WASHINGTON – A year ago,Vwogho Emarievbe began working on a documentary to share his experiences as part of the Nigerian diaspora. One year later,he is helping other members of the diaspora tell their stories.
Emarievbe,28,was born in Malaysia and moved to Nigeria when he was 3. In 2008 he came to the U.S. as an international student for a better education and economic opportunity. He graduated Saturday with a master’s degree in international studies from Morgan State University in Baltimore where he lives. Emarievbe is searching for a joband plans to return to Nigeria in a year.
Emarievbe said he wanted to work on the documentary to give back to Nigeria.
“Nigeria is still a developing country,” he said. “I wanted to speak of my experiences and my reality.”
Africa’s most populous country – with 155 million people – Nigeria is known mostly for corruption and mismanagement. The country has a median age of just over 19 – it ranks third from the last on a list of 222 countries – and life expectancy of about 48 years for both men and women. Nigeria has made progress toward democracy and civilian rule in the past decade.
Emarievbe and Kalu Ugwumo,who also worked on the documentary,are full of praise for their homeland. Emarievbe said Nigeria has the potential for major growth and change,and the people are optimistic about change.
“The people are always happy,always hopeful and always optimistic – despite their harsh realities,” he said.
Diaspora refers to people from a common origin who have scattered elsewhere.
A 2009 survey by the Census Bureau found more than 200,000 Nigerian-born people living in the U.S.,more than a thousand of them in Washington.
Emarievbe is working to design programs to empower women and resolve conflict in Nigeria. He said it is difficult to effect change in his country because he often feels disconnected from the people there.
“You come back home and you’re not fully in sync with what’s going on,” he said. “You relate to people differently because you seem to be out of touch. It’s hard to completely integrate when I go back home because it’s like I’ve lost some of my ‘Nigerianess.’”
Ugwumo,26,said he also feels disconnected when he returns to Nigeria because he spends most of his time in Washington,where he lives.
An American citizen,born shortly after his parents arrived in the U.S.,Ugwumo is an independent consultant and mentor to young Nigerians.
He began working on another video about the Nigerian diaspora.
“Getting involved with the diaspora work just came from my heart,” he said. “I wanted to make a change. It is hard sometimes because some people are reluctant to being filmed or photographed because they are like,‘Who sent you and why are you here?’”
Ugwumo is working on the film to raise awareness about Nigeria. He said he enjoys using newer technology to expose more people to the diaspora.
Ugwumo relies heavily on social media to reach a younger demographic. He said attracting younger diaspora members will increase awareness about Nigeria and give them a more active role in affecting their government.
“It’s a bit overused,but youth really are the future,” Ugwumo said. “We have to start taking responsibility for our future.”
Reach reporter Kendra Johnson at [email protected] or 202-326-9861
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