Relocating to Nigeria

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

“Our country is that spot to which our heart is bound” (Voltaire).

After 25 years of living in the United States a friend of mine finally returned home. His desire to return has been in the works for almost five years; but as much as he tried, he couldn’t bring himself to doing so as he couldn’t get past the issue of basic infrastructures like NEPA, clean potable water, waste disposal, and other aspects of human security. To think that what most other societies take for granted — law & order, abundant food supply, clean environment, first-rate schools, health care and other factors that contribute to ones quality of life — is a luxury in Nigeria is simply heart-broken. It is because it isn’t as though Nigeria does not have the resources to provide these basic needs.

This fear, this reality discouraged my friend — just as it has discouraged some seventy percent or more of Diasporan Nigerians from returning home. Life for most Nigerians abroad is a double edged sword: despised at home and unwanted abroad. Our government does not know what to do with us. Some of us are too educated, too expensive or too worldly to be absorbed by the economy or by the political space. Others have roots so deep within the American system that any attempt to uproot would cause grave pain and agony. And for a few others, the shame of a wasted sojourn abroad does not allow for a permanent return. For most therefore, returning home can be a difficult, expensive or impossible proposition. At the very least, it can be a complicated undertaking.

But more than the aforesaid, here is the real pain and regret: people like me have wasted and continue to waste away our time and talent in this and other countries — helping to develop our host countries while our ancestral homes continues to rot and rut. We have spent our golden years in a land that is not ours. Most don’t even know where and how to begin. The laws are not clear on any given matter. And most of us are not even sure if there are processes and procedures in place for reintegrating into the Nigerian political and economic space. For instance, to what office do I apply for authorization if I wanted to establish a private secondary school? What if I wanted to establish an insurance or investment company? To whom or to what office do I report if I feel aggrieved? The cost of doing business or reverse migration is simply too expensive and cantankerous.

My friend has business plans. He is going to be self-employed. But his wife was a teacher in a community college. Almost five months since their arrival in the country, she has not been able to find a job in any of the universities. However, before my friend left he (1) built two houses — one for his use and the other for rent; (2) exported two medium size power generators to counter NEPA’s inefficiencies; (3) exported three cars — one for himself, the other for his wife and the third for sale and for extra cash; (4) asked to be introduced to a couple of military and police officers in case he needed extra help. He paid “soft landing fees” for this service; and (5) he did not completely disengage from the United States just in case things go wrong in Nigeria and they needed to return. Sad, but those are the steps he took. But why? Why Nigeria?

Nigeria is not an easy country to live in. And more so for those who have spent considerable amount of time in the western world. Most of us have family members who are steeped in poverty. Such people become one’s responsibility. There are school and hospital bills to be paid; debts to help repay; bribes to give; and family support to render. Because of the culture, one is forced or “forced” to be one’s brother’s keeper and in the process constraining or stunting one’s economic and social growth. Family members aside, there are the constant bribing of government officials if one wants to get anything done. You bribe the police and security services, the examining and admissions officers, the phone and light company personnel, the folks at the banks and the court clerks. Everybody take and gives bribes. Not even our religious and spiritual guides are immune from this scourge. Not to give or take bribe is generally considered impolite.

In spite of all the negativities and fear, Nigerians like me would like to return home. But where do one start? Would I fit into the Nigerian economic and political space? Would the government see me as a threat to her shenanigans and selfish interests? Would my local peers see me as an outsider and as someone to frustrate out of the system? Would my children and wife feel welcome and in place? Is the atmosphere conducive for personal growth and development? Would my ideas be considered and or tolerated? Is my safety and that of my family guaranteed? Would the government affirm my human rights and if abridged, can the courts restore it and the restoration obeyed by the executive branch? I wonder. And others wonder, too.

In spite of all these, there is something about Nigeria that grips one’s heart and soul. The irony is that Nigeria is not even a country that cares about the vast majority of her citizens; it is not even a country that brings out the best in her citizens; yet, Nigerians love her. They love and adore her. They dream about her and have fond memories of her. There is something about Nigeria that makes Nigerians teary-eyed when they speak about their land. It must be love. It must be love because even in their moment of melancholy and utter disgust, they can’t help but kiss and hug their land. How unfortunate that Nigeria is incapable of reciprocal love. Perhaps with the right leadership, viable institutions and a populace that was willing to fight for and take their countries back, socio-economic progress would be made and human development achieved.

If I were to return to Nigeria, where do I go? I have fond memory of Ilorin and Jos. Besides Lagos State where I was born to Ijaw parents, Ilorin and Jos are my second and third homes. Government Secondary School, Ilorin, is where I spent some of the best part of my formative years. It is a school and a city th

at is etched deeply into my soul. And Jos. Ha, how could I forget Jos: her gentle and peace loving people; and the magnificent landscape and soothing weather. Is it possible for me to return to a Nigeria that once was, the Nigeria of my youth or am I a stranger to be denied my rightful stakes? I wonder.

And if instead of Jos and Ilorin, would Port Harcourt and Lagos welcome me? After all, my umbilical cord was cut in Eko and the soil still holds my blood. And my soul knows Port Harcourt too. Or perhaps, the only place I now have a right to is deep in the groove of the Niger Delta, in Ijawland — the land of my ancestors. But, what does it mean for a Nigerian like me to return to Nigeria? What does it really means; and how do I know what it means?

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Marcee Onayemi November 1, 2014 - 8:13 am

I am looking to relocate to Lagos, Nigeria. What do I need to do to become a citizen?

Lyn January 10, 2007 - 8:12 am

My soulmate is a Nigerian and is struggling with the same issues of loving and not receiving love back. It's horrid, yet as African peoples what else do we have to hold on to?

Reply August 11, 2006 - 6:31 am

My Brother, I understand your predicament….but I will tell you what a Black American that "relocated" to Nigeria/Africa told me about "coming back home". I had heard he had come to Nigeria during FESTAC 77 and never went back to America. Amazed I asked him why he would do a "crazy" thing like that and he looks at me oddly and says 'because he is home!" he says he studied film directing in one of the best schs in the US but as a black man in America he would be lucky to even be able to direct commercials, not to talk about movies! I mention Spike Lee and Antoine Fuqua and he says "yeah, but they are just two out of over 12 million African Americans". That is just a drop in the bucket. Here in Nigeria he not only owns his production studio (unheard of in America, not unless you are Oprah Winfrey!) he gets to shoot international jobs, commercials movies and the like. He has married a Nigerian woman (when his American one refused to follow him) and they have three children together. i look at him aghast ask him how he is coping with the power cuts, bad roads etc…he says he is ready go thru that little discomfort to find what money can not buy…peace of mind, acceptance, job satisfaction. He also said it makes him sick to see Nigerians lined up at the foriegn Embassy being treated like crap. I tell him you cant blame them for wanting to live a better life and he says (I'll never forget this!) Then stay here and make it better. No one is going to do it for you! Even there in America, Blacks had to fight and even die to be able to enjoy the fruits of the American Dream…so youve got to be ready to do same here in Nigeria!! WORD! I leave his presence a humbler, more appreciative Nigerian!

Anonymous February 16, 2006 - 12:32 pm

Sabella, many Nigerians in diaspora like myself share your view. I read your article as if I was studing for WAEC. Where do I start if I were to return to Nigeria today. I built a house in Nigeria that I only stay in two weeks in every two years that I tarvel home.

Relocating back home is a big delemma for most Africans for that matter in diaspora.

Anonymous February 15, 2006 - 11:36 am

Superb!!Right on point 🙂

Anonymous February 15, 2006 - 4:21 am

i lived in the UK for a total of 20 years and 3 in between holland and belgium before returning to Nigeria. i can tell you what my experiences have been so far.

i'll start by saying planning makes such a difference – i didn't do too much of that but i was fortunate enough to atleast plan and get a job (By God's grace) with a foreign owned group of companies – they provided a flat in Victoria island, car , return trip to the UK, international medical package a local stipend and my salary paid in dollars. what this did for me was soft land me back home. they also paid for your children to go to the american international school in lagos. i spent two years there before returning to the uk for the birth of my daughter. when i returned back 18 months later, i applied for another job – this time it was with an american corporation – where i'm also paid in dollars, have cigna internation expat medical coverage for me and my family, return flight back home, car and driver etc. i still work there now.

i live in Ikoyi, i traval out of the country atleast 6 times a year, I have drivers, maids, washerman etc and I love the Nigeria. i can't in my wildest dreams imagine living back in the UK again. don't get me wrong, i love england and go back there as much as i can; when working there i earned more than most bank managers and some MD's will ever earn. i had an extremely comfortable life – i just got a bit tired of the glass ceiling, i got abit tired of my being offered the nice little table in the corner when out dining in choice places, i got tired of having my credit card checked and over checked, i got tired of walking into the estate agent and being ignored cos they thot there's no way she'd be buying round here – shall i go on?

Life is so much easier for me over here especially raising a young family. the school we use is an international school where standards are just as high if not higher than what i'd get back in london.

i see my family and extended family whenever i want – my husband's family are also near by.

why do i sound so content – because i have in place all the basics – i don't wear expensive clothes, i've only ever seen designer wristwatches in magazines and i have no problem wearing ankara (costing less than 10 dollars) to church or even functions. I CUT MY COAT ACCORDING TO MY SIZE. once i have dstv, i can travel out and restock, i can put on the gen when there's no light, i can go out for the odd meal, have a functioning car – i'm right as rain.

the problem alot of nigerians have (i refer to both those home and abroad), they listen to other peoples stories and just assume it'll be the same for them hence not planning and secondly but most importantly, they set the wrong priorities – what's the point in bringing home a new lexus jeep when you haven't even bought a piece of land?

i visited a friend the other day who very wisely had build their house before returning home – absolutely beautiful place with the finest furniture money could by. but you know what? that was all they planned for and not how they'd maintain the place. they built it on land that could very easily be used for two houses which would have given them an income. now they complain about maintenance – yes they'd planned and they did well to build but they hadn't given much thought for how they would generate an income to maintain that live style.

i know of several other nigerians who have sought out jobs before coming home and then eventually tailed off into business as planned – one thing that it does is that it helps build up your network using the connections that already exist in your place of work. it helps you learn from other people's mistakes.

dear friend, if you plan you will surely have a great time when here – try and keep your home in the US (Even if you rent it out), tell your wife that she can expect an easier domestic life as theirs always assistance here and if you want a social life, i'd advice you choose your friends wisely.

i just thought i'd tell you my experience – it can be done with a little planning and with God on your side.

best wishes for the future


Anonymous February 13, 2006 - 6:53 pm

The return t Nigeria is a thing of the mind and no one can help you make that decision. I would say that your friend who imported everything back home is a good planner but I must say that should you ask him he would tell uyou that he earns more than he ever did in the U.S.. I currently am outside Nigeria for studies but I cant wait to return because i have the potentials that my country has and though Nigeria may not sow me love , I would show Nigeria love by doing the little that is my own bit. I must also tell you that to categorse us all like you did is an insult because not one hundred of the people are in all the places u have mentionedie ministers, permanent secetraries and all. We are still a number believing that itmust be well for our country. We must rise and doour own little part for whether you agree or not , you are contributing to what Nigeria is today by being where you are and I must say you were born into Nigeria for a reason ask yourself if you have fulfilled that reason . To all of you who are scared of going home for whatever reasons, I wish you all the best but you would have only lived halfly .

Anonymous February 13, 2006 - 6:22 pm

Diasporian Nigerians are doomed to feel home-sick. Personally at the moment, I would rather go home for a month to visit my family and come back here to where I know what day of the month my bills are due. Maybe one day, when I make enough money to start a business at home, then I will relocate. Relocation is not something you do overnight in Nigeria, you have to plan carefully. But it is something we should all consider doing before we die in a strange man's land.

Anonymous February 13, 2006 - 5:57 pm

I want to say something to all you Nigerians who just sit here and complain bitterly about America. If you don't want to take advantage of all the opportunities that are available here please oya pack your load and get on the next flight back home. Americans will be more than willing to see you go especially at this time when America is gradually becoming "Anti Immigrant". I am sure that there are millions of Nigerians back home who are waiting to take your place here when you leave. These same people who complain about America will be the same ones who won't even be able to fit back in the lifestyle when they are in Nigeria. It's not easy relocating especially if one is an adult because it's like starting your life all over again. When you relocate back to Nigeria ( I know people that have been talking about relocating but have been here for 25 years ) you will appreciate the little things we take for granted like electricity, drinking water and well maintained infrastruture

Anonymous February 11, 2006 - 10:15 am

Who was it that doesn't about this all day. In my last visit to Nigeria, I was so much out of place, people cry about corruption but they seems to encourage it and if you refuse to join, you are a pariah. Some can't even separate what is acceptable and unacceptable any more. But I don't want to die in exile, what do one do?

Anonymous February 10, 2006 - 6:29 pm

I can only hope and pray that God will help you. You need a lot of money to survive in Nigeria. Bad leadership and perverted value system are grinding the country to a halt; it's just a matter of months before the country blows up. I'd suggest you wait until forthcoming elections are over before you return. My advice is predicated on the assumption that Nigeria would be kicking as a nation by December 2007; there is no guarantee.


Anonymous February 10, 2006 - 4:58 pm

How ya gonna keep em down on the farm now that they've seen Paree?

Anonymous February 10, 2006 - 1:09 pm

We all think this way…all the time

Anonymous February 9, 2006 - 8:31 pm

It was not until I met my first "African" person in college that my sterotype of Africans was expelled as a black American. This person was Nigerian. I have NEVER heard a Nigerian talk bad of his country. Speaking with different Nigerians-Igbo & Yoruba, has made me fall in love with Nigeria. This past Christmas I visited Nigeria for the very 1st time. It is true that running water, dirty police, uneven paved roads and in some places suitable toilets make living conditions less than desirable. However, I felt that same love the author discussed he has as a Nigerian for home. I saw much potential for Nigeria to be a competitor with the USA but for the life of me I could not figure out why has no one developed it. By the way, I am Nigerian by marriage and my husband would not think of moving back unless he had millions of dollars.

Anonymous February 9, 2006 - 7:11 pm

My advice to you is to make sure that you're a US citizen or have a green card for you to return to America in due course. Nigeria is not a place to return to after staying in America for at least ten years. Nothing works in that country at all. No water, roads, good food or adequate medical facilities and our immediate people are very hostile to a returnee from America. The present government has not done anything for that country since it came to power over six years ago. Not even with the billions of dollars that have accrued to the country from oil. The only place you can find a bit of development in Nigeria is Abuja. All the money (Dollar and Naira) stolen by ministers and governors are used to buy or build private homes for their immediate families while the rest are stored away in foreign banks. States like Lagos, Portharcourt, Benin, Ibadan to mention just a few are still what they were thrity years ago. My friend, unless you want to shorten your life, you can relocate to Nigeria. My advice to you is not to endanger the lives of your innocent family. The government and its ministers are all thiefs and dangerous elements and they are prepared to send hired killers after you should you say any bad about the government. Unless you're a minister, you are not assured of any protection, security or comfort of any kind in Nigeria. It is not worth going back to Nigeria at this time I must tell you. Good luck if you insist on relocating.

Reply February 9, 2006 - 2:16 pm

How many ears do you have?If it two and their basic functuin is to use them ti listen then hear me:if you want to relocate to NIgeria in order to d what you are doing in the USA, just firget it.You will be assailled with many insurmountable enemies like power.postal system, insecurity,watery health system etc.You have been warned

Obi O. February 9, 2006 - 2:05 am

Give me a break please. Only girly men and children run away from their home and start demanding that government do this and that before they return. Go home ojare. The socalled educated Nigerians have been using these same excuses for not relocating back to Nigeria for decades. Why should we wait for government to do something for us? Have you and I ever paid taxes to the Nigerian government? Did government ask us to leave Nigeria? Did Azikiwe, Awolowo and their likes wait until electricity and security and cozy comforts of the kind they had in the U.S. and England came to Naija before going home. This too much education you and I have has made us weaklings who cannot compete with our cousins in Nigeria and so we hide here and make excuses. Go home and roll in the dust like everyone else and stop making excuses man.

Anonymous February 9, 2006 - 12:37 am

Every Nigerian thinks about this everyday

Anonymous February 8, 2006 - 11:44 pm

Food for thought! Excellent writeup!


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