Monday, February 18, 2013

British born Nigerians moving back to Nigeria

Although many young Nigerians dream of Britain as an Eldorado and would even give a limb for a British visa, many well-educated Britons of Nigerian descent are choosing to relocate to their parents' country of birth. KIMBERLY WARD speaks with some of the returnees to find out why they decided to make the transition from Britain, their adoptive country, to Nigeria, their fatherland

In a reversal of the brain-drain phenomenon that hit Nigerian in the 80s and 90s, many highly-qualified young Nigerians who grew up in the UK are relocating to Nigeria, bucking the decades-long trend of Africans migrating to Europe in huge numbers in search of greener pastures.

After benefiting from Britain's world-class education, amassing post-graduate degrees and acquiring a wealth of experience working in top companies, the worldwide recession and the search for something different has prompted these second-generation British-Nigerians to leave Britain behind.

Although there are no figures to measure how many are moving back, anecdotal evidence shows that a large number of them - many of whom had never visited Nigeria prior to their big move - are choosing to 'come home' for several reasons including personal ambition, entrepreneurial success, marital considerations or just the sheer adventure of experiencing where their parents came from.

While thousands of young people regularly leave Nigeria to school abroad, and after a few years return home to continue their careers, for those that call England home, making the transition from their first-world comfort zone to their third-world origins can be both daunting and rewarding.

Linda Adebayo was born in England in 1986, and apart from four years spent in Nigeria between the ages of four and eight, lived her whole life in London. She has an accounting degree from the University of Kent, an MBA from Manchester University and was working as a Chartered Accountant for Virgin Airways in London when she decided to relocate to Lagos in November 2011.

"I was enjoying my life in London and was doing quite well both financially and socially, until I met a guy in my MBA class who was based in Nigeria. We got married and because he was a successful accountant in Lagos, we decided to build a home in Nigeria."

Since settling in Lekki, Lagos, Linda initially spent some time furnishing her house and reconnecting with her Nigerian extended family, but is currently job-hunting. "I would like to be the CEO of a prominent corporation by the time I'm 35. I would also like to start my own business in another field.

The good thing about Nigeria is that the possibilities available to you here are endless, and you can make such valuable contacts in a short while. I've made friends here with the types of people it would have taken a lifetime to get close to in the UK. I also enjoy spending time with my family at length, without the thought of the flight back to London cutting short the visit."

Having her husband and extended family around has made the transition easier for Linda, and she enjoys the many events and celebrations that she attends. "The social scene here is fantastic and I'm having lots of fun. I miss my parents and sister who are back in London, but I love my life here."

Linda believes that young British-Nigerians are choosing Nigeria over Britain because of the superior job opportunities available to them in the former as a result of their British education and experience. "Everyone I know that relocated have found well-paid jobs because they were highly qualified. Nigeria is the best place to come to where your wealth of knowledge from abroad opens doors for you."

Amina Mayo, 29, agrees. She'd spent her whole life in the UK without ever visiting Nigeria, before one day shocking her family by telling them she wanted to relocate to the country. "I wanted a challenge." She said, when asked why she left England. "I have a journalism degree and a Masters in Political Communication, and I was working with the British Heart Foundation as a Press Officer in Surrey, England before I left.

The idea of coming to Nigeria had been brewing inside me for a while. I'd heard my friends talking about the country, both the good and the bad, and wanted to experience it for myself. And although my family were against it, I made up my mind and came. I was curious to know how it would be to live in a country that was so notorious around the world."

Amina now writes for a newspaper in Abuja and does not regret her move. "Living here has opened my eyes to the world, and I've done more in the two years I've been here than I could have done in five years in London. Although I miss certain comforts of home, like been able to order any book online on (an online retailer) that will be delivered to my house the next day, or getting on the London Underground to see a friend without the stress of traffic or buying petrol, I'm glad I came.

Understanding certain cultural quirks of Nigerians has also been challenging at times, but on the whole I've been welcomed here with open arms."

However, she disagrees with the notion that many young Britons are coming to Nigeria. "None of the Nigerian friends that I grew up with in the UK would ever return to live full-time in Nigeria," she said. "They are too used to their lives there and are afraid of the perceived dangers here, like terrorism, kidnapping, witchcraft, armed robbery and petty crime.

"The ones that have the confidence to return are those that have family here that they visit often, and so they are familiar with the country. But it is rare for someone like me, who knew nobody here and had no firsthand experience of living in this country to relocate. It was the decision of a lifetime, and now I have a wonderful fiancé who I met here to show for my bravery."

Many returnees came to Nigeria because of a job offer, as was the case with Oyinda Fakeye. Born in London in 1983, she has a degree in Nutritional Biochemistry from Nottingham University, studied Health and Society at Kings' College and was working at the Saison Poetry Library in London before she was offered the chance of a lifetime.

"Having lived in the UK my whole life, I was already toying with the idea of working abroad, originally looking at Europe. But shortly after meeting Bisi Silva, the Artistic Director at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos in 2008, I was invited to Lagos to undergo a curatorial traineeship under her. I'd always been interested in curating so this was an exciting opportunity for me, and it paid off because I am currently the Administrative Director for the Video Art Network (, which is an organisation that promotes Nigerian new media arts locally and worldwide."

As well as her formal job, Oyinda has also been able to turn her hobby for exotic dancing into a lucrative business by opening 'Burlesque Princess,' a dance and fitness company that offers classes and workshops to women ( It was the first of its kind in Lagos and she believes that it was easier to open it here because of the country's openness to business and enterprise.

"Lagos is such a dynamic city with a hustler's heart. If you have an idea then this is the town to explore and experiment with it. London on the other hand can appear to be a saturated market, especially for those with an entrepreneurial spirit."

She may have found success in Nigeria, but does she miss London? "I have good and bad days, but all in all I could never have had the experiences I have had these past five years had I remained in England. I also try to return every three or four months and I hope to one day have a work structure that affords me the opportunity to spend a few months in the summer there annually, while being based here the rest of the year. But England will always be home for me no matter how long I am away."

Another returnee who misses England is 28-year-old Ahmed Musa. After studying pharmacy at degree and Masters Level at King's College, London, and carving out a successful career as a top pharmacist for an NHS hospital in Surrey, he relocated to Nigeria in 2012 to open his own pharmacy in the FCT.

"I love what I'm doing and enjoy working for myself, but I also miss the UK a lot, especially my old job and former work colleagues. But this opportunity I have here of running a company, of importing goods and handling patients in my own capacity as a Pharmacist, it would have taken a long time to accomplish in England. The means and resources for doing it, and even the channels to do it through were not as accessible to me in the UK as they are here in Nigeria."

Ahmed credits his success in Nigeria with the sense of professionalism and good business practices he learnt in Britain. "I took a few 'Starting Your Own Business' evening and online classes before I returned, which gave me the tools and insight in running a successful enterprise, things like how to balance your books and how to attract and keep customers. I feel that I'm a better boss because of all I learnt."

He hopes to expand his business and in five years open four more pharmacies in Abuja. "I'll settle down in Nigeria because my family is here and because no matter what I achieve abroad, I would want to be a success in my own country."

All four returnees say they will continue to oscillate between the UK and Nigeria, reaping the benefits of both worlds and getting the most out of their dual identities as British-Nigerians.

1 comment:

  1. it is easier to relocate from uk to nigeria than from usa because the level of hardship in uk is not too far from that of nigeria. bills are high, many do not have cars, food are expensive, some private houses do not have elevator, ppl live paycheck to paycheck. a good salary is 30000 pounds a yr, which is difficult to survive with. most ppl cannot even go to a restaurant to eat. they have to cook their own food. electronics are luxury and housing is hell. 97 percent of nigerians in uk live in a public housing in london. so i can understand the going back. it is strictly financial. even the girl working as accountant with virgin ailiine will be lucky earning 25000 to 30000 pounds maximum. this is shit money as you can pay rent and bills with those and not getting broke.