Editor’s note: Eustace Dunn, a Naij.com guest author, offers his views on the Nigerian mentality, peculiarities of life in Nigeria for women versus the appeal of living abroad for Nigerian men and women.
Imagine a couple who had lived and worked abroad for over 60 years but are now living off a pension. Imagine the husband wakes up one day to bring the idea of relocating back to Nigeria, and mama kicks against it. She gives reasons why they should not get back home, at least not for now. Should this not lead to the conclusion that more women are desperate to live abroad than men?
Let’s look at statistics
According to the 2011 statistics by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) on African immigrants in the United States, 53.6% were men and 46.4% were women.
The stats show that gender imbalance among African immigrants was more pronounced among those from certain African countries. The tilt towards men was more exaggerated for immigrants born in Senegal (63.7% men), Morocco (59%), Tanzania (58.3%), Ghana (57.6%), and Guinea (57.6%), while the African-borns from Zimbabwe (51.7%), Somalia (51.3%), Sierra Leone (50.6%), Nigeria (52.4%) and Cape Verde (50.2%) were women.
Although there may not be much difference in the percentage of Nigerian men and women living abroad as shown above, but there seem to be more Nigerian men based in Nigeria with their wives based abroad than women based in Nigeria with their husbands based abroad.
Struggles of men
To show you the extent of desperation of some Nigerian women, I'll tell you a real life story. A man got a tourist visa to the US to visit his cousin. While he was in the US for the visit, his wife called on a daily basis to remind him why he mustn't return to Nigeria. "She'd always tell me that I should join my mates in anything to gather dollars," the man said. Other women encourage their husbands to marry in order to legalise their stay. The wife does not want to care about what her husband goes through with the hope she’ll be joining him soon. He must go and clear the road to remove every impediment so she does not suffer when she arrives.
The desperation of a man to travel abroad comes out of his frustration. No job, no means of livelihood, no help from rich family relations, etc. He understands that to be a father and husband someday, to put food on the table, he must have to struggle to make ends meet. Even if a man is from a wealthy background, he still has to go through certain natural rigours to stand.
On the other hand, very few women go through such frustration. Women are nursing the interest of travelling or living abroad from the cradle. Even at 50 years, whether or not their husbands are well-to-do, that interest is always rekindled, especially when a neighbour's wife visits Nigeria. By then, envy and wishes creep in.
A thousand of miles away
However, because the number of men with better-paying jobs in Nigeria is higher than that of the women, these men would not want to go to a country where their remunerations are taken back in a tax system. You pay tax for owning a house, you pay tax for buying almost everything. Such men want to only travel for a tour and get back to their jobs. Even if they have the opportunity to live abroad, the fear of starting all over dissuades them from leaving their jobs.
Instead, some of these men (if not all) will allow their wives and children to go live abroad. Some of these men prefer such status when they tell their friends: "My wife and children live abroad ... I visit them every month".
But then, no matter the kind of a better-paying job a woman may have in Nigeria, once there is an opportunity to permanently reside abroad, she’ll grab it... and off she goes.
There are many cases of men not wanting to base abroad, while their wives would not want to base in Nigeria. They agree to make their marriages a long-distance relationship in two separate worlds. For men, it becomes monthly visits. They may be communicating, but being apart creates a vacuum in the family.
Women may no longer care anymore that their husbands are not living physically with them in a foreign land. They have learned to prefer taking the pains to raise their children alone abroad to being in Nigeria. No matter how in touch you as a man may be with your wife and children, there is still a wide gap that can never be filled when the children grow up. But when a man remains adamant, the wife has no choice but to do it alone. She cannot let go of the ostentatious life abroad, especially with basic amenities and the opportunities the children would be exposed to.
For the Nigerians based abroad, there is more likelihood for the men to retire back to Nigeria having attained an age when they can no longer work. There is this attachment they have to home, kinsmen and traditional beliefs which makes them want to go home to be identified and reverenced perhaps. The children, because they were born and brought up abroad, do not know what the original home and traditions are. The men still don't care, they go back home. In some cases, their wives follow them.
Women and being independent
In other cases, women back home may not be given the opportunity to be independent. The hardworking ones may not be able to stay a day without doing something but because of the status of their husbands and the environment they live in, they cannot help but stick to what "oga" says. Some men in Nigeria have gone as far as making their wives quit their jobs and resolve to paying them on a monthly basis. Those women who agree are definitely at the mercy of her husband whenever they are in need of money. When such a woman finds herself abroad, she’s more likely to be more independent than the men. Unlike the man, she is ready to start all over to join the money-making venture. Thus for this independence factor, a Nigerian woman would always prefer living abroad.
Another reason is that the lifestyle, environment and laws concerning families favour women more than men. A man who is prone to promiscuity back home may have to start watching it abroad. No woman-beater can go scot-free in the UK or the the US. No cheater can openly cheat on his wife in such environments, and for this reason, marriages are protected against polygamy.
To round it off, many people relocate abroad for various purposes, but, even if more women do it for the reasons pointed above and many others, the most important thing is that the majority of them yearn for self-development and, to a large extent, bettering the lots of their family members.
Eustace Dunn is a public relations professional with a major focus on print and new media.
This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Legit.ng or its editors.
Your own opinion articles, feedback, suggestions, complaints or compliments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.