Nigeria is a highly blessed country to an abundance of mineral wealth and an energetic work force sadly, it is easier for a Senator to disclose how much he earns than for one to land any gainful employment here. Thus, in a bid to stand taller than most of my peers in the labour market, I joined the league of those who travelled to the United Kingdom 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.
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. I did not reckon I would
still be grappling with the viciousness of the Nigerian situation more than a year after I returned. I had many job promises from friends and contacts that gave the impression they had something to offer. I was very confident and couldn’t wait for my 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 round the country armed with my CV and a strong faith in Nigeria. I thought my newly acquired British accent and my UK certificates would make a 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 wearing off due to trekking and my London clothes have started “fading”.
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 such as Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe might disagree (who cares?), but about 90 per cent
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
people working in sensitive positions all over the country.
Well, why not start something on your own, 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 environment in place for the advancement of private enterprise. That may well explain why you notice that only those that are close to the government 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 stood up to try it out. Nigerian 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 manner of “collateral”, your great-grandfather’s living next of kin, among others. 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 realities on ground.
Warning number one. 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 learnt abroad, you will find out that you would be 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. Well, given another opportunity, I will do it again, and again. Quality education is power. But then, what is the way forward?
I believe strongly that Nigeria remains one vast and lucrative market. 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.
Secondly, it is better to do a research on 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. Wrong. People here excel in promising what they know is not within their power to do.
Thirdly (maybe 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 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 “practising 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 a majority of the people willing to work to make a living. However, years of poor leadership and a docile citizenry have made living in Nigeria appear
like being in hell. Believe me, there is everything stacked against you here, but the reality remains that you must be daring 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
by John Chikadibie Okafor.