Onyebuchi Ogueri recently returned to Nigeria after eleven years of sojourn in the Netherlands. In this exclusive interview with O’star Eze, he shares some insights from his European experience and what Nigerian youths planning to immigrate to any foreign country should know. Excerpts:
When did you go to Europe and do you think it is a good thing for Nigerians to go to Europe?
I travelled to Europe in February 2007. I won’t say it is not the right thing. Abroad is a beautiful place. Even if you do not make a lot of money there, you are bound to gain wisdom about life. I will not advice people not to travel abroad. Anyone preparing to travel out to the western world should go ahead. All I will tell such a person is to ensure he or she is well prepared. Ensure you get yourself a visa and go by air. Do not resort to illegal migration through the sea. That I cannot support. If God gives you visa and you want to travel out, it is a good thing. Abroad, many things you find there, you cannot find in Nigeria. Many people who were not educated before they found their way outside the country get there and they get polished. Every person in the world should make sure he or she makes time to travel around and see the world.
What advice would you give to anyone who intends to travel out?
My advice to such a person is to fervently thrive to travel. However, if such a person has a meaningful thing doing here in Nigeria, he or she should discard the thought of travelling and sustain his endeavour here. A bird at hand is worth two in the bush. Don’t close shop here in Nigeria just because you want to travel out of the country. If you close shop here in your bid to travel, you may get to Europe and find out that your condition when you were back home was better than your position in Europe. You may see
what you did not expect when you eventually get abroad. The secret of abroad is abroad. If I tell people not to come abroad when they saw me and the kind of car I drive, they might think I am not being fair to them. So it would be better for the person, if he can secure a visa, to come over and have first-hand experience of what abroad is all about. When you get there, you will see that it is not child’s play and then you will learn how to cope.
Another thing is that if you are going abroad, ensure that you have someone that will guide you through and help you acclimatise with the environment you find yourself. Everything depends on the type of person you make your guide when you get there. If you fall into the hands of a criminal, you will turn to a criminal; if you fall into the hands of a legitimate business person, you will become one and so on. And if you fall into the hands of a successful person, you will tend to become successful. You need to be careful who you fall into his hands. Also, note that it is not easy to survive abroad. If you are travelling abroad, bear in mind that you are going to a warfront, so to speak. Travelling abroad is way easy compared to coming back from there. Things won’t be easy at first but if you are persistent and keep on keeping on, with time, God will help you experience the good news others have. The population of our people abroad who are not doing well abroad is more than those who are doing well. Everyone’s destiny is not the same.
I spent eleven years abroad before I could find my feet. But there are some who came abroad and made it within two years. They came, made money quickly and went back. So, everything depends on destiny. So, if you are going abroad, bear in mind that you are going to a battle ground. It is not a bed of roses. A lot of our people have the impression that there is a lot of foreign currency up for grabs for immigrants abroad. That is far from the reality. You need to put in a lot of
strength, wisdom and persistence to have a breakthrough. Or else, if you get there, you will become a social menace.
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What is your take on racism, did you ever experience any?
Such a thing never happens abroad, especially in Europe where I sojourn. It depends on the part of abroad one is living. Some people call Ghana or South Africa abroad. Some call Romania abroad. That somebody is white skinned does not make the
person a true Caucasian. What makes him/her a white person or Caucasian indeed is the person’s mentality and not by colour because Chinese people are fair skinned too just as the South Americans. But the real white people are the westerners and the Americans (the United States of America). If you get there, everything they do is ordered. They are all equal under the law. You won’t find where they are mobbing someone on the streets. Unless it is in a country that is not civilised like Europe. But as long as it is the Europe that I came back from, mob actions rarely happen. Any black man living there legitimately is okay. If you find yourself there and you get your complete documents, you can start work and start living comfortably like every other person in the system. Where you will find it more difficult is when you do not have papers. You may fall into the hands of the law enforcement agents. And if they nab you, they will not manhandle you as is obtainable in Nigeria. Rather, they will just arrest you and confine you. And once it is time to release you, they will politely release you. So there has never been an occasion where blacks were being mobbed in Europe.
How about the notion that some of our people are hoodwinked by other blacks, does that happen?
Of course, even in Nigeria, there are cases of betrayal. There is no place you will go to without experiencing betrayals, especially from fellow blacks. There are liars and those who swindle other people of their money. Black people do not love themselves most times. Everyone is self centered. But that is not how life is supposed to be.
How do you people survive in countries where English Language is not the Lingua Franca?
Well, the country I live in, Holland, understand and speak English Language as well as their native language Deutsche. Personally, I can speak Deutsche even better than English Language. With your first set of documents which is valid for three months, they will send you to their language school for three months to learn the basics of their Lingua Franca so that you can communicate with the natives.
From your experience, what can you say about the notion that most of our people European women to get permanent papers and when they come back home, they still marry women from here?
Well, everything depends on the individual. There are some of our people who after getting European wife, still decide to come back here and marry from our people. There are others who have found a wife in Europe who they love and live with them without any intention of marrying a Nigerian again. Since I came back, I saw some of my colleagues who came back with their European wives. This goes to show that such people are settled with their Caucasian wives and have no intentions of marrying again. But I think it is not fair that one gets a Caucasian wife while abroad and after struggling with such and finally getting your permanent documents