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NIGERIA NEEDS TO SHIFT FOCUS FROM ‘OIL TO SOIL’ – Matt Duncan…self styled, American-Nigerian!

Anyone who is friends with him or follows him on facebook will wonder which exactly is his country of origin. Except for the color of his skin you might probably think he is Nigerian.

Matt celebrates Nigeria even more than some Nigerians and this isn’t because he is married to one, his love for the most populous black nation in the world started before the cupid arrow struck!
Matt Duncan lets us into his world where he will hopefully someday become a full Nigerian citizen.

Thanks for agreeing to share your experience with us. Could you please give an insight to your background and what you do?
Matt Duncan: I am a political scientist by education. But I was always more interested in international affairs than local ones. Which was what led me to be interested in Nigeria. Today, I run an NGO called the Nigeria Educational Development Foundation dedicated to aiding and improving the state of education in Nigeria.

From your posts online, seems you are so passionate about Nigeria, when
was your 1st contact with that country?
Matt Duncan: In July of 2006 I went on a medical mission to Nigeria with an NGO focused on Healthcare. We went to Calabar, Cross Rivers State. Then in 2008 I went to Iperu-Remo Ogun State. That is my home base now. I consider myself not just as adopted Yoruba, but more specifically Ijebu Remo Yoruba.

I love eating Moimoi, Fufu and Ebripo! – Matt 

What has been your experience with Nigeria and its people?
Matt Duncan: I have always felt very warmly welcomed by Nigerians. And I have done my best to adapt to the Nigerian lifestyle. For example when I am in Nigeria I always wear traditional Ankara and eat Nigerian food. Some of my favorites are moi-moi, fufu, and ebripo.

A lot of negativity fly around especially on the international scene, did that dissuade you from associating with them or going into the country.
Matt Duncan: Its sad that there are some negative stereotypes about Nigeria. But that never slowed me down. I’m lucky that a few of my closest childhood friends were Nigerian immigrants. That gave me an opportunity to see what Nigeria is really like for myself.

In your own assessment what are the strengths of Nigeria?
Matt Duncan: Nigeria has a large population of young educated youth, who are ready to get to work. Most of these youths are highly competent with computer technology and the sciences. As the economy grows there will be people ready to fill new job positions

And the weaknesses?
Matt Duncan: The primary weakness is overdependence on oil production. Nigeria was an agricultural powerhouse before the discovery of oil in the Southeast. Since then, much of our farming capacity has been lost. I like the phrase “Oil To Soil”, because we need to shift our economic focus back to farming

Tell us about your project in Nigeria
Matt Duncan: My organization provides free school uniforms to students who can’t afford them. We do this because,  graduating from high school is a major factor in determining a person’s success in life. I want all Nigerian students to be successful, and I don’t want the cost of a uniform to stand in their way.

How did you meet your wife?
Matt Duncan: I met my wife in Iperu-Remo while I was doing a project there. We were introduced by a mutual friend. It was love at first sight.

Matt with his wife Mercy, in Yoruba traditional attire from Nigeria.

One day soon I hope to become a full Nigerian citizen!- Matt

Was there any resistance from both families?
Matt Duncan: None at all. Her family welcomed and accepted me and it was same for my family.

With your association with Nigerians and marrying one of them, have you
been able to change some people’s perception?
Matt Duncan: People are always happy to see us as a couple. Usually the first thing they notice is that we have a different skin color, and they think it’s sweet. I am proud to be married to a Nigerian, and one day soon, I hope to become a full Nigerian citizen.
Mercy and I welcomed our fi

Matt in an Iperu-remo school with some of the students he provided uniforms.

rst child into the world last month. We named him Michael Moyomadeoluwa. We look forward to being ambassadors for Nigeria as a family!

About the author

Adetola Kayode

For more than 15 years, Adetola Kayode has trained and worked in the broadcasting world as a writer, reporter, news anchor and presenter. Presently, she plies her trade with Lagos Television, LTV, the first state owned Television station in Nigeria.

In the course of that time, her work has made tremendous impact by beaming spotlight on human conditions, thoughts and insightful coverage of the lives of the disadvantaged people across Nigeria.

With her sharp, witty take on the most pressing social issues, she “gives a voice to the voiceless” by engaging authorities at state and national levels.

Outside of broadcasting, she has also been a constant pillar of support to several charities,non-governmental organisations and publications. As an adviser to some of these NGOs, she provides guidance and unpaid communication consulting towards the wellbeing and education of less privileged people across the country.
Travelling,singing and proofreading gives her joy and satisfaction.

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