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From Gombe to Hanoi

On November 5, 2017, I interview a man from Nigeria who has lived in Vietnam for the past several years. Michael Omar came to Hanoi as a student in 2010. He was a part of a program that has since placed hundreds of Nigerian students in Vietnam.

Many of them have gotten into comfortable positions since they left school. Some students are not so lucky. What Michael expressed to me is that it is beneficial for students coming directly from Nigeria to sign up for a longer program.

The reason for this is so that students can take the entire course of study in Vietnam. They can get their technical training in Vietnam and then undergo whatever other training is required for them to land a position in their field.

Students do not fair nearly as well in the job market when they arrive in Vietnam with a technical certification from their own country.

We started out by talking about where and how he grew up. He was born in Gombe state. Of course he spent his formative years in Nigeria but he bounced around and lived in several different states.

Talking about his early life reminded me of the life that an army brat would have in the States.  Michael’s poise and his maturity are the first things that are apparent about him. He has a very calm and very steady way of expressing himself. He’s not in any hurry. I got the impression that most of his experiences living as an expat have been positive. With that said, there were aspects of our conversation that brought disgust and anger out of me.

He told me about the discrimination he has had to face, particularly because he is from Nigeria. In some countries he would be subject to regular harassment from police and there are even some hotels where he can’t stay.

The things he said reminded me of the Jim Crow era in the United States. The main reason why this is happening, in particular to Nigerians, is because the Nigerian government affords their people no help and no protection when they go abroad.

In talking with this man, it only reinforced a certain idea in me.  The idea that it is incumbent on us as Black people from other parts of the world (especially the US or the UK or even SA), to get behind these brothers and support them any way we are able. This rings all the more true when they are positive people who are doing something productive.

What do you think?

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