Stranded in a foreign By Acho Orabuchi

THE caption aptly describes the unbridled emotions of many Nigerians who are now either in their golden years or at the shores of sea of senior citizens in America. They seemingly fret over the unknown as they advance in age. Though they may not share their emotions with strangers, a vast majority of them in the United States feel stranded, and perhaps deemed hapless captives of their own unique situation. It is not uncommon for a discussion among Nigerians to be dominated by how fast they would leave America for Nigeria if the opportunity to relocate presents itself. A large number of them feel that their life in the United States is like being remanded in custody or trapped in a cave with an oc­casional shadow of light. It is sadly a re­curring tale of which no one has an abso­lute monopoly.

With the receding hairlines for those who still have some hair, our people have spent a vast preponderance of their time thinking and planning elusively on how to move back to Nigeria. Evidently, the intense emotion for going back is some­times spurred by their reminiscence of their youth in Nigeria—a period that has faded away among their colleagues who remained in Nigeria and are now running the country.

The people in the Diaspora seem to be living in this wishful world of thinking about their activities 30 to 40 years ago were still relevant at this age. They have failed to realize that the counterculture has progressively eliminated the remnants of the yester years they always share in so­cial gatherings. The sad reality is that time is never stagnant and what one was years ago may have been overtaken by culmi­nating events. And sometimes, some the past events are today obsolete. However, for solace, it is psychologically fine for people to hold on to their childhood for the sustenance of the present.

Despite recalling the age most of the Nigerian-Americans were at their home country, they have accomplished enor­mously in their new country, and they should be proud of their accomplishments. But prior to this period, Nigerians who immigrated to the United States came as students and had originally planned to go back to Nigeria after their studies. Some actually went home voluntarily, and others went through deportation. In the same to­ken, many stayed behind as their hopes of going back progressively crater with each passing day.

Those who stayed have finished or about finishing raising their children who they fear they have lost to America. Un­fortunately, these children do not have strong family ties to Nigeria and any ef­fort to make it happen has met with one impediment or the other. The only culture these children know is American.

Another intriguing phenomenon is death. It is indelibly fretting for our folks here to think about dying in the United States one day. The thought is often ex­acerbated and more dreadful at the news of someone’s death, particularly when the dead is a well-known individual in the community. The news of periodic deaths of Nigerians is becoming too common and some people are hopelessly confused not knowing what to do in the event death come knocking. With the concept of living will, many people are now making the de­cision on where they will be buried when they die.

They are letting their immediate rela­tives know ahead of time where their final resting place will be. Those individuals who made the decision while they were alive seemed to minimize the problems that often arise when Nigerians die here. Some Nigerians have been buried here because they did not make the decision before their death and their family mem­bers decided to bury them here contrary to the wish of their relatives in their home country.

Sadly, this type of situation has torn families apart. It has pitted surviving spouses against their children who wanted their mom or dad to be buried here where they would have the opportunity to place flowers at the grave site during the anni­versary. It has also pitted a wife against the siblings of the deceased husband for bury­ing him in America at the objection of the dead relatives in Nigeria.

In any case, as age creeps in on Nigeri­ans in the Diaspora, death is not the only thing they agonize over. Some of these Nigerians have health problems that may be related to age. Depending on the type of ailment, some are alive today because they are in this country where they are receiving quality healthcare. If they had gone back to Nigeria either before or after developing health problems, they would have been dead by now. Also, most of the Nigerians who came here in the late 1970s and early 80s depending on their age when they left the country are now reaching the retirement age.

They will be joining other Nigerians who are already living in the retirement homes. In most big cities, where there is a large number of Nigerian population, their number in the nursing homes is increas­ing. It is a scary thought to be placed in a retirement home. That is simply not our culture, but we have overstayed our wel­come. Our kids will make the decision for us when the time comes—whether to be put in a retirement home or be buried here.

Well, the frustrating situation has prompted some folks to make hasty relo­cation decision devoid of adequate plan­ning. The outcome has always been a disaster—a return to America.

Another developing phenomenon is in­creased participation of these old people in various parochial organizations. Many of them have found an escape route for their frustrations in their respective paro­chial groups where they have caused a lot of mischiefs. They seem to find solace in attempting to dignify themselves by bring­ing others down.

SUN