What do you do in London? (Part 2)

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NEWLY arrived Nigerians are drawn to unskilled jobs out of desperation and to reinforce the myth that all Johnny Just Come JJC must dirty the hands as a rite of passage. This myth is poxed with incredulity. Later, breakthrough will creep in. Though the pace will be slow, it is inevitable. The headache, pain, frustration and uncertainty of an early morning job will soon offer a parachute that will facilitates an escape into a better job. Self pride, which is a distinctive Nigerian marker, has its usefulness. Ironically, it is the same pride that will quickens the desire to abandon unskilled and semi-skilled jobs for more meaningful, better paying and more socially acceptable ones.
There is the desire to escape the withering scorn especially reserved for someone who picks litter on the underground. There is also the desire to escape the bitter taunts, jeers, racial abuse and attacks especially reserved for a cab driver. The British dislike wimps. This oasis is not for cry babies, regardless of the fact that we are arm-locked by a woman head of state. British prefer brave souls. It is the spirit that made them conquered three quarter of the civilised world! To succeed, you have to go out there and split spleen! Since the idea of the British Dream is in itself a delusional dream, you have to fine tune your destiny to hard work and be tough on both chins.
Then the feel good 90’s hit us with the awesome force of a tsunami. The shame associated with odd jobs was given a count down. It was hung by the ball on a life saving machine! The sweet, roaring 90’s brought in an explosion of opportunities in the field of information technology, housing, teaching, nursing and administration. Nigerians latched on these professions mercilessly. Many defected angrily to more dignified jobs. It was an away game of deserved revenge. The old, embarrassing, awkward hesitancy to confidently answers to a question of what one did in London was gone forever. Thousands of proudly Nigerians in the UK now call themselves housing and IT professionals. Many are nurses, administrators, managers, lawyers, doctors, architects, pharmacists, broadcasters, writers, editors, journalists, business owners, estate agents and shippers. Dignity of labour now makes sense. Their old, rickety Ford Cavaliers and Sierras were ditched for gleaming Mercedes Benz, BMW and Honda. With a gleaming Merc, curiosity is naturally triggered. People want to know what you do to afford such forbidden luxury.
These professionals now drive around London with satisfying relish in prestige cars to erase the memory of hard, bitter time. As we make our silent progress, we wear our badge of honour with infectious pride. The evolution was slow, but seismic, compensatory and worth the gestation. Many now live with prosperity as a regular bed mate. Since the memory of our hard time faded, we now overdress. We now overeat. We now overspend. We now overbear. We now overawe those simpletons that stand in our way. We now overreact. We are now the overclass. And frankly, we could not, in Rhett Butler’s endearing phrase, give a damn!
I will not leave the bla bla black sheep out of my survival narration. Those who want to disfigure our success story. It will be naive not to mention the criminal activities of some Nigerians, who, in their blind desperation to unlock the secret of riches are dabbling into the abracadabra of benefit scam and credit card fraud on a massive scale. Thank God, a sizeable majority of them are rubbing their noses against the cold iron of their prison cells and serving long jail sentences on Her Majesty’s pleasure. Yet, I still cannot control the burning, implacable detestations I reserved for those who daily taint our collective integrity, the resurgent Nigerian brand.
However, the beginning of the millennium brought its own Episcopalian curiosity. Nigerians as economic migrants is no news. Evangelical migrants as a new variant totally flummoxed the Nigerian community. Pentecostal churches began to bop up across the UK. Warehouses were commandeered and given a Pentecostal make over almost overnight.
We saw the influx of pastors, reverends, bishops and prophets. It is an understatement to say that they are cramping our style and giving Christianity an ugly name. Apocalyptic sermons, few wanted to hear, became regular Sunday spoiler. Guilt began to coil on the necks of my old beer mates in Buka as pastor began to harass them with phone calls. Cold calling on church members became the norm. Eventually, the pastors won and Buka lost out. As pastors won the beer battle, we won the ego battle. Where else can we massage our ego, herald our success or what we do in London other than inside a warm and comforting podium of a church during testimony time? Are you brave enough to tell me what you do in London?

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