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Sunday, 30 October 2005

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Dr A A Agbormbai

What is this story about the Limbe deep sea port mentioned by Prof. Elango? Is the government planning to build one? Has authorisation been given? What is the timeline for constructing it?

Dr Grace Odine

It will be easier for an infant to win the Buea Mountain race than for Victoria to have a deep sea port under occupation. Professor Elango has a point which is as frustrating as the state of the road infrastructure.

In the name “Limbe’ lies the trial seed of cultural domination – an attempt to re-write history and denigrate 100 years of regional cultural ties between Victoria and the United Kingdom. These ties and related sentiments had turned Victoria into a burstling commercial city on the Atlantic coast.

Dr Odine Epie

Africa


Green Card and Other Realities in USA.
(A word to a wise is sufficient)

Before coming to the United States of America no one
told you “life is hard in Yankee.” I bet no one told
you. And even if someone had told you, you wouldn’t
have believed his or her counsel. Would you? Indeed
for the vast majority of Africans, no one told us the
truth about how difficult, complex and discouraging
life in this country can be. No one told of how
America messes with people’s mind. No one told us how
this country tests ones faith. Of how this country can
transform one’s essence, for good or for bad.

We are willing to sell our soul to come to this
country. We are willing to fake this or that document
to come to this country. We are willing to commit
slight or significant transgressions to come to this
country. We are willing to leave our familiar lives
for the unknown in America. And those of us who were
“somebody” in our departing countries are willing to
come to America and start afresh as “nobody.” The pull
of this country is so great that the vast majority
can’t think of a life without living in the United
States.

A medical doctor in Lesotho would rather come to
America to be a Certified Nursing Assistant; a
Togolese trained lawyer would rather come to America
to be a paralegal; a Ghanaian trained bank manager
would rather come to America to be a grocery store
clerk or security officer; a Namibian trained
geologist would rather come to America to be a gas
station attendant. A Nigerian lady would rather come
to America to marry her dish-washing lover rather than
marry a promising civil servant based in Akure or
Enugu. Such is the lure and allure of America that
twenty percent or more of the continent’s population
would migrate to the US if allowed.

People come to America for different reasons. We
succumb to different pull-push factors that include
religious or ethnic persecution or displacement as a
result of war or natural disasters. Some came because
of the possibility of better education, employment and
economic stability. Some came because their home
countries offered no hope for a better tomorrow. And
indeed, the reasons for migration are endless. But
unfortunately, most of us leave home without knowing
what we are getting ourselves into; all we know is
that there must be a “better life yonder.”

Whether one fails or succeeds depends on several
factors, and some of these factors are, for the most
part, completely beyond ones control. There are those
who have tried and tried and tried without success or
success came at a painfully slow pace -- while some
seems to have the golden-touch, especially in the
acquisition of the Alien Registration Card (popularly
known as the Greencard). Life in America without a
Greencard? Ha!

I have witnessed grown men weep over Greencard. I have
witnessed grown men and women lose their minds after
being turned down by the immigration services. I have
witnessed men and women, who are otherwise intelligent
and rational, do the unthinkable over Greencard. The
Greencard process is akin to going to war: you must
“know thy enemy,” you must have a strategy, you must
be patient and at the same time be aggressive; and by
all means there must be no paper-error during the
entire process. All supporting documentations must be
“clean and clear,” and submitted in a timely manner.

There are those who stroll into the United States of
America with Greencard in their possession, i.e. the
so-called greencard lottery winners. How fortunate
they must be! While a great many Africans have to
suffer through years of immigration palaver, these
lottery winners just stroll into the country as though
they own America. How lucky they must be not to have
to go through some of the indignities and iniquities
that are associated with the process.

You weep when the immigration officers rejects your
application. You weep when the officer tells you “you
will be investigated.” You shiver when the officer
tells you your papers are not in order. You weep when
your significant other refuses to show up for the
joint interview. You weep when within a few days or
weeks before the interview your significant other
tells you he/she has had a change of mind or that
he/she suspects you are “no good and of no use.” You
weep when things that ought not to go wrong go
abysmally wrong. And you die a dozen times when you
get a deportation order.

In such moments you pray for seven days and seven
nights. You remember all the sins you’ve committed and
then go to confession. You fast for forty days and
forty nights. You give offerings and pray for
INS-mercy. Most people will suddenly become born-again
Christians and at the same time send messages to their
folks back home to consult with the Imam, the Babalawo
or the head of their alternate religious faith for
fortune to smile on them. They will give to God and to
the gods and to Caesar. Whatever it takes folks;
whatever it takes! War is war and you go to war with
whatever you have!

I have no qualms offending God. I really don’t; but to
offend the tax office, the police, or the immigration
folks? Please don’t! That would be suicidal. No matter
what you do, please be honest with those folks.
Otherwise, they will turn your life upside down. They
will make your life a living hell. Yet, they also
could be your best friends. And in fact, make them
your best friend. To start with, no tax frauds; no
trying to outmaneuver the immigration folks; and no
drugs, no credit card or insurance fraud or other
prosecutable offenses. And by God, do whatever it
takes to stay away from child support mess; otherwise,
your life will be on hold for 17-years, as month after
month, year after year 20-35% of your net income will
be withheld.

Some of the newly arrived Africans are taken aback by
the concept of tax and other deductions. A few will
resist the idea of going to work on Saturday and
Sunday and on public holidays; but with time, most
will beg to work on such days. Ha, the power of the
dollars! And then there are those things most Africans
back in Africa take for granted, for instance, how to
talk to and interact with women in the workplace
without running afoul of sexual harassment laws; and
when to stop when a woman says “stop!” even in the
heat of passion, without running afoul of rape laws.

Before the end of your sojourn in this country -- be
it five, ten, fifteen or twenty years be sure to
acquire an American education. If you are into the
social science, be sure to earn at least a master’s
degree or its equivalent. Otherwise, get a marketable
technical skill or natural/hard science education.

And please stay away from driving cabs unless of
course you absolutely have to (in times of financial
crisis). Why? Because driving cab is one of the most
addictive jobs there is in this country. Yes, some
cabdrivers own the cab they drive or own a fleet of
cars and are therefore businessmen. They have the
money and live a comfortable life. Generally speaking
however, a good number of those who drive cabs will
keep at it for upward of ten or more years without
evidence of financial mobility. Most cab drivers will
tell you they have a master’s degree in this or that
field and yet seem stuck driving cabs. It is a
dead-ender.

Don’t get stuck with life. Don’t get stuck in or with
anything. Live a wonderful life. And please remember
not to live and die in America. “But of course, not
everybody cares about how and where they die; not
everybody cares whether they die amongst strangers or
among loving faces; not everybody care whether they
die in a stormy weather or atop a mountain. Death is
death. But to the extent that you care, it is better
to die among friends and family. If you lived all your
productive life in this country, you are likely to end
up in a nursing home amongst strangers; you are likely
to die alone and lonely and be buried in a cemetery
with unknown ghostly faces. Even the earth and the
worms and the moisture will wonder about you. You will
not be acknowledged. You will not be celebrated. Your
life would have been in vain, meaningless. So, please
die an African death…with dignity.”

By

Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Dr Grace Odine

Sabella aptly chronicles life from the viewpoint of an immigrant to North America. The article is revealing and authentic. A reader must however temper his/her assessment with historical realities. Modern African immigrants to the U.S. travel in luxury airlines and are often too slow to realize that the wealth and splendor enjoyed by most Americans includes substantial heritage bequeathed by earlier generations.

Hundreds of years ago, the European tribes that have now conquered North America crossed the Atlantic in wooden boats infested with rats. The sea was treacherous and 20% to 40% of the boats were lost with passengers. The northern route was mined by floating icebergs and the southern route was a tempest under the unholy spell of Katrina and Rita like storms. Between the two routes was a narrow gap without islands for rests, that was navigated with crude instruments for weeks and months. Those who passed out were simply thrown overboard.

The challenge to the African immigrant in North America is to build a legacy to bequeath to a new generation of African Americans. There is no room for slumber and complacency.

Dr Odine Epie

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