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.It is our pleasure to bring you, our dear readers, this week’s interview with Funmi Johnson, a Life Coach and Communications Consultant. Read on for more on her unexpected move to Nigeria, her passionate and involved work with victims of abuse and her desire to impact her world.
Thanks for speaking to us. Can you please tell us who you are and what you do?
My name is Funmi Johnson and I am a life coach and trainer. As a life coach, my core focus is working with women and girls who have experienced abuse in their personal relationships. My other passion is writing and communication: working with people to become effective communicators, editing and proof reading.
Please take us through your educational and professional background
I did most of my primary school in the UK. I came to Nigeria, just before I turned 10. I went to secondary school here in Lagos, Queen’s College. My first degree was in Geography and Planning. I went on to convert that degree to a law degree, in the UK, in 1992. I completed a Masters degree in equality and diversity in 2007 and got my certificate in coaching in 2012. When I moved back to the UK in 1989, I worked for a little while as an administrative officer. I was promoted to executive officer about 2 years later. A short while after that, I was sponsored by my office to go off and study law. I was called to the UK Bar in 1994 and worked as a full time criminal prosecutor until 2003. From 2003 onwards, I began to do a mix of litigation, policy and training, whilst I worked on a national domestic violence project. I took over the management of that project in 2008, when we expanded the remit to include all forms of violence against women.
Seems like your career was thriving.What then inspired or prompted your move back to Nigeria My husband is a banker and when the credit crunch happened, he was made redundant. He couldn’t find a job in the UK, so when he was offered a position in Lagos, he took it. Living separately was not an option for him, so my daughter and I found ourselves heading for Lagos!
Thanks for clarifying. So, how have you found the transition process, on a personal front and also in relation to your professional life?
On a personal note regarding transitioning, it has been a journey. Everyone said the first year would be the hardest, but it wasn’t because I was still firmly in denial about being back. The worst time for me was round about 18 months in. It hit me, that I was still here and likely to be for the foreseeable future. I think it was at that stage that I acknowledged that I was grieving for my old life and going through the 5 stages of grief, just like one would for any bereavement. Luckily my parents are here, but my most important support network has been my brother, his wife and their two kids. They live just down the road from me and they were able to give me useful tips and advice about living in Lagos again. My husband had been here for a year, but he was just coming back as well so he didn’t yet have a good grasp of how things are done here.
Professionally, when I knew that we were moving to Nigeria, I started thinking of what to do when I arrived, because I had already moved away from doing law in a strict sense. I was doing mostly domestic violence policy and training but one thing I had on my mind, was that I wanted to work with women more closely. Previously, as a prosecutor, I had worked with women who had been victims of abuse and was always thinking about what to do and how to work with them more closely. I had initially thought of becoming a domestic violence advocate, but then thought about coaching, because I would be able to use both parts of my skill set. I would be able to give them some insight into the legal process as well as help them to rebuild themselves after the abuse. So I went off and got a certificate in coaching before we moved back with the intention to set up a business in that line.
In terms of thinking about the structure of the business, I thought it could be structured into 3 main parts: a coaching stream which would entail working directly with women; a training stream which would entail working with organizations, and a third stream covering makeup, styling and women’s relationship with food. What I envisioned was a complete platform for the ‘rebuilding process’.
If for instance, your confidence has taken a battering as a result of the abuse you’ve experienced and you’re getting back into the workplace, or you want to get back out there and you are not sure of how you look, then I can help you with make-up skills, styling tips and presenting yourself in the best way. I must confess, there was no formal or structured business plan, all I had were my dreams and the determination to see them through.
How did things begin to shape up for you?
The first year was mostly taken up by coming back, settling in and also doing some networking. I also did a couple of things; I organised a seminar and did a couple of presentations. I found out that there were people who were already doing things here, but it was a silo approach. You find pockets of people doing things, but very little collaborative work. This was one of the things I would say I found really strange about working in Nigeria- the resistance to collaborative working.
I believe collaborative working is absolutely the best way to work. Obviously, the real issue here is fear, because if I sit down and say I am going to work with you, the fear is that maybe you will steal my idea and because we’ve all heard of people who have done this, people are scared. A lot of people have been very hurt by that and they are not very happy. On a separate front, I had started blogging before I came, so I just carried on with the blogging, carried on with networking and speaking to people about what I did and taking the opportunities just the way they came. This is how the business has evolved- very organically and nothing too formal or structured.
Can you please tell us what the main thrust is, of what you do now on a day to day basis?
My life coaching enterprise with women is called ‘born2bebeautiful’ and the communication consultancy service is called ‘mywordworx’. So far, my coaching work has been with a handful of women and some general training. I have picked up some freelance work at a leadership organisation and I’ve been doing that on and off. I only recently started the communication consultancy. I’ve just finished editing a book and I’m currently half way through a second one.
You mentioned writing would you like to talk about that in some detail?
I have been blogging on a regular basis since 2012. It started with me blogging for born2bebeautiful and then I started writing things on Facebook. I got lots of feedback that people were looking forward to what I was writing because it really touched them. I never would have thought for a moment that I would write anything and people would be engaged in it, so that was quite enlightening. I’m definitely putting myself more into it as time goes on. In terms of writing my own books, that’s not my priority for now, ‘mid-wifing’ other writers is more important to me because I see it as my way of helping other writers produce fantastic writing.
What’s the big plan for you and your brand in the mid to long term?
I see myself working with more women. I also see myself working collaboratively with more organisations so that we can change the experience for women, not just women going through the criminal justice system, because there will be few. I see myself more getting into churches, and schools because I find that women here are more likely to disclose experiences of violence to their pastors, friends and possibly family. Really getting in there to tell them that the right response is not just to say “go and pray some more”. Prayer alone is not going to keep her safe, there has to be an additional practical response as well. In terms of the communication consultancy, I intend to midwife more books and hopefully, broaden my range of services.
I offer a free thirty minute consultation, because it’s important to establish whether or not there is chemistry. Coaching is one of those things where if there is no chemistry, it can be very difficult to engage, because the issues you are touching on are usually very sensitive issues. So, if there is no rapport, it is difficult to work with the person. It is also very important to help potential clients understand that coaching is not counseling. I am very clear in my mind that they are not same, but I find that clients tend to merge them together.
Counseling is more about looking at past issues and how they are affecting you now and may also be traced to disorders. On the other hand, coaching by and large expects that you are fairly okay and you want to move forward. Say for example, you have got issues with a parent and you have never been able to do anything. Once you have dealt with the underlying issues in therapy/counseling, then you might come to a coach to say okay, I want to do X.Y.Z, how can I get there? A coach can help you to do that. We set goals and we work toward those goals. It’s not to say though, that we do not touch on things that have happened in the past, the issue is that we do not spend a lot of time doing that. If we are spending a lot of time there, it is usually a sign that the person needs therapy rather than coaching.
That’s quite instructive. And now with regards to yourself, how are you dealing with your move back to Nigeria?
I would love to say it’s all fantastic, but the truth is you kind of circle back and forth. I hadn’t realised it until I sat down and thought about it myself. There are still sometimes when I feel I need to flee this place immediately but overall, it’s a work in progress.
Finally, taking into consideration your own background and experiences, what would you say to people who are considering moving back to Nigeria?
I would say plan it but then at the end, if it is what you want to do or have to do, just do it, because you can plan and plan and plan and it will never be the right time. So once you are done planning, you have to take action. I also think it is better to come voluntarily than to come forcefully. Obviously, a lot of women will be in my position where your husband gets a job and says “right, you are going”, so, I would say be flexible. Bear in mind that if you have plans, what you plan to do, may not look like what you end up doing and that is not necessarily a bad thing, you just need to be flexible and keep adapting. Open your mind and you will discover the possibility of finding things that you like and you are good at and you never necessarily knew before.
Many thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
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