Thinking of relocating to Nigeria? Yomi Oloko is a journalist, trainer & development practitioner who has supported several OU academics to conduct research in Nigeria. Today, he talks about his experiences of relocating to Abuja and helping other diaspora to do the same.
Some of us do migrate back to Africa by choice! I’m just one of the many UK-based Africans who take the plunge and move back to their country of heritage in Africa. In my case - Nigeria. We have done the long summer or winter holidays, some of us have even done the diaspora volunteering route, spending between a few weeks to 6 months every year involved in some sort of “development project”. Some of us have done the African SME buyer-seller, importer-exporter model of business. Or we’ve done the hard slog of 30+ years of working in Europe while managing to build a property in Africa and, if we are really fortunate to have a property in Europe as well with a redundancy or early retirement package. What is common to all of us though, is that one day we say that’s enough…… I’m taking the plunge and finally relocating for good to the mother country in Africa.
For several years I had been returning every summer to Nigeria to run short community development training programmes. Last year though, I stepped things up by starting a development project that allowed me to do two and a half months in Nigeria, followed by one and a half months in the UK. Doing this cycle, I got the “relocation bug” and informed most people I knew that I’m finally “moving back” to Nigeria. From the past 2 years of toing and froing there are a few things I have learnt along the way that I’d like to share with those that may be considering to do likewise.
Nigeria has many opportunities and is a dynamic environment for making a difference but it’s not for the faint-hearted (especially Lagos). World-renowned go-slow traffic jams, lack of drinkable tap-borne water supply, erratic electricity and the general daily hustle.
Remember you are in a country that does things differently than in Europe and this is just stating a fact. Simply by having access to a few thousand pounds sterling to plan your relocation, you are already in the newly emerging middle class so you can afford to go out to eat once or twice a week, go to watch a movie or visit one of the swanky bars - or even travel and visit different Nigeria tourist attractions. But remember things may not work or be to the exact standard you had when in Europe. Yes, complain about bad service when you encounter it in an assertive and none aggressive manner but there’s no need for the moaning about “when I was in Europe” narrative.
Think deeply about these things.
Try to come with enough money to be able to live for a year at a level you can afford and just be yourself. Know your monthly budget and stick to it.
So, it’s been a long slog. After several years of working as a social worker in the areas of leaving care, school-based behaviour improvement work and mental health/homelessness support work in the UK, I’m finally where I want to be - in Abuja. I’m working with local and international partners trying to establish a project training Community Health Extension Workers in Borno State NE Nigeria on Basic Counselling Skills and Dealing with Depression Grief and Bereavement. This project is looking for volunteer mental health trainers/practitioners from the UK and, especially, those of Nigerian/African heritage. I’m also in the process of establishing a facilitation service for anyone wanting to consider relocating to Nigeria (especially Abuja) for whatever duration, or for researchers and development practitioners wanting to come to Nigeria for their projects.
Feel free to contact me and let’s start a discussion