I want to thank you both for ALL you have done, and CONTINUED to do for me. I have been the recipient of nothing but love, support, encouragement and sound advice. God alone can repay you - though I intend to do my best to match Him!
You must have watched the elections in these United States along with the rest of the world. In my studied opinion, what was revealed went far beyond right wing or left and beyond labels like conservative or liberal. What was revealed to the world is the inherent inanity of a majority of Americans.
Among other statistics revealed in this election: 80% of white America voted for George Bush. It is evident that nothing has changed between 1776 and 2004. This country is reeling internally and reviled externally yet the majority chose the author of this madness and confusion. Of course I leave that decision in God's hands because even the Bible teaches that if you persist in praying to Him for the wrong thing, he will grant your wishes, if only to punish you and teach a lesson. America has much to learn over time.
I have learnt (at least) 7 things in almost 7 years (February 1998 - November 2004).
(1) I have learnt that America isn't all it was cracked up to be
(2) I have learnt that opportunity is not truly yours unless you have a say in the outcome and definition of 'success'
(3) I have learnt that you often must disdain all that is near and dear to you to 'succeed' in America
(4) I have learnt that there is NOTHING more important than family
(5) I have learnt that I only have one life to live and the decision of where and how to live it is mine to make
(6) I have learnt that the problems that once seemed insurmountable in Nigeria contain incredible opportunities
(7) I have learnt there is nowhere in the world I'd rather live more than in Nigeria and nowhere less than in America
My sojourn here has been most educative and I appreciate you both for providing me the opportunity. You have both invested incredible amounts of faith and prayers and sacrificed much for me. However, America, the land of the free, is hereby free to proceed merrily on without me. I cannot continue to live and function in a society that sees me and my kindred as sub-human; sees the entire continent that I come from as a place whose resources are to be raped, people to be pillaged and spirits to be subdued; a place that continues to use a few key members of MY PEOPLE in the guise of 'leaders', to subjugate over 800 million Africans.
Simply put Daddy & Mummy, I would rather DIE in Nigeria than 'live' in America.
A wise saying goes: You must begin with the end in mind. If all I am able to do is help ONE person in Africa before I die, I will die happy.
I have been thinking deeply about what I am doing here and what effect any of it has in the real world. As time has progressed, the widow's mite I used to send to you has dried up. I weep anytime I hear that Daddy has a car problem. I agonize whenever Mummy's schedule demands she work till all hours of night and travel endlessly. I lose sleep at night just thinking about you both. I too deserve to enjoy my blessed parents in their golden years. Thanksgiving swiftly approaches. Everyone here is making plans to go, see and be with their families. I can't make those plans, not just because I can't afford the ticket but also because I'm on the 'corporate plantation' with its limitations on the amount of vacation time I can take. In coming here, one has seemingly embarked upon 'voluntary slavery'. What's the point? I'm working yet cannot afford to travel to see those I value the most. What is the POINT? To pay taxes?
The people I care about are furthest away from me physically; millions of people I don't care two hoots about surround me in their place. I'm permanently disconnected. Their concerns are not mine. They don't share my concerns about Africa. Nothing I value is of any consequence to them. Not my person, not my skills, not my architecture, not my culture. Nothing! To them, I am essentially, empty, void and of no consequence. If I dropped dead, it wouldn't matter to anyone. (I'm referring to the larger context here of course).
In contemplating the end that I have in mind, these are my seminal thoughts.
Where/Who/What am I? I am a fully trained Nigerian architect who has fulfilled ALL the requirements of professional architectural training within the country. I realized in coming here that architecture has no 'legs'. As a profession, it doesn't travel across borders. Certainly, some skills needed to express architecture, like computer-aided design, do span borders, but I wasn't trained to be a cadd monkey (as they are referred to here). Again, I restate that I am a FULLY TRAINED, LICENSED AND QUALIFIED ARCHITECT.
I have never hidden the fact that I resent the implication of the exams they insist on me doing. If it were merely about me studying to see whether I understood structures, materials, contract procedures, project management and all the other ARCHITECTURAL principles in use in America, I could understand. Their hurdles basically devalue anything I have done before coming here, a premise unacceptable to me. Lest you wonder, no, I happen not to share the sentiment that America is the 'ultimate' expression of achievement or quality. I have seen it up close and personal.
Let me lay out the scenario I face:
It is November 2004. I have about 6 exams in various areas to sit for BEFORE I can gain ADMISSION into a college here for 2 years to 'ascertain that I have experienced ANY architectural education' ever before in my life.
Assuming I sit for one exam each month, I have 6 months to do the exams and arrange admission. Assuming I enter school IMMEDIATELY after passing the College Level Examination Program (C.L.E.P.), I have a further 2 academic sessions at a cost of between $5,000 and $10,000 (tuition etc.) each year.
Following that I now have to sit for a 9-part architectural licensing examination costing between $2,000 & $5,000 (including preparatory classes). Assuming one part a month (with each passed) it will take me almost a further year to finish.
So, in total, it would take me 6 months, + 2 years + 1 year = 3- 1/2 years and between $12,000 - $25,000 to get an AIA license which would now permit me to practice architecture in the United States of America. Woo-hoo!
That would be great if it was something I desperately wanted to do or even if it were something I even had a remote interest in doing. (Note that those amounts I mentioned would now be owed as student loans that I'd have to remain here to repay.)
Every piece of the scenario I laid out previously would be taking me further and further from my ultimate goal for which I am ALREADY prepared and qualified for - working as an architect, builder and DEVELOPER in Nigeria. Isn't that what Nigeria needs? Development? Well, here I am. Nigeria owes me nothing so I'm not afraid of being ‘disappointed' by the country.
Daddy, I was profoundly affected when we met Tony in Abuja. I want to MANUFACTURE something, ANYTHING in Nigeria (and thereby PROVIDE EMPLOYMENT). I honestly don't want to waste my time and life, piling on debt and growing old doing something I have ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST IN. I have NO INTEREST in American architecture or construction materials and methods - NONE WHATSOEVER.
What does this translate to? I hereby cease any efforts to prepare for or study for my AIA license. It is a waste of my time, life and energy. I am instead making immediate plans to return to Nigeria and fulfill my true life's purpose, which is to work with people to change their minds about their position in the larger world. We are not at the bottom of life's pile. Nigeria is NOT the worst place on earth. The US is NOT the best place on earth. There is NOTHING we cannot achieve if we remove the yoke of the west from our necks. Nigeria can work for ALL Nigerians. I have no idea how far I can go in these directions but I shall use the skills God has given me to the best of my ability in this cause.
Over time I shall assiduously seek the presidency of the Nigerian Institute of Architects. I will use that platform to pursue the cause of dignity for Nigerian people beginning with their built environment. The value of quality, cost-conscious and culturally sensitive design, utilizing energy efficient methods will pervade commonplace conversation. I hope to promote a view of architecture and it's relevance to the everyday person where buildings and other projects are perceived as opportunities for engaging the past, profiling the present, the accessing the future.
Again Daddy and Mummy, I thank you both for ALL your efforts and support; I'm done with Amerikkka. At this moment, I want you both to know I love you both VERY much and that I cannot endure a life of emptiness and distance from you with only an undesirable goal at the end.
I'm not unaware of the maelstrom that is Nigeria. I am under no illusions about how 'rosy' it is or may be in Nigeria. I am not unmindful of my varied experiences during most of the 28 years I spent there before now. It would be unimaginably difficult to chart my course in Nigeria if I was aware that you were waiting for an opportunity to tell me "I told you so" about re-locating. This decision has been a long time coming. I guess the election results just crystallized my views about a lot of things in this society for me.
Whatever the future holds for me, God is and remains in charge. Take pride in the fact that you have assisted Him in raising me up to this point. Whatever decisions and mistakes I have yet to make, I take full responsibility for. In my eyes you are not now, nor have you EVER been responsible for any wrongs or difficulties I may have experienced in my life and you can both take FULL CREDIT for all that is right in it.
I need you now more than ever and I depend and rely on your support, assistance and especially your advice.
Yours ever affectionately,