Nigeria is a richly blessed country with an abundance of mineral wealth and an energetic work-force; sadly, it is easier for a Senator of the Federal Republic to disclose how much he earns than for one to land any gainful employment here. Thus, in a bid to stand taller than most peers in the labour market, I joined the league of those that travelled to the UK for further studies. As a warning, those of you still contemplating returning to Nigeria for good should either look away now, or be ready to be jolted-don’t come back if you are afraid to try.
When I decided to relocate to Nigeria after a little under a decade in Europe, I did not imagine it would be easy to start a better life here; a life powered by a lucrative job-neither did I reckon I would still be grappling with the viciousness of the Nigerian situation more than a year after I returned. I had many luring job promises from friends and contacts that gave the impression they had something to offer; I was very confident and couldn’t wait for the Arik flight to depart London Heathrow airport for the journey back home.
Finally in Nigeria, the euphoria of being back to a place I call home started to wear off after a month. As a man on a mission, I started moving around the country armed with my CV and a strong faith in Nigeria-I sinfully thought my newly acquired British accent and my UK certificates would make any difference. Well, my certificate has not made any difference and my “fake” accent only made most interviewers unfriendly. The only difference I have noticed is that the soles of my shoes have started moaning at the effect of trekking, and my London clothes have started “washing”.
I have attended many interviews, passed all of them and asked to “be ready to resume in two weeks”. Well, it is gone past one year now, and I have finally given up on this country; one thing though is clear, people like Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe might disagree (who cares?), but about 90% of jobs in Nigeria go to cronies of either those in government or those working in places where such vacancies exist. Merit has been thrown to the dogs and that is why you find all manner of unintelligent folks working in sensitive positions all across the country.
Well, why not start something on your own-you don’t expect the government to do everything for you, you know? What have I not tried? Even though it smirks of having a pessimistic disposition towards striving to make a living here, the fact remains that the government of Nigeria has not put the enabling conditions in place for the advancement of private enterprise. That may well explain why you notice that only those that are close to the government in power make the list of “20 richest Nigerians”.
It is really a harrowing experience having to explain to friends why a business plan you thought was going to work out perfectly in Nigeria collapsed the very moment you stand up to try it out. Nigeria banks are not helping matters either; it is easier for a Boko Haram chap to embrace Christianity than for a Nigerian bank to agree to give you a loan to start a business. Be ready to produce all manners of outrageous “collaterals”, your great-grandfather’s living next of kin, etc. This is the first step towards being disillusioned here.
If eventually you manage to establish something that has a semblance of a consultancy, or able to team up with an already established practice, you must be ready to deal with the reality on ground. Warning number one; Nigerians must remain Nigerians- do not expect to see everybody exhibiting that rare sense of honesty. If you want to show most people that the way things are done here should be dumped for the better ways you learned abroad, brother, “you dey on your own”. Ours is a system whose major fuel-source is CORRUPTION-be ready to play ball, or at most, do not attempt to rock the boat.
After a while, you begin to ask yourself if it was really worth the stress-going to spend some good money studying abroad only to come back to Nigeria armed with a foreign certificate, an accent that makes you sound funny and a soon-to-be dashed hope. Well, given another opportunity, I will do it again, and again. Quality education is power people.
But then, what is the way forward?
I believe strongly that Nigeria remains one vast very lucrative market and whoever that is daring will surely hit gold here. However, the key is to discard any false hopes that suggest that having a foreign degree is an assurance to some splendid employment. That was in the past-not any more.
Secondly, it is better to research your intended engagement before you jet into Nigeria; from experience, all I had going for me was a luggage filled with job promises and a conviction that my foreign certificates would speed up the process of getting a good job that is well remunerated. Wrong, wrong and wrong. People here excel in promising what they know is not within their power to do, unless you are willing to bribe your way through.
Thirdly (may be most importantly), save up some cash before relocating to Nigeria-at least, enough cash to last you for about a year. Friends are many when you are “fresh” from overseas but the vanishing acts commence the moment you start moaning about paucity of funds and no employment. Most “friends” have a mental problem that makes them run faster away than Usain Bolt the moment they suspect you will start asking for a loan. So, make sure you pinch your resources till you are sure of a regular income.
On a lighter note, be ready to become a Bible carrier, a “practicing Muslim”, or a strong adherent of African Traditional Religion. You will be ridiculed, excluded and mocked the moment you attempt to convince your mates that there is so much poverty and ignorance in Nigeria, not because one is not a follower of any religion but because we have over the years, been ruled by visionless men and women whose major pre-occupation was looting our resources and banking same in foreign banks. Has that situation changed?
Finally, Nigeria is a beautiful country with majority of the people willing to work to make a living. However, years of rubbish leadership and a docile citizenry have reduced living in Nigeria akin to living in hell. Believe me, there is everything stacked against you here, but the reality remains that if you are daring, if you can choose to ignore all the odds and be ready to get dirty to make a living here, Nigeria is the place to be. There are countless opportunities in Nigeria-we are not bad people, but our government is peopled by bad people.