FROM THE MILLENNIALS
Is there a steady increase in young Nigerians abroad not wanting to move back home? Why?
I’m Seyi Alawode, a 20-year-old student at Warwick Uni. If you’re unfamiliar with me, I write periodic articles for ThisDay Style that aim to bridge the mind set gap between my generation and our parents’ generation – believe it or not, it can be done… I hope.
In the past, I’ve written various, quite popular articles (you can access them online PressReader.com) about feminism, mental health, education and other topics – my goal is to address issues that tend to cause friction between millennials and their parents.
My articles are essentially tweet-based. I feel as though the easiest and most effective manner (for me at least) of researching how millennials think, is to simply ask them on a platform where most of us share our thoughts, feelings, political opinions and general daily activities – none other but Twitter.
To form the basis of my articles, I tweeted out in August last year: ‘What’s the one thing you wish our parents’ generation understood?’, to which I received hundreds of responses centred around mental health, feminism, education, comparison, judgement and pressure. Acting as a ‘voice’ of my generation, I tried to explain to the best of my ability, how a dire lack of understanding of some of these topics mentioned above can be detrimental to most parent-child relationships.
This time however, I thought to take an alternative, approach to this.
Recently, I noticed a shift in attitude amongst a lot of people my age who went to primary and/or secondary school in Nigeria (like I did), followed by a relocation abroad (be it U.K., USA, Dubai, Canada, etc) for further education. For many (but not all) of us that fall into this category, the typical journey goes as thus: Primary / Secondary School in Nigeria -> ALevels / University abroad -> Masters abroad -> Move back home -> NYSC -> Pursue career.
However, I’ve come to realise that as we get older, more and more people are abandoning their dreams to go back home and ‘better Nigeria’ and have instead chosen to stay in their current locations abroad to pursue whatever ambitions they have. To add to this, I see at least 2+ tweets DAILY (no exaggeration) from people who have already moved back to Nigeria, wishing they hadn’t! Not to mention – I ran a Twitter poll about 2 weeks ago, to which about 54% of respondents answered that they either had no plans to move back to Nigeria after education, or simply changed their minds and decided to stay abroad!
Why the gradual change, you may ask? I was equally as curious as you are, so I decided to carry out a second Twitter poll to explore the potential reasons why people may not want to move back, or why those who have already moved back to Nigeria regret such a decision. Out of 227 received votes, 41% of voters voted ‘Salary rates too low’, 35% voted that they felt Nigeria was ‘unsafe’ and ‘restricted their freedom’, 9% voted that it was due to their parents, and 15% voted‘Other’reasons. (When asked to specify, answers ranged religion to infrastructure, politics and government, etc)
**** DISCLAIMER: DO UNDERSTAND THAT THIS ARTICLE IN NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM INTENDS TO ‘BASH’ NIGERIA OR TO SPEAK DOWN ON THE COUNTRY FOR THE SAKE OF IT. I AM MERELY SPEAKING FROM AN OBSERVATIONAL POINT OF VIEW, SO THAT PARENTS UNDERSTAND THE REASONS BEHIND MANY ‘YOUNGSTERS’ RELUCTANCE TO RELOCATE BACK TO NIGERIA. ****
Salary rates too low:
According to Numbeo, (the world’s largest database on cities and countries worldwide, including information on world living conditions e.g. cost of living, housing indicators, health care, traffic, crime and pollution), the average living condition in Nigeria is approximately 60% lower than that of U.K.’s as of March 2018.
This statistic is off-putting in itself, given that our population exceeds that of the U.K.’s by approximately 30%. After conducting much deeper research (it is SO hard to find up-to-date salary rates for Nigeria online for some reason), I found that the average national wage ranges from about N18,000 which translates to just under £50 ($60) a month. Assuming one has to cover food, fuel, electricity and general living and occasional leisure costs, that just isn’t good enough. Why would anyone want to leave a guaranteed minimum wage of over £1,000/$1,000 a month only to earn trickles? Reason number one. ‘Ehn, won’t they be living in their parents’ house?’… …. Is what some of you are probably thinking. Admittedly, it’s standard for most Nigerian youth to live with their parents until a certain age, therefore easing the stress of living costs. I am also very aware that salary rates differ per job and level. However, the fact remains that our average wage is one of the worst globally. Salaries generally just aren’t enough to guarantee comfortable independence for many, hence their decision to stay abroad. One tweeter further added that -
‘Many have to adapt their career goals to the Nigerian market (both job and customer demand) in an uncomfortable way to live. That discomfort is then amplified by the pitiful salaries they’re compromising for.’
(Paraphrased) Something to think about. Restricted freedom/Unsafe/Parents:
I cannot dwell too much on the issue of safety, as almost nowhere in the world is particularly safe right now. Black men in London and America for example, have been consistent victims of gun and knife crime for the past few weeks.
One thing I can state however, is that people my age have implied that they would rather live in a mildly unsafe place that at least allows them to be their true selves, than an unsafe place where they’re constantly, toxically policed and essentially forced by their parents and general society to think and behave a certain way. It is for this reason I categorised the three above factors together, particularly because ‘parents’ and ‘restricted freedom’ kind of go hand in hand. Hard truth A tweeter summed this issue up perfectly:
‘I don’t want to have to fight everyday—fight to have my voice heard as a woman, fight against all the deeply rooted cultural phobias and “isms”, fight to get meaningful work done without necessary infrastructure, fight corruption’
Other tweeters owed their reluctance to move back to Nigeria to ‘general ignorance’ towards issues affecting millennials, with a particular mention going to ‘our parents’ mentality’. Other issues?
This section was rather vague and ranged from NEPA issues to government and infrastructural difficulties. It is no doubt that we suffer from an electricity issue for reasons unknown to many, and without wanting to sound too ‘Westernised’, I’m certain that your average Nigerian would heartily choose to live with steady, constant electricity with a more decent water supply than to be essentially defrauded by NEPA every month, billed for electricity they didn’t get supplied with in the first place.
Though I’m no savvy when it comes to Nigerian politics, the occasional social-media fight amongst ACTUAL, professional politicians that ‘rule’ our country is indicative of our current political landscape – a bit of a mess. This has deterred far too many young aspiring politicians that I know of personally (not to mention the ones I don’t know), from wanting to enter into the losing game that is Nigerian politics. Some have either abandoned their political aspirations as a whole, or decided to pursue it abroad.
Another mentioned factor was religion. It is no surprise that we are a VERY religious country. You can’t drive in Lagos without seeing a ‘COME AND JOIN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD!’kind of poster within at least 200m of each other.
While this may not necessarily be a bad thing, Nigeria is disreputable for religious houses exploiting their congregation for profit, something that steers away some young Christians passionate about Christ and ministering, from moving back home. A Christian tweeter put forward: ‘We need to pray for revival in our nation because we NEED God. Religion must die’. The ‘reality’ of Nigeria?
This one’s a bit of a different angle if I’m honest, and again, it is just something to think about.
Though the topic wasn’t exactly mentioned in the Twitter poll options, it’s something that has generated a lot of relevant conversations amongst Nigerian millennials on social media.
What’s been brought forward on Twitter recently is the notion that many of us who live/study/work abroad regard Nigeria as ‘the place to be’ because we’re there 2-3 times a year during the holidays and are privileged enough to NOT experience the‘reality’of the country (for example) as some have put it. I’ve read tweets describing how ‘reality hit them’ when the Christmas holiday and enjoyment in Lagos was over, and it dawned on them that there’d be no return to Murtala Muhammed Airport. They realised they had to face the ‘everyday struggles’ that being a young, semi-independent millennial in Nigeria brought.
Perhaps this is the reason why some of my poll responses came from people who had relocated back to Nigeria from abroad and wished they didn’t? Maybe. So what’s the solution?
For once, I actually have no idea. This isn’t an easily solvable ‘issue’ per se, as people will only move back to a country they feel they can reach their highest potential in, and be their happiest selves.
A good start however, would be NOT regarding those who wish to stay abroad as ‘people who have tasted Oyinbo-land and have become Westernised’, because as we can see, there’s a lot more to it!
Thanks for reading and do join the discussion on social media using the Hashtag #FromTheMillennials!