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I have learnt to say a lot of sir, ma – Dray-Sokeyo

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A British citizen, Naomi Dray-Sokeyo, shares with BAYO AKINLOYE her views about Nigeria and the things that fascinate her about the country

Where are you from?

I am from Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Kent is one of the most beautiful counties in the United Kingdom. Kent shares border with London in the north and only the Strait of Dover separates Kent and France in the south. There is an increasing population of Nigerians in Kent as a lot of people are moving to Kent from London. This is to stay away from the fast pace and busy nature of London. Kent is also more affordable to live in compared to the London’s high cost of accommodation. Certain parts of Kent are between 30 to 40minutes away from London as it is easily accessible. I have lived all my life in Kent and can proudly say I go into London whenever I want, unlike many British people that have never been to London.

If we put it in Nigerian perspective, London is like Lagos while Kent will be compared to neighbouring Ogun State.

What’s the similarity between your country and Nigeria?

We are both Commonwealth countries and have English language in common. UK and Nigeria have had a long history as we tend to both have some common ground in sports, music, TV and politics. There are a lot of individuals who have dual nationality of being both Nigerian and British citizens. Hence, why we have had Nigerians grace the top scene of British media like David Oyelowo (actor); Ben Okri (writer); Sade Adu (musician); John Fashanu and Dele Alli (British footballers), while the likes of Victor Moses and Alex Iwobi chose Nigeria over England. In British politics, there is Kate Osamor (Member of Parliament, Shadow Secretary for International Development); popular Conservative Member of Parliament, Helen Grant, who has a Nigerian father just like renowned Labour Member of Parliament, Chuka Umunna, widely known as the British (Barack) Obama.

Are you married to a Nigerian or have a Nigerian partner?

I have a Nigerian fiancé. He is from Ikorodu in Lagos State, where he studied before he attended University of Greenwich for his masters in biomedical sciences. He works in Pembury Hospital which is coincidentally close to the village I am from.

What’s the motivating factor for courting a Nigerian?

It is nothing but love, great chemistry and understanding; a bit of destiny and a personality match. I find him to be charming, respectful and he has a great personality.

How did your family, especially your parents, react when they found out you were going out with him?

My family respects my choice and supported me. They said they trust my instinct as long as I know he was the right person for me. Family members here are not as intrusive as families from other cultures.

What’s the first Nigerian food you tasted?

It was suya.

What Nigerian language do you speak?

I speak a bit of Yoruba and Pidgin English.

Have you thought of spending the rest of your life in Nigeria with your fiancé?

Spending the rest of my life in Nigeria will be a big decision (to make) as it is difficult to adapt into the huge political, economic, environmental, and societal differences between Nigeria and UK. It is a big task but I wouldn’t say no to it. But just like many British people that have Nigerian partners it is easier, reassuring and more empowering to live in the UK.

Nigeria can change in the nearest future which could signal a lot of people with Nigerian links to relocate to Nigeria. We all love the weather, good food, and very friendly people in Nigeria but there’s a lot that needs to change in terms of amenities, safety and organisation. We hear all sorts of positive news about Nigeria’s prospects but the depressing news outweighs the good.

Which is your favourite Nigerian local dish?

I enjoy pounded yam, egusi soup and assorted meat.

What misconceptions did you have about Nigerians?

I thought they all love politics.

Which Nigerian musician do you enjoy listening to?

I enjoy listening to D’Banj, Wizkid, PSquare, and KWAM I’s music.

What Nigerian song do you enjoy listening to the most?

Oliver Twist.

What local Nigerian attire do you wear most often?

Ankara; I will be wearing iro, buba and gele to a wedding party soon. It will be my first time and I am looking forward to it.

Have you tasted any Nigerian local drink?

Yes; malt drinks like Maltina are not common in the UK. I like it.

Do you have a Nigerian nickname?

Yes; it is Moremi. Babs (my fiancé) gave me the name and he said it is the name of the wife of a Yoruba emperor.

What Yoruba culture or tradition have you assimilated (like kneeling down to greet an older person)?

I have learnt to say a lot of ‘Ma’ and ‘Sir’ when talking to an older person. For instance, my partner’s dad prays a lot on the phone and he (fiancé) is always saying, ‘Amin sir.’ I find it intriguing and picked up on it.

What culture shock have you experienced?

I was a little bemused by all the cultural processes relating to childbirth, especially the naming ceremony for babies after seven days, which was new to me. We don’t do special naming ceremony in England – babies get introduced to everyone by his or her name at day one and life just continues after that. I also find it interesting that in Nigeria most Nigerian households wash their dirty clothes with bare hands – this is totally against what I know as almost every household in the UK has a washing machine. And, of course, no NEPA or power failure, which is not the same in Nigeria. This makes me think how tough it can be for people while others appear to be fine.

I realise many Nigerians still assume anyone that travels to the UK has travelled to London. They see the whole of UK as London. I agree this could be confusing as there is Great Britain; the UK; England; Scotland; Wales; and Northern Ireland. Great Britain refers to England; Scotland; Wales; and some British overseas territory like Gibraltar – while Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England all form a union called United Kingdom. England is popular amongst Nigerians. London is the capital of England and also the capital of the UK, hence why London is so sought after. And London is arguably the most cosmopolitan city in the world; it has people of all works of life working and living in it.

Subsequently, another thing I observed was the fact everybody seems to know everybody – there’s a lot of familiarity in Nigerian culture. Also, everybody tends to refer to each other as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ as a mark of respect and oneness. So, it’s difficult to tell who is a cousin; an uncle; a nephew; a niece; a great aunt or uncle; an aunt or just a neighbour. This is truly nice as long as it’s reflective of the overall country being together as one.

If you are to spend the rest of your life in Nigeria where will you like to live and why?

It will be Lagos – that’s where my fiancé and his family are from and he knows the city very well. Lagos is an internationally acclaimed metropolitan city. Nigeria as a whole has big prospect that can attract all sorts of people in the world. But I have been hesitant about several aspects of the country that makes it lag behind which is why I have made several group voluntary offers to help Nigeria attain the popular promising heights that has been spoken about all these years.

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