2019 is “The Year of the Return” for African migrants in the diaspora.
On 28th September 2018, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo officially welcomed people of African descent, dispersed by the slave trade, back to Ghana, with a Pan Africanist aim.
The West’s colonial links to Africa continues decades after the independence of many Caribbean and African nations. In the United Kingdom, the African diaspora makes up 3.4% of the population.
First, second and third-generation immigrants from former colonies continue to grapple with their identity as dual citizens in a postcolonial world.
“My parents are Nigerian,” Fola Aiyegbusi, a radio presenter in Nigeria, said. “I didn’t grow up there. My parents grew up in Nigeria, and moved to England.”
“I was born in the UK, and I was there till I was twenty-one. After I graduated from university, I returned to Nigeria.”
Dr Afiniki Akanet, founder of Forte, Charity for Inspiration, in Nigeria, said: “Yes, I was born in Nigeria. I lived there until I was 16. I came to study in the UK in 2000, with plans to study medicine. It was a long, tough journey, but I did it. I then decided to settle here with my family afterwards.”
“Nigeria was colonised by the UK, and gained independence in 1960,” she continued. There are many good and bad things that came from that relationship.
“Things work better in England,” Fola, the radio presenter continued. “The quality of life in Nigeria is not so good, and the standard of living is so high, it’s hard to live here. The only way you can enjoy living in Nigeria is if you are earning billions.”
Content creator, Fola also questions the colonial relationship between Africa and the West.
“It’s something a lot of Nigerian citizens, and Nigerian artists have always questioned,” she explained.
“Has the damage been done? It is too far gone? Is this what their aim was? To destroy our nation? Were we always like this? Is it in our blood or did they create this on purpose ‘cos they have something to gain? You can’t really understand it.
“I almost don’t like talking about it, because it is a Catch-22. This is about identity. It is a very sensitive issue. I am Nigerian. At the same time, I am still British. Colonialism is history; time has moved on – but you can’t ignore history.
“When you see articles and videos of how Nigeria was at a certain point, it is very different to how it was when the British arrived. So, I think, if the British didn’t come, how would Nigeria be today? Was it a good or bad thing that they came?”
Dr Akanet believes that several Nigerians who “had good reasons to do so” have returned. “It is a beautiful country, after all.”
Forte, Charity for Inspiration, offer grants to students in higher education who would otherwise drop out into a life of crime or poverty.
“The neglected children we ignore today, if nothing is done, will turn out to be terrors and liabilities to society as adults.
“I believe I am investing my resources in both countries. Even though my charity work is mostly done in Africa, I contribute in the UK every day through my medical work, and hope to be able to do more of that in Africa, as opportunities arise. I choose to invest resources, time and energy into Africa, because I believe all people deserve a good life.
“There is no reason why only British children should have good schools and hospitals, while Nigerian children only get that if they are born into wealthy homes.
“I may not yet have the money or power to sort out these inequalities, but I hope that the help Forte Charity is able to offer through generous donations of good people will help us to save some people from poverty, misery and even death. We spend time, energy and money visiting and finding those in absolute poverty, who really need it.”
Fola speaks proudly of “building up the country with my own little footprint.”
“I would want Africa as a continent to come together.” she said. “We need to be unified. How would we change Africa if a Nigerian goes to South Africa, and they are treated as rubbish or vice versa? Africans need to stand by each other. We are all we have, and it starts with the leaders,. When you are a child, you learn from your parents.”
“My choice would be to stay in the UK,” Fola concluded. “Come to Africa as often as you can, with the aim of building up the continent. The British came to Africa, but they were still based in Britain. A lot of us, we can’t remove the fact that we are British – what makes you, you, is your experiences – but we can use our status to help build up Nigeria. Many people with much to give, like doctors, have tried to move back to Nigeria permanently, but found it too frustrating.”