A light breeze welcomed you to the United States this beautiful afternoon in autumn. The weather was perfect and the sun’s warmth on your brow, refreshing. Having spent over 14 hours journeying from Lagos through Amsterdam to New York, you had thought you would be considerably exhausted on arrival. But here, at the back seat of the Chevrolet Impala conveying you from the J.F. Kennedy Airport, there was no sign of fatigue.
No feeling of a jetlag. From inside the car, you cast a deliberately slow glance around. Everything your eyes could see was a glaring testimonial of your arrival into a brand new world. Towering mansions with the roofs virtually touching the sky, greeted you from all sides. From left and right, big and beautiful automobiles sped past on well paved, neatly demarcated roads. You heaved a deep sigh, relieved at last that your trying times in Nigeria were over. For the fourth time that afternoon, you fished your passport from the breast pocket of your shirt and checked the document again. Impressed in bold, red letters on the document, the words, TEMPORARY EVIDENCE OF LAWFUL ADMISSION FOR PERMANENT RESIDENCE. EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZED, reassured you that a brand new day has dawned. You remembered how it all started two years earlier and you muttered a silent appreciation to God that it had all ended well.
But for most immigrants, does living in America ultimately translate into that fantasized life of perpetual bliss? Hardly, says Rotimi Aromolaran, a Nigerian security expert who has lived in the United States for over a decade.
“When you first arrive in this country, you might think you’ve come to a place like no other. But it might not be too long before the scales begin to fall off your eyes. Although there are many Nigerian professionals that have risen to the top in their careers, a good many of our people are still in the struggling category and would remain there forever. There is nothing they can do about it. That is why one is always saddened when one sees some of these people with great potentials abandoning their career for an unknown future in America. By the time you begin to search for a job and you realize the kind of jobs that are available for people like you, and you take into consideration the opportunities that could be available for you back in your country, a lot of people will admit to themselves that their coming to America is nothing but a monumental mistake.”
Olusesan Ekisola, founding General Manager of Nigeria’s first private radio station, Raypower F.M, who has lived in America for more than ten years, couldn’t concur more. “You know the regular Nigerian thinks that America is God’s own country. So you think you will get here and start picking dollar bills by the sidewalk. That is never going to happen. The first time I came to the United States, I was a guest of the American government.
The government actually paid me for travelling around the country, touring big broadcasting channels. So I had thought it was going to continue like that. But when I came back to live here, I was on my own. Coming from Nigeria, with your level in the industry, you expected to be given some treatment. You thought all you had to do was call some people, then go and take up a job in some respectable office. That never happened. That is never going to happen.”
A stressful start
For many an immigrant, the path to ‘God’s own country’ is not without a generous presence of thorns and thistles. For you, that journey had actually commenced two years earlier when you purchased the American Diversity Visa Lottery form from an agency in Lagos, having been told that the good luck of the agency could help you emerge one of the lucky winners in the programme. For about a year after purchasing the forms, no information was forthcoming.
Then one evening, a letter came in the mail, announcing that you had emerged one of the provisional winners. You were told that a set of forms would soon be mailed to you, inside which would be instructions on what to do and what not to do.
Eight months later, a bigger package came in the mail. In the package was a letter giving details of the processes leading to your interview appointment at the American embassy in Lagos. Also in the package were several forms to be filled and several more to be taken around to several different places. There were forms to be confirmed by the West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC), the Nigeria Police, the National Population Commission and many others. You were also required to undergo all forms of tests at a specialist hospital in Lagos, among other requirements. Having successfully concluded all that, you were ready to face the tough guys at the embassy.
Your watch struck 6.25am as the commercial motorbike deposited you near the makeshift waiting area opposite the Consulate of the United States on Walter Carrington Crescent on Victoria Island, Lagos. Even at that time of the day, the entire street was as busy as Oshodi market on a typical afternoon, milling with hundreds of mostly desperate men and women dying to savour their own share of the famed American dream. A self-styled prophet walked around, a large copy of the Bible in his hand, praying for willing would-be interviewees for a fee. Some others also preached the gospel, urging sinners to repent and asking everyone to “sow some financial seeds”, assuring that all who did would go home with their visas. Sellers of sundry items also loitered around the place, making brisk business from the visa-seekers.
A few minutes before 7 am, those seeking visas were asked to form a line. But right from the gate, every Nigerian staff of the embassy tried his best to heap as much humiliation as possible on the applicants. A guard at the gate could order you out of the line whenever he wanted, apparently to display his own power. And once inside, you were at the mercy of any staff that wanted to show off his powers on you. Every little staff was like a god that must be worshipped. Failure to add ‘ma’ or ‘sir’ to your response to a question could earn you a tongue-lash from an office assistant in the embassy.
After three hours of enduring much insults and paying all the non-refundable fees, it was eventually your turn to face a visa officer, an American who was surprisingly courteous and amiable, unlike his rude and hostile Nigerian subordinates. After screening your documents, he asked that you return the following day to pick up your visa.
Many others were, however, not that lucky. Many were those who paraded the embassy for months, spending a fortune on procuring several documents and eventually failing to get the much prized visa.
Glimpse of a ‘paradise’
Your first few days in America could be fun-filled, especially if your hosts could afford the time to take you to some fun spots in town. And all over America, such places are never in short supply. Those eye-popping sights, the wonderful food and the thought that very soon, you would start earning the almighty dollar would no doubt reinforce your conviction that you’ve indeed arrived in the land of ultimate bliss.
As you continue to savour your new world, you would discover that, in truth, America is a place where everything works.
Essential services and basic infrastructure like electricity, good roads, good water, telephone, internet and the like, which are almost a luxury in some other climes, are taken for granted in the United States. Unless in an emergency, the light hardly blinks, and, water would never cease to flow from the taps. New roads are perpetually being constructed even as old ones are resurfaced virtually every summer. Telephone services are as efficient as you could imagine. Terminologies such as busy network, ‘lines not responding’, and the like which are a frequent refrain of the different networks in Nigeria, are non-existent in the American vocabulary.
America might be preoccupied with many issues, but feeding its citizens is certainly not one of them. Food is everywhere and quite affordable, although how healthy most foods are might be a topic for an intense debate among nutritionists. Americans are a food-loving race, and it is not uncommon to find people eating everywhere. That easily explains why one out of every four Americans is believed to be suffering from obesity.
The security situation is another area where the new visitor will fall in love with the United States. Policemen are at your beck and call at all times of the day. All you need do, if you are in some trouble, is to dial the emergency number 911, and in the next moment, several siren-blowing police cars will be racing to your house. And if you ever need emergency medical service, a fleet of ambulances will be dispatched to your doorstep as soon as you dial the emergency number. Education in America as well as the health sector are also first class, though these do not by any means come cheap.
But, not all that glitters…
“The saying, not all that glitters is gold is especially true of this country,” Aromolaran told Daily Sun in a recent chat in Minneapolis. “The truth is that certain things are different from what you think they are. But it might be too late for you before you realize your mistake.”
He has a supporter in Laide Oyetunde, a former manager with Wemabod Estate Limited, a real estate company in Lagos. According to the Ejigbo, Osun State prince, if everyone was sufficiently informed about the real life in America before they took the flight to the JFK or any of the international airports across the United States, a good number of would-be immigrants wouldn’t have taken that plunge into an unknown destiny.
“If many people had known, they would have remained in their comfort zone in Nigeria,” he told Daily Sun at his home in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. “My own case is a good example. As a licensed quantity surveyor, I was already a manager in my company. I had a solid career and opportunity for continuous growth in that field. But when I got here, I had to start life afresh with a new career in manufacturing. So, if many people had known that what they thought of America was certainly different from the reality on ground, there is no doubt that they would have stayed back in their countries.”
Ekisola, now a real estate consultant in the United States, explains why a lot of people are misinformed about the realities in America.
“The reason why our people keep having these fantasies about America is because the American government spends billions of dollars to project their country as the ultimate paradise on earth. But when you get here, you discover that what you’ve been watching on your TV back home is not the real America. Unfortunately, people here wouldn’t tell you the truth. They let you discover that by yourself.”
Not everyone would buy such talk, however. For each day, across many countries of the world, the number of those seeking to migrate to ‘God’s own country’ and partake of the American dream keeps rising. Great is the number of people desperate to relocate to the ‘land of milk and honey’, legally or otherwise.
Routes to the American dream
There are various legal means to immigrate to the United States. The most common is the Diversity Visa Lottery Program which ensures that about 55,000 people from different countries legally relocate to that country every year. That is perhaps the easiest and quickest way of legally relocating to the United States. But there are other ways. An American citizen may apply for his spouse or intended spouse living abroad, and within a year, the couple might be legally living together in the States. An American citizen may also apply for other relatives living abroad. But for those, the dream of relocating to the United States might take over a decade to realize.
The permanent legal residents, otherwise known as the green card holders, can apply for their wives or husbands and kids and other relatives to legally join them on a permanent basis in America. The waiting period for the relatives of the green card holder is, however, much longer than that of the American citizen. Some who find their ways to the United States as refugees and asylum seekers might also end up with the green card and eventually become American citizens.
It doesn’t matter how the green card gets into your hand. But as soon as you get the legal permit to live and work in the United States, you can then begin to “live the American dream”. That expression, especially to many Nigerians desirous of savouring the American life, means living large in extreme affluence while easily picking dollar bills from American streets. A few weeks in that country would, however, douse the initial optimism of the excited immigrant, as he realizes, to his chagrin, that while living in the United States could indeed be much better than in his native country, it could equally be as frustrating and harsh as Minnesota weather in the winter.
Landing a ‘good’ job
The first hurdle faced by the new immigrant, as he begins to settle down in the United States is how to secure a ‘good’ job. There are those who get good jobs as soon as they land in the States. Certain professionals may actually be recruited from their countries by some well-established companies in the United States. Others, by virtue of their education and hard work, have been able to get to the pinnacle of their careers, their land of birth notwithstanding. A lot of Nigerians in the United States have been able to overcome all barriers along their paths and today, made a name for themselves in their chosen fields. Many would argue, however, that those are an insignificant minority. In most cases, as soon as you start job-hunting, you will discover that those academic certificates you brought from your country as well as the vast experience garnered over many years are hardly worth a penny.
A former manager in a popular Nigerian communications outfit told Daily Sun his experience the first time he tried getting a job in the United States.
“I saw the advert in a local newspaper that a marketing company needed a manager. I applied and was invited for the interview. After the interview, I was given the job. I had thought that, as a manager, I would sit in an office and coordinate activities. Unknown to me, the job actually entailed walking round some neighbourhoods of New York selling kiddies’ toys. I took my leave as soon as I discovered that that was the kind of job I was going to do.”
He was actually lucky. At that time, his wife and kids were resident in Nigeria and he lived with a family where the only bill he paid was on his cell phone. As a result, he could afford the luxury of rejecting certain jobs. Many others, who have to support their families as well as pay monthly bills on rent, electricity, car insurance, water, house phone and other utilities are left with little choice than to jump at whatever menial jobs they could lay their hands on.
For the new immigrant, the easiest way to land a job is to go through an employment agency. And there are thousands of them across the states. After filling out an application, and probably passing their test, they might send you to a company they deem fit, as a temporary “temp” employee. Eventually, some companies might decide to employ you permanently. In most cases, a temp is treated just like an inconsequential piece of junk. The company may decide to lay you off at will.
At times, some agencies may send you to companies that will certainly draw some tears down your cheeks. In June, 2006, the writer had an experience with one such agency in Edina, Minnesota. The search for a job had driven one to the agency one sunny afternoon and, after a quick interview during which one was counselled to jettison one’s certificates for now “in order to get a job as soon as possible”, one had been given the address of a certain confectionery somewhere in town. Asked what they did in the establishment, the lady was non-committal. “It’s not a job you can’t do,” she vaguely assured.
The following afternoon, you had driven to the address to resume the mystery ‘job’. The first thing that struck you as soon as you got near the building was the heat. Once inside, you realized that the place was a large bakery. After the bread had been baked, some huge machines would roll the loaves around in a long, winding line for the next process. As each loaf got down, a tray automatically fell underneath it. But for some strange reason, a lot of those trays wouldn’t drop down. And that, you were told, was why you were hired.
Scattered all over the floor were several large piles of empty metal trays. Your job, said the white teenager who would be your supervisor, would be to drag those piles of trays near you, look out for any such loaf lacking a tray and quickly throw an empty one underneath it. Maybe not much of a task after all, you had reasoned.
No sooner had you begun that assignment, however, than you realized that the job was no piece of cake. As soon as you lifted up your head after throwing an empty tray on the line, you would notice a long set of loaves racing down the line, all lacking trays and you would have to throw empty trays underneath each. Within minutes of starting the ‘job’, your right hand was moving very rapidly, racing from tray-pile to line to tray-pile to line at breakneck, ping-pong speed. By the time you concluded that a successful career in tray-throwing was certainly not in your future and decided to walk off the ‘job’ after a quarter-hour, you were already panting like a man at the tail end of a marathon. An indescribable ache that would remain with you for the next few weeks had already begun pummeling your overlaboured right hand.
That action promptly earned the reporter a query from the agency that sent him to the job. “For refusing to complete the assignment,” the agency’s representative had told him on telephone the following morning, “you will never be able to work for us again.”
Pick your choice
In times past, an avalanche of menial jobs awaited you as soon as you stepped on American soil. That has, however, changed dramatically, no thanks to the migration of businesses from the United States to other more business-friendly climates, and the illegal presence of mostly Mexican aliens ever willing to take up any job for the cheapest pay.
But it is not that there are no jobs waiting for you in your new land. You might still not spend too many days idling about, unless you are unnecessarily choosy. The most common jobs you would likely find are those of security guards, nursing aides in group homes where the invalid are cared for, manufacturing hands at factories, and the like. And if you aren’t able to endure the ‘humiliation’ in those vocations, you could opt for a different career in taxi-driving, in the construction industry, or as a cook or waiter in a restaurant.
You could also get a job in one of the many stores, stocking items in big departmental establishments like Walmart, Walgreen, Sears, Kohls, Target, Best Buy, and the like. There are also large food stores like Cub Foods, Rainbow, Festival, etc. But whatever you choose to do, you will need a good resume, spiced with smartly concocted lies detailing that you’ve had a vast experience in that vocation back in your country. For, in the United States, not too many establishments would offer you a job unless you could convince them that you’ve had some experience in a similar calling.
Group homes to the rescue
These days in the United States, the most alluring vocation for a good number of Nigerians is in the medical field, one of the highest paying careers in the country. But since not everyone possesses the required academic credentials to practice as a medical doctor or as a registered nurse, the next option for many is to seek a place on the lowest rung of the medical industry’s ladder: As a nursing assistant in a group home, a place where the physically or mentally incapacitated are housed.
The nursing assistant is not required to have a string of academic certificates. In most cases, he might not be required to possess more than a GED, or the equivalent of a GCE here. In the group home, all he’s required to do is simple, especially if you don’t mind the muck and the cheerless environment. His major responsibility is to take care of the invalid patients who in most cases must have lost the use of their limbs and sometimes, some of their senses.
He is to bathe them, cook and feed them, change their diapers (since a lot would defecate and urinate in their panties), take them sightseeing, as well as taking care of sundry other odds and ends. For many new Nigerian immigrants seeking advice on how to get a job, the first place he’s counseled to try his luck at is the group home. And for many Nigerians above 45 years, the most convenient place to work is the group home. In fact, it is a common saying among many African immigrants that those who mostly embrace that job in America are Nigerians and Kenyans.
But it is not that Nigerians are imbued with a more caring spirit than other immigrants, neither do they derive an incredible pleasure from feeding, bathing for and changing the diapers of full-grown but invalid white men and women. Although many are those who pursue a career in the group home as a last resort after their inability to get a more dignifying job, there are those whose preference for that chore is fuelled solely by lucre, the belief that the place is more financially advantageous than other equally non-skilled jobs.
Working at the group home doesn’t really pay more than labouring in the factories or at other places. But those who ply that route insist that it is easier to make more money over there by working in two or more homes at the same time since the group home requires less physical labour than the factory. The hours are also usually flexible, so you could pick the hours you wish to work, although you must be willing to live with the drab atmosphere and the occasional smacks from a mentally deficient patient. And some Nigerian students will tell you their love for the group home is purely educational. The group home, such would swear, is a good place to study, especially when the patients are asleep or relaxing.
Sour stories from the homes
Not every worker at the group home is lucky to have a sweet tale, though. Many are those whose entire lives have been shattered in America by a sad experience in a group home.
Since most dwellers of such homes are permanently frustrated due to their mental retardation and inability to control their limbs, urinary bladder and digestive track, they sometimes vent their frustrations on their minders. There are several stories of racial taunts and outright insults hurled at the care-giver. There are also patients who deliberately empty their bowels on those taking care of them. In all of these, the nursing aide must restrain from exhibiting anger.
If he, however, displays the slightest shade of anger to the patient, or if a patient reports him to his superior, the nursing assistant might soon be out of work, and on his way to more trouble. If he’s found guilty of such allegations, he might lose not just his job, but also his licence to practice that profession. There have also been cases when either an inmate or a fellow worker accuses a care-giver of such strong allegations as sexual or physical assault. And that is big trouble.
In the state of Minnesota, one recent case is still causing ripples within the Nigerian community. On November 15, this year, a popular Nigerian living in the state, Mr Rilwan Alowonle, was sentenced to a four-year jail term after he was found guilty of raping a female co-worker in a group home. Alowonle, a 51-year old chemical engineer who has lived in the United States for about three decades, had reportedly worked for the large American corporation, 3M for many years before he was laid off. Like many other Nigerian experts who easily turn to the group home for a new life after a downturn in their careers, Alowonle reportedly sought and secured employment in a group home as a nursing assistant. He reportedly worked there for many years.
But that rape allegation against him by the Kenyan lady has now ensured that his American dream would remain eternally shattered. For when he eventually regains his freedom after his jail term, Alowonle will most certainly be forced on to the next available plane back to his motherland. Even if he’s allowed to remain in the US, getting a reliable job would be as difficult for him as drawing water from a dry well.
Bills, bills, and more bills
Money made in Lagos stays put in Lagos, so goes a popular Yoruba saying. In America, the system is also designed for you to plough whatever earnings you make back into the system.
In America, you could live life to the fullest. You may drive an expensive, factory-fresh automobile, live in a big, tastefully-furnished house and have almost everything you crave. Only on one condition: You must be willing to pay the bills.
As soon as you start working, you will begin to receive unsolicited offers from all quarters. How they got your name, address and information that you are already working you might never know. There will be telephone calls and letters in the mail urging you to own your own personal house. There will be mail making you incredible credit offers. With some credit, you may buy cars, furniture and other items on loan, and start making monthly payments on them. Buying a house in the United States is no big deal. All you need is a good credit, a job and the ability to pay the mortgage and the interest on the house once a month. The mortgage can even be stretched for as many as thirty years.
However, it is not as easy as it sounds. While some people seemingly find the payment of the mortgage on their houses as well as their car loans and other bills an easy pie, most people actually have to labour very hard to meet with all the payment. Many are those who, in order to pay their bills, have to work multiple jobs. For many people, the hours spent inside their houses and their cute cars are very minimal, for they just must keep working in order to survive and pay their bills.
In America, a lot of immigrants have little time for any other thing besides working. Many lack basic information about events even within their localities. A lot of people could ill afford to travel to their home countries, while taking a vacation is a luxury many would willingly do without. It is a known fact that those who travel to the US as visitors actually know more places in the country than the actual residents. Yet the immigrant doesn’t necessarily abhor taking a vacation, neither does he loathe the pleasure of discovering new places. But he must keep working to pay his bills.
Not much fun for the illegal
Across the United States are millions of people living in the country illegally, many of them, Nigerians. But for such undocumented visitors, living in America could be as harsh and tempestuous as navigating the Atlantic on a paddle-propelled wooden canoe.
Unknown to many people desperate to live in the United States, the American system is designed to frustrate the illegal alien’s every move. The illegal alien is unable to work unless he uses someone else’s documents to secure employment. And as soon as he’s caught, he’s forced onto the next available flight home. Apart from that, many things ordinarily taken for granted by the lawful resident, like securing a driver’s licence, having a social security number, opening a bank account, securing accommodation, gaining admission into a school, and such others would be an impossible task for the illegal alien.
To get the necessary documents, especially the permanent resident card otherwise known as the green card, many are the afflictions faced by the illegal alien. For the Nigerians who have a nickname for virtually everything in that country, the green card is also known as ‘Ewekoro’, which roughly translates in Yoruba, “securing the leaf (green card) is usually a bitter experience”.
The easiest path for that alien is to get married to an American citizen. But this does not immediately guarantee an easy green card. First, he has to scale the hurdles of a tough interview during which he needs to convince the immigration officials, (known as ejire among the Yoruba community) that his marriage is not just to secure a lawful residence in the United States. Following a successful interview, if he’s that lucky, he would receive a temporary green card in the mail after a few weeks.
That card, which would enable him to look for a job, get a social security card and apply for a driver’s licence, would remain valid for two years. If all goes well, and he is still married to his American wife at the expiration of the two-year temporary resident permit, he is then issued the real green card which will be valid for ten years and renewable thereafter. Three years after having the permanent legal resident permit, he may apply for American citizenship, so long as he is still married to that spouse.
Very easy? Not quite. As soon as he marries his ‘heartthrob’, who in most cases would not suspect that her spouse’s declaration of love is actually a desperate means of securing the elusive green card, the new husband is perpetually monitored by immigration officials. Over the years, having confirmed that most so-called marriages between illegal aliens and American citizens have more to do with green card than love, the American authorities have come to regard such unions more critically. “These days, they monitor your every move,” said James, a Nigerian who works in a mechanical assembly factory in Madison, Wisconsin. The 32-year old man, who pleaded against adding his surname, said from his experience, securing the elusive green card is not always a palatable experience even with your marriage to an American. “During the interview, they ask you questions, somehow very intimate questions that might eventually reveal your true intentions.
I know those who have failed the interview just because the answers given by either of the couple to questions asked by the immigration official differed from the ones given by the other. For instance, a question like, ‘Do you guys keep your clothes in a single closet?’ might generate a yes from the husband, and a no from the wife. That is enough reason to deny the guy. Or at best, he may be asked to come back some other time.”
James had visited the United States in 2003 and like many others before him, had decided to remain in the country. Before leaving Nigeria, the then newly married man had a good job in a bank where he was doing relatively well as an assistant manager. His company had dispatched him to undergo a two-month training in Chicago, Illinois that summer, with the assurance of an automatic elevation at the end of the training. The course over, he was cajoled by a few friends in the United States that life in America was the best that could ever happen to him. He was assured that he would make more money in the States than in Nigeria.
He fell for their words and soon faxed a resignation letter to his employers. It took him just three weeks to realize that he had made the biggest mistake of his life. Having lost his job in Nigeria, he was left with no option than to ‘do as they do here.’ Now married to an African-American woman six years older than him, with a sixteen-month-old baby between them, James confessed his situation is as dicey as ever. According to him, the news of his American marriage and the birth of his daughter would break his wife’s heart in Nigeria. “That is one fact I don’t intend telling her until I’ve sorted myself out of this mess. How am I supposed to tell her that I have a daughter here when she is yet to have a baby?” he wondered.
Asked if he had become more prosperous since coming to the States, his smile was bitter. “How can I make more money now working in a factory here? Don’t forget I still have to take care of my responsibilities in Nigeria as well as here. I have to take care of my wife here as well as her three other kids. She has refused to work, and yet I have to continue to endure the pain if I want to get the authentic green card. That is the only consolation I will have for all the years I have wasted in this country”.
Shocks and more
A lot of shocks also await the new immigrant as he settles down in his new abode. In most African societies, the man is the head of the house, while the children must take instructions from their parents. In America, the man and the woman share the same spot in the home hierarchical chart, but it is no secret that the system has an unhidden bias for the woman. In the case of an assault or even a mere argument, the man might be barred from venturing near his home, although he must not default in paying the rent or the mortgage. These have contributed in no small measure to the collapse of several homes among many African immigrants.
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him,” says the Bible in the Book of Proverbs. In Africa, this Bible passage is religiously adhered to, even by the heathen. But in America, following the dictate of the verse will earn you a long term in prison. Here, it is a crime to beat your kid; it matters not if it is with a cane or an open palm. And whenever you complete your jail term, you might likely be banned from having anything to do with the kids in future.
Such ‘strange’ laws are not just for humans. The new immigrant will also discover that cruelty towards animals is as much a crime as cruelty to a human. In many states, there is a hunting season during which you could go into the forest and kill some categories of animals. At other times, however, you must not deliberately kill animals. And in case you run a deer or any other animal over with your car, you must make an instant report to the police. Otherwise, that action could earn you a term in prison.
For the would-be immigrant, Ekisola has a word: “If you must live in America, dump your pride at the Murtala Mohammed Airport before you take your flight. And please, go get a lot of perseverance.
“Before you can settle down here and be living from hand to mouth, you need at least three years. Then before you can be reckoned with in terms of money, you must have spent like eight fruitful years during which you must know what you are doing. If you don’t know what you are doing, then your sentence will be longer. And if you think you are very smart and you want to take the short cut, you will end up in jail. What the authorities here have is time. They give you plenty of time. But they will eventually get you,” he told Daily Sun.
So is the American system that hostile to the new immigrant? “Not to everybody,” says Oyetunde. “If you are a new school leaver or graduate in Nigeria, and for you, the likelihood of a good job in the near future is so remote, or you have become so frustrated with the system in Nigeria that you don’t mind doing anything for survival, America would be a good place for you. But if you are a professional like myself, and you are doing relatively well in your field, I will advise that you stay in Nigeria where you will be appreciated.”
And does Ekisola share that view? “To the professional, I will just say, stay at home”, he says. “People are not likely to take my advice. They will say this man is selfish. I have a nephew who was trying to come here. Before he came, I went to Nigeria to meet him. I told him, everything you’ve been seeing on the TV, it’s not going to happen. He didn’t believe me. When he got here, he expected the dollar bills to start flying. He was shocked. So if you have a good career back home and an opportunity to advance, my advice is, don’t abandon all that for the unknown. Please, stay home.”