When people tell me they want to move back to Nigeria, I respond with the question, why? Sometimes I get a puzzling reply bordering around the fact that Nigeria is after all home, like it or not! Other times I get a response on how much better things appear to be in Nigeria and how so and so came back a few years ago and is earning a fat salary and living the vida loca. I listen while they rant and go on and on and once they are done, my reply is the same. ‘Don’t come back if you have nothing to offer Nigeria, we have enough people in Nigeria who are just here for the taking, we don’t need any more.’
Now I don’t mean to sound like a patriot but I have a deep rooted feeling and ambition that I am here for a purpose. Yes, I was in the UK for over a decade, schooled there, lived there and at one point was quoted to have said I couldn’t imagine living in Nigeria.
It’s been 7 years back in Nigeria and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My return to Nigeria was the beginning of many positive changes in my life. With my return I decided I would only ever work in a field I enjoyed. I took stock of myself and made decision to work with my strengths for a change. This meant no longer being stuck in some dead end profession just for the money. I developed a new philosophy around the premise of leveraging on my innate ability rather than my learned skills. I took myself back to a time when I was well known for talking and writing, the tender age of 7. My friends had told me I was good at advising and so with that extra bit of information I had my top three innate abilities; Talking, Writing and Advising. The career finding exercise paid off. My first job in Nigeria was in Consulting. A profession that never ever crossed my thoughts when I was in the UK making the most of my IT career with Nokia UK designing software for mobile phones. A place I cherished for the exposure it gave me to world class systems but a job more mundane than a picking and packing job in a factory.
To return back to Nigeria, is not an easy option by any means because the situation is not as blissful as may be painted. Coming to Nigeria on holiday is no where near the same as coming back for good. It is easier to cope with black outs when you are on holiday but when you are here for good you don’t just cope, it also bites right deep into your pocket all through the year. More than anything else, I detest the traffic, the pot holes, the insecurity and the terrible driving habits so much so that I have developed a driving phobia. I tell anyone who would listen that you must be sick of your present state abroad to come back here otherwise that decision to return will never be made. There must be a trigger and you must have reached the end of your tether. There must be a deeper than superficial reason to come back to Nigeria because on the surface it appears to be a crazy decision. When people tell me 101 reasons why they can’t come back yet I tell them not to worry because they aren’t quite there yet. When you are there you will know it.
Coming back to Nigeria for me marked my ‘coming of self’, A time when I came full circle in deciding what career path to follow. Nigeria provided the atmosphere for me to be me. My first job here was the most exciting of my whole life. Sunday blues, a feeling that lingered throughout my career in the UK became a thing of the past. As a young consultant I looked forward to going to work every morning. The people I worked with were like me; they spoke like me, behaved like me and understood my being. We joked at work, faffed around sometimes and even when we worked crazy hours on those crazy projects with manic deadlines we still loved what we did.
It’s different for everyone I guess but for me coming home brought out the best of my career. Career for me is not a job but an assignment strongly linked to my mission in life. Career for me is the God given gifts and talents I have naturally made beautiful by the skills I have acquired over the years. So understand why my decision to return to Nigeria is one I am grateful I made.
To my brothers and sisters that want out of Nigeria I say to them by all means go. It is a good thing for one to be exposed to the ways of the rest of the world. There are so many things I learned in the UK. In fact my UK experience has been an added advantage to a lot of career moves I have made. I encourage exposure with a plan. I say with a plan because it is easy for one to forget the plan and get lost in learning the rudimentary skills required to thrive in a foreign culture. Also, it is not necessary to be in Nigeria to be part of the change; we have so many Nigerians in the Diaspora that are doing a better job of uplifting Nigeria than the multitude of Nigerians here.
Today, I still consult but I work for myself. I left corporate Nigeria to pursue my personal dreams and ambitions. I would love to be in government to influence policy formulation and execution. People think I am crazy when I say that but it’s just part of that desire to do something about the malady in this our country Nigeria.
There’s so much promise in Nigeria. Because there are so many issues there are an equal number of opportunities for people who love solving problems or puzzles which many times seem to be the Nigerian case. We need people on a mission here in Nigeria. People who want change and are willing to drive and be a part of the change process. People who see the big picture and the benefits associated with a better Nigeria. People who believe that the success story of Nigeria is not complete without them.