Though the craze to travel out of the country for greener pastures is not as pronounced as before, some people still believe their day in the sun can only be had in foreign countries in Europe and Asia, even Africa, more particularly in the United States of America.
But to those intending to relocate to the US that is also referred to as God’s Own Country, Ed Jatto has something to say a piece of advice: Don’t, because Nigeria is better than America.
Who is Jatto to say this? What experience does he have to say such? Has he been to the US that he can then compare the two countries? Is he even aware that it’s an open secret that America’s economy is far better than that of Nigeria?
Chuckling, Jatto calmly responds to all these queries.
If you are wondering who Jatto is, he is a singer-songwriter-music producer-record label proprietor and he has his own studios on Allen Avenue, Lagos. He is also a TV presenter and has a channel soon to begin broadcast on pay-TV station, Daarsat, after resting his successful Jatto Live on Galaxy Television.
He actually began his music career in the 70s in Kano when he developed interest in it and began training under musicians then in order to learn the tricks of the trade. Of that time, he says, “It is much easier to practise music now. When I started in Kano, I was grateful whenever musicians would give me their guitar and allow me to try and play it. Then they would give me all their clothes to wash and still send me on an errand with my own money.”
Now, he has definitely come a long way from the Jatto of then. To become the Jatto of now, he had to relocate in 1980 to Lagos where he became an audio engineer in EMI’s studio when Dizzy K Falola advised him to become an engineer though he was in search of a singing employment.
Without much choice, he took Falola’s advice. Consequently, he was one of those who worked behind the consoles in the recording and mixing of the massive hit track of the early eighties, Baby Kilode, that was performed by Falola and produced by Tony Okoroji.
He was close to Okoroji then and is still close to him now so it’s no wonder that it was Okoroji who produced Jatto’s own first album, Love Explosion, a 1984 release.
Looking back in time now, Jatto believes Okoroji was destined to play a major role in his life. In addition to producing his album, thereby fulfilling every artist’s dream to have a top-notch producer produce their album, Okoroji it was who urged Jatto to relocate abroad in search of the proverbial golden fleece.
And his argument that convinced Jatto to take the counsel of plunging into the unknown was, “You can make it big in America, Eddy. You have what it takes. I can tell.”
So, in 1986, Jatto packed his bags, tied up all the necessary loose ends, said his good-byes to those that mattered, boarded the flight and landed in the Queen’s own kingdom, United Kingdom.
After 18 months in London, he needed no prompting to know that the US was the place to be.
No longer the nervous but excited first-time traveller, taking the flight to John F Kennedy Airport, New York, was for him in pursuit of his determination not to let down those he left behind at home who were looking up to him and those who believed in him that he could become a success in the West and rub shoulders with the brightest and best of its music industry.
He recalls his first day in America. “A Nigerian friend and I just kept walking. We really had no place to go, but we didn’t need to have a place, because people were just going and coming. Even when night fell, we didn’t know, because everywhere was lighted up.”
And from that first day in America, he ended up spending 16 and a half years there before his eventual return to Nigeria in 2004. Now he confidently says, “You can’t tell me about America. I’m in the best position to do that.”
This stance he takes when he is in discussion with Nigerians who do not even have international passport, how much more applied for a visa, yet try to impose their views of America on him. He doesn’t get angry at such people, it’s not in his nature to get angry easily, but when he can’t see reason with them or they with him, he retreats from the discussion.
All well and good that he spent almost two decades in the USA. But was he a success there?
Of America, what he really has to say is that, “America is an education. It’s an organized society that everyone should visit to see how things work. The law respects nobody and you must pay your tax.”
Jatto then sounds a note of warning. Solemnly, he discloses that, “America is not what you see on TV. What you see on TV is entertainment, but in reality, it’s a very difficult place to live in. If it’s money you are after, you can make as much money here as in America. It’s only that responsibilities shackle us here unlike in America where you are not responsible for anyone except yourself. Their mentality is different.”
Revealing more of his American experience, Jatto said that the key to success in America is that you must help yourself and must be very hardworking and do whatever legal job (even if they are of the odd variety) that comes your way to survive.
While he wouldn’t divulge what and what he did to keep body and soul together and to eventually own his own businesses, he did reveal that he became so adept at keeping his head above the water that he was soon taking a film and TV production course in the eminent Black university, Howard, in Washington DC, during which he met the lady who became his wife, Dola.
Because of the stress of New York City, said he, he had moved to Maryland, a suburb that life is more laid-back in and this gave him time for himself, his studies, and the actualization of his dreams.
Despite his successful status in the country that is the dream residence of so many people worldwide, Jatto once again packed his bags and returned to Nigeria in 2004.
While Nigeria has its merits and virtues, it really can’t rank alongside America in terms of the value system, development, organization and the many other factors that make life in the West more palatable than in Africa.
Obviously, there must be a very salient reason behind his return to Nigeria. His explanation: “Nigeria is better than America. What we have here, they don’t, and what they have, we don’t, but on the balance of it all, Nigeria is a better country to live in. Here, you are free and can move about freely as you like. And what is yours is yours. Though I have all the necessary American papers, so no one could harass me or some such thing, I can tell you that many Nigerians there are now confused as to what they are doing in America. They are like fugitives, always looking over their shoulder in fear of the security officials, and getting deeper and deeper into debt by the minute. I remember when I was coming back, so many Nigerians burst into tears wishing that they could also return like me, but they can’t and they are still there now, imprisoned by the American system which is so foolproof that you better not be in America if the system doesn’t recognize you. If I had my way, every Nigerian in America would return immediately.”
As proof of his theory, Jatto then brought out his mobile phone and displayed a text message in it. The text was from a friend in America, a journalist with a national newspaper while in Nigeria, who was requesting a $3,000 aid from him.
“Now is even the worst time to be in America,” he said. “Because of the depression. There aren’t any jobs available. Many of our people over there keep asking me for money, because they realize I’m better off here. Even my wife lost her job too, but she’s been able to get another one.”