Opinion

The hidden tragedy behind seeking a better life outside Nigeria

By Ken Eneduwa

Many Nigerians will look to emigrate when faced with political instability, economic and financial issues, job insecurity, lack of healthcare and quality education for their children. Simply put, they will seek a better life for themselves and their family in another country.

Making a decision to leave Nigeria to immigrate to another country is a major undertaking. It takes courage, hope, faith, careful planning, and family commitment. It most often involves splitting the family. Either the husband goes first, attempting to get his immigration status, find work, and save money to bring the rest of the family. Sometimes, the husband will send the wife and children first, staying behind to continue to earn money to support the family.

The tragedy?

Immigrating can take years, often 4-6 years before the families can be reunited. How do married couples stay connected? How do fathers/mothers stay connected to their growing children? 

Having experienced firsthand the hardship of immigrating and witnessing what happens to families during the process, I’m left with one question: Does desperation bring deception? Or does deception bring desperation? You decide?

Something happened in my office yesterday. A Nigerian man, who wanted a better life for his family, sold all his property to send his wife and two kids to Canada.

He had remained in Nigeria to keep his job to support his family, financially. He would do daily video calls; he watched his family grow before him. Until this time he was unable to visit his family because he could not obtain a Visa to Canada.

The man, desperate to see his family, obtains a Visa to enter the United States and crosses the border to Canada. The man wishes to surprise his family, reached out to her lawyer to arrange for this to happen.

Her lawyer had called to inform her of the urgent need to sign some documents that had just come in from the government. After all, the goal has always been to reunite the family. Instead? A drama unfolds.

The wife upon seeing her husband, let out a loud yell as she sniffled, screaming “what are you doing in Canada? How did you get here? How dare you come to Canada without informing us?”

“You live in Lagos, my father lives in Ekpoma, Edo State but you never visited him; yet you travelled all the way to Canada?”

It took us all by surprise as we had expected a deep emotional moment, instead she began to talk thoughtlessly without discretion.

We all expected her to be excited seeing her dearly beloved husband in person. Her yell attracted someone who had accompanied her and was waiting in the reception.

A man charged into the room, demanding to know what was going on, he wanted to be sure his woman was safe. The room fell silent as it was discovered the man was her lover.

This lover of hers was ready to get physical with all the lawyers in the room. It was at this point I informed him that this lady is married, and the gentleman standing over there is her husband. The lover was dumbfounded. And the worst, the kids were too terrified to even embrace their father because of their mother’s yelling. She brought out her phone, placed a call to her mother in Nigeria whilst the phone was on speaker.

She said, “Imagine, my husband is in Canada, and I am so pissed right now.”

To our amazement her mum blurted out in a guttural sound in Nigerian pidgin English, asking to know how her daughter’s husband had managed to get into Canada.

Apparently, the young lady and her mother expected him to forever be stranded in Nigeria. Once the woman’s deceit had been exposed, she stormed out of the office with her visibly terrified children. The husband slumped in a chair, devastated, and disillusioned.

According to the husband, the original plan was for the wife to file for her husband to join the family as soon as their immigration papers are sorted so he could join the family in Canada. Unbeknownst to the husband, the wife had gotten her papers and had never informed him.

He had come to Canada with his belongings with the hope of going to the family home after being reunited with them. What now? Dreams and hopes shattered.

In another instance, a visiting Nigerian woman who newly arrived Canada had met a Nigerian man in a western province of Canada.

The couple fell in love, and he expressed his desire to create a life with her. They got a place and started living together. He was so serious; he travelled all the way to Lagos Nigeria to see her parents to express his intention to marry their daughter.

Awhile after his return, he took a trip to the United States. It was his birthday during this trip. The lady had put up his picture celebrating him on her WhatsApp status.

A friend on her contact list, noticing the picture, chatted her up that the man on her status is well known to her. 

She informed her the man was currently visiting his wife and children who had just landed in the U.S. from Nigeria. The young lady was shocked, said to her friend she must be mistaking her fiancé for someone else, that her man had never been married, nor had kids.

It was later confirmed that it was the same man. Her fiancé was indeed a happily married man with three kids.

Sadly, at this point, the young lady was already 7 months pregnant with this man’s child. She confronted him upon his return with her discovery. He did not deny it.

Whilst in America he was busy using her credit card, spending money on shopping for his wife and children. The heartbreak pushed her into early labour and the child was born preterm

It was later discovered that when the man travelled to Nigeria, supposedly to meet her parents, he was actually visiting his family, making plans for them to join him in Canada.

This lady is yet to get over the shock of her finding and faces parenting alone, her whole world turned upside down.

Finally, there is the story of a man who relocated his wife and kids to Canada where she gave birth to their last baby.

He bought a house in Canada for his family, paid in full so as to avoid the burden of having to deal with paying rent or mortgage.

He visited his family, at least 3 times a year and spent quality time with them. Three years later, this man decides to finally go live with his family and arranges all his affairs including resigning from a good paying job and position.

Upon arriving in Canada, the husband was in shock when his wife refused to let him move into the family home. Police were called.

The wife began divorce proceedings and eventually won the house in the divorce settlement.

Although there are many successful stories of immigration, there are equally the number of stories with tragic endings as described above.

Should families be educated around the hardship of relocating, the reality of the immigration process, the stress of families being apart?

How do families prepare for such hardship? What discussions need to happen? What agreements need to be in place?

And finally, how do the victims of these stories move forward and create a life for themselves? What kind of supports are in place for them?

As I reflect on the hardship endured by many, I am compelled to shed light on this very tragic dilemma born out of a desire to create a new and better life in another country.

I honesty believe long distance relationships or marriage can work if the two people involved respect and love each other and are committed. 

There is so much technology to allow relationships to keep growing. If you have a strong foundation, it does not matter if the geographical location of you and your partner are in two sides of the world.

As I share these stories, more stories come forth.

What is your story?

***Ken Eneduwa writes from Toronto, Canada

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