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.
Move Back To Nigeria is exploring a new chapter with the feature on Abayomi Magbagbeola. Abayomi is the the Special Assistant to the Chairman, House Committee on Legislative Budget & Research in the House of Representatives, Abuja.
He explores in detail, his journey so far, with particular emphasis on his experiences of The Finnish Welfare System and his aspirations, which involve human capital development and transferring such concepts to Nigeria. Read on for an enlightening foray into the world of human development and sustainable growth.
Thanks for speaking with us. Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Abayomi Magbagbeola and I am the Special Assistant to the Chairman, House Committee on Legislative Budget & Research in the House of Representatives, Abuja. I was born and bred in Nigeria, where I lived and had my early education and then tertiary education at the University of Lagos, studying microbiology.
When and why did you leave?
I left Nigeria in quite interesting circumstances. My godparents were members of the Lions Club and my godmother who along with other Nigerian women attended an International women’s conference in Finland in 2000. She subsequently facilitated a youth exchange program with Finland, which I, along with 13 other youths, took part in. I was a 3rd year undergraduate at the time and it interested me because it was an unusual destination and I loved the experience. I then decided to return to Finland after my 4-year studies in Unilag to start a life and that’s where I eventually lived for 10 years.
Tell us more about that
I was very interested in the fact that Finland as a welfare state, placed a premium on human capital development & standard of living. So I decided to undergo some sort of career change with this sector in view, taking another undergraduate degree in Health & Social Sciences with majors in Demography and Gerontology at the Arcada University of Applied Science, Finland. I developed some competence in Finnish and simultaneously worked in their health and social services department in the City of Helsinki. Afterwards, I went to the Baltic Business School, Kalmar University, Sweden to study for a Master of Science in Business Administration in Leadership & Management, in International Context with majors in Strategic management and human development.
This is all very interesting. So what happened next?
During my MScBA, I realised I was interested in the concept of sustainability cum sustainable development and so upon graduation from the MScBA, I returned to Finland and began exploring my interests in nurturing talent within a conducive environment, allowing people maximise their potential and this took me out of health and social services into mainstream management, developing communities for sustainability, improving the services being rendered to the people, eventually leading me to join forces with like minds and set up a firm, Adam Brooks Consulting.
This concept of human development, could you please explore for us in detail?
The Nordic model, which is what I’m familiar with, offers a holistic approach to life and prioritises the development of the human mind above and beyond everything else. Because this undoubtedly affects and increases economic interaction, innovation, technological advancements etc. My degree also explored the use of art as a means of expression and development, philosophy and management in this regard as well. I have always highly recommended the program for youths from developing countries, as the long term effects are beneficial to the society.
Thanks! How then did your professional life take off?
At Adam Brooks Consulting, we were involved in human capital development, travel and tourism as a tool for socio-economic development, cross-cultural communications, nurturing talent and so on. We were basically trying to build a bridge between the Nordic culture and several other cultures existing in Finland. In addition to my work and life in Finland, I had a stint at the Royal College of Arts, London and The NHS Haringey Trust which was enlightening for me as the differences in both welfare States were stark.
The Nordic approach ensures a fundamental right to living, basic access to high quality; prompt healthcare (heavily subsidised by the State); social support; high unemployment benefits; up to 2 years maternity leave for mums; state provision of child care; preventative healthcare, and much more. Afterwards, I went back to Finland and began exploring ways to transferring my skills to Nigeria.
Which brings us to your move home. Things seemed to have been going well for you, what then inspired your return to Nigeria?
My family was back home and I had also always nurtured my ties to Nigeria, knowing that eventually, I would be back home to play my role. I also happened to be involved in some research of the Nigerian healthcare system, particularly in Northern Nigeria. It was a jolting experience for me, so I knew I had to decide my future: stay in Finland where things were developed, or go to Nigeria, where I could come contribute my quota. So I started my move back process to Nigeria in October 2010 and finally relocated in June 2011.
How did you find the move?
It became apparent that my annual 4 week trips did not really show me the true picture of things. Things had changed and oddly enough, I felt somewhat of an outsider as there was some sort of culture shock. The noise, traffic, crowds were all jarring compared to the tranquility I had been used to. So after 6months, I went back to Finland to better prepare myself mentally to return. Then I had the opportunity to work with someone in a leadership position (public office) in the person of Hon. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, Esq. which I thought would give me the necessary platform to share my ideas and all I had learnt in my time away. Hon. Bamidele is a strong believer in youth development and nurturing young leaders so I appreciate greatly the opportunity he has given me to work with him.
Was your first role upon your return?
Yes, in a way. In addition to that, I had earlier partnered with the Lagos State Government, in facilitating co-operation between Local and State Governments in Nigeria and Finland as well as New Era Foundation, The Street Project Foundation and some other NGOs with Finnish NGOs. Finland at the time was looking to increase their presence in Nigeria and I was involved with that, before I then moved fully into my role as a Special Assistant to the Chairman, Committee on Legislative Budget & Research, House of Representatives.
Great! What exactly does your current role entail?
First and foremost, my role entails providing the needed assistance in the area of human capital development; developing viable communities through programmes and projects. These projects aim to improve the standard of living of citizens in the constituency and the underlying quality of life. My duties also include efficient operations in the office and its administration; constituency development assessment; strategy formulation; implementing the said concept of sustainable development in line with the Chairman’s vision for economic development of the people; and a host of other personal or collective responsibility as deemed fit. Considering the peculiarity of the Nigerian society, job descriptions often include many other responsibilities which make the job sometimes interesting, yet challenging and a test of your ability to adapt.
How have you adjusted to life in Abuja?
I would say fairly well, as I shuttle between Abuja, Lagos and Ekiti State which makes adjusting complex, considering the distinct nature of these states. Overall it is energy consuming, ability and temperament testing. However, for me it is also exciting as one’s life is never boring and always full of surprises. You may not know what will happen the next minute of the day. I am an adventurous person and although the spontaneity, energy, chaos in Nigeria can be overwhelming. I have adjusted better now compared to when I first moved. It’s also a bit of challenge juggling different languages- Finnish, Swedish, English and Yoruba and I still do miss the tranquility, structure, order and precision you find in developed countries.
Were there any particular challenges you faced while adjusting to the move back? And if yes, how did you overcome them?
There were a lot of challenges. I had to overcome the challenges of poor public transport system meaning, I sit behind the wheels for hours. Driving on the road is another adventure on its own, the non-availability of power (though it’s considerably better in Abuja) the high cost of living a decent life, and I must say, the poor service delivery in the service-oriented sector, and the manner of engagement of the police and other security agencies.
However, I don’t see them as challenges per se, but opportunities to engage and interact with others, share ideas and understand their stories which has been absolutely inspiring. In overcoming them, I had to be patient, subtly express my views, not imposing but in a suggestive manner with a smile and the usual “my oga I hail you” or other courteous expression that makes others feel human and relevant. I think what an average Nigerian needs is to be given recognition however small or mighty and I bet you, you’ll fairly have your way and get things done.
Another interesting challenge is the language change, having spoken a different language (Finnish and a bit of Swedish), using English nowadays is a lot of work in my head, translating my thought and opinion to correct English tenses. Weirdly, my Yoruba language knowledge is very much intact as if it was always in use.
Where do you see yourself long term? Politics maybe?
My ambition has always been to be a Diplomat, as an Ambassador (Ambassadorial posting which is one of the highpoint of a diplomat’s career). I am also an advocate of a mixed economy tending towards a welfare society, so I see myself nurturing my career in the public sector as my parents themselves retired from the public sector after successful careers as public servants.
I believe that change is made ‘with-in’, not ‘with-out’. A holistic change is often achieved through the public sector rather than the private sector. Politics? that’s a complex one, at the moment, I still want to stick to my passion; to be a technocrat cum humanitarian, as the political terrain in Nigeria isn’t for the sincere and honest ones. Even though I am in the centre of the polity, there’s still a lot of transparency and fairness needed for active engagement. On the long term though, It’d be a privilege to be fully political and vie for offices for the purpose of serving mankind. At the moment, I am learning the ropes.
And on a final note, do you have any advice for people who may be intending to move back?
First of all, anyone intending to move back should follow the “business plan model” that is, draw a SWOT analysis, be sure of what he or she wants or desires and be ready for a rollercoaster ride.
I encourage anyone and everyone to take a good thought before moving back because it is more than meets the eye. It requires passion, strong desire and absolute decision. There is also a strong need for support from trusted families and good networks to help with adapting and settling down in the first few months. I also recommend a trial (3months-in, 3months-out) that would help the gradual process of relocation as well as help in assessing one’s interest in moving back.
I also want to use the opportunity to commend MoveBackToNigeria as a veritable and needed platform bridging the gap between interest or dreams and the reality. A lot of people do not know how much they change or have been influenced by their host society until they visit or move back. Nigerians resident in the Nordic countries often find it impossible to move back due to the obvious changes they have undergone – be it in interaction, in perception or ways of doing things. I am like a case study for many more people in Scandinavia who are very skeptical about moving even when they desire greatly, hopefully I will turn out a success.
Finally, the essence of any moving forth and back should in a way add value to one person who in turn influences others and the society at large, so I’ll also encourage more returnees to enlist in the public sector as positive change takes place within.
Many thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward.
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