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Day 242, Year of #Mygration: Diaspora Relocation Back to Nigeria

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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.

Don’t be easily frustrated 

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.

To successfully relocate carefully consider these 3 questions:

  1. Where will I live? – renting, at first, is the best option to give yourself enough time to actually know where you would finally like to put down roots. Personally, I got tired of Lagos but, still being an urbanite, I eventually decided to settle in Abuja which is more tranquil and has virtually no traffic hold-ups and I can even do 5k jogs around where I live without the fear of getting knocked down by a car or motorbike. Also, before you start complaining about the rent in Lakki, Surulere, Ikeja, Port Harcourt or Abuja you can still see a decent 2 to 3 bedroom flat for around N2 million a year (which is less than £5000 per year). You would be hard pushed to get a decent room for that price in most European cities.
  2. How will I earn an income? – It is probably unlikely that you will get a salaried job unless you have some good contacts so, think about what skills you have and what interests you. Can you find a niche area that fits with your skills and interests? Remember, however, that people may not initially know you so you will need to price yourself realistically. The days of overpricing for your services simply because you are “European trained” are long over. If you are thinking about doing “development” work try to work with local partners and, contrary to popular belief, not all Nigerians are 419ers wanting to rip everyone off. Just as not all Diaspora returnees are upfront and honest. There are good people out there - it just may take you some time identifying them. I’ve been able to make a name for myself as a Social & Emotional Learning Trainer for schools. Also, I work as an Interpersonal Skills Development Trainer for corporations, while still doing some part-time “development work”, whereby I look for small grants and crowdfunding. I also offer my services to people in the Diaspora thinking about relocating to Nigeria and, in particular, Abuja. In all your work-related activities I would also advise being open as to what you can and cannot provide.
  3. How will I develop some leisure activities? – We all need a break at times and one of the problems of Nigeria is the lack of affordable leisure activitiesFrom afar it seems that beer drinking, and attending faith meetings, are the 2 major leisure activities. However, since moving to Abuja I have been able to discover parks, affordable gyms and swimming pools cinemas and a few art galleries. Plus decent cafes and bars that put on regular live performances. And meet-up groups are alive and active in cities such as Lagos and Abuja.

Be understated

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.

In Conclusion

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

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