Several years ago in Port-Harcourt the garden city and the capital city of the Nigerian petroleum industrial complex otherwise known as the ?bread basket of Naija,? I was introduced to the Nigerian Television Authority NTA. In those days the likes of Mrs. Hauwa Baba-Ahmed and the late Mr. Yinka Craig informed and educated us about multifaceted stories within the African shores and around the globe. Since I was infatuated with the tube as a 9-10year old, my assigned task was to listen to the nightly 9pm national news. My responsibilities were either to analyze the contents of the news with my father or to relay the contents to him if he happened to miss the news. Thus there came a time when I developed personal curiosity for the news and was exposed to some traumatic news reports about the plights of abandoned Nigerian children through the NTA network.
On those nights, NTA introduced Nigerians to mostly United States born Nigerian American children who were abandoned by their fathers in America. Most of these children had boarded a flight to the ?Giant of Africa? in search of their so-called fathers who had giving them up by jettisoning to Nigeria. As a child I was heartbroken to see these teenagers who arrived in Lagos with scant information from their American mothers about their Nigerian fathers. I thought about the courage it took to come to a strange land while looking for a part of you that had opted to deny your existence for whatever selfish, cold, and misguided reasons.
In those days the Africans that came overseas were saddled with the quest of obtaining education and going back to their respective countries upon the achievement of their objectives. Then the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the leading African economies were either greater or on par with those of the Asian tigers. One naira could fetch you a dollar and some cents and a dollar was equal to the extinct kobo. As a result of the good economic situation in the continent and the need for western educated professionals, the motivation of most foreign students were to return home irrespective of the obligations and responsibilities that they developed through their undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate programs.
Nonetheless the understanding of my childhood observations about child abandonment did not come full cycle until my arrival to the United States as a student nearly two decades ago. As I went on to become a minority for the first time in my life (a black African in a different society) I was thrust into the realization that the phenomenon of child neglect remains a sore factor among black men in the United States irrespective of their extractions. A large proportion of black children in the US are in single parent households with minimal or no interactions with their fathers. This is either due to pop not giving a damn or mom asserting the mantra of the independent single lady.
However, with time the duality of my African and American cultures and/or education has exposed me to some of the underline structures that precipitate these child abandonment epidemics. For example, the pressures those African youths who discard their foreign born children face from their societies of origin. How they seek and compete for approval from families and peers who are often narrow-minded, cold, and unbelievably self-centered? Sadly these black African men are frequently pliable to the aforementioned pressures which they use as justifiable excuses to desert their own flesh and blood. They fail to stand up to their responsibilities and rebuff the need to appease those that could care less about their children whilst encouraging them to abandon these innocent angels.
Regrettably, this cowardice behavior of deserting their children is not unique to the ?so-called? cultured African black men. Instead it is prevalent among contemporary African American men in the United States who are afraid of commitments. Child abandonment has also spurned the lingo called ?baby mama? with the resulting societal ills. We have black men who grasp unto reasons to traumatize their own offspring by subjugating them to generational cycles of impediments for self-actualization to satisfy their own selfish needs and reinforce societal self-fulfilling prophecies.
These reasons may include conservative and liberal policies in the United States such as the crime prevention omnibus laws that promoted harsher incarcerations of black men and some welfare laws that incentivized the breakup of the black family units. There have been other iterations of these policies such as economic deserts among black populations, racial profiling, drug laws, and mass incarcerations all of which are so convoluted in there methodical and intertwined structures. Through these muddled situations we as black men still have the choice to break the cycle by making the determination not to abandon our precious babies.
Nnamdi F. Akwada MSW, BA is a Social Justice Activist