Exactly two years ago, I told a story here about my nephew who was brought down to Nigeria all the way from California shortly after the death of his dad in the United States of America. The sixteen year old Bryan Chijioke Ntagu did not find it funny when that major decision about his life was taken by his just widowed mother. I was fully in support that he came down here to study and seriously encouraged my sister to be resolute in her decision to bring him home. It was not an easy decision but it was a very important one and today, two years after, I am glad that that decision was taken and our expectations, equally met.
The story of Bryan is a very interesting one and I am glad to be the writer, having been there from the beginning till the end of it all. He was born in California and has lived there all his life with his parents and two siblings. Bryan has been to this country for just about three times since he was born, but that was as a little child. The first time he came as an adult was about four years ago. He loved the country and had a lot of fun during that Christmas period. I quietly observed him and noticed among other things, that he was always withdrawn and kept to himself. Just my observation but I didn't think much about it. He had braids like most children from America and I overhead him tell my other nephews and my son, how much he loved his braids and wished it to grow more. I still thought nothing to it. After that Christmas break, they all returned to the States and life went on.
However, on the Christmas day of 2015, my entire family woke up to the news that Bryan's dad died in a fatal car accident and since then, life has never been the same for his widow, who is my little sister and his three children, among who is Bryan. Three months after his death, he was brought down to Nigeria and buried in his country home in Urualla. Just as is common in most families, certain decisions were made after the demise of my in-law among which was the need for his first son, Bryan, to return home to complete his high school. The idea was, in all sincerity, for him to become familiar with our ways and customs; to try to understand our traditions a little more than he did; to try and understand our people and truly understand his position in the family as the first son of his parents ; to try and at least understand our language a little; to discover and indeed appreciate his roots; to oversee his late father's unfinished projects and begin to appreciate the fact that he had so many responsibilities awaiting him as the head of the family. Yes. These may sound truly hard on young Bryan, but the truth is that if you set your heart to a dream, it will come true if you believe in God.
The first challenge we had was getting Bryan to accept to return to Nigeria just about eight months after his father died. After a lot of convincing and tears and pain, he accepted. I still remember the sad look on his face when I went to pick him and his mum when they landed at Enugu Airport. I was pained because I understood how he felt. I was sad for him but I knew it was all for good. For his own good and for the good of the entire family. Then, he still had his braids and I was so sad for him because I knew that he would be asked to loosen his braids no matter how he felt about it. I remember trying to talk to him those dark years and he said something that really touched my heart strings. He said, 'I have lived all my life in America where I was born. I have been made to leave all the friends I made all my life behind to a strange place where I know nobody. It's not fair. I just lost my dad. As if that is not enough, I have been made to leave my entire friends and family I have known all my life behind. Now, these braids are all I have. They want me to lose it too? No way! That's not possible!!' At that moment, I felt his pain deep inside my marrow and my heart went out to him.
Well, to cut this very long story short, Bryan ended up giving up his braids and his hair was cut. I remember watching him fight his tears while the barber at the Barbing Saloon at Best Western Meloch Hotel, Awka where we were lodged while we arranged for his admission into British Spring College, Awka. His mum was heartbroken but I had to be strong because I live in Nigeria and I knew that there was no way any school would allow a student get admitted with braids. So, he made yet another sacrifice for his future and wore his hair short like any other child in school and the rest is history.
Anyway, it's time for Bryan to return to the country of his birth, and having told his story here on Frank Talk in the past, I think it would only be proper I got him to tell us about his experiences, his joy, pain, disappointments and exciting moments here in Nigeria. Please read…
When I first came to Nigeria, I was very very angry but I was trying to hide it because I knew that I was going to go away from all my friends. We had just moved to a new place in Fontana after my dad died and I knew that I wasn't going to see them for a very long time. So, when I first came, I went to the school that I was going to. Before then, I had to learn that I had to start greeting people. I had to start saying, 'good morning/good afternoon/good evening' and all that. It wasn't like that in America where we just waved a 'hi' or 'hello' to adults and children alike. Things were really different. Again, in my school, there were things that were happening that I didn't like. First, it was my hair. My hair was like a part of me. It was my personality but I had to cut it as a sacrifice of coming to Nigeria. I was very very very mad about it, but slowly slowly, I got over the whole ordeal. When I first came, I also realized that I had to change a lot of things like eating more cultural foods. I had to learn the language. I also had to learn some traditional customs. However, I am leaving Nigeria as an SS2 student of British Spring College. I met a lot of people there, made a lot of friends and learnt a lot of new things. Before I came, I knew that I didn't really like Nigeria. I didn't like Nigerian food. But today, I got to learn about how good Nigeria is as a whole. It's not as bad as everybody thinks that it is. As you stay here, you will learn that although it's a third world country, it has its good sides and its bad sides. I made a lot of new friends which I didn't have back when I was in America. I didn't have lots of Nigerian friends when I was in America. Now, I'm leaving Nigeria as an SS2 student and I'm happy. I'm happy because I'll go back to my old life after sacrificing American Football which I played really good but had to leave. I'll go back to all the necessities that I used to enjoy before I came here. Constant power supply, water, etc. I am sad because I'm leaving a lot of amazing people that I met over time. I'm leaving the family that I stayed with for one full year and I'm mad because you can't have both things. No matter how much you want it, you can't. I can only be thankful to God for the experiences I had. They were really good. I know one thing, though. I'll be back here. I intend to visit Nigeria as much as I can. I never thought I would love this country this much. I will definitely be back. Nigeria has offered me so much and I know that someday, I'll be back to pay back to society for leaving me this enriched. God bless my country, Nigeria.
Well, Readers, you have heard from the horse's mouth. That was Bryan speaking straight from the depths of his heart. As I was typing his speech, I was at some point, moved to tears. I want to reach out to all Nigerian parents in the diaspora. Please, kindly do not deprive your children from connecting with their roots. It's their right to be Nigerians. Allow them to come home and discover who they really are. I am happy that a lot of children at the British Spring College where Bryan attended are also American citizens like him but are here all the same in the quest for that connection to their roots, because their Nigerian parents know that it is very important. Your root is your identity. You cannot be lost in another man's country simply because you nationalized there. It doesn't make you less Nigerian. Today, the 16years old Bryan that came to Nigeria so sad and bitter is now a 17 year old happy lad that is so proud to be from Nigeria.
This story is shared here because I know a lot of families will gain from Bryan's experiences. God bless us all. God bless Nigeria.