and pull their own to be BOLD and go for GOLD. Nigerians on the other hand, are consumed with nocturnal activities like wake keeping when folks die, child naming parties, graduations, taking local and silly chieftaincy titles, and showing off big house and cars, purchased in neighborhoods where value does not move. But given appetite for anything BIG so they tell the story, they buy big HOUSES.

America is a country one excels deploying strategic thoughts and recognizing how to yield to knowledge and information in order to take advantage and stay effective. Majoring on minors does not get anyone collateral presence in US. The Vietnamese and their south east Asian communities, using their small cottage business of manicure and pedicure, generate more than $40b in annual gross sales with huge taxable benefits to the US economy. What is the Nigerian business contribution in any given sector in the US? This is what US business and policy folks look for and chase. Not titles. Productivity is a magnet in the US.

It does not matter that the first Nigerian to US was recorded in 1918, 95 years hence, Nigerians in US still act like they just crossed the border, despite graduating among the top immigrants with at least a Bachelor’s degree.

If not for the exchange rate of the Dollar to the Naira, many Nigerians in US have no value in exchange. But given the intrinsic value afforded them due to the exchange rate, many have exaggerated sense of accomplishment and refuse to understand there is more to living in the US and achieving a measure of mental migration necessary to accord one respect and ovation.

Nigerians may have loads of money, but they hardly migrate mentally to a plane where they see their money as a tool and not an end. It is their refusal to migrate and engage the mind in much higher satisfying indulgence demanding better ways that have left the people reduced to seeking instant gratification.

Successful nations have a pyramidal structure, not because of monetary resources but because as they develop, they seek higher engagements and shed certain conducts. Nigerians lack the will and desire to act like a rocket and booster system. For a rocket to go further, it has to discharge the booster, and then it launches faster and further into space. For one to achieve into the higher plane, they must discharge the excess luggage.

Nigerians want everyone to be equalized and accorded similar audiences. To belong to some of the organizations, all one has to do is come to the table and state he/she is from that village, town and tribe. Membership is hardly differentiated as dues are flat. That is not how to do it. All fingers are not equal.

If you are unduly torched and touched by this view of mine, it is what it is. Counter with equally compelling views. Flip over to the University of Nigeria (UNN) motto; ‘to restore the dignity of man.’ I say, ‘to build the dignity of man.’ One can only restore what they once had. Did I miss something in this common use of English words?

By Ejike Okpa II

Dallas, Texas.