Learn and Look Before Leaping Abroad

Ever since The Nation (Sunday) newspaper published a profile I did on a Nigerian promoting African culture in Hungary, Nigerians have been seeking advice or even urging me to get them necessary documents ÔÇô especially invitation letter ÔÇô so they could "check out". Reading them is insightful, for I have realised most of them are ignorant about the actual situation here. Majority have been the victims of a monumental swindle by fellow Nigerians who usually invite them to Hungary ÔÇô usually to play football.

Yes, a Nigerian is so desperate to "check out" of her country to the extent she violently believes that whatever happens thereafter would be a bearable storm. In that moment of despair, she often mistakes foolhardiness for bravery. Anyone that opposes her plane or ship instantly becomes enemy ÔÇô enemy of her progress. This Nigerian often beats her chest saying, "If I can weather bad patches in Nigeria, I am ready for any house of weathered shingles abroad".

So off she went to the land unknown. Her preparation was simply a policy of desperation. Otherwise why should any right thinking person believe such a jingle that the road of Budapest or Rome or London or New York is paved with dollars or euro? Why should my sister fall for such fable that money grows on the trees in Germany? The last time I checked, my sister had finished her first degree in sociology, yet she knew so little about the land of her new destination. It might surprise you that my sister thinks Hungary and Germany are in England. She doesn't even know that the official language of Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland is not English.

To start with, she has been brainwashed by her relatives who had embarked on similar journey some years back. They might have told her sweet stories ranging from "Omo, na here world end o". To support such claim, they might have sent some exotic photographs taken in front of an imposing house or car. And such materialistic spinning must have entered into my sister's head. She too must go yonder. She too must go to Oyinbo land go make her own money. If it favours Lagbaja, it must also favour Tamado.

Or it might have been her friend who after spending two or three years in 'Yankee' decided to come home ÔÇô for Show time. Her friend had decided to buy New York City simply to show them in Nigeria that he has arrived. It doesn't matter where he works ÔÇô McDonald's, pizza joint, mortuary ÔÇô he just must show that he's coming from abroad. He may even have borrowed money in order to impress or oppress those in Nigeria.

Meanwhile those relatives who seem to be sincere about the nature of life they live abroad are often considered a no good person whose aim is simply to discourage others from being like them. They may ask, "If it's so hard why is he still living there?" This is no doubt a moving and honest question but it's much more than that. Living abroad is tough and I won't say more than that. I want you to see it for yourself because no amount of preaching would deter a determined or should I say a desperate mind from going to " London or 'Yankee' or even Asian countries".

I understand my sister's plight. She needs to get out of the system that seems to have forgotten her existence. She could not secure a reasonable job since she finished her education. Or it could be my brother who needs to save face by going abroad. I mean that such voyage is automatically a kind of status from Nigerians perspective. Whilst I understand such parochial thinking, I must say that I detest the situation whereby people respect me just because one is living in Europe or America or Asia. Of course this is ignorance on the part of those who have not been abroad, for many of them may even be better off.

Personally, I consider it an inferiority complex for those Africans living in Europe or America to feel important just because they live there. They are those the Yoruba referred to as Omo ai' jobe ri, ti n ja epo si aya. It is true that things seem to be working in these countries. For example, here in Hungary, there's no oil or other mineral resources, yet things do work. Constant electricity, adequate drinking water, health care system, compulsory education until the age of 16, good security system, good transportation system and roads etc. But this is not to infer that everything is well Tax is about 40% of your salary.

No matter the amount of one's exposure in Nigeria or Africa in general, one is bound to marvel at the way things work here. There is no need to bribe public officials in order to get documents. An international passport or other similar documents are your birthright, however you may need to pay an  administrative fee which is moderate according to the average salary. A birth certificate for instance, is issued free of charge and adequately documented immediately one is born, meaning it's nearly impossible to lie about one's age.

Furthermore, public officials here are not under pressure to steal. For example, government financial transactions are not by cash but through post office cheque.  Nearly everything is paid by cheque even private companies use this system. I do not object to ordinary Nigerians coming here - most of those in Nigerian government have their relatives here and there but would try to persuade Andrew from checking out. What I abhor is their lack of knowledge about their destination and temptation to engage in crimes in order to survive.

So my brother, think deeply before you decide to come to Europe. Remember that getting visa is just the very beginning and not the end. The hardest part is securing necessary papers to live here. This is frustrating and there's no other word for it. Some people are being swindled right from Nigeria. Obong (doesn't want his surname printed) was invited to Hungary to play football. "Nobody told me it's going to be like this," he says. "They told me to claim asylum when I reach here, but it's not as easy as they painted it. Now I am stranded and have to use someone's paper to work. I paid them a lot of money".

Obong represents thousands of African immigrants leaping in the dark. This is not a good idea although one may be lucky and eventually get the necessary papers to reside; one must be prepared psychologically because the task would turn you into something else - mostly negative. Perhaps this explains why most engage in illegality like pushing drugs, prostitution, and other crimes. Another social problem one may encounter as a result of leaping without listening and looking is, marrying for papers. This seems to be the in-thing because EU respects family. However, this is also becoming complicated as it may take years, making you live at the whim of your "wife".

It is not advisable to come to Europe with a tourist or visitor's visa with the intention to live, especially if you are a professional at home. Gone are the days when you could do this but not any more. Certainly those who make money out of your ignorance would not tell you this fact. If you are earning over 50,000 naira a month and you have job security, then you might be wasting your time paying a fortune to reside in Hungary for example. Believe it or not, over staying your visa is a bad omen.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. However, you may be deceiving yourself or living a fool's paradise should you think coming abroad means richness. Do you think I am limiting your limit? Whatever you think, just be careful ÔÇô be very careful. This is because you are indirectly blocking your compatriots' chance with every lie that comes from your mouth. If you care to know, your ignorance or inconsiderate attitude has worsened Nigeria's bad image here. Virtually every Embassy believes a Nigerian tourist or visitor is a potential immigrant, hence genuine Nigerian visitors have been refused visas. This is painful.

The bottom line is this: don't come here anyhow. For instance, you may want to come here first, observe and go back, then apply for a longer term visa. Or you may want to come as a student and then take it from there. This is not only the right thing to do, it earns you respect as well. Sure it is expensive but you will have preserved your dignity and that of Nigeria. You should realise that countries all over the world frown at what they call illegal immigration. Many of our brothers and sisters have perished during such arduous journeys. Europe or America are not like they were before. But my people are right when they say, Bi a gun iyan si inu ewe, bi a se obe si inu epo epa, e ni ma yo a kuku yo.