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 regular interviews with individuals who have successfully made the leap, so you can learn from their experiences and make a success of your move back.
My name is Banke Adelano. I am a lawyer by profession and I have been practising law for over 12 years. I’m really just a woman on a journey of self-discovery and learning vital lessons as life goes on, which I share with others on my personal blog- Being Just B. I have been in Nigeria for just over 3 years and so far my experience has been an interesting one. Part of my decision to move to Nigeria, was actually because, for the first time, I felt like I could make decisions in my life, free from guilt and fear.
Tell us about some of your fondest memories from childhood
Well, I can’t actually remember that much of my childhood funny enough, but there are snippets that come to mind every now and then. My first few years of my childhood were spent living in Nigeria, before my parents decided to go back to London when I was around six or seven years old. I do remember the primary school I attended in Ogba, but everything else is very limited. I have two recurring memories though one being my 9th birthday, because that was the day I wore lipstick for the first time and I took the most beautiful portrait in my white flowery dress. Second is the first time I was allowed to go to the movies on my 14th birthday with my friends without adults. I remember feeling so “adultish”.
Please walk us through your educational background
At two different points in time, I schooled in Nigeria very briefly. I attended Atlantic Hall for a while and went on to study in the UK. I went to an all-girls boarding school and was there for about 2 years, then moved to a day school. I did my A-Levels in Economics, Politics and Sociology. Sociology was my best subject as I enjoyed understanding how societies are formed and the human interactions. I studied Business and Finance law after A-levels and graduated with 2:1 from Brunel University. After my degree, I went on to work for a year as a paralegal to save up for my law school training. I went to law school and became a trainee solicitor in 2004. In 2006, I became a fully qualified solicitor in England and Wales, worked for a while. I later decided I needed to upgrade myself by getting a master’s degree. I attended the University of Buckingham in 2012 where I studied International and Commercial Law LLM and after I graduated I went on to work as a legal consultant.
When did you start thinking about moving back to Nigeria and how did you know the time was right?
I actually wanted to move back to Nigeria 3 months after I had my second child, which was about 8 years ago. I was going through a rough patch emotionally and felt like I needed a change and more support around me. I was overworked, depressed and just felt isolated. However, my desire would take another 5 years to materialise, because I had a long ongoing custody battle with my son’s father to relocate with him. It was one day when I got a text message from his dad to say we could go, and we would drop the legal case that I literally booked the next flight out.
Oh wow! Glad you were able to sort that out. So, how were the first few months being back in Nigeria?
Well, it was not as I had expected. When I moved back at first, it still felt like I was on vacation and I literally thought that with the connections I had through my mum, job hunting would be a breeze. I got a car and learnt how to drive on Lagos roads pretty easily. Making friends was not an immediate thing either, I think it was after law school that my social circle started opening up. I was very surprised that I did not get a job as quickly as I had thought. I had not planned to go to law school when I moved back, but I was faced with so much resistance from people that as a lawyer in the UK I just had to get qualified over here to be taken seriously.
I started law school a few months after relocating and I hated every single moment of it. I felt like it was an adult school version of the NYSC. Teachers were so difficult, processes were so protracted. It really was a major adjustment for me and I just couldn’t wait for it to be over. Up till now I have some kind of ill feelings towards Abuja as that was where I did the first part of my law school. I almost feel like I have been traumatised by that whole experience.
Fast forward to the job hunting part and really I still didn’t find it easy. Eventually of course I got a job and well, I guess I started building my life here one step at a time. Funny enough people are usually surprised that the traffic and power situation are rarely my sore points when talking about Nigeria. Traffic as crazy as it seems sometimes gives me the opportunity to zone into my thoughts and muse about my life and objectives.
Did you experience culture shock at any point?
As I said, I really found law school to be a hard adjustment, primarily because we were treated like primary school kids instead of adults. The clothes we had to wear were so restrictive, the conditions of studying were so unproductive. Honestly I also hate all the Nigerian bureaucracy! I just can’t stand it over here! I can’t stand lazy attitudes of some civil servants and state and federal authority, administrative processes are just the most frustrating things ever over here! Light and traffic really didn’t faze me, although to be fair where I live we have good power supply because we live close to a branch of EKO DISCO.
What do you do?
I head the Property Transaction team in a real estate firm but also kept true to my legal roots as I am Media and Entertainment lawyer and recently just established my legal practice. I’m also thinking about life coaching as a vocation that I would one day like to go into full time. When I moved back to Nigeria, I was pleasantly surprised about how much scope there is at the moment for life coaching, self-mastery and personal growth programs. I took up life coaching myself and I have been all the better for it ever since I started coaching sessions this year.
That’s great. Has the current recession affected you in any way and if so, what are you doing to mitigate the effects?
Oh yes absolutely! Mainly with regards to Forex. With one of my children schooling in a private school in the UK, this has been a nightmare! Also buying travel tickets has been unreasonably costly. I have had to find ways to develop streams of income to take care of the bills in the UK. Paid freelance writing jobs have been helpful but I’ll be looking to expand that area more.
What do you do for fun/relaxation in Lagos?
Lagos is such an interesting place and I am always discovering that there are so many different things happening. I am a fitness freak so a lot of my spare time is spent working out. I love the theatres and I am always on the lookout for live plays. Of course Lagos wouldn’t be Lagos without all the ‘Owambes’ and whilst I don’t go to every party, I do have my share of a few selected occasions that I attend. For relaxation, well, that is really within the home, I love to write and I just love to chill in my room with my candles and incense. That is really my ‘zen’ space. I do love the sauna too, which is another place I find relaxation and calm. There is something about my own company that I enjoy and often crave when life gets too hectic.
Finally, do you have any advice for prospective returnees?
Definitely! Do not believe the hype! Lagos certainly does offer a world of opportunities but it is no walk in the park. Big breakthroughs are often tied to connections and usually in exchange for something, but if you are steadfast and determined, you can do great things without having to compromise standards. But patience is key, without it you will struggle. It is important to have a mind-set to weather the storm no matter what, because there will be times where you will feel like this place is hell. But the truth is, there is so much to learn here, friends to make and chances to bring out your full potential that it really is all worth it.
Oh, lastly don’t argue with LATSMA, the Police or with Federal Road Safety! If you do, you will just land yourself in a pot of frustration because they will certainly frustrate you to submission and waste your time purposely. What I have learnt with Nigerian authority is that everyone wants to feel like they are important, so coming with an attitude of acknowledging this and using that as your guide to manoeuvre out of a tight corner with them, will go a long way. If you can turn the situation into a light banter with them, you are likely to win the battle.