29th November, 2014
This is for my fellow Nigerians. This is about you! Hope your guitar strings are well tuned because this may hit some chords. Like a fifteen year old girl finding love for the first time some of you are going to catch feelings but not to worry because this is reality. Nigeria is a great nation (isn’t that what we are expected to say?) even though things are not going exactly the way we all want, it doesn’t take away the fact that it is a great nation.
Now we all know how hard things are for a lot of Nigerians, I was born in England but spent a large part of my life in Nigeria, so I do know how things are. The youth are supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow but haven’t we been hearing that since our parents were kids? Only to find the very same old names in the seats of power. These old men keep selling us dreams the way a player would sell life time of relationship bliss to an unsuspecting female before using and running away.
Just visit any of the major embassies in Nigeria and you will understand what I’m moaning about. Hundreds of Nigerians sleeping over night at visa application centers so as to be first in line the next day.
I know a lot of you criticize those Nigerians who somehow manage to borrow, beg, steal, sell everything they have to leave the country for hope of greener pastures but that is a talk for another day. You will agree with me that except you are from a rich home, leaving Nigeria for a foreign country means going there to ‘Hustle’ so you can come back home to a more comfortable life and your family can have things a little easy.
Let’s play out a scenario here: Ade has graduated from university and like hundreds of thousands of graduates in Nigeria and there’s absolutely nothing to do.
He lives with his parents and siblings in a small apartment and is beginning to feel useless and like a burden to everyone around him. He looks around and sees guys his age struggling too, with some into fraud to make ends meet but like eating jollof rice and fufu at the same time he doesn’t have the stomach for it so like thousands of other Nigerians he looks for money to get himself out of the country, to London, America, anywhere.
Fast forward a few months and our boy Ade has been one of the lucky ones who got someone to lend his parents money for flight and upkeep abroad, not only that, he has been given a two-year visa to go work and live in the United Kingdom. Before he leaves the shores of Nigeria he’ll probably hang out with his friends while keeping the fact that he’ll be leaving Nigeria to himself till the final few hours (don’t know why many Nigerians do this), he promises his friends he’ll keep in touch every time till D-Day comes.
Here’s the interesting part. The part I know majority of Nigerians do not know. Once you as an African (foreigner) land in the United Kingdom, its like the moment the stone left David’s sling in the Bible aiming for Goliath’s head, your qualifications cease to matter. Only a few foreigners leave their countries to England and end up doing the very job they did back home, e.g. doctors, lawyers, etc. England is a place where you are told you are ‘over qualified’ for a job so most of the time you have to go down a little if you really need a job.
What you also need to understand is that a Nigerian who doesn’t have family in UK will find it harder to settle down. The moment he lands at any of the terminals at Heathrow Airport he already starts spending money. With the British pounds £1=N270 he starts to realize he needs to start making money fast and what majority of newcomers to UK find out is that jobs that fit their qualifications aren’t really that easy to find, so they settle for less.
And that’s why you find lots of our people working as security guards, auxiliary nurses, cleaners, barbers, bus drivers etc even though some of these jobs at the end of the day pays even more than many of the jobs we hold in high esteem back home. For example, a plumber in Nigeria will never earn as much as a plumber in England, in fact a plumber in England will earn more than most bankers back home, so to those of you who love to make fun of your people who do these jobs abroad, Shut Up.
That said these does not mean that all Nigerians abroad do these kind of jobs, as I personally have lots of friends who are lawyers, bankers, policemen, government workers and even mayors and top politicians in England.
Now our boy Ade who before boarding the plane to United kingdom has promised all his friends that he’ll call often and send them lots of stuff is settled into a tiny room in a shared house because that is all he can afford. Reality has set in that he has to pay something called ‘Tax’ on almost everything he uses including things he takes for granted back home. I’m sure a lot of you last payed your electricity bill in 2013 (just kidding) and have never paid money to use water because you have a well in front of your home and you definitely do not pay to watch your television. Our boy, Ade, has to pay for electricity monthly (unfailingly), he pays for gas and for the water he uses, he also pays council tax, damn it!! He has to pay what is called TV license to watch his TV!! etc.
By the time all these goes off his monthly wages, he is left with almost next to nothing. He has family back home and still has to return the money his parents borrowed to process his visa and flight fees, etc. You may not know this but that is how it is with so many Nigerians abroad. I know this because I have met lots and lots of people who came to UK this way. You have to bear in mind his time to live and work abroad is limited because he has traveled on a visa and it becomes a race against time to make as much money as possible to settle debts and make as much to take home to do something worthwhile. Now reality has set in like concrete and Ade can no longer make those long distance calls to his friends because he now sees that it costs him a lot to make those calls and now things have to be on a very strict budget meanwhile his friends are saying Ade is now a Londoner he has changed and forgotten about them.
Some of you are inconsiderate. Yes, I said it. You are inconsiderate but I don’t blame you. Why? Some of you have been deceived by pictures on Facebook by Nigerian fraudsters (don’t act like we don’t have them). But who wouldn’t want to start taking pictures the minute they land in UK? To let all their family and friends know they have ‘Arrived’. Some of these pictures are just funny to be honest and you see these pictures and think yes, his/her life has changed. Yes, it may have but you don’t really know how these things work now do you?
Yes, we have fraudsters in foreign countries who give us all a bad name. These people leave the shores of Nigeria with one thing in mind which is to go do fraud of all kinds abroad and make fast easy money, which a lot of them do make. You see these guys leave Nigeria and return within one or two years buying expensive cars, houses, clothes etc and you immediately think every Nigerian who travels abroad make as much money or have it that easy. And that is why so many of you immediately starts making stupid demands on that your friend/family who didn’t have much before they left Nigeria but who you believe is now abroad and should have millions after a year, the fraudsters sold you dreams, which is why I don’t blame you.
There is a lot of difference in traveling out of the country on holiday and traveling abroad to go ‘Hustle hard’. For someone to travel abroad on holiday, they obviously have more than enough money to spend at home. Makes sense right? Any legitimate hard worker who has traveled abroad will tell you it takes as much as a whole year (even more for some) for someone new to a foreign country to settle down and blend in but some of you will already start making outrageous demands even before their feet touch foreign soil.
You want a person who spends just £20 on a mobile phone contract monthly to send you a mobile phone that costs £400? You want that cousin of yours who is in UK as a student and who spends just £25 monthly on a laptop to send you a laptop that costs £350. You want that your friend who manages just £15 daily or less on food because they know they have limited time to spend abroad and have a target to meet to send you shoes and jerseys and jewelry that would feed them for a month and when they say NO, you get angry and rant about how you both slept on the same bed in Nigeria, ate bread and beans, drank garri together etc.
If you have anyone abroad who sends you money or material things you better pray for them and appreciate it. They work in the humid sun, rain, harsh winter etc to send you that money and those things that you use to form swag to your friends. Unless they were already rich before leaving the shores of Nigeria or unless they are into some form of fraud abroad. “TRUST ME IT IS NOT EASY TO LIVE ABROAD”. Some of you don’t even expect Nigerians abroad to have any plans for themselves as long as you keep getting what you want. This is one aspect Nigerians will never understand. I’ve had a friend remind me that when we were in university in Nigeria he once gave me a pair of shoes to wear!! LOL. And you don’t want to hear some of the things people have told me about their own experiences with their friends and family back home.
The one that vexes me the most is when some people back home come out with if it’s that hard for Nigerians to live abroad why can’t they stay back home”? What nonsense. Do you know how many people whose lives have been stagnant till they moved out of Nigeria? I know loads of people who have built houses back home through pure years of hard work abroad. Yes, people have bought cars, built houses and made life more comfortable for their families back home through that security, cleaning jobs you sit there making fun of.
Don’t get me wrong though, there are people that are naturally more tightfisted than a boxer about to hit a knock out punch but I am just making you know and understand how things mostly are for that your friend/family member who is abroad trying to make things better for themselves. Pray for them even when you’re not getting what you feel you should be getting from them and appreciate them when they send you money or material things even if those things are not as much as you expect. (I can truthfully say in the past three years alone my wife and I have sent over 3 million naira back home to help family and relatives who never show any appreciation for it other than to keep asking for more) Fingers are not equal and that applies to our people abroad too!! We have Nigerians abroad living the life, and we have those who due to the sort of visa they came into the country with are having things a bit rough but feel anywhere is better than the struggle back home and that they’d rather struggle abroad and feel safe than go struggle back home.
Before you start saying Nigerians abroad are stingy, remember not ‘ALL’ Nigerians abroad are like that and those that appear so may have good reasons to be like that because at the end of the day if their visas run out and they return home with next to nothing, it’s the same ‘YOU’ who will make fun of them and gossip about how they have gone abroad and failed.
You can engage the writer, Femi Anthony, on Twitter via @femianthony