As I joined mourners & well-wishers in filing to the freshly dug grave where the remains of Abraham Emmanuel Idoko were going to be laid in Manchester, I could not help but wonder how things might have turned out differently had the deceased been a member of a strong IDOMA union.
Late Pastor Idoko was a hard-working Idoma pastor in the diaspora, who was married to a great non-Idoma lady from the Gambia. The union produced 3 wonderful boys who knew no other home than England. Pastor Idoko was a kind but reserved man who was less inclined to identify with any cultural group in his lifetime.
This unfortunately amplified a gap at the funeral as none of his family members could attend the funeral due to visa challenges. It was evident that although there were a handful of Idoma persons present, most of the guests were African acquaintances of the wife.
Here are 5 reasons why membership in a robust cultural union can be beneficial in the diaspora.
Sense of identity
A strong association can infuse the members with a sense of pride and identity. As everyone knows, it is quite easy to forget one’s roots when you are in a foreign land due to pressure to integrate. People of Idoma extraction are individually less well-equipped to deal with these pressures due to a lack of numbers compared to other ethnic groups from Nigeria.
A strong union that meets regularly can provide the space for the individual to be himself. It can help affirm those values and morals that are central to his makeup, while introducing younger ones to the best communal experience.
Many members of a functioning ethnic association can tap into community resources that range from small financial grants to family engagements. The Idoma person in the diaspora who has geographically escaped Nigeria may still find himself dealing with Nigerian issues many years after. Such issues are usually complex in nature and are often psychological, religious, or cultural.
This is where a strong union can and should offer support to members who are unable to find help from regular state agencies in host countries. This is often because there is a better understanding of the psychological makeup of the immigrant and comfort from the familiar experience provided which results in positive outcomes.
When migrants come to the country for the first time, they tend to migrate towards an area where they can engage support in terms of familiar language and culture. A strong union can provide a soft-landing ground for the newly arrived. Informal advice on accommodation, work & school can easily be obtained from other experienced members.
No matter the length of a migrant’s sojourn in his host community, there remains a deep yearning to connect with the deep values of their motherland. This could be in the form of just speaking the mother tongue and attending cultural events of significance. The newly arrived migrant cut off from his motherland by distance e often finds escape in the recreated experience. No wonder, significant events from birthdays to holidays become rich sources of healthy fun.
80% of Idoma people in the diaspora are confident or hopeful of an eventual return to Nigeria. Pastor Abraham Idoko’s journey to his resting place is an ultimate reminder, that for every individual, there is a final return journey, whether temporal or spiritual.
The family of Abraham Idoko would have preferred the repatriation of his body to allow for grief. Sadly, this was impossible, and no member was allowed to travel for the funeral. An organized ethnic union representation would have gone a long way to assuage the pain.
Do you believe that the importance of ethnic groups in the diaspora is overrated? Share your thoughts below: