Why Nigerians are the most successful immigrant group in the U.S.
From doing regular homework and sports and attending summits in healthcare as a child, Olayiwola is now a family physician, an associate clinical professor at University of California, San Francisco, instructor in family medicine at Columbia University, and an author.
Her siblings have also made it in other well-deserved fields.
The above is the norm among many Nigerian-Americans today. Currently, 29 per cent of Nigerian-Americans over the age of 25 hold a graduate degree, compared to 11 per cent of the overall U.S. population, according to the Migrations Policy Institute.
The 2016 American Community Survey also found that among Nigerian-American professionals, 45 per cent work in education services with several others being professors at some of the top universities.
Nigerian-Americans are also increasingly entering into entrepreneurship and building tech companies in the US.
On the medical field, you will find them there too; as they continue to abandon their home country to work in American hospitals for better pay and working conditions.
Despite racism and discrimination, Nigerian-Americans have not stopped excelling in the United States, as they are currently one of the country’s most successful immigrant communities, with a median household income of $62,351, compared to $57,617 nationally, as of 2015.
The over 376,000 Nigerian-American population has also produced some of the ‘firsts’ in America, including forensic pathologist Dr Bennet Omalu, who was the first to discover and publish on chronic traumatic encephalopathy in American football players, and Pearlena Igbokwe, the first woman of African descent to head a major U.S. TV studio.
There is also ImeIme A. Umana, the first Black woman elected president of the Harvard Law Review last year.
Apart from the traditional careers like doctors, lawyers and engineers, Nigerian-Americans are also doing tremendously well in entertainment, sports and the culinary arts.
This year, Nigerian chef Tunde Wey in New Orleans made the news when he used food to highlight racial wealth inequality in America.
So how did these Nigerians get to U.S. in their numbers, and how are they outshining citizens from their host country?
After the Biafra war in the 1960s in Nigeria, many students were given scholarships by the Nigerian government to pursue higher studies in the States.
These students performed well and furthered their education before becoming professionals in their various fields.
They valued education and passed this on to their children, and the result is what is being observed now.
Irrespective of success, home, they say is home. Many Nigerian-American like Olayiwola feel the need to do more. She doesn’t want America’s gain to be Nigeria’s permanent loss.
Olayiwola and her brother, Okey, stay active in the Nigerian-American community. In 1998, they co-founded the Student Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, which organises at least two medical mission trips to Nigeria each year.
Between 2000 and 2004, the siblings often flew the nearly 8,000 miles to Nigeria to perform screenings for preventable diseases. They took blood pressure, advised patients on diabetes and obesity prevention, and provided prenatal counselling in rural areas.
“I feel a tremendous sense of wanting to go back [to Nigeria] and help,” says Olayiwola.
It’s a sentiment shared by many in the Nigerian-American community. But it’s easier said than done for some of America’s most qualified professionals to leave world-class facilities and a comfortable life to return permanently to a nation that, while Africa’s largest economy, remains mired in political stagnation and corruption