Editor’s note: The Naij.com columnist, Mawuna Koutonin, continues to give a breakdown on the lives and mindset of Africans living abroad, Nigerian diaspora included. Why are Nigerians reluctant to pursue opportunities and improving conditions in their fiefdom while their lives abroad are often far from being successful?
Since 2012, Africa has become the fastest-growing continent in the world with the highest number of new millionaires. There are now more than 100,000 millionaires in Africa, with the addition of about 20,000 every three years.
That makes a lot of Africans in the diaspora ask themselves: what am I doing here while everyone is becoming millionaire back home?
Also, the unstoppable media drumbeat about “Africa rising” is making the Nigerian diaspora particularly restless but hopeful, because most of them have quite a petty life in the West. They are constantly harassed by the state police, crushed by daily racism, economic and political isolation, and have very little hope for a near-future improvement. The few who had widely succeeded financially are also willing to invest back home and seize opportunities.
Unfortunately, their dream to return home is painfully held back by deep fears and unanswered questions we have covered in the previous article about the fears of the african diaspora concerning Africa.
As understandable as those fears are, many Nigerians at home and abroad won’t accept them as a roadblock and call for an immediate return of Nigerians skills.
In this article, I’m giving voice to the pro-return people, summarizing below their main arguments, collected over casual conversations, social media and online forums.
“The political climate in Nigeria is one of the top reasons why the Nigerian diaspora refuses to go back to Nigeria. Go home and change it,” wrote one commentator.
“When some in that so-called diaspora say ‘political instability, lack of infrastructure, blah blah’ are reasons they can’t go back, I just LOL. So Africans in the West can’t go home because it’s a mess. Do they know people worked to create conditions they enjoy in the West? #Stoopeed! ‘I can’t go home because there are no McDonalds there,’ this is pretty much the summary of what they mean!” continued another commentator.
Another advocate of returning wrote: “If all Nigerians do not work to move this nation forward, I am afraid it will remain this way, and future generation will blame us — just the same way we are blaming our fathers. If the people in whose country we all are staying hadn’t worked hard to take their countries to a greater height, you wouldn’t be there now! Nothing good comes easy. Outsiders come to Nigeria to invest, and they are making it, while the landowners are there in another man’s land struggling! Just have it in mind that a home you did not arrange can never be yours”.
“It appears they are quite comfortable in lands other people’s ancestors have labored to develop. We here will labour to also develop our land, and before they know it, Nigeria will have no place for them,” warned the next commentator.
“No one can ever claim ownership of a land he/she has not built, no matter the number of years you live there. Now, how can we build and make our home comfortable for ourselves, and even for others to desire to join us? It is by developing the unrelenting desire/passion to fix it. We have also commented on corruption and all kinds of ills being endemic in our country.”
The right people to steer
“I tell you, no country was born without ills, but the issue is that those countries’ citizens are resolute and set out to fight and eradicate those ills that impede or keep them from growing. What am I driving at? We quite understand that the political system is the steering to our societal fate – it drives everyone to a certain societal status (i.e., healthy or unhealthy), depending on the driver(s).
“So, if I may add vividly and concisely, it is time for us to understand that until the steering that provides the platform on which every other good expectation springs is handled by the right set of people we might just remain analyzers and philosophers of our problems. Straight to the point, we all have to come back and say: ‘Enough is enough – we must see the right people in the right places!’
“I tell you, there has never been a time when the few “wrongs” are more powerful than the much more massive “rights”. It’s just that those “rights,” at most times, are pitiably unaware of their collective strength.
“I put it to all of us that immediately this area and fact is recognized and addressed, there will be an unimaginable outburst of great development in that our exceedingly blessed nation. Otherwise, we will keep revolving and lamenting in a problem we all are contributors to. Take it or leave it, I have said it!” continued another commentator, pushing further previous arguments.
Following the rage of motivational comments, few people stepped in to provide more practical advises and suggestions on how to embark in the risky venture of returning home.
“Nigerians in the diaspora must understand that a lizard in the US can not suddenly become an alligator in Nigeria. Whatever business you want to do back home should be first tested where you are now. People go home with great ideas, huge investment but little experience in business and expect to succeed in the first year. Let’s give it time to grow.” advised a commentator.
Have plan B, plan C, but start acting
A lady who had successfully returned home shared the following pieces of advise: “Now to what I think any discerning, aspiring returnee should do: coming back to Nigeria after years abroad will present a rude shock to you, in terms of culture, way of life, way of doing business, traffic congestion, infrastructural bottlenecks, social ills, the charade and crony-ism within political circles, and a lot more other issues.
“That is why you have to plan and make it a carefully phased one. Before I finally relocated, I visited Nigeria about four times within two years. I had my business plan well drafted, I knew what I wanted to go into, I knew what areas I wanted to live in. I asked questions, I contacted some family members (mine and those of my spouse) and old friends. I spoke to people I knew who relocated as well. I had interviews with companies I could work for (as option B, in case I decide not to venture fully into business). When I finally decided, I was well aware of most of the issues that would confront me in Naija asides from realizing other opportunities in the course of my visits. I then requested for 12 months sabbatical leave from the investment bank I was working with (just in case things took an ugly turn, I could always have something here to fall back on). Things turned out even better for me (lucky me, I guess) and I resigned within six months.
“So, my brother, for you to relocate, have no fears. Just plan, visit, re-plan, visit and alter your plan again … Also try to hedge your risks. Always have an option B (even option C). Then ask questions, too. Don’t relocate at the same time with your family. Come in first. You can get a job first and with time you can decide to do other stuff. But please don’t kid yourself, a sea of opportunities exist in this country called Nigeria, and so many sectors are still either virgin or untapped. It’s not easy doing business, but it’s well worth taking a plunge, if you ask me. The decision is yours to make.”
The lady’s comments and suggestions were widely upvoted.
You have something to contribute, too
Few more commentators went on with some more motivational arguments, but this time in a less aggressive tone, to call on the diaspora to come back home: “Fixing Africa, making it attractive starts with us its people, we can’t leave the space to others and just complain that things aren’t improving, you must get involved even if you are abroad,” said a commentator.
A second commentator continued: “It dawned on me that almost all my life, I had enriched my country of birth and neglected to do likewise for my country of origin. Some of the reasons for neglecting my country of origin have already been covered in the article, however, why should I leave it to someone else to contribute to fixing the problems when I can equally contribute? This spurred my return to this country with view of giving something for nothing but perhaps setting the stage for my future generation to get something from my commitment. Without a doubt, they will achieve little from my abandonment”.
According to Nigeria Diaspora Day website, there are about 3.25 million Nigerians living in America, counting from first arrivals to fourth-generation Nigerians. Of this number, there are over 115,000 medical professionals, 174,000 IT professionals, 87,000 pharmacists, 49,500 engineers, and over 250,000 legal, financial, real estate and related business professionals.