Goodbye from London

By Casmir Igbokwe

Published: Sunday, 16 Sep 2007

Last December, they brought some excitement to Isuofia, a town in Anambra State. They had visited home to celebrate Christmas; and often moved in a convoy of different exotic Jeeps. The type of business they do is questionable. But because ours is a society that worships wealth, people adored them. Some purportedly fell into ditches while admiring their cars. They are London residents. And the people call them London Boys.

Even some churches celebrated them. They made them chairmen, chairman’s supporters and members of the high table at bazaar sales. These boys raised millions of naira for the church. Some reportedly broke kola nuts with amounts of money running into seven digits.

Seeing their opulence, many young men salivated and vowed to do everything possible to come to London. In a piece entitled ‘Welcome to London,’ I had narrated the desperation of most Nigerians to migrate to the UK and other parts of the Western world to search for greener pastures. In the article, which actually introduced this column, I had also highlighted the advice a lot of friends and relatives gave me before I left Nigeria. In summary, the advice was, ‘Don’t come back to this country.’

As a relation of mine put it, “Find time to explore opportunities in Europe and elsewhere for back home is filled with pains and wretch…Today in Nigeria, Europe is synonymous with wealth. Let me see how far you can go in preaching, teaching and suggesting otherwise by the time you come back.”

Well, what has a beginning must have an end. It is time to say goodbye. But as I prepare to breathe the hot air of Lagos once again, certain fears run through my mind. The greatest of them is the state of our infrastructure. For instance, I have got used to typing straight on my computer in Cardiff. Of course, electricity supply is constant. But soon, I will be forced to go back to writing in long hands. Or what else do you do if you have a deadline and there is no electricity to type your work? Use the computer with lantern or candle? One can use generator quite alright. But for how long?

What of the roads? Is the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway fully okay? Can motorists easily drive through Okigwe to Nnewi Road now? I cannot ask about the one that leads to my street because that one may never be done up until the world ends. Thank God that the Transportation Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, passed through the Lagos-Benin Road the other day. Otherwise, she may never have known the state of that road. And she may never have instructed that the road be repaired. Perhaps, I can now travel to the East to see my parents, knowing that the road has received some attention.

Water? Hmn! I just pray the private borehole in my neighbourhood is still functioning. The one in my house stopped working for the umpteenth time shortly before I travelled. The pumping machine frequently broke down because of power fluctuations. We became weary of repairing and replacing it. I pray we continue to have constant supply of clean kerosene so that we can continue to boil our drinking water.

I also hope that miscreants won’t waylay me on the road as I move to my house. I won‘t mention armed robbers because, as some Christians will say, it‘s not my portion. Happily, the Lagos State Government has promised to deal decisively with them. The police authorities have also promised to fight them fire for fire. This reminds me of Tafa Balogun.

Let me not talk about public schools and hospitals. They may not be working efficiently. But we have enough alternatives in private institutions. Those who cannot afford highbrow hospitals, for instance, can make do with chemists and roadside nurses. I don‘t also think herbalists charge as much as orthodox medicine practitioners.

My major regret is that we don’t seem to have learnt any lesson from our past mistakes. Civilised nations are moving further up the moon. We seem to be running back to the Stone Age. Millions of Nigerians are starving. But our lawmakers revel in awarding contracts and jumbo allowances to themselves.

The scriptures say those who have will receive more in abundance. Those who don’t have, even the little they have will be taken away. The Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission seems to be confirming this. Recently, the commission reportedly jacked up the pay package of executive and judicial office holders. It also introduced hardship allowance and reviewed such sundry benefits as constituency, furniture and overseas trip allowances.

Ordinarily, I have no problem with this. But in a country raped by official corruption and profligacy; in a state where multiplicity of wrongs inflicted by maladministration have not been righted; in a nation which seems to be charting a new course in servant-leadership, frequently raising the pay package of leaders could be depressing to the citizens. In any case, who needs this hardship allowance more? The man who is enjoying the paraphernalia of office or the graduate who has roamed the streets for five years without any job?

On a lighter note, there are people who are eagerly awaiting my return. They have laid ambush for me. My dad called the other day. Being a knight of the Catholic Church, he wants me to buy him a sword. He said the one he had before had broken. My mum does not really make much demand. But she has informed me about the levies, which are becoming more frequent in the village these days. My siblings say the gifts my wife gave them when she came back from her own trip were wonderful. Mine, they expect, will be one in town.

Particularly interesting are the requests from my children. At various times, they have asked me to buy biscuit and ice cream for them. For Kosisochukwu, the singsong is, “Daddy, buy pencil and sharpener for me o!”

Some other relatives and friends have called. Some want me to buy mobile phones for them. Some want T-shirts. Some want London suits and shoes. Like the man who recently smuggled a monkey onto a flight at the LaGuardia Airport in New York by hiding it under his hat, I may have to smuggle myself into Nigeria. Or ask my employers to give me some hardship allowance.

This is why most Nigerians, who are trapped abroad, find it difficult to come back home. Societal expectations and demands are just too much. Only the London Boys, perhaps, can return anytime and even make a show of it. See you later.

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15 Comments »

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  2. 2
    Saidi Fafou Says:

    I hardly write newspapers, or columns. Of course, that’s not because I am some busy top-shot, or a tightly scheduled politician of some sort. On the contrary, I’m some poor guy with hardly enough money to “browse,” while stilling sending mails.
    But then, I feel the greatest urge to write you.

    You’ve been absolutely wonderful with your column, and have made the deepest impressions on me. I never expected it would come to such quick end (I still remember very clearly your first writings from Cardiff). Your humour, simple use of language and words are, by me, fantastic. Your constant lashing at the country, which still does nothing to the patriotism residing in your writings, makes me really laugh, and then think.
    And of all things, this patriotism strikes me. then the constant sympathy with the suffering masses…
    While reading, I get feelings greater than you might have set out to communicate in words. Sometime I nod, at these points; I nod along. Your craftiness interrupted me once, when, while nodding, I was to read one following remark, “well, you might be nodding now…” And I stopped in my tracks surprised, laughing! What craftiness!

    well, am not a critic, nor am I any knowledgeable in those areas. neither am I one big respected guy; I’m only one of the many poor Nigerians who chance to get Sunday supplies of punch, but then I hope the words of a poor unknown will gladden your heart.

  3. 3
    Hundeyin Seyon Says:

    I read in the Punch of Sunday that you said you would soon wind up your Cardiff programme. It is only natural that after your spell over there, you may find it hard adjusting to our Nigerian climate due to the difference in the lifestyle, climate and so on but east or west, home is the best. As for your demanding relatives, this is Naija and to be in their good books, just buy what you can afford for them. Thanks for publishing the article I sent on the 19th of August.
    Bye.

  4. 4
    Arikawe Adesina Paul Says:

    Mr. Casimir Igbokwe,
    Afternoon to you and hope all is well with you. I am a regular reader of your column in the Punch and for some time now wanting to write a short piece to you on my impression about your column. Using last week’s title above as a reference I think I cannot agree with you less on the expectations of family members here from someone coming back from a trip abroad and your conclusion was very right! Keep up the good job and hope you find Nigeria (Lagos) still interesting on your arrival.

    I am a medical student in LUTH, Idi Araba.
    Arikawe Adesina Paul

  5. 5
    Obi Aginam Says:

    Nwanna,

    Have you left the U.K? I read the beautiful piece you wrote in the Punch entitled “Goodbye from London”. It really captures the materialistic and mercantalist society of ours back home in Nigeria where values have been banished to the dustbin. I have also heard so much about the London Boys and how they terrorize everyone in the village with their wealth. God help us.

    Obi

    Obijiofor Aginam, PhD
    Associate Professor of Law
    Carleton University, Ottawa, CANADA (On Leave until 09/2009)

    Director of Studies, Policy & Institutional Frameworks
    Peace and Governance Programme
    United Nations University, 53-70, Jingumae 5-chome
    Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo, 150-8925 JAPAN

    • 6

      nwanna no body is terrorist back home.making our xmas come alive is all we want.some people no longer return home becuse no boby likes a doll moment. am a youth.you migth remember how good xmas was in the early 90s……………………..well time is not on my side willstill post you my comments

  6. 7
    Yemi Kasali Says:

    I hope u are back . Please do not forget to add me on
    your list 1s u are sharing London cake. U do not need
    to smuggle ursef in, just drive to balogun from the
    airport u will see a lot of gift to buy.

    U did not say much about these London boys . What they
    do, how they live etc?

    Do not worry ursef Nigeria is getting better our BRT
    is working , NEPA is doing well in my own area ogudu
    nowadays, Fashola is taking of miscreants, though cars
    are still being snathed the recovery level is high as
    some police men said when my friend car was snatched
    2weeks ago that we should not worry oursef that the
    robbers stole the car at gun point to rob they would
    dump. Pronto we were able to recover the car last
    saturday.

    Do not be disturbed about terrorist attack, Dokubo is
    released and is promising peace with conditions.

    Anyway things are getting better sorry I forgot to
    tell u the political killings resumed in Ibadan and
    our leaders said the death is a family affairs .

    Oh I am sorry I wouldnt border u with much

    If u r still there do not forget to buy black tie and
    whgite shiirt If Kiochukwu is askin for sharpener

    u are are welcome back home

  7. 8
    Matthew Obi Says:

    Nwannaa,
    After reading your recent publication in one of Nigeria’s national dailies on Sunday 16th September, 2007 I could not agree more with you. It is good to expose the social malaise that has crippled the growth and development of our nation. I fully associate with any constructive effort towards
    redirection and re-orientation. I am also very glad that someone from my clan, Isuofia, is positioning himself to give a voice to various clamour for Nigeria’s social, political and economic re-engineering just as I am very proud of my good friend Prof. Chukwuma Soludo. It shows that we are developing as a people. However, my purpose of writing you is to draw your attention to the fact that you do not cut your nose to spite your face. It is good that you are trying to launch yourself into public view but when you refuse to see the line between journalistic adventurism and slandering your fellow ‘Isuofians’ you injure the cord that holds your sanity. There are many ways that your article would have been written without mentioning Isuofia while still driving home your points. Of course, other people who had written on this issue of maladministration and its implications to our national psyche never
    selected their own communities for oppobrium. Other communities are not different from Isuofia.
    While I admit that it will be futile to dispute the veracity of your shamefaced accusations against your nativeland the point is that it does not lie in your mouth to tell the world that your mother is not a virgin. At least, there should have been a more responsible way of upraiding ‘our straying brothers’ and calling the attention of ‘Ndi Isuofia’ to moral degeneration enveloping us if that was what you set out to address. In any case, the deed is done but let it be known that decent and lawful enterprising ‘Isuofians’ both here in London and elsewhere take serious exception to your exuberances and recklessness. Another effort to continue on this road of ignominy will be firmly and openly resisted and repudiated.
    I live in London and I know that our people who have made money by lawful means is far greater than those who engage in illicit businesses. We refuse to be collectively castigated as people whose money is of questionable origin. Isuofia inspite of its shortcoming still occupies a high position in moral index of Igbo communities.
    If you have failed in your financial responsibility to your families and relations it is not because you do not engage in dubious activities. The same applies to your inability to meet the societal expectations which includes your unaffordability of ‘exotic Jeeps’. It is not a badge of character to live in envy and ‘bad belle’. ‘Onye agwara kwe’
    Your compatriot,
    Ozor Matthews Obi (BSc., Pgd, MSc)
    From London.

  8. 9
    Ben Okolo Says:

    This is reality staring us in the face. It couldn’t have been better put. The fears of those living outside the shores of Nigeria has been captured by the author of this piece.

  9. 10
    Samuel Somoye Says:

    Hello Mr Casmir, a very good afternoon to you. My name is Samuel Somoye. I am an ardent reader of your column on Sunday punch. I took special interest in it because i am also studying for my masters in International Finance here in the University of Glamorgan in Trefforest Wales and would be finishing this month.

    I must confess that i enjoyed every bit of your piece you put up every sunday. Indeed, i was always looking forward to it.

    However, i was taken aback when i read last sunday that you will be going back to Nigeria soon. It’s indeed a good thing that after we have learnt and garnered enough knowledge from here, that we take it back and impact others back home.
    I said i was taken aback because i know that indeed i am really going to miss your column from the next edition of the Sunday punch. Anyway, i do hope you continue writing lovely pieces in the Punch and i would always look forward to reading it.

    Finally, i would just want to say that we do appreciate what you have been doing and please keep it up. May the Lord God go with you as you proceed on your journey home and may you meet everyone in peace. Amen.

  10. 11
    amuluonyenego Says:

    happy new year casmir igbokwe,nwannemmadu pls destroying the image of your great town isuofia in the name of jounalism.am not from isuofia but we are from the same local govt. and i have many hard working isuofia boys that live in europe and doing regitimate business,and if the visit nigeria to celebrate xmas with there families with jeeps and other cars there money can afford,does that make them criminals?casmir you are not fair to those hard working guys.nwata kpakaria ibeya na nku asi na okpara na aja ofia.

    • 12

      nwannemadu i agree with your comments.its just that i saw this when it was 2 years old my moral is low.casmir wwrote thou good article on his side but…………………………………..

  11. 13

    Terrific article: I will come back again.

  12. 14
    Chukwuemenem Ndidi Says:

    Dear Mr. Casmir,
    Thanks immensely for your positive contributions via journalism. I hope you find adequate platform back home from which to continue creating awereness needed for the upliftment of our people and country.

    In the light of “Mama anata, oyoyo” of traditional Igbo soceity, the expections of family members when a member returns (from Market/business) is quite normal. We only need governments to provide our people with the basics of life to reduce demands made on individuals. Best of Luck! (I come from Aguata LGA).

  13. 15
    anakebe uche Says:

    nwannaaa
    what can i say.you did well? maybe yes,but am not happy as a young guy .you and i know that poverty is even on the increase.making few pounds and coming back home for a few weeks holiday is not bad by me.
    well i lov any article i see that name isuofia or isuanaoma.


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