In the current economic atmosphere of the U.S. a lot of recent graduates, both foreign and domestic, are having to get creative when it comes to finding a job and gaining a source of income. Which is why I think we have so many models, singers, rappers, dancers, photographers, DJ’s, producers, & etc. But that is conversation for another time. If you have lived in the US or the UK for a while, and the issue of a student visa expiring isn’t a concern of yours, you’ve probably said this statement at least once: If all else fails “there is always Nigeria…”
If turning a hobby into a job/career isn’t a viable option, your “Plan B” may be to enroll in graduate school with the hope that your chance of getting a well paying job increases. But what is usually the “Plan C” in the event that you end up not making six figures by the time you graduate from that MBA, JD, MFA, MA, (insert other degree initials here) program? I bet it’s usually “There is always Nigeria…”. Moving to Nigeria has come to be the back-up, to our back-up plan in the event that our expectations of the “American Dream” aren’t met. But why is moving back to Nigeria the last thought on our minds after we have stop seeing the US or the UK through rose colored lenses? And should it be perceived as something negative or positive?
***Before I continue, I just want to say that I’m writing this as a person who didn’t just go to university abroad. I’ve been away from Nigeria for about 20 years, so keep that in mind while you read***
As a person who left Nigeria at the age of 5, “there is always Nigeria” wasn’t something I thought about seriously until a couple of years ago. I never really had a strong desire to find out about opportunities in the Nigeria mainly because all my family is here in the States. Everything I know about life has really just been America. I cry when I sing the Star Spangled Banner, I’ve been reciting The Pledge of Allegiance since I was 12, I know all the abbreviations of the States by heart, I love tailgating and hanging out with all of my friends from college during homecoming. I like having Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican and American culinary choices within feet of each other, I’m used to having basic amenities in place 24/7 plus, I can get up and go out at 11pm by myself without any worries. Basically all the things that I thought I wouldn’t be able to do in Nigeria. Then I started to go through my “quarter-life” crisis and a realization that I wanted way more than just a 9-5 job. Going to law school no longer became an option for me because I realized that I HATED law, and it wasn’t even remotely close to being a passion of mine. I didn’t get a job in the field I received my degree in and to top it all off, I moved back in with my parents after having lived on my own for 5 years. Yes, I went THROUGH a quarter-life crisis. Things just weren’t going as I envisioned they would after I felt that I did all the right things.
One day a cousin of mine told me that he was moving back to Nigeria to do his NYSC. He had a pretty decent job here, so I was curious as to why he was so excited to go back. He was a US citizen, so there wasn’t any reason for him to go back except for the fact that he felt that he was working
too hard for somebody else. He was working overtime and felt he was underpaid, but most importantly he was unhappy. Then he started telling me how “everybody” is going back because more opportunities exist there, and our uncle knows so-and-so, which meant that it would be a breeze for him to get settled in. I just listened and let it all sink in. Nigeria was the back-up, to his back-up plan. I just found it quite hilarious because I had friends who were trying their hardest not to return to Nigeria after their visas expired. Even going as far as taking the risk of a fake marriage (which isn’t even uncommon), just to get a green card. Nigeria was their “Plan Z”.
I had an epiphany at that very moment. I needed a back-up to my back-up plan, and I needed one fast. Choosing to go to Nigeria did indeed come
at a time that I had become disenchanted with the system set in place in the States, but I don’t believe a Plan C is such a bad thing. I have been weighing the pros and cons, and I’ve exhausted all other options so I’m making a very level-headed decision. A common trait I’ve observed among those of us venturing on the “Nigerian Dream” is that we don’t want to be fishes in a big pond. We want to be big fishes in the Atlantic Ocean. There is a lot more room to swim in there in case you haven’t noticed. By going so far out of our comfort zones we are committing ourselves to a certain level of risk. In this scenario the risk would be entering an atmosphere very unfamiliar to us, and not really knowing what the outcome will be. A repeated response I’ve received is that I’m just going there to “make money” or something along those lines. So I ask, is that such a bad thing? Personal and financial success is some of the reasons people move to the States. Why does it become such a negative thing when it comes to finding those things in Nigeria? I can only assume that it’s due to the political climate and the stain of corruption that we have come to identify with Nigeria. Yet, there are still a lot of uncorrupted and successful businesses in the country which proves that a level of profitability is possible.
I’ve decided to go on a quest to find out what opportunities exist in Nigeria, and I’ve made a tangible 3-5 year plan. I try to network with family and friends who are in Nigeria, and I’m learning what I can about the system there. Nigeria has so many blossoming industries that could benefit from the minds of this generation, and I don’t want to be left out of the influx of those who will be returning. We need to get more people who are willing to make a positive impact in Nigeria because we need it.
I guess all in all, what I’m trying to say is this: Make Nigeria (or your country of origin) an option, even if it is a Plan C. If you have the right intentions, and plan enough there is a place for you in Nigeria. Don’t join “Team Carrying Last” or “Team I Wish I Had” like some of our parents generation did when it came time to invest in companies like Microsoft and Apple. I wasn’t even born around that time and I’m still sort of resentful.
To be completely honest, I’m really just looking forward to finding a great Chinese or Thai food place when I go back. General Tso’s chicken gives me life!
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