Here’s the first of our interviews with People of the World, all over the world. As we wrote last week, there are many different kinds of people of the world; it’s not a narrowly defined category. Today’s interview demonstrates how it’s very possible to have a global outlook and be passionate about getting to know other cultures even without living or travelling abroad. We talked to Sylva Nze Ifedigbo, a writer and journalist living in Abuja, Nigeria.
Could you start by telling us something about yourself?
I am a Nigerian. You know Nigeria, with a population of over 150 million people, is said to be the largest black nation in the world and is as multi-cultural as it is multi-religious.
Politically though we categorize the country into six geopolitical zones. I hail from the South East geopolitical zone which has Igbo as the predominant tribe. I was born however in the Abuja the Federal Capital Territory where I live currently too. I was born to teacher parents and grew up reading many books. That perhaps informed my love for reading and writing. I studied Veterinary Medicine though at the University of Nigeria. Today I work in Project Management as well as being a creative writer and freelance journalist. I contribute articles and opinions on socio-political issues to many Nigerian online forums and NEXT newspaper. I also moderate a personal blog ‘Nzesylva’.
What does having a global outlook mean to you?
To me, having a global outlook means being able to reach and be reached by the rest of the world even from your little corner of the earth. It’s something about globalization which has reduced the world as we say into a global village. It’s about being able to maximize your potentials as a human being regardless of where you are situated geographically and doing what you do not with just your immediate environment in mind but the whole of humanity.
How do you keep up with what’s going on outside Nigeria?
The internet has made news from all over the world just a click away and now with smart phones it’s even easier. For me I keep up with goings-on outside Nigeria on my laptop which is connected to the internet (at a rather huge cost in relation to internet cost in other parts of the world I must say) and on my Blackberry. I also watch cable television and read the local papers all of which have sections dedicated to international news.
Which languages do you speak? Do you think knowing foreign languages is essential for having a global outlook?
I speak English which is Nigeria’s lingua franca, in addition I speak Igbo which is my mother tongue and a bit of Hausa the predominant language spoken in Northern Nigeria where I grew up. Shame really that I don’t speak any other language especially those that can be described as international languages like French, Spanish and German.
I agree a hundred percent that knowledge of foreign language is essential to having a global outlook. Since we all don’t speak one tongue, it makes for better integration of diverse cultures when we can understand ourselves right from our speech. To be able to associate with the rest of humanity you need to speak their language, at least the basics of it.
That said, I must add that learning a new language could be a challenging engagement especially as an adult but I imagine it a priceless experience as a Nigerian to be able to speak French to a French man and have him respond with a smile.
Would you like to live abroad? What stops you?
Living abroad is something hip especially for people from these climes. It is called seeking greener pasture. However the struggle to live abroad at all costs has many consequences. There are many Nigerians living in the UK for example who live in very dehumanizing conditions worse than home. More so, living abroad comes with much pressure from friends and family back home in Nigeria for financial support as it’s held that once you go abroad, all is well. The implication is that some people find themselves getting involved in crime just to maintain the reputation that all is well with them abroad.
Back to your question now, I believe that travel is in itself a form of education and to that extent I would love to travel and live in other parts of the world, to meet and learn the cultures of other people and share experiences. Ultimately, I would love to return home to Nigeria to bring my experiences to bear in helping my fellow country men make more informed choices as humans and to live better lives.
Many things stop me. One of those is the ease to obtain permits to live in other countries. For example I was only recently denied a visa to the UK where I was invited to speak at a film festival on Nigeria. The reasons for the denial were laughable but it all points essentially to an existing suspicion that most Nigerians cannot be trusted, a notion which is as false as it is embarrassing. Other reasons may include such factors as having family close. You know the family is still a strong institution in this part of the world.
What do you love about Abuja?
I was born in Abuja so the love I have for Abuja is that which one has for his place of birth. Besides that, Abuja is Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory and the seat of power. It is in many ways the best place to live in Nigeria with public utilities at a near appreciable level, better than you get in other states. Abuja is also a beautiful city with planned development and a sane populace unlike the more rowdy commercial city of Lagos. At night the Abuja scenery is breathtaking and everyone who comes here falls in love and would want to come again.
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo was born in Abuja, Nigeria in 1984. He attended the School for the Gifted Abuja and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he studied Veterinary Medicine, graduating in 2007. With strong interest in fiction writing and Socio-political essays, his works have appeared in many journals and magazines for which he has won awards. Among the awards includes the AWF Abuja Short Story Prize 2009 and the YGC/MISSPIN National Cybercrime Essay Competition 2010. He contributes to NEXT News papers Nigeria and several online e-zines and runs a personal blog ‘Nzesylva’ on WordPress.
About the authorLucy