By Dr Abiodun Raufu
Many people that know me know that I was already fully established in Nigeria before I took the decision to set up a second home in the United States. To date, some of them cannot understand what I am doing outside the country when I have a decided advantage to make hay in Nigeria’s socio-economic and political firmament.
Yet, the decision to temporarily relocate did not come easily. Coming at a time when my son who was a mechanical engineering student at my alma mater, Obafemi Awolowo University had been at home for six months because of an ASUU-led strike in 2013, the possibility of the young man spending far more than the normal five years for his study was looking like a distinct possibility.
There was also the worsening Nigerian economy that had got some of my friends and I to wonder where our kids were going to get jobs after graduation. Moreover, I had always wanted to establish a second home in the United States and have unfettered access to the country.
When the opportunity to take the family out of Nigeria came, I could not turn it down. It was a golden opportunity to take the kids to a clime where they could have uninterrupted quality education. Putting the kids first and myself last, decision making was easy.
Yet I could have simply settled them in the U.S. and return to Nigeria and relate with the family through phone calls and the occasional visits. But America is not an easy place to throw some starry-eyed African teenagers without some serious fatherly guidance. Being black and young carry potential danger in the boiling cauldron of American racism. American is a dazzling place to live and immigrant kids have been known to be carried away by the glitz of the American razzmatazz to lose their ways.
It may be the land of opportunities. But it is also a graveyard of broken dreams for those who lost their ways. Many immigrant kids have been known to fall through the cracks and get into trouble. It was about either putting my interest first or making a sacrifice for their tomorrow.
I soon realised that I needed to be around to guide them through the murky waters of the American cultural landscape. I painfully decided to put their interest above mine and wait for them to complete college and understand the system better before I could return home where I had built major clout within the system.
To keep busy, I got a job. But it was not enough for me to make living away from Nigeria worthwhile enough. Then I remembered my childhood dream of obtaining a doctorate degree which had proved elusive. I had tried twice to get it in Nigeria.
But the hectic lifestyle of a media executive I led had circumvented it. For almost two decades, I was virtually travelling all the time within and outside Nigeria and could just not be on one spot long enough. At home, I was known as the absent husband because of my frequent trips away from the house.
But some assurance of assured future for my kids and a PhD were just a few of the things I gained from the Yankees. I had also managed a terrible stomach ulcer for almost three decades from which I could not get a permanent solution. It affected my lifestyle. I had to avoid peppery soup as much as possible and could not afford to skip meals. Pepper soup without a full stomach was a no-go and I had to stay away from alcoholic drinks, including my favourite red wine as much as possible.
It became a priority for me to explore the medical opportunities America has to offer to rid me of this painful malady. Once I had health insurance, I visited a physician for a full check-up and brought up the issue of my ulcer who soon referred me to a specialist. The internal medicine expert was surprised that I had suffered for years with an ailment that requires only a simple procedure and recommended a colonoscopy.
Since the day I went for the colonoscopy which took less than an hour, I have not once experienced symptoms associated with stomach ulcer. I no longer have to plead with my wife to reduce the spice in her delicious food. I take pepper soup almost every weekend and I didn’t have to be a teetotaler at family and social events.
Obviously, Nigeria is a difficult place to live with its endemic infrastructural deficits. To make it worse, every time I have been around, I succumbed to mosquito bites and end up having malaria with its medication becoming part of my diet.
I get all sweaty with the constant electric blackout and I had to be careful about what I put in my mouth lest I contract typhoid. The un-motorable roads give me body ache and spending hours in traffic is unavoidable. Nigeria is tough and rough.
Despite my time here, there is an inner joy I feel during visits to Nigeria that I do not experience in the United States. The craving to spend more time in Nigeria and less in the U.S. is always there. For me, Nigeria is home and the United States is my home away from home, my second home. As the saying goes in pidgin English, monkey no fine but him mama like am.
Dr. Raufu, a former Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of National Mirror Newspapers, is of the Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas, United States.
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