Nigerians Surprised I Chose To Live Here, While They Leave — Swiss Married To Igbo

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Nigerians Surprised I Chose To Live Here, While They Leave — Swiss Married To Igbo
Nigerians Surprised I Chose To Live Here, While They Leave — Swiss Married To Igbo

Janine Udogu is more than a wife to the people of Isuofia in Aguata, Anambra. She could pass for a pearl. And to millions across Nigeria, especially the Igbo, Janine, popularly known as Nwanyiocha has become a delight.

 

She wears the traditional title – ‘Lolo Anyanwu Ututu I’, conferred on her by the people of Isuofia.

 

An encounter with Janine would leave no one in doubt as to why she was crowned with such title.

Nigerians Surprised I Chose To Live Here, While They Leave — Swiss Married To Igbo
Nigerians Surprised I Chose To Live Here, While They Leave — Swiss Married To Igbo

‘Anyanwu Ututu’ means a rising morning sun. Such sun usually would rise gently, permeate mildly and have a way of motivating for the day.

 

So also is Janine’s personality which could inspire the uninspired, and particularly her complexion which radiates both at dawn and in the dark of the night.

 

Her enchanting demeanour typifies the Igbo ancient name, Adadioramma, which implies the delight of all.

 

Humble, elegant, modest, with an adventurous zest and uncommon love for the Igbo and Nigerian; Nwanyiocha today poses as an ambassador, as she goes about celebrating and promoting the Nigerian way of life, especially that of the Igbo.

Nigerians Surprised I Chose To Live Here, While They Leave — Swiss Married To Igbo
Nigerians Surprised I Chose To Live Here, While They Leave — Swiss Married To Igbo

In a chat with Saturday Vanguard, Janine narrates how it all started, the near-mystery that birthed a union that has lasted for over 12 years with kids, the initial concerns and the decision to relocate to Nigeria for residence.

 

How it started

On the evening of a fateful day in 2008, Janine had gone to a club in Switzerland, her land of birth, to unwind.

 

There, she caught the fancy of a young Nigerian, Ezenwa Udogu, who approached her for exchange of phone contacts. But Janine would not oblige.

Nigerians Surprised I Chose To Live Here, While They Leave — Swiss Married To Igbo
Nigerians Surprised I Chose To Live Here, While They Leave — Swiss Married To Igbo

She rather opted for a stand that could be considered complicated. “If God wants us to meet again, we will meet”; she responded. God did cause them to meet again two days later.

 

But Janine wasn’t done with her drama. “If God wants us to meet again, we will meet”; she repeated. Two weeks later, they met again.

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Nigerians Surprised I Chose To Live Here, While They Leave — Swiss Married To Igbo
Nigerians Surprised I Chose To Live Here, While They Leave — Swiss Married To Igbo

This time, she reluctantly yielded, since she couldn’t ‘stretch’ God any further. Janine said she wasn’t thinking of relationship then.

 

“I just didn’t feel like it was something for me to go into a relationship that time. I was feeling he might want something else, but of course, thereafter, I realised he already had all his papers”.

 

Marriage

Having accepted a relationship, Janine got married to Ezenwa in 2012, when they had a court marriage in Switzerland.

 

In January 2014, they travelled to Isuofia to exchange marital vows in a church.

 

At first, Janine didn’t see the celebration of Nigeria as a priority. She was just set out to love and cherish Ezenwa, her husband; and to find a way to navigate through the many horrible things said about Nigeria.

 

But arriving here, she found out that it wasn’t as bad as it was painted outside. She therefore, decided to tell the story as an eye witness.

 

The realisation that many were eager to hear her story, however, fuelled her energy. The issue of living in Nigeria was part of an agreement Janine had with Ezenwa when they got married.

 

The agreement was anchored on the need to enable their kids know their roots and blend. Last year, they took the bull by the horn and left Switzerland for residence in Nigeria.

 

According to her, “The story is one sided about Nigeria in Europe and in my country. What pushed me was when none of my family members wanted to attend my wedding in the village for fear of security issues and all the horrible stories they hear. I came here every year on holiday.

 

The way I see Nigeria and the way it is seen outside, I felt there was need for somebody to change the narrative a bit. It’s not like I wanted to be active on social media, but when I realised people were eager to hear my story, I decided to use the platform to showcase how I see Nigeria.

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Relocation to Nigeria

“It was part of the agreement when we got married that it would be a priority for us to bring up our kids in Nigeria, knowing their roots, their language.

 

My husband was married before to a Swiss lady, and she never really encouraged him to bring his child home.

 

And him being the first son, it was obvious that any other children should be here, at least to know their language, know where the house is in the village and all that.

 

We decided this will be our chance to come home because the kids are already a bit grown. Let them start school here and experience Nigeria for themselves, not just visiting.

 

We spent a lot of money coming here every year, yet it was just visiting. The Swiss were a bit worried, concerning security, access to health care and all of that.

 

That made them to ask me, are you sure you really want to do this? For Nigerians, it was very difficult for some people to understand how I could want to live here when they are trying everything possible to get out of Nigeria.

 

But that’s the issue of having multicultural children. In Switzerland, they call my kids black; when they come here, people call them Oyibo. I think it’s important for them to know both and be proud of it, to say – Yes, I’m black, yes I’m white.

 

Also, Ezenwa as a traditional Igbo man wants to grow old here in Nigeria. So, I also needed to have this reality check and know how it feels to live here, because it’s always nice when you come to a place for vacation. But, can you really love there?.

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Ezenwa’s love

“What swept me off my feet was the genuineness and intensity of Ezenwa’s love for me.

 

It was the greatest I had. He would do everything for me. He is the kind that pays so much attention to what somebody needs.

 

When I need him, it doesn’t matter the time, he would drop everything. For him, it’s family first. And he just showed me this love that I had never received from anybody else.

 

I never had any doubt about his love towards me. He loves my heart. The way he is there for me is same way I’m always there for him.

 

We are best of friends. I love him for who he is and not what he has”.

 

One of the landmarks Janine established in Ezenwa’s compound in Isuofia is a mango tree she planted years ago which now supplies fruits to the family and neighbours.

 

This and some other traits have earned Janine what some would describe as ‘street credibility’. She is loved by the street.

 

She revealed that she treasures the strength of Umuada (an association of daughters married outside their home) in adjudicating matters in their maiden home.

 

Many parents of Igbo extraction seem to be competing in raising their kids in English Language and trampling upon their mother tongue.

 

But a Swiss Nigerian is bent on ensuring that her kids become fluent in their native Igbo Language and immersed in their culture and Nigerian way of life. This is the irony.

 

It is believed that Janine’s path will inspire a greater love in Nigerians for the Nigerian.

 


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Source: Vanguard


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