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.
We revisit the entertainment space in Nigeria this week with our ‘lively’ interview with Vivien Ike, who recently moved back to Nigeria from the US. Find out in this interview, the circumstances surrounding her initial move ‘Stateside’, why she decided to move back to Nigeria, and what she is getting up to these days. We were quite impressed by her plans and ambitions, and hope you can find some inspiration from her story.
Can we start by getting to know you, please tell us who you are and what you do?
My name is Vivien Ike, a Nigerian-American who relocated to Nigeria recently. Before leaving Nigeria for the United States, I graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Lagos, and also contested in several pageants – one of which was the Miss Unilag beauty pageant (2003), where I ended up as the first runner up. I also worked as a sales executive at Zoommobile (Formerly Reltel). Affiliated with the United States Press Agency, I am presently in Nigeria working on a few projects.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Lagos.
Can you please tell us more about your beauty pageant experience?
As you know, I was first runner up at the Miss Unilag beauty pageant in 2003, and that opened a lot of opportunities for me in the entertainment industry. I went on to audition for several pageants like ‘Face of Abuja’, MBGN and WMUN which I scaled through but due to one thing or the other, I could not continue. An example is when I decided to venture into acting with my younger sister, Chika Ike. We both auditioned in front of Chico Ejiro and I got a role in his movie called ‘Sweet Love’ as a Sub-Lead. But unfortunately I was not able to continue with the project due to my obligation with the WMUN pageant, so I had to opt out from shooting the movie with my sister. Anyway, I ended up as the First runner up of that pageant, and moved on to modelling and got a couple of jobs with brands such as Virgin Airlines, Maracuja Drink, Lux (soap), and others.
You were an upcoming actress and model. What came next?
I won the US visa lottery in 2008. Due to my inquisitive nature, I quit my job as a sales executive with Zoommobile and relocated to the US to experience life in another country. Living in the United States opened my eyes to opportunities and I decided to explore each of them one after the other.
How was life in the US? What did you get up to?
In one word – Exhilarating. I actually wrote down what I intended to accomplish while in the States. It was as follows: singing and performing on stage, travelling, and getting my Masters Degree. I started singing and performing on stage at the tender age of 5; so I felt since it came naturally for me, why not give it a shot here. I enrolled for singing lessons and then started travelling to perform at different places in Utah, Minnesota, Texas, and Maryland. Music was not paying much so I went into nursing and did that for two years, while working on my album, which is yet to be released. Currently, I am a graduate student of the University of Maryland University College studying Public Relations.
Thank you. When did you then decide to move back to Nigeria?
I decided to move back to Nigeria in August 2014.As much as I was enjoying the knowledge and exposure that being in the US gave me, during my quiet moments, this small voice in my head kept telling me to go back to Nigeria. Intuitively I knew it was the right thing to do. I talked to my friends about it and some convinced me to stay in the United States, actually telling me the bad things that could happen to me being in Nigeria; even my sister felt it might not be the right time due to the present situation in Nigeria. But for me, I trust my intuition. I strongly believe that it is our guiding light directing us to the right path in our lives and you can never go wrong following it. A lot of people are scared of starting all over; I have never been that person. If I was, I would never have relocated on my own, without my family to another country. For me, if I want something and it’s in another country, I would go get it. It’s that simple.
Was moving back something you thought about for a while or did your intuition kick in suddenly?
It had crossed my mind several times but not as much as during the period leading up to my eventual move. Everything in my being was telling me it was time to return. My mum being an evangelist of her church – The Elect Ministries, prayed with me. Since it had been my inclination to go back to Nigeria, I blocked out the Nay-Sayers and packed my bags and left the United States with one goal in mind – to contribute my quota to the country. That’s all.
So now you are in Nigeria, what do you get up to these days?
I am presently affiliated with the United States Press Agency and working on a couple of things that would be revealed when it’s done. I am also developing several concepts of game shows for Nigeria and the world. I have also gotten some deals which will manifest at the right time.
You were away for about five years, how are you able to cope with coming back to Nigeria in terms of the traffic, and the general day to day living?
(Laughs). The first week was hell for me because of the huge disparity between the two countries. The United States is a developed country that has worked overtime to establish great infrastructure and technology to make life easier for its citizens, which we have come to enjoy. But let’s not forget that the United States became 238 years old on the 4th of July, so it actually took a long time. On the other hand, here is Nigeria, trying to catch up. Using Lagos State and Calabar as a yardstick, Nigeria is not doing badly. The traffic situation in Lagos has improved judging from the last time I visited Nigeria in 2011. All thanks to the governors and those paying their taxes.
Given you are into Media and Entertainment, how do you find the industry landscape in Nigeria, compared to what you were used to in the US?
Nigeria has experienced high levels of growth. I remember before I left for the states, western music was ruling the airwaves. But now, the industry is well saturated with talented artistes who proudly celebrate and project Nigeria to the world. On the other hand, the United States is a country that has invested a lot in their entertainment and media industry. They have got the infrastructure and technology to pull off anything they want. That’s why the US is still the country to beat. I believe that if the government invests in the entertainment industry in Nigeria, we will eventually end up as the country to beat.
Wow really? Keep it coming…
Even though Nigeria is a fertile ground, and filled with talented people, we don’t really have much in place to position young people for a career in entertainment/ performing arts. We don’t have effective training programs for people who are willing to go into entertainment and the government has not invested enough into the entertainment industry. It’s quite tough in Nigeria. You know, when you know within you that you can do so much but given so little. If Nigerians that live overseas – I mean those who have garnered enough experience and knowledge can return to Nigeria and make things happen, I think we will grow and Nigeria will be the greatest country in the world. You cannot stay far and hope for the best, you have to make the best happen. That’s my two cents.
Do you see yourself getting back to your previous involvement in the movie industry?
The entertainment industry is my calling. For me, I cease every opportunity available as far as it keeps me on the right track. So if I have any opportunity to go into the acting profession, I would embrace that.
You seem to be in the ‘set up’ phase of your move back, so how do you stay financially liquid?
I am handling my business in the best way I can, but I will not wait to acquire all the money to achieve what I came here to achieve. As much as I love money, I try not to get distracted by it so I focus on the project at hand.
Looking forward to the next three to five years, where would you want Vivien Ike to be?
In the world that she created. Surrounded by ultimate achievers like her who did not leave any stone unturned. In her empire filled with people who are inspired by her courage, determination, resilience and success (Laughs). And of course married to the best and with our beautiful kids.
Do you see yourself ever going back to the US?
I can’t really predict the future because anything can happen, you know. Life is unpredictable. The United States has enriched me and I am proud to be one of them. I truly believe when its time for me to return, I will know.
How can people get to contact you and check your work out?
Well, people can check out my website which is called opinionvibes.com, it’s a polling website dedicated to everything in Nigeria. Everything presented, discussed and debated is opinion based, so people can go to the website and vote on various topics. My motivation for the website was to create a place where people can go and express their honest opinion without any fear or any form of prejudice. The website has been going since June 2014.
Thanks. Finally, what advice would you give to Nigerians abroad thinking about moving back?
I would say, do your research and pray. If you believe in yourself, trust your intuition and work your butt off; I can assure you that if you do not give up, everything would fall into place. Cheers.