Move Back to Nigeria: Dumping the ‘Aje-Butter’ Mentality & Trudging On! Ngozi Medani Tells All About Her TransitionPosted on Friday, December 13th, 2013 at 9:30 AM
By Titi Adanne Owoyemi
Move Back to Nigeria is a series on BellaNaija which aims 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.
Movebacktonigeria.com‘s mission is to showcase stories of Nigerians abroad who have moved back home and are taking giant strides, often against all odds and to serve as inspiration to others. This, however does not preclude us from sharing stories of the people who have moved back and are facing various challenges.
This week, Ngozi Medani is on the ‘hot seat’. A recent, young ‘returnee’ to Nigeria, she’s very much optimistic about her move back, sharing with us her educational background, reasons for moving back and interesting experiences so far. Read on for a peek into her sparkly, positive world as she dishes all!
Let’s begin with Introductions: Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Ngozi Obiageli Medani. I recently completed my Masters degree in Maritime Law from the University of Southampton and moved back to Nigeria shortly after, in September 2013. I have embarked on my NYSC programme and only just completed the 3 weeks orientation camp in Issele Uku, Delta State , relocating to Abuja afterwards.
Have you always lived abroad?
I was born in Lagos but left with my mother and sisters in 2004 because she was of the opinion that Nigeria was just very corrupt at the time, and didn’t want her children growing up in a place where they won’t have equal opportunities. I left Nigeria at 14 and initially I never foresaw my return as a possibility. I had a lot of white friends in Secondary school and Sixth form and I guess I just got lost in the English lifestyle, leaving returning to Nigeria totally out of my plans. However, by the time I began my undergraduate degree, my social circle became a bit more diverse and my Nigerian friends painted very fun images of Nigeria to me. Moreover, I started following a lot of Nigerian blogs and I must confess I was captivated by the glitzy images of Nigeria (predominantly Lagos to be fair) I was seeing. All in all, I just felt an increasing desire to move back to Nigeria and be part of everything that was happening there.
Tell us a bit about your educational background.
I attended 3 secondary schools in Abuja (trying to escape boarding wahala); completed my secondary education in Maria Fidelis Convent Roman Catholic (RC) School in Euston. I then went on Our Lady’s Convent High School where I undertook my A’ Levels in Government and Politics, English Literature and History. My first degree was in Law and politics from University of Hull, graduating in July 2012. Immediately afterwards, I went for a Masters degree in Maritime law at the University of Southampton, after which I moved back home.
Why maritime law?
In a way my dad influenced this, because he is in the Navy and is very concerned about the low number of lawyers practising in the maritime industry. Maritime law for me is the perfect combination of commercial, environmental, private and public international law and after doing some research I discovered there aren’t many lawyers trained in that field in Nigeria and that for me is a massive opportunity for me to exploit. I enjoy the environmental aspect of maritime law and I think this an area that in Nigeria needs more attention. To elaborate, while writing my LLM dissertation (which focused on a comparison of liability for oil pollution from Offshore Structures in Nigeria & the USA), I discovered that our legal instruments governing the protection of our marine environment are relatively weak and are in dire need of reform especially when compared to the stringent laws governing environmental damage in other countries. I hope that I’ll be counted among those who will bring effective change to this area of law in Nigeria.
Truth be told, maritime law is very lucrative and also is an area of law that is bound to remain relevant for a very long time; goods are still transported by sea, these goods have to be insured, the vessels transporting these goods must not be hazardous to the marine environment, the crew on board these vessels must not be made to work in adverse conditions, the vessel should be free of liens, my point is maritime law is so so broad thus my Dad strongly encouraged me to go into this area of law and I must say, I am very happy I did.
What was the major inspiration for your move back?
While I was in the UK, anytime I looked at my educational background, I just felt I will be able to contribute more in Nigeria. That was the driving force. However, apart from contributing to my fatherland, I admittedly was also wowed by the glamorous images of Nigeria I saw on sites like BellaNaija. Based on my experience, I would not advise anyone considering the move to use what they see on blogs as a yardstick to move back; chances are you’ll be too shocked when you touch down Naija. Moreover, the “happening” city is Lagos and seeing that I don’t live there, the Nigeria I came to was significantly different to “blog- Nigeria” where there’s a party or an event every evening and life is generally more colourful.
Can you tell us what your experience has been, despite only been back a couple of months?
The only thing I miss about the UK is it’s convenience and adherence to protocol. Moving back to Nigeria makes me realise how much I took constant electricity for granted. One thing I sure don’t miss is the “mandem”.
For me, Nigeria hasn’t been that bad. I have met some fantastic people since moving back, I’ve started volunteering with a charity, ACE Charity , and I’ve started my NYSC programme. Although I’m not in Lagos (where everything seems fantastic), Abuja is proving to be a nice place to live in and build professional networks.
Any negative experiences since moving back?
Personally, I haven’t had any nasty experiences. The only thing I would term a negative experience for me, would be in the form of infrastructural shortfalls like electricity, internet and road hazards. But apart from these, my personal relationship with people has being great so far.
Seeing as you had not been to Nigeria in a while before the eventual move, do you think a visit or two would have eased your transition, in terms of expectations?
I have heard several people say that, but I really don’t think so because I believe it only works if one has never ever been to Nigeria. I have friends who returned to Nigeria for holidays and anytime they came back there was always one story or the other. We live in the social media age and that means that information is freely available, so keeping oneself in the loop of Nigerian events isn’t that difficult. I for instance watched a lot of Nigerian videos on YouTube to enable me keep myself updated on events transpiring in the country so that albeit my physical absence, I was kept abreast with everything happening in Nigeria.
Furthermore, when I moved back, I wouldn’t say anything shocked me, because I knew what to expect in certain instances. I feel that when you come back, Nigeria becomes what you make Nigeria. If you complain all the time, then the country will be very terrible, but if you try and make the most out if it, then Nigeria can be a really nice place to live in. There are so many parts of this country that should the almighty allow me, I plan on visiting places like the Yankari Game reserve, the Obudu cattle ranch, experiencing the Calabar carnival, I mean even Christmas in the village! Nigeria can be a really nice place to live in if you want it to be.
Are there particular habits you’ve imbibed that you feel have made this transition smoother for you?
I would say the one habit that has helped me a lot is to be street-wise, and this I picked from watching Nollywood movies and my friends. I was forewarned that if I returned with an “aje-butter” mentality, then I would struggle a lot in certain circumstances e.g. NYSC orientation camp. For me, coming down and accepting the way certain things run in this country has eased the transition.
Are you back for good, or do you see yourself going back?
I would not return abroad to look for a job, because my plan is to set up something for myself here in Nigeria. My plan is to stay here, this is my country and I feel that no matter where you go in this world, there is not going to be a place like Nigeria. Although some people might not like Nigeria, (and I can understand why, because it could be frustrating sometimes) you have to be positive, prayerful and very hardworking and then Nigeria can work for you.
What are your plans after the NYSC service year?
Law school and then I really want to practice maritime law. Most of our laws are outdated and if you look at something happening in Nigeria, take for instance the oil spill in the Niger Delta and compare with the Gulf pollution, the way the Gulf pollution was handled reveals several deficiencies in our laws and I believe that if we have more people competently trained to tackle these, amongst other problems, then we as a people can begin to resolve some of these issues for our own good. I also hope to go into academia at some point, but like it’s popularly said, everything is a step at a time
On a final note, do you have any tips for people considering a move back to Nigeria, as someone who’s recently made the move?
I would advise anyone moving back to humble themselves and realise they are no longer abroad. I am not endorsing our infrastructural deficiencies in Nigeria but these problems aren’t going to vanish immediately; gradually, things are bound to improve. So for anyone moving back, it is best to accept that services will not be as efficient as you’re used to.
Also be realistic about what you’re returning to. If you are not coming back to a job waiting for you, just prepare yourself as money management is key in Nigeria, especially Abuja. Things are very expensive here, so cut your coat according to your size. Do not be shy of public transport, trust me, you’ll save a lot of money. Don’t be fooled by what you see on the blogs, chances are, you are going to have a very different experience compared to the photos on these blogs.
When you move back, you realise that you have to hustle for everything in Nigeria, so be realistic and not wait for someone to do everything for you. All in all, I have no regrets whatsoever about moving back. I came back with a goal, to make a difference and with hard work and diligence, I know I will contribute my fair quota to this country!
Many thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward.
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