(VOICE OF NAIJA)- The other day, a friend’s wife informed me that she and her husband were on their way to Canada. I rejoiced with her and prayed that perfunctionary Nigerian prayer that has a hint of sincerity and jealousy: tiwa naa a de l’agbara Olorun: our turn to escape the malfeasance of this country will come by God’s grace.
A week later, they landed in Canada. After they settled in, I reached out to them to know how they are keeping. At first, they were excited, but that excitement started to wane as reality set in: they could not find work; when they finally found one, it was demeaning work that they would never have done in Nigeria.
This is a popular story. It is the story of many Nigerians who sell hearth and home to leave this country in search of greener pastures and better quality of life. Some of those who have gone are flying on the proverbial eagle’s wings – as dependents of others who have earned the right to study or work in their destination.
After Nigerians arrive in Europe or some other country, the first thing they seek is how to work and make sustenance. This is where things get serious, and the exciting reggae of travelling abroad gives way to the blues.
They find that work and everything that comes with it responds, not only to their qualification and experience, but to the colour of their skin.
The most noticeable thing about a person is whether they are white, brown or black. People are seen before they are heard or given a chance to perform. So, it is not impossible to walk into an interview and already lose the job because of genetic makeup. It is not appropriate, but it is possible.
What is more popular, however, is that a man or woman who finds himself as a visitor or a minority in another country where (s)he seeks opportunity must do more than the average person. Indeed, such a person must bring their best effort and their A game.
Perhaps, it is not fair or necessary; but those who have pushed themselves over this limit have found that it is worth it. They have blessings to count and sun-filled futures to anticipate. Pushing oneself further than usual is a bit like going to the gym: after some initial pains, one begins to see results.
What, then, does it mean to do more? It means bringing some more certifications to the table or bending a little bit lower or backwards to accommodate some excesses that may not be required of others. A Nigerian could take a bit longer to prove themselves and earn the trust of their employer.
They may have to work a little bit harder to overcome bias and suspicion. But this is what it sometimes takes from people who seek their fortunes far away from home, and who make their futures abroad.
However, while facing these hurdles, one can almost always hold on to the hope that walking this lonely and prickly road would lead to pastures that are green and lush. And if one does not get there, the work experience could serve as launching pad onto something better.
To return to my Canada based friends. After sometime, I started to notice that calls only connected outside work hours, and sometimes I had to had sent a text ahead. I found out later that they worked in places where the use of personal phones were not encouraged, exemptions were made for immediate family, in case of an emergency.
Though, I did not know what to feel about this, it led me to think of a very interesting Nigerian coinage often used on Twitter – ‘anyhowness‘.
Anyhowness is a Nigerian English word that simply means to do things anyhow. I think about that word a lot these days, and how it bellies our ability to accept mediocrity, corruption and lawlessness.
Anyhowness points to the brazen practice of unintelligent politics that masquerades as leadership in this country. Anyhowness is almost a national attitude. Apologies to those who feel insulted.
I read in the news about a Nigerian nurse who got fired from a hospital in the UK and now faces deportation because she prayed with a patient in the hospital. I understand this brand of concern from the nurse, who might have wanted to care for the soul of her patient in addition for caring for the body.
Were it in Nigeria, the patient would have been grateful and held the nurse in high esteem. But the setting is in a place where they privilege professionalism over believe, and science over God. I make bold to say that what the hospital and the authorities lack is that is that Nigerian attitude of ‘anyhowness‘
That Nurse’s prayer, sincere and well-intentioned as it might have been, constituted a conduct unbecoming of the health system and its practitioners. Simply put, that nurse should have left her thoughts about the spiritual side of the patient’s sickness at home. Instead of prayers in the hospital, she should have grabbed a syringe.
To succeed in a setting outside one’s home, it takes developing a high sense of work ethic, an understanding of the culture, and a devotion to the ideals of whatever industry one finds himself.
One cannot expect to produce half-hearted, shoddy work and hope to excel. To do this is to shut the door that one ought to hold open for others. It begins with simple things like timeliness, truthfulness and honesty.
Then it continues on to more important issues like knowing that sometimes, it is not about race. Rather, employers just want the best for their businesses; and if anyone – whether black or brown or any colour of the rainbow – brings that sense of responsibility to the table, they will find a place to stand.
So, here is what it takes: black people seeking global opportunities have to prepare themselves, and develop a culture of excellence. All the racial, political and personal dynamics submit to this.
To return to my friends in Canada, it seems like they have learnt this rule. They told me during our last conversation, “One just has to get used to this system, jare. These people are not playing. But we are used to it; we are thriving now.”
Femi Ayodele is an editor from Nigeria who has edited countless books of fiction and non-fiction. He lives in Lagos and liminal spaces where he is working on the next award-winning book.