TUESDAY Column by VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
The United States’ “Diversity Visa Lottery” programme under which the US officially admits thousands of people from select countries, including Nigeria to come live out their dreams in the world’s biggest economy has kicked off. Applications for this popular programme commonly referred to as ‘US lottery’ opened on the 3rd of this month and ends on 7th of November, 2017. They are for year 2019. You can bet that millions of Nigerians of all categories as usual, including market women and butchers as well as semi-illiterates would be falling over themselves to be among the lucky winners, in the ‘can make it’ Nigerian spirit.
Millions of the potential applicants are already dreaming big of what they would do when they lay hands on that almighty dollar, earning it by doing whatever kind of job that is said to always and readily available – build houses in Nigeria, marry more wives, send loads of cash to relations and buy cars for them all. And that is the fixation and lure of wanting to go to America for the average Nigerian. The complaint is that jobs are hard to come by in Nigeria, even menial ones, that the naira is of little value because even with tonnes of it you cannot buy much with it because of inflation and its depreciating value in relation to the world’s international currencies. “In America even as a dish washer or toilet cleaner, your salary even though it looks small compared to what people in higher paying jobs are getting, translates to huge amounts of naira because one dollar is times four of one naira, so you can always make it there within a short time”, so goes the sing song.
For the average Nigerian, making it means becoming a millionaire, a moneybag. For most Nigerians, Africans and people in developing countries, that is their number one goal for which they are prepared to risk anything. And so it is that we have people going abroad to become sex workers; people risking their lives through dare-devil trips across the ocean from north Africa to Europe in overcrowded, rickety boats in inclement weather; people forging documents and telling blatant lies in a bid to be granted entry and asylum in Europe and America as for example, alleging that they are fleeing political persecution, war, female genital mutilation in Nigeria, among others.
Notwithstanding that European countries are tightening their immigration policies, making entry requirements difficult, even denying some genuine applicants visa as for example some sportsmen, many Nigerians in the typical Nigerian spirit have continued to try their luck through legal and illegal means. Thousands of Nigerians continue to flock to European embassies’’ portals to request for entry visas, many prepared to pay through their noses for the services of fake and genuine agents who promise to make it possible for them to be granted the much sought after visa.
German Ambassador in Nigeria Mr. Bernhard Schagheck said some time ago that some 13,000 Nigerians who came into that country illegally were seeking political asylum. According to him about 90 per cent to 99 per cent of these requests would be rejected as he opined that “there is no political persecution in Nigeria”. Indeed the Ambassador said that some 12,000 of them were going to be sent home to Nigeria. It has become commonplace for us to hear/read of repatriation of Nigerians from Europe and Libya (the staging post for emigration to Europe by Africans) for immigration-related offences. Such evictions, not even deaths on the high seas do not deter the average Nigerian from desiring to go abroad by any means possible, attracted as it were by the lure of America and European lucre.
It is said that this year’s US Diversity Visa Lottery could be the last in view of current political realities, bearing in mind that the thrust of President Dolnald Trump’s foreign policy is “America first” and he is revising some of America’s notable policies. This will engender an unprecedented rush for this ‘almighty’ America visa lottery coupled with our own harsh economic realities.
But is living in countries far away from one’s homeland the best? In the wise order of the Creator in the weather, farm produce and so on and so forth in each region of the world is conditioned to the natives there. They provide the best soil for the development and maintenance the natives’ physical body. It goes without saying that consumption of foods that are wholly produced in other continents is unsuitable for us. For example consuming rice that is produced in America or Thailland is of no value to our body/health. Only that produced in our part of the world/region is best suited for us and will give us the greatest benefit. One can give multiple other examples but the bottom line is that in everything pertaining to our physical health and development we should always prefer and go for those that are gotten from our region where we were born.
Those who travel to far countries for the first time may notice that they fall sick soon after arrival, the body is trying to adapt to the new radiations brought about by the fact that the weather, foods, etc., there are alien to it. Home sickness sets in. The body does seeming adapt after a long while. But such persons cannot live in such far flung countries permanently without dire health consequences. He/she has to come home once in a while to absorb that peculiar radiation arising from the soil of his/her native land and everything connected thereto which are exactly suited to us. Sojourning abroad should be temporary.