Born and raised in lands thousands of kilometres away from their ancestral homes, many Nigerian parents in the Diaspora are finding new ways of reinforcing indigenous cultures in their children, writes ERIC DUMO
Jesus na you be Oga, Jesus na you be Oga, all other gods na so so yeye, every other god na yeye dem be," gushed out of 12-year-old Amaka's mouth in disjointed Pidgin English as she made for the door. It was a dry afternoon with wind blowing at top speed across most parts of California, yet the excitement on the little girl's face was as moist as a sweaty palm.
Born and nurtured in the United States, young Amaka only got to visit her parents' country - Nigeria - for the first time last December. She had heard so much about the place - many of those tales were gory presentations of what Africa's most populous country looked like. The little girl was only Nigerian in nomenclature but American in spirit and soul. When she jetted out of the LAX International Airport in California together with her father - Mr. Isaiah Uchendu - and mother, Ijeoma - on December 13 last year, she was unsure of what to expect upon arrival in Orlu, Imo State - the home town of her parents. Tales of blood-sucking demons running riot and huge man-eating apes jumping from trees to rooftops had created a dreadful picture of Nigeria in the days preceding the long voyage. It was the beginning of the end as far as she was concerned. But 11 months after that historic trip, Amaka has a different idea of her fatherland and the amazing culture of its many peoples.
Experiencing Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Owerri and her native Orlu in the five weeks she
stayed in the country, the little girl not only realised how wrong her earlier ideas were but also what she had been missing all along. She wished she could turn back the hands of time.
"I thought we were heading to a jungle in Africa but I was surprised when the airplane landed in a place called Lagos, a big city with cars and houses," the 12-year-old recalled as our correspondent played guest to the family at their modest three-bedroomed apartment in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, California, during a recent visit to the United States.
There are about 23,302 Nigerians in the state of California alone, according to a 2016 American Community Survey. While many have lived there for decades, acquiring citizenship status in the process, the pursuit of a new life amidst crushing poverty and widening economic inequality in Nigeria has driven dozens more there.
The Uchendus moved to this bustling city a little over 12 years ago - shortly before Amaka's delivery - their first and only child. The couple, despite now fully entrenched in the American way of life, has not forgotten their roots. Each year, one of them makes the long trip home at least once to see and meet with family members, relatives and friends. The tradition has not only helped them to keep in touch with happenings in their home community but also helped them put to good use their hard-earned savings in the United States. Isaiah works as a driver at a delivery company, while Ijeoma is a senior sales executive at a popular chain store. But while they have plenty of 'Nigeria' in them even in America, Amaka only knows little about home - a situation the couple are desperate to change.
"My daughter used to have weird thoughts about Nigeria and Africa in general and that bothered me and my wife a lot," the 42-year-old said, clutching tightly to the little girl on the three-seater sofa they sat. "Initially, we didn't pay much attention to this but as she began to grow older, we became more concerned. We wanted her to know more about home - about our hometown, Orlu, and our culture in general.
"We saw how other Nigerian parents were beginning to seriously introduce and instil their indigenous culture in their children, so we became more interested in doing the same.
"We began to take her to more Nigerian events in California and started making her take active part in the activities just like the other children.
"As time wore on, she started to show more interest and in fact wanted to know more about Nigeria and her many cultures. My wife and I, at that point, thought that it would be nice to finally take her home to witness things for herself.