‘So, are you going to come back (to Nigeria) when you’re done?’
‘Err… let’s wait and see.’
‘Hmmmmn, my opinion is that you’ll always be a second class citizen and have to work twice as hard. There are more opportunities in Nigeria.’
That is a conversation I’ve heard one too many times and I disagree with the notion that there are more or better opportunities in Nigeria. I believe the world is too large to limit one’s life experience to Nigeria and be a local champion. Are there opportunities in Nigeria? That’s for you to decide.
On being a second class citizen. Hmmmmmn…I am not sure what being a first class citizen in Nigeria has done for me. I still have to drill my borehole, tar the road leading to my house/office, buy a generator and an inverter, queue to buy fuel for hours and suffer the incompetence of government officials. I think it’s a better deal to pay high taxes and be left with minimal savings while still enjoying the basic amenities of life. Being a Nigerian is frustrating and I think Nigerians low key enjoy it. There’s the belief that we have to suffer in order to enjoy and appreciate anything. So the people who don’t suffer have two heads ba?
I have worked as an immigration lawyer and I died a little inside every day. We are our greatest undoing – we bypass the system to bring in foreigners with little or no qualifications to take over our jobs. Then we pay them an outrageous salary and perpetuate their stay at the detriment of our people. It is disgusting! I will say though, that where immigration is concerned, the laws are noble. Enforcement is the issue.
On my drive to work every day, I barely see happy faces. In fact, I don’t see any. I see people who are frustrated, but still pushing on because ‘one day e go better’. I see tired faces. I see empty souls who are just existing, but have long died. I see people who are rushing to nowhere. I see angry people who will drive you off the road if they feel you are being sluggish for a second. I also see passive people. The ones who are just drifting. Who am I in all of these? I’m the one with my glass down blasting pop songs and dancing. I’m the one they see and smile for a second before they move on. So I ask myself again, where are these opportunities? Why are people not enjoying a better quality of life? In their quiet moments, do they ask themselves ‘what if I had chosen to live elsewhere?’, ‘is life worth the living in this country?’
I see my colleagues hustling at CAC. I also see despair in their eyes. I feel it in the air too. Our measure of success is money. So we do what it takes to make that money. What is job satisfaction? What is specialisation? Why won’t you hustle? Now, hustling is not a bad thing per se, but what is the motivation behind that hustle? Today, you sell make up products, next, you are selling clothes. Another day, you’re importing cars and running a restaurant. Then you move on to event management. Yes, you are an entrepreneur, but what are you running after really? Jack of all trades, master of none. It’s all about the money. Is that what life really is about? Money?
Entrepreneurship is being sold to the youth as the ideal. If you can’t get a job, create one. Look, the bitter truth is not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Who will work for who then? Some are cut out to work for others and that is just fine. I hail entrepreneurs and their struggle. Some have triumphed against all odds. That does not mean you will. It’s the unfortunate truth.
There was a time a popular website ran a series on moving back to Nigeria. Do you know how many of them have packed up and returned to where they were coming from? I look at public officials who have returned to Nigeria from their prestigious jobs only to have their images tarnished. I wonder if with the benefit of hindsight, they ask themselves if serving their country was the right choice to have made. In spite of all their good intentions, they eventually leave. They are appointed to serve in a better organisation/country that values their effort. I know people who will never move back. They refuse to compromise on the quality of life they enjoy. I know the peace I enjoy when I travel and I understand their reasoning. There’s no place like home you say. I say home is where the heart is.
In my discussions with adults who moved back to Nigeria, a common theme is uncertainty. No one has ever been able to say with all confidence that moving back was a great decision irrespective of how much they make. For the ones who stayed there, a common theme is nostalgia, but they remain confident that their choice remains the best decision for themselves and their children.
Above all, I wonder why we don’t tell ourselves the truth about living and working in Nigeria. I wonder why we discourage others from pursuing their dreams. If you wish to live in Nigeria, by all means do so, but do not dissuade others. If you wish to live outside Nigeria, do not let yourself be dissuaded and ensure your stay wherever you intend to settle is legal. Remember also that life will not be a bed of roses irrespective of where you choose to live.