Sunday, July 30, 2006

Shame, to feel or not to feel

Some of the Africans stranded in Lebanon have given their various reasons for not wanting to return to their countries. Their reasons can be summed up in one word - shame. They don't want to go back without anything to show for their time in Lebanon. It seems to have escaped them that given the circumstances, they should be forgiven for not taking anything back. Unless I'm mistaken and Africans are a cold callous bunch lacking in human compassion for their war ravaged countrymen.

After all, the news about Middle East crisis is dominating news headlines the world over. There was a representative of Hamas (I think), on Nigerian current affairs programme 120 minutes discussing the conflict. Nobody in the world could fail to know, or at least have heard of what is happening. But Africans still feel that a war is not enough to excuse them for not bringing back a fortune from the neighbours of the original land of milk and honey they left their countries for. Or at least a cow and a beehive. Something. Anything.

This happens all too often, and I can mainly speak for Nigerians. Nigerians abroad sometimes stay in menial jobs which they'd rather not do (often looking over their shoulder for immigration officials), because they're too ashamed to go back home. "What do I have to show for my time here?", they ask. It isn't that they can't reestablish themselves back home in whatever capacity they left originally, because quite often, they can. But they won't go before they've built a house back home, or at least bring back some gold from Dick Whittington's London. Nobody wants to return a loser, which is fair enough. Sadly, it reinforces the notion that "abroad" is heaven, and that it is impossible to fail once one leaves Nigeria's borders.

People end up putting their lives on hold because nobody wants to return in so-called shame. Take the woman who says she left Nigeria when she was 10-years-old. Why on earth should she have to prove anything to anybody in Nigeria? The woman who even says that she doesn't feel like Liberia is home anymore says, "if I arrived back after 37 years - just me and my handbag - everyone will laugh at me." And this isn't even her home. The Ghanaian also refuses to return empty-handed. The people back home are so used to Western Union Money Transfer, that when the source of that cash comes back they're expected to bring the bank with them.

It's an indication of the state of Africa that people would rather stay in a warzone, than return home with just the clothes on their backs.

Whereas some have too much shame, others have very little. The body of Funso Williams has barely gone cold, but the Yahoo boys have assumed his wife's identity and are firing off emails across the globe. The BBC World Service is broadcasting a programme on Monday morning on combating the crime associated with such emails, featuring interviews with Scotland Yard, and EFCC "tzar", Nuhu Ribadu. I'll put a better link up when the World Service schedules website is fixed.

I tried to make some capital out of Funso Williams's death, but failed. (Don't give me that look, I'm a journalist, and we peddle stories). Israel and Hezbollah had taken up all the pages on the Sundays, so a political murder in one of the world's largest democracies disappears into the news ether. During a google trawl for Funso Williams news, I came across his campaign website. Unsurprisingly, it hasn't been updated to display news of his murder. The campaign slogan "Keep Faith Alive" is even more poignant after his death. People's faith Nigerian democracy is precisely the thing that may have died with him.


ExtrovertedPrude said...

You're so on the ball with this post. However, i don't think its only the fact that 'they' wouldn't be able to show anything of the time spent abroad, but that on getting back 'home' they wouldn't be able to successfully work and live in a meritocratic society without knowing some dude(s) somewhere. And like you say a lot of those not wanting to go back 'home' often are found in menial jobs abroad, how then would they be able to get to that dude somewhere who is the supposed messiah of their future back 'home'. I know i generalise somewhat, but that's generally the nature of our society (Nigeria), isn't it?

Anonymous said...

While it is almost unimaginable why any immigrant will choose to remain in South Lebanon; it's also all too easy to query their decision to stay. There are other factors at play in addition to shame; a particular factor is that the African/Nigerian society is yet to devise a system-net system for the less fortunate ones. After being gone for decades- it isn't that easy to just pack a bag and leave for 'home'. Home is where the heart is- and that isn't their native country.

culturalmiscellany said...

Its one of those things; pride can be both good and bad. Good as it makes your strive to work hard and earn a good wage. Bad as it can lead people to make irrational decisions. I thought like you that the stories on the BBC website of Nigerians in Lebanon fell into the second category albeit I may have taken the same decision if I was them.

Anonymous said...

You're wrong on this one oh.
It isn't shame that is keeping those people in Lebanon, it is Vanity and Pride.

It isn't the shame of not having "accomplished" but that these so-called Big Men and Women cannot go home and oppress those who chose or had to stay behind.

If such people were really concerned abouve achievement, then they would have been putting some effort into achieving in Lebanon, getting a degree or whatever.

These people feel no shame in sweeping streets and scrubbing toilets as long as they can arrive at an Owambe in Nigeria and be spraying dollars on the teachers and nurses doing more noble work at home.

They deserve whatever they get.

chrome said...

it is a strange concept and one that holds a lot of us back from my dad to strangely enough me. this need to prove ourselves to people who is some cases are doing better than we are. saw my cousin spraying some serious naira in a wedding video so his siblings aint getting ish from me no more >:(

listened to the bbc prog today on the death march to the west by thousands of Africans. not suprised about lebanon. I had to "rescue" my friend from Turkey. Almost died laughing when he called me. but it wasn't funny.

Anonymous said...

Imagine my situation when my uncle and aunt visited me a few years ago.

They were in London from Nigeria and I had arranged for them to pick up tickets and travel by air to Amsterdam - Lots of praise.

OK! I pick them up at the airport and we take the train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centre - on the way, I informed them I had to pick up my bicycle.

I cannot imagine what was going on in their minds - something like, this boy has been in Europe all this time, he has no car and he rides a bicycle?

We get to the Amsterdam, and they suddenly see that we could number more bicycles than people and many innovative ways of using bicycles to move children and goods.

When they were leaving, my uncle said he had agonised about how to tell people I have no car, that I ride a bicycle - he was close to clasping his hands over his head in unmitigated commiseration.

Having now seen the bicycle culture in Amsterdam, well, I am definitely a well-to-do man since I had 2 bicycles - well, I am also a circus act :-).

In the end, I suppose the shame in it all is the hedonism that feeds the need to keep up appearances - thankfully, it is one trait I never imbibed - earning me the derisory sobriquet - bounty/coconut - from people the same tan as I.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...Well not too sound cold, but if you are in a country other than yours for 37years, you should have something to show for it, if not, the purpose for which you left is defeated. And like Kemi said, it is vanity and pride that is keeping them away not shame. Their safety should be their first priority not what they would take home to show "their arrival". So they would rather die in Lebanon than take refuge else where? I just can’t understand it. Common sense isn’t really common

Anonymous said...

the not wanting to return home mentality exists becasue people think it's better to be a loser in a country where u're anonymous then to back home and hustle as a loser while your more lucky mates are raking in the big bucks. i got friends here that are crazy about janding, and i can already see their future. they'll make it abroad but end up as security men and toilet cleaners. hustle, hustle.

about 419. i admit it's bad but like drug abuse it's never going to stop. the sooner we realise that the sooner high blood pressure and heart attacks decrese and the sooner we start looking for other stuff to yap about. just yesterday i popped into a cybercafe at about 3am (by the way this cafe is one of the best in abuja where diplomats and society big wigs often come). but yet yahoo boys were there doing their thing openly and enjoying the music playing while at it. hustle, hustle.

Anonymous said...

shame? pride? vanity? all foreign words for those who are REALLY suffering...