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Even as foreign students, Americans called us nigger

Published by The Nation on Sun, 21 Feb 2021


US-based Florence Efosa Erewele, a dietician retiree of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) recently celebrated her 80th birthday in style. In this interview with Taiwo Abiodun, Erewele looked back at her days back in Nigeria and her later years since she relocated to the United States in the 70s.It was Mrs. Florence Efosa Erewele, a retired Dietician with the University of Benins 80th birthday, and like a true-born Edo woman, she was decked in her traditional Bini attire, as she sang, danced and praised the Lord for keeping her till date. The presiding Pastor of Freedom Church International, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Femi Omiye, who officiated at her thanksgiving ceremony prayed for her. The pastor in his sermon quoted verses from the Bible, reminding the congregants of Gods promises to those who obey and serve him. He prayed that Mama would live up to 120 years.After the church service, guests migrated to the hotel reception venue, where continental dishes were served and Mama danced her heart out to popular Nigerian and foreign music.Lest we forget, guests adhered almost entirely to COVID-19 protocol, observing social distancing and gagging their mouth and nose, save the moments when they needed to pass down the sumptuous meals and drinks.My life storyRegaling guests with her life story, Erewele happily introduced herself: I am 80years of age, my full name is Mrs. Florence Efosa Erewele; I am from Benin City, Nigeria. I was born in Benin; I had my elementary and secondary education in Benin. I went to Hulsey College and graduated in 1964. Thereafter, I worked in a government ministry for a few years until 1970, when I moved to the United States of America. My growing up was beautiful; my mother had six children- three girls and three boys. My father had other children too. My father believed in education, he was a teacher before he went into the business of timber. He made sure we all went to school. He died at the ripe age of 102.The Octogenarian described her life in America as eventful and unforgettable. I came to America to study in the 70s. I studied Dietetic; I stayed with one of my brothers who was a medical doctor in the University Teaching Hospital, Bellevue, New York. My husband, Frank Erewele, a PDP chieftain in Edo State, now over 80, was my school mate at Prat Institute. We met in New York. When I met him, he was nice; he came from my area in Nigeria (Benin) and I loved him. During our courtship, he sent my pictures home and asked his parents to go and see my parents. That was how it was been done in those days. We got married and had two children while in the States. We were both students then. I was going to school and working at the same time. My husband was doing two jobs. It was tough.We were in America for many years before we went back home to Nigeria, where I had my other children. I later took all my children back to America to study. Later, when they grew up, they decided to come back to America.My husband had his masters degree before went to Nigeria .We spent up to 15years in America. I worked in Rochester as a Dietician. When I got to Nigeria, I worked in the University Teaching Hospital in Benin.I experienced racial discriminationAsked whether she had experience of racial discriminations in the States, she responded, Yes, of course. Whenever we were given projects back in school, white kids refused to join us. They called us Nigger and other discriminatory tags. They never saw us as human beings but animals. It is sad that the same discrimination is still on, though dying gradually.Comparing life in Nigeria with that of America, the celebrator My stay here in America is better than that of Nigeria because, here, anything you want, if you have the money, you will get it. Here, you can achieve anything you want in life.Life at 80On what she thinks she may have left undone yet, Erewele said, There is nothing I wanted in life that God has not given me. My desire was to have children and give then education and I have achieved that. They are all doing fine and well in their respective endeavours to His glory. What thrills me in life is waking up every morning. That is why I give thanks to him all the time, because it is not by my power but by Him. I am happy seeing my grandchildren running around me, it is a blessing from God.She however confessed to feeling sad every time she loses her childhood friends to the cold hands of death or remembers them. My friend Augusta died recently; we went to the same primary and secondary school. We were really close. She died recently in Nigeria, she sobbed.On how she would love to be remembered, she said, When Im gone, I want to be remembered as somebody who loved God.As part of her Christian belief, she recalled how a woman once lied against her and she overlooked and forgave her. A woman once lied against me. In the end, she found out that I was innocent and came back to beg for forgiveness. Of course I forgave her. When I wake up in the morning and look at the mirror, what I see is the image of God. My philosophy of life is to live and let others live. I dont have ill feelings against those who offend me. I took that from my father. When my father was old he was a cheer giver, the day he died, the whole street wept. If you give my father a present, he would share it with everybody. My mother too, though not like my father.A changed worldAccording to Mrs Erewele, The world was not like this before but it is we human being who have changed not the world. People no longer have conscience. Before you do anything, think of how others would feel.The secret of my marriage is patience, I dont support polygamy and thats a fact. The secret of my existence is that I commit my life unto God. When you totally give your life to Christ, He will direct you. God directs me; I believe in Him.Tips on dietaryAs a Dietician, Mama did not forget to offer tips on dietary. She said, It is not only medication and physical exercise that are good for the body; you must also watch the food you eat, and that is where the job of a Dietician lies. Eat good food and know what, when and how to eat. Fruits and green vegetables are good for the body and one should be spiritually strong and pray to God always.
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