Read these Guidelines before Returning to Nigeria after Living AbroadIdes Ofune 20th February 2019 0 COMMENTS
You have just completed your studies abroad and have to or want to return to Nigeria. For most people, the decision to move back is not theirs. The United Kingdom for example no longer gives the two year work permit visa which automatically gives you time to work before going back. For others, they make the decision for reasons known to then ranging from more opportunities in their field of work, racial discrimination, entrepreneurship, family, weather etc. The underlying fact is that you are going back to Nigeria after spending some time abroad. These guidelines will help you navigate your way:
You are not Going to Help Anyone but Yourself: The first thing you MUST do is disabuse yourself of the mentality that that you are going to help people or help the country. That’s some white savior mentality and it hasn’t helped anyone. You have to get rid of the mentality that having a foreign degree or living abroad has somehow made you better than those you left when traveling abroad. Those in Nigeria have also moved on: they have gotten married and had children, started successful businesses, have great jobs, are policy makers and working for the government. Simply put, they are leading great lives too. So the question is, who are you going to save? Ok, maybe there are some people leading not so great lives but nobody likes a person with “I know it all attitude” because you schooled or worked abroad. It rubs off the wrong way. With this sense of entitlement, when you encounter challenges unique to Nigeria, which you would, you might get really frustrated seeing that nobody sees life the way you do. Instead, go back like you are beginning another chapter of your life. You are going to a different but familiar place with acquired skills and attributes that you will use to better your life.
Have Savings for Two Years: While still abroad, save, save, save. If you are schooling, don’t spend all your money on unnecessary things. Estimate the monthly standard of living in the city you want to return to and save that amount for two years. Assume that you won’t be getting a job or your new business won’t be making profit for the next two years. You must therefore have enough to fall back to. It is not a great experience running short of funds after returning for just a few months. Start saving aggressively before making that big move. In addition, people expect you to have loads of cash and would make you give gifts. After all the giving and spending, you should still have enough for yourself to live a decent life for the next two years. Finally, remember that you have now tasted a higher standard of living with constant power, good roads, security etc. You might want to continue that same standard. In Nigeria, these are not considered basic amenities so you have to spend a lot of money to have them. Good luck with saving.
Start Networking: The right time to start networking is NOW not when you physically arrive. Thankfully, there is internet so you can connect with as many people as you want online. Tell your family and friends about your plan to return. Catch up with old classmates/friends/colleagues and also inform them of your plan. Give them an idea of what you want to do for example, you want a job and would love to get one where they work or link you to someone who can assist. For entrepreneurship plans, they can give you pointers and connections to key people. Even if they discourage you by giving negative advice, take them in good fate. Trust me, you would need them where you start implementing. There are also many professional networking platforms. You can connect with top executives in your field telling them what you want to do. When I was returning to Nigeria from the USA, I sent a message to someone in the field I wanted to work in on LinkedIn and that’s how I got my first job after being in Nigeria for just a month! You can get the job even before you return. It works!
Make your move gradually: If you have been away for just a year, this might not apply to you as things have not drastically changed during this short stay. However, if you have been away for a long time, take one or two trips first before making the big move. Do not make the move in December where lots of things are happening at the same time and may impair your judgement. Make it during the middle of the year where you can capture regular life. When you visit, observe the way things are and how people live their everyday life. How do they cope with traffic, insecurity and housing for instance? How do they do grocery shopping and how is the customer service situation. You should also use this trip to ask questions about the business you want to start up. Visit offices and interview those in the same sector. Don’t use this visit for just family and friends. You have enough time to do that when you finally return.
Develop an Exotic Accent and keep it Handy: This might seem funny but it is not, trust me. Nigerians love those with foreign accents especially British and American accents. This will come in handy during meetings, when shopping and in some dire situations like when you encounter the police for example – bring out that accent and say in a loud voice “do you know who you are talking to”?. Just kidding, but really, you need to cultivate the accent that Nigerians find polish and elite. Most times, they give you an audience simply because of that. However, this should be used in selective situations. At the airport for instance, if you use it, airport taxis will consider you a foreigner or a JJJ (Johnny Just Come) and they will milk you dry. Not to deter you though but you need it. So, cultivate away!
This is wishing you success as you make the move. Don’t believe the negative stories in the media, Nigeria is a very fertile market if you can surmount the risks and challenges. It’s the only place on earth where you can make a 100% return on investment in a few years – ask Shoprite and MTN. Have a plan, follow these guidelines and more, you could be the next Dangote – wait, he didn’t need to travel abroad before he made his money! Oh well, you know what I mean.
Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at email@example.com