Maria Adigwe is among the millions of Nigerians in Diaspora who went abroad seeking for greener pastures. While landing in the United States of America, largely known as God's Own Country, she discovered that while the land might not be flowing with milk and honey, it offered her opportunity to go against all odds. Today, she promotes the Nigeria and African culture by organising shows that features Nigerian and African artistes. She spoke with AHAOMA KANU about her coming to America amongst other issues.
YOU have been in the U.S. for some time, can you tell me what your perception of living abroad was before you left and what did you find out when you arrived?
My perception of living abroad before I left was that it was a land of Milk and Honey, but getting to America I have seen that pictures do lie and also things have drastically changed so that might be it but it is not what we Africans perceive it to be.
What was the most challenging factor you had to deal with?
The most challenging factor I had to deal with was that you have to do everything on your own in this country; you don't have people to go with or people to depend on because everyone is always on the go in this country.
Many believe that America is God's own Country and everything is very easy, how true is this?
America is not God's own country it's just that America offers a lot of opportunities due to the variety of people and ideas that they have, they make things a little bit easier for people to deal with and work with.
Would you have left for America if you know what you have experienced so far?
Yes because, like I said before, America gives you the opportunities to work with, I am not saying we don't have that in Nigeria. Back home, we make the rules ourselves and break them ourselves, so who was it meant for then.
We here about the negative image of Nigeria abroad, how bad is this?
The negative image of Nigerians abroad is something we deal with everyday, I mean the mere fact that we have people like Abdumutallab and Kaita things are not going to get better. The best things we do is be ourselves and try not to get caught up by the name just because one or two persons act up does not mean that we are all like that.
You are into entertainment and hold shows hosting Nigerian artistes, tell me how you started?
I am just a part of it, I started by dancing in a cultural troupe in New Jersey because I love cultural dancing, I joined my cultural troupe when I was in high school in Nigeria and that where I started and it evolved. I joined different cultural troupes here in America and I also teach cultural dance and we dance at different Nigerian occasions.
Did you have any doubt about the shows being a success and what strategies did you employ?
No I never had any doubts about the shows being a success because things like this catch the interest of a lot for Africans abroad when you get to see your culture displayed once in a while in an occasion or an event. It brings back memories and like I said before America is a country that is always on the go so if someone gets the time to enjoy a show like that they do appreciate it.
How many artistes have you had in your shows and how was the response to them?
We have had a lot of artistes the likes of Femi Kuti, KSA, Lagbaja and a few other stars from different part of other African countries.
The Nigeria music industry has been witnessing great leaps in recent times, are some of our artistes as popular kin the US as they are down here?
Oh yes the new genre of musicians are more popular here in America.
Does some of your audience include pure Americans or is it an all-Nigerian affair?
We do invite everybody for a good time.
How do you rebrand Nigeria with these shows?
We do not do any rebranding of Nigeria in our shows because I do not think there is anything to rebrand, every country in this world has something bad about it, what would a two or three hour show do to rebrand a country? I think anyone that falls for that is a big liar. I mean we all know how the world is today; the one thing we do in these shows is to show our culture, I do not know maybe that might be called rebranding to some people.
The likes of Prof. Emegwali and co have really done great exploits in foreign land; does this positivity reflect n the image of Nigerians?
You see in this life positivity is what you take it to be; the likes of Chinua Achebe and Chimamannda Adichie come with their own part of making showcasing what Nigeria can offer but the real question lies what the people think about the person itself and not the country they come from.
Last December, Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to bomb a plane; how did you get the news and what bad experience did you witness after that?
I was home when I got the news and the impact it had on me as usual is that Nigeria and its people are bad. Like I said if you are in the social circle of Africa you hear this everyday so just because one Abdumutallab acted out doesn't get our image any step cleaner.
With a new government in place, has anything about Nigeria changed?
We are yet to hear it; the government needs to take care of serious and important issues instead of worrying about impressing the world every time they have the opportunity to do so.
There has been several cases of kidnapping in the country, are you scared of coming home?
Of course I am scared of coming home; I mean nobody wants to be kidnapped.
The elections are due in a matter of months, what are your expectations?
Our expectations for the elections are that they play fair I mean everyone knows politics is a dirty game especially in Nigeria where no one keeps counts so if for once the election comes out fair and good for once we would be impressed.
Are you thinking of coming back home?
Yeah I am thinking about coming back home but not yet I would love to get more experience and ideas and views on what I would love to do before I come home because that is how we expand Nigeria; we come here and bring back their ideas and views and experiences.
What advice do you have for young Nigerians looking forward to going for the American dream?
I think they should try it but also beware of being cut up in the American way.