Move Back to Nigeria is a new series on BellaNaija. The aim is to encourage young and not-so-young professionals in the diaspora who are trying to make the decision of whether to move back to Nigeria. In collaboration with the brilliant team at MoveBackToNigeria.com, we hope to bring you a weekly interview with individuals who have successfully made the leap. The idea is to share their successes and their challenges as they made the decision.
A lot of Nigerians in the diaspora have questions about making a change at home in Nigeria. Many suggest really good ideas on how to make things better; others would like to contribute to making a difference back home but are just not sure where to begin.
We recently explored the flipside of the ‘MoveBacktoNigeria’ initiative by featuring a UK based finance executive who discussed his reasons for choosing to remain in the UK. This week in the same vein, we interview Julian Obubo, a young public relations & Media Practitioner in the UK who shares his journey so far. He shares some insights regarding the PR Industry, his academic & professional experiences, why he is not ready to move to Nigeria just yet and his take on moving back.
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m Julian Obubo, a young creative, living in London and working as a Public Relations account executive.
When & why did you leave Nigeria?
In 2002, my dad got a job in The Netherlands working for an EU funded agricultural program so the whole family had to move which is when and why I left Nigeria. I have lived abroad ever since.
Tell us about your educational history.
I attended an international secondary school in Holland and afterwards, left to the UK for my undergraduate degree primarily because growing up, I had always hoped and planned to study there. I got into the University of Sunderland to study Public Relations (PR) which particularly appealed because it was a maths-free course and then I decided to specialize further in PR as I had thoroughly enjoyed the course and so pursued a Masters degree in PR at the University of Newcastle. During the Masters degree, I developed a love for gender and race studies as it gave me the breath to undertake research in these wide-ranging topics that were not directly related to public relations. This was a God send because I was now able to devote my energies to a passion of mine which is the culture of hip hop music. Admittedly, a lot of people do not see the value in it but I do, because I think culture (of all forms and nuances) is what sustains us as human beings and in many ways is what differentiates us from animals. All of this has contributed to the person I am today.
These are fascinating perspectives. Did you move on to start your career in PR straightaway?
No I did not. I moved back to The Netherlands after graduating in 2010 and my initial plan was to undertake a PHD in gender studies. So I applied and got accepted on the PHD program at The University of Leeds but being that I’m not British, it was very difficult for me to get the required funding meaning I would have had to pay for it all myself which I could ill afford at the time and so the PHD plan was abandoned and I decided to move into what some people call ‘the real world’ by returning to the UK and getting a job in Public Relations.
Some may call that tweak in plans part of the ‘vagaries of life’. How then, did your career take off?
I had undergone some internships in a few PR firms while I was an undergraduate. I worked at The National Glass Centre in Sunderland and also had another internship for a small PR agency in London and so I had garnered some hands on experience and knew the basic mechanics of public relations although nothing substantial. I also had a 3-month internship at the London branch of Cohn & Wolfe, part of WPP which pretty much owns about half of global advertising. It was a very worthwhile experience as it opened me up to the fast-paced nature of the big business media industry. It was exciting, fascinating and fun and further sealed in me a desire to pursue a PR career.
How difficult was it for you in the labour market, considering you are not British and had moved back to The Netherlands and had to move back to the UK to job hunt?
I was quite worried about the process especially considering the fact that I had already left the country and gone back to The Netherlands. But in reality, it was quite straightforward. I put the word out that I was job-hunting and also got in touch with a contact from my time at Cohn & Wolfe who happens to be quite influential in the London PR industry. Fortunately for me, he basically introduced me and recommended me highly to my current boss, who then brought me in for a work experience stint after which he offered me a full time job during a lunch meeting at Nandos I might add. The rest as they say, is history.
Tell us about your company and what your role entails. It all sounds pretty exciting so far.
I work at a PR agency called Manifest, a relatively small company which has grown considerably in recent times. We like to say we are ‘Industry agnostic’ which means we are very careful about the companies we represent. Our clients range from consumer goods, B2B, medical to finance, alcohol companies and so on. We are bold, edgy, brash and our underlying ethos is to disrupt the status quo. There are no dull days as it’s exciting but challenging and very much rewarding, especially when clients give us positive feedback and we know we have satisfied them. In PR, the end game is to get coverage for your client and my job as an account executive involves successfully managing the relationship between my clients and journalists in a nutshell.
PR has become hugely popular but not a lot of people understand the ‘inner workings ‘and ‘lifespan’ of the profession. Does the possibility of career progression & longevity exist?
To a large extent, in PR, career progression and longevity does depend on the company you work for. In smaller companies for instance, career progression is quicker and in bigger companies, slower. Ultimately, it is all down to the hard work you put in, which reflects in the coverage you get. Your clients must be satisfied at all times and that’s when promotions come, that’s when bonuses come and that’s when awards come. By its very nature, PR is the sort of field where a meritocracy exists and your hard work definitely pays off.
On a different note, do you see yourself ever practicing PR/MEDIA in Nigeria?
Despite the fact that I’ve lived away from Nigeria for over a decade, I‘m grateful for the fact that I’m able to visit from time to time as I am quite fond of the country and I also keep in touch with what’s happening there. However, my views like those of any well-meaning Nigerian are not positive and whilst we may rail about these problems, in some ways, we are complicit. I do not see myself working there but I’m neither opposed to it nor against it. We have a hunger to develop and are blessed with highly skilled people whose skills should definitely be utilized by the nation. Ultimately, I do not think I will ever move back but if the situation presents itself, then I’m not against it.
What change(s) would you like to see in Nigeria which could inspire you to move back?
My biggest issues are related to infrastructure and development and these include issues such as housing, transport, health care, security lapses and so on. If there are improvements and innovations in these areas, there will be a positive bearing on the quality and standard of living which would go a long way towards inspiring many diasporans to return home.
If you indeed moved back, there’s NYSC to consider. What are your views on this scheme?
After graduating from university, I actually considered moving back to go participate in the NYSC scheme so I could work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as I liked the idea of representing Nigeria internationally. However I was very put off by such things as the appalling hygiene standards for instance, which would put prisoners here to shame and also the lacklustre job market post NYSC. Having said this, I can see the social benefits of the NYSC scheme itself as it tends to broaden one’s knowledge of hitherto unknown parts of the country and it can also be looked at as some form of charity. However, moving forward, the scheme needs to be reviewed and revamped if the government intends for it to remain relevant and beneficial to all parties involved.
As an industry insider, what is your take on the media/communications industry in Nigeria?
As big an industry as it is, it is depressingly below standard. For instance when I go visiting and have to watch TV, I am saddened by the lack of quality and the appalling low standards of delivery: From the news studios to the staff delivery and everything else. There are obviously exceptions to this but the truth is that there overwhelming abundance of half-baked journalism, with media output below par. The bottom-line is the lack of quality and the fact that we accept mediocrity. Nigerians need to learn how to demand quality and professionalism from any service provider. We are too accepting of sub-standard products and services and this has to change. I have seen articles and supposedly serious news publications in major national Nigerian news houses that actually credit Google and Wikipedia!
So as a well-trained Nigerian in this sector, do you feel a need to go back to contribute to Nation-building?
Not necessarily. Whilst it is something I would like to do eventually, at some point as I’m definitely not ruling it out, I believe as individuals, we have responsibilities to ourselves first and foremost to do what feels right to one’s self. I do not agree that all Nigerians need to go back home because I believe there is enough willpower and brainpower in Nigeria to improve things. We will get there eventually and when we do, it will be done by people on the ground. There will always be that free movement of people moving out of Nigeria and moving back in, due in no small measure to globalization and we should regard it as something that can impact positively on the country.
Thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward!
Movebacktonigeria.com is the fastest growing online community of Nigerian professionals living, studying and working in diaspora. Our primary objective is to connect Nigerian professionals with various opportunities in Nigeria, ranging from recruitment drives to information & support regarding relocation processes and financial & tax advice. We also feature social interest topics such as what’s on, where to live, how-to survival tips and so on. We consistently engage with and feature young Nigerian professionals in our weekly interviews and also regularly publish social interest articles relevant to the general public. We welcome everyone to our online discussions & fora and also invite you to air your views & suggestions on topical and trending matters.’ For more information and further inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org