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, considering the leap, as well as those who have tried it and realized it is not for them. The idea is to share their successes and their challenges as they made the decisions they did. 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. Movebacktonigeria.com is the fastest growing online community of Nigerian professionals living, studying and working in diaspora.
This week, the spotlight is on Isabella E.C. Akinseye, a writer, media & communications practitioner who moved back to Nigeria after her education in the UK. She shares her interesting account of moving back to Nigeria, her varied and interesting work experiences, her passion for Nollywood and her plans for the future. We hope you enjoy the feature.
Who are you, and how would you describe yourself?
My name is Isabella E.C. Akinseye. I am primarily into communications, public relations and the media. I enjoy being creative and also love challenges and trying new things. I am also passionate about the emerging Nollywood cinematic industry.
When and why did you leave Nigeria?
I had travelled on and off for years at a time in my childhood but eventually left to the UK in 2004 for what was supposed to be a summer holiday and ended up staying until 2008. During that time, I did my two year A-levels, took a gap year and completed one year at University. I came back to Nigeria to regularise my student visa and when that did not work out, I ended up taking another gap year. I then returned to the UK in 2009 to finish my University degree, finally came back home in 2011 and have not looked back since.
Can you describe your educational background?
I studied Education with English and Drama at Cambridge University and was actively involved in student life through music, sports and writing. I founded the Homerton African Dancers (a dance troupe) and was the President of the Cambridge University Nigeria Society (2010-2011). For me, education is not about cramming to pass exams but about learning and enjoying it. I also did a lot of writing and editing and worked as a student mentor regularly at university events.
Cambridge University? That’s prestigious! What was studying in such a hallowed environment like?
Cambridge University was like a dream come true. I fell in love with the University while I was in the Sixth Form. Just by reading the alternative prospectus, I knew I wanted to be there as it seemed like a fun place. Studying in Cambridge was a great experience. The class sizes were small and the supervisions really allowed for one-on-one teaching or a maximum of three to four people discussing with the lecturer. Beyond academics, Cambridge is a lovely and picturesque town. There are clubs and societies for everything under the sun. There were also many opportunities to get involved in student politics, volunteering, writing and so there was never a dull moment.
What inspired you to study Education with English and Drama?
Well, education was something I was interested in whilst in secondary school. My mum was once a teacher and I loved to teach, which thankfully helped me excel in my studies. I have also always been involved in acting, directing or singing. However, the course at Cambridge University in particular was quite broad and so I had a lot to choose from. It was hard work but a lot of fun and I find that I use aspects of my course in my everyday life and career.
How did your professional life and career begin?
Real professional life started in 2008 when I took up a nine month Editorial internship at Kachifo Limited, which turned out to be a really rewarding experience as I worked directly with the COO, who really challenged me. I did a lot of reading, writing, editing, proofreading and some marketing. I also compered at book reading events, which was where I was approached by Rhythm FM where I eventually moved to. I was invited to the Silverbird studios to do a book review segment and I came up with the name ‘Bookaholic with Bella’. The station loved it and I soon started getting feedback from viewers and authors, who would send me their works to review. I co-ran the Bookaholic Blog with a colleague and friend and also hosted my television segment ‘Bookaholic with Bella’ on Silverbird TV. Following this, I had a brief stint presenting on Inspiration 92.3 FM with Dan Foster. I did some hypes and voice-overs for the station and at some point, I was involved in publishing, TV and radio simultaneously. I ultimately decided to focus on TV and publishing and hope to have a radio show someday because I really enjoyed my time there.
How did these roles impact you?
Doing different things at different times really helped me to explore different areas of interests. As they say, no experience or education is wasted. I also found as I continued to grow as a creative professional, I learnt to be more focused.
When did you move back to Nigeria and why?
As previously mentioned, in 2008 I came to Nigeria to regularise my student visa and when that did not work out, I ended up taking a gap year and returned to the UK in 2009 to finish my University degree. When I returned, I started working as a contract staff with Nestlé Nigeria Plc and completed my youth service there. After I finished NYSC, a job became available and I applied, got the job and have been there since. The real reason why I returned to Nigeria is because I see myself contributing to Nigeria and eventually, I would like to raise a family here. Nigeria is and will always be home and I also like the idea of wearing the same kind of clothes all year round.
What do you do professionally in Nigeria?
I am a Corporate Communications Assistant at Nestlé Nigeria Plc. I handle corporate media relations and communications (internal and external). I am also a freelance writer, editor, presenter, voice-over artist, publicist and actress. I still do some compering but mainly at office related events. Ultimately, I find that I do a lot of writing on and off the job and I am currently working on setting up a website with a Nollywood focus.
What drives your Nollywood passion?
The greatest appeal of Nollywood is that it is a platform for us to tell our own stories. Nollywood is also a made in Nigeria product, it is something that is ours. As a child, I grew up watching people like RMD, Kate Henshaw, Liz Benson, Ego Boyo and Ramsey Nouah among others and as I grew older, I knew I wanted to be involved in entertainment. Hollywood has its own stories and so does Bollywood, as they have their own style and a market to fill. Whilst there is still a lot to be done in Nollywood especially in the areas of production, I see this as an opportunity and not a problem. I will shortly be launching my own site www.nollysilverscreen.com where people can get information regarding Nollywood cinema. I intend to also have a movie review show which will one day be syndicated on TV, radio and online and in addition, I would love to have a Nollywood magazine and app. I have acted in a Nollywood movie and I hope to act in more and maybe try my hand at screenplay. All in all, I feel that in my own little way, I can contribute to the growth of the industry with my writing, PR, editing and presenting skills.
You seem to do a lot of writing, can you tell us about this aspect of your life in more detail?
Writing is something I have done since childhood. I am a story teller and very inquisitive and I love to try new things and ask lots of questions. So writing is an outlet for me, which I find very cathartic and personal. My writing experience is quite diverse as I have done entertainment, lifestyle and fashion journalism. I have also done lots of interviews and written scripts for my shows. My forte is non-fiction but I try to write fiction and poetry from time to time. I have written how-to articles and pieces on cooking, education, relationships and even writing itself! I have also worked as a copywriter and content provider for websites, books, magazines, directories and audio recordings. I had a weekly column with NEXT Newspapers about life in Lagos and I currently have a column on Nollywood in Newswatch Newspapers. Writing is also something I do in my day job as I write content for publications, speeches and press releases among others.
That’s certainly a lot of writing! On a different note, how have you found your move to Nigeria? Any highs and lows?
The move has been great but not without its challenges. I love to see the changes happening every day in Nigeria as it really gives me hope. The country is coming into her own admittedly, at a rather slow pace. Culturally, the change is definitely pronounced as in the UK, the stiff upper lip prevails while in Nigeria, we say things as we see it. We are also warm, hospitable and friendly people. There are so many opportunities and I am encouraged on a daily basis when I see young people doing big things. It makes me want to do my best and actualize my dreams. On the other hand, the lows are mainly the issues with power, transport and basic infrastructure. It is also hard to find really efficient professionals who are committed to quality, as too many people have a mediocre attitude and I often end up coming across as a Margaret Thatcher of sorts.
Interesting. Any particular work-related challenges and positives? If any, how have you dealt with the challenges?
The positives are too many to list here but I’ll try. Basically, I learn new things on the job and I also have the opportunity to share my ideas and see some of them come to life. Most importantly, I am allowed to be myself and not forced into a box. Something as little as being able to wear my dreadlocks is a big thing for me. It is also not about how you look or sound, it is about what you bring to the table. Every job comes with its own unique factors and I have learnt to be more patient. Whilst I know this is Nigeria and we have a lot of challenges, I refuse to lower my standards.
That’s admirable. On a slightly different note, have you had to make any lifestyle changes?
Yes. For instance while planning your day, you think about routes and traffic, as this can determine the course your day will take. Also, I find some things hard to come by, such as plant seedlings for instance. On a positive note, the weather is fantastic and so you find yourself going out more. I still find that I am still the same person and find a way to do the things I love. Also, Nigeria has really developed socially and so one can maintain nearly any kind of lifestyle you want as long as you have the required resources.
Finally, do you have any tips or words of advice for people potentially considering a similar move?
I believe the most important thing is to have a vision or some form of plan. You have to be true to yourself and if being in Nigeria does not help you achieve it in anyway, please do NOT move back. However, if you need to be in Nigeria to achieve it, by all means, make the move back. When you do move back, bear in mind what people are interested in, is the real YOU and what you have to offer. Let your work speak for you and be ready to face the challenges. Your dream will keep you going even when things get rough. Finally, a support system will be invaluable as you can really draw strength from a network of family, friends and colleagues.
Many thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward.
The primary objective of MoveBackToNigeria.com is to connect Nigerian professionals with various opportunities in Nigeria, ranging from recruitment drives to information & support regarding relocation processes, financial & tax advice and much more. Move Back To Nigeria also features social interest topics such as what’s on, where to live, how-to survival tips and so on. Consistently engaging with and featuring Nigerian professionals in weekly interviews, Move Back To Nigeria regularly publishes social interest articles relevant to the general public. Everyone is welcome to their online discussions & fora and you are invited to air your views & suggestions on the topical and trending matters section.