But the transition back was difficult. In Nigeria, Adeokun enjoyed his status as an American. Students assumed he had met Hollywood celebrities, and they got to sample the bags of Doritos he brought with him.
Returning to the United States, where Adeokun started ninth grade when he was 12, proved disorientating. Nigeria’s entrenched social conservatism made the comparatively liberal behavior at the American high school jarring.
“Seeing kids kiss openly in the hallways, not even boys and girls, but gay couples,” he says. “In Nigeria, you have teachers going nuts even if it was just boy and girl, so that I wasn’t used to.”
His newly acquired Nigerian accent and his youth didn’t help matters. The experience was so negative, Adeokun opted out of school altogether for a while, joining the Marines after his freshman year of college. He is now a marketing junior at Bowie State.
Though Arthur expects the trend of Africans sending their American-born children back to Africa to continue, Andy and Bode Akinola are not so sure. The recession has made it harder for parents to afford the hefty school fees, which can reach up to $6,000 a year per child, excluding travel and living expenses. Growing civil unrest in Nigeria hasn’t made parents in the United States any more comfortable about sending their children back to their ancestral homeland, either.
The Elujobas, however, are convinced that all the extra hours Ruth, a nursing assistant, and Olalekan, a security officer, put in to pay for boarding school were worth it.
“They know when to go to school, when to study, even when we are not home, they know how to call us. I think they acquired more knowledge at home and they’ve grown more mature,” Ruth says.
Their youngest son, Kunle, is finishing up his last year of secondary school in Nigeria, and their other two children are in college, Oladimeji at Montgomery College and daughter Comfort at Towson University.
Oladimeji has no regrets about the experience.
“Now I know how to work,” he says, the remnants of a Nigerian accent still clinging to his speech. “I know practice makes perfect.”