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Move Back to Nigeria: After Long Consideration, Diran Otegbade Left Toronto for Lagos

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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.

The Move Back To Nigeria series will now be a monthly feature on BellaNaija.

Kicking off this year, we’re sharing Diran Otegbade’s story. He moved back from Toronto, Canada.
***
Please introduce yourself…
I consider myself an employer of labour. I am constantly looking to invest in and develop communities and talents I come across and this translates into both my professional and social life. I run an investment company that invests primarily in real estate, and high value businesses. In addition, I founded a non-profit; ‘ICANAfrica’ that focuses on consolidating resources to ensure social developmental organizations/NGOs are more effective with the work they do.

A lot my efforts of recent have been focused on ‘ICANAfrica’ – which has a mandate to bolster the efforts of social developmental organizations/NGOs and to improve the ratio of people’s donations; to ensure over 90% goes directly to their intended beneficiaries.

That’s really awesome! So, when did you first leave Nigeria?
I left Nigeria in 2005 when I went to Canada for my first degree. Having looked forward to the day I could live outside of my parents’ rules and/or the strictures of boarding school; I was most excited by the prospect.

However, getting acquainted with a new culture, environment and weather was initially daunting for the barely sixteen-year old boy I was at the time. Fortunately, Toronto is the most multi-cultural city in North America, so it was certainly great and easy to meet many different people from different parts of the world – especially from other African countries, Iran, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong & China.

I remain friends with many of these people, and at the very least; I’d have a place to crash if I visited any of those countries. (Laughs)

Great! Kindly walk us through your educational and professional background.
I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and attended Trinity International School, Ofada for my secondary education. I went to University at ‘the University of Toronto’, where I studied Electrical/Computer Engineering.

Prior to setting up my investment firm, I spent nearly four years at IBM where I developed software and worked in project management on both their development and technology services teams.

Since leaving IBM, I set out to run my investment business full-time – deploying personal capital, helping clients find viable real estate investments & optimizing the value of their assets.

When did you start thinking about moving back to Nigeria and how did you know the time was right? 
Ha! Moving back home was a very long consideration. I toyed with the idea as far back as 2009 – prior to completing my degree. However, I knew the Nigerian reality required that I make adequate plans first, to ensure I could hit the ground running once I got there.

Part of the planning involved taking annual trips back, to keep in touch with the ground realities.

In fact, I took notes on each trip – so each time during the year when I updated my plans, I was factoring those in. For instance, I took notes about how long I would get stuck in traffic from one location to the next. And on the frustration I experienced when I had fully charged my battery the night before, but had no back up if I went out for a meeting and couldn’t get back till later at night when the phone was dead. I took notes on the cost of having a driver or domestic help.

Taking all those notes and reviewing them helped to adjust my mind-frame and plan for it. For instance, I had calculated it would cost about N2 million for a car (all upfront) and between N4 – N5 million to get setup with an accommodation option that would be similar to what I’m used to in Toronto. This gave me a bit of time to begin planning in advance.

I had an inclination that it was time to move back when I got frustrated with the cold and came to Lagos in November 2014 for a 6-week period. My mind wasn’t even made up then, but something gave – and by the first quarter of 2015; it was time to come home.

How have you been able to cope with the challenges associated with living in Nigeria? (Poor power supply, bad roads and the likes)
Thankfully, I had the good fortune of having a family support system in place. However, I’ve had to systematically plan, to alleviate some of the challenges associated with living in Nigeria. For instance, it was with no small measure of pain, that I spent hundreds of thousands of naira to obtain an inverter and batteries, to ensure I have power supply when there’s no electricity or generator. I had to limit the number of places I frequented, and drive mostly during off-peak hours to avoid getting stuck in traffic.

How do you see yourself contributing to the growth of our nation?
I’m constantly excited about the work I do everyday – with each initiative or activity I involve myself in, I’m excited because I know there is so much more to come!

By God’s grace, I anticipate business growth, which would further my aim of creating value. This will go towards reducing unemployment and building wealth for individuals.

But even that is still on a personal-professional level. A bit more about ‘ICANAfrica’
ICANAfrica or ICANA is an initiative that came about; in the hopes of providing solutions to some of the key problems we face in Africa – through the provision of funding to help with education bursaries and scholarships, healthcare, economic empowerment and poverty alleviation in communities where there’s no incentive for governments or private institutions to fund. Since we started in 2015, we’ve raised and disbursed over $8,500 which has benefited 112 people and gone to the areas of our focus in African communities. Over 50% of that amount has benefited communities in Nigeria.

This year, we raised Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N200,000), for the Sickle Cell Aid Foundation to enable them conduct a Genotype Awareness Campaign for about 400 people in the outskirts of the Abuja area. Subsequently, we partnered with OrphansCorp towards empowering and educating 100 OVCYs (Orphans, Vulnerable Children, and Youth).

We would be working with a few more organizations this year, to add to what we’ve been able to do so far. We are growing our volunteer base, and would be interested in getting to know people looking to get involved.

Would you say the move back to Nigeria has been worth it so far?
Speaking honestly; moving back has been well worth it. It really hasn’t been a significant shift for me, but I’ve certainly been far more productive being here.

What do you do for fun and where do you go to relax? 
I read (non-fiction), and prefer to hang out with like-minded people. I watch TV shows/movies. Recently got into House of Cards and Designated Survivor. I also enjoy travelling and listening to energetic music. As to where to relax; I can’t really speak to that – as said, I tend to limit the places I frequent for non-work related activities. However, I’ve heard Miliki, Thomas & Ray, Vanilla, Escape and House 43 are good places to unwind.

What is your favorite Nigerian food and city?
Pounded yam and Egusi – any time or day. There are still a number of places to visit, but I really do like the simplicity of Abuja.

Do you have any advice for prospective returnees?
If you are considering moving back, plan. Start planning for it like you are moving back tomorrow. That way, you’re forced to think of what and how and who you need, to ensure the move back is smooth.

Ask questions – of friends, of family, of strangers; they’ll be invaluable resources. Visit MBTN website and attend MBTN events (they help with connecting you with the needed networks).

Lastly – use my company for your accommodation relocation services, as well as your real estate or other proprietary investment.

Thanks for your time and good luck!

MBTN helps Nigerian and African professionals from across the world connect with career and Investment opportunities. We also organise networking events, conferences and workshops that give you the required tools to get ahead in your career in Africa or elsewhere.Find out more at www.mbtnglobal.com. Follow us on Twitter @mbtnglobal and Instagram @mbtnglobal

34 Comments

  1. Felinda

    January 27, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    I like the note taking part
    Very merticulous and Extremely organised
    Like Me 🙂 – we think alike (wink)

    • word

      January 27, 2017 at 3:44 pm

      Felinda… not wasting time at all. Lol

    • Felinda

      January 27, 2017 at 7:08 pm

      Word see me see wahala this Friday afternoon as I am minding my business, abeg what did I say 🙂 🙂 🙂 Hian 🙂

    • Anon

      January 27, 2017 at 5:51 pm

      Yeah you must be “merticulous,” while he is meticulous.

  2. TeeS

    January 27, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Although I’m not opposed to moving back. But every time I go to naija and spend a week or two. I’m about ready to head back here . I dunno what it is.
    The fact that I’ve got to take part in nysc to get a job is also something I’m not looking forward too. All I think about is this is what I could have been making for the 1 year working here in the US.
    I’m very worried about finances .
    Another thing is the current dollar naira rate . I’ve got student loans and let’s assume I got a decent paying job maybe 500,000/month ( which I heard it’s not beans to find) . I pay off about 300usd on student loans every month. And that’s already 140k of my salary in naija without any of my bills.
    Paying 300usd for me here with my job isn’t a big deal but by the time I do the conversions. ….
    Nepa wahala ehn…..let’s not even discuss that
    I miss the food. The people. The craziness. The impatience .
    Lol.
    I remember driving in Nigeria a few years ago and they were honking at me cus I was apparently too slow or not sharp enough to be driving. Meanwhile here , I’m considered a horrible driver . Lol

    • Ottawa Queen

      January 28, 2017 at 2:18 am

      Lol kpele! Anyways, personally I aint ready to move back to Nigeria. Let me keep enjoying Canada for the time being. I love my country Nigeria no doubts, I identify myself as a proud black Nigerian lady wherever I go. And it’s true, I know one can enjoy, make & save up more money back home compared to being abroad with all the bills & tax paid. However, the secure environment, comfortable and convenient lifestyle with an organised system here is what I cherish. Maybe in the year 2050 I will consider moving back home.

      1
  3. Nyc

    January 27, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Story! only went to school in Canada and come back why won’t he be able to accept the poor power supply and bad roads,these issues hv been with Nigeria since the 1980 therefore that’s no issue with adjusting.u lived with it before u left.

    • Tinuolawa

      January 27, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Lolll i was thinkin the same! Bro abeg…abeg.

    • Marcy

      January 27, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      Do not display your ignorance in such a pompous manner darling. Human nature makes it easy to adapt to a new environment relatively quickly, and this adaptation occurs faster if it’s in an even better environment. Living in a country with better resources and a more efficient system for over 7 years (4 years of college and the 3 years he spent at IBM) is more than enough time to adapt to the convenience of life outside Nigeria. So excuse him for having to re-adjust to a life rife with struggles and dysfunction, especially one he had not experienced regularly for 7 years. It seems you have a personal problem with MBTN people, which is quite unfortunate darling. Try and make more sense next time you hear?

      1
    • Tonye

      January 27, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      Dude relax, it takes time to re-adjust into the Nigerian system after being away from home for a while.

    • ilsa aida

      January 27, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      You do realize that if someone has been away for over 10 years, there is a period of adjustment. How many people who lived in the village can readjust after living in Abuja or Lagos. And if that is the only thing you saw in the interview, perhaps you should spend more time reading. Not everything is gist, some of it is comprehension and reflection

      1
    • Motun

      January 27, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      Hi there, If you live outside Nigeria for a month or more in a developed country where the system works and constant power supply is the least of your worries, settling back in Nigeria will be challenging.

    • kilipot

      January 27, 2017 at 11:44 pm

      An ordinary 1-2 week vacay sef u will feel it, starting from the airport.

    • Dtruth

      January 27, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      NYC…That does not make it unchallenging….I was born and raised in Nigeria and getting used to the power situation is still a struggle. Any form of readjustment is never easy….Trust me

  4. Note to self

    January 27, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Moving back to Naija is a good forum to encourage people to go back home, i get it..

    I have been meaning to go back but the amount of “PLEASE DON’T EVEN THINK OF IT” is 95:5. Do you know the amount of people who leaves naija on a daily basis or who are willing to swap places with you? That you call basic amenities is luxury here ooo. Even the rich are running away these days…lol

    But i have come to understand, if you are thinking of going back don’t consider looking for job bu to create one.

    You don’t have to like this comment…it’s called Note to self.

    1
    • Ethio

      January 27, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      Lacey?

    • Lacey

      January 29, 2017 at 10:42 am

      Hey Ethio, Happy New , that is not me, but I am back in Nigeria trying to get my coy running and I am enjoying it so far, never listen to Naysayers!!!

  5. unbothered

    January 27, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    dunno why this is news sef *rme*

  6. BUSH MAN

    January 27, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    story…manchi returned to naija after he got his permanent residency in Canada

  7. Nissy

    January 27, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    So we are all going to ignore i) the meaningful and great work he has been doing since he moved back, ii ) the fact that he is actually helping others voluntarily and iii) the fact that he’s an intelligent young man, the kind we need to change things around in Nigeria, and we are going to focus on something as irrelevant as his readjusting and status in Canada? You guys need to get lives and go out more please.

    1
  8. Olusola

    January 27, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    What a nice guy. His honesty and manner of dealing with challenges really shine through in this interview. I wish him all the best.

  9. Just My 2 Cents

    January 27, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Lots of people moving back from Canada to Nigeria due to loss of job and high cost of living. Go and check the average home price in Toronto and what people are earning (after tax). You will shout. I can’t blame this guy. Better to go explore options in Naija if you get money.

    1
    • Bee

      January 28, 2017 at 1:01 am

      What are you talking about? If you had said Calgary now…i would have agreed. You know nothing of which thou speaketh….btw good job Diran

  10. BK

    January 27, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Diran is an amazing young man! He is driven and passionate at the same time. God bless you for your work with the sickle cell aid foundation – that’s one NGO i admire

  11. A Concerned Youth

    January 27, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    I don’t understand Nigerians. You people constantly scream for change but when someone starts something good, you try to bring him or her down with words. Nigerians, support your own people!!! Nigeria will never change till we all change our ancient mindsets. Hating has never and will never help anyone move forward. Learn and be encouraged to help your country!

    1
  12. Oga o

    January 27, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    I hate to say this but Nigerians are bitter people. Yes I am generalising. All the great things this young man is doing and people are focused on the fact that he was born and raised here and that tax is high in Canada. I even saw permanent residency. Diran, well done. Keep doing a great job. If you are looking to meet an intelligent, well mannered woman, hit me up.

  13. Mawi

    January 27, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    Brother Diran, weldone on all your accomplishments & charity work. Please ignore the negative comments here; they are just signs of the end times.
    Meanwhile, abeg are you singular or plural? I’m asking for my cousin ooo… she stays in Abuja. *side eyes*

  14. Damilola

    January 28, 2017 at 1:59 am

    Good job, Diran.
    I recently had a long conversation with my sister about NGO business in Nigeria. And now, I’m reading this. I always wonder how much Nigerians donate and if it goes to the intended beneficiary.
    And how is the market for NGOs

    P.S Nigerians do what they do best. Complaining. Even when other Nigerians are trying to be optimistic and make a difference.

  15. David

    January 28, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    This is a great interview. I don’t understand the negativity, I sincerely don’t!

  16. Obi

    January 28, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    Lol Bella Naija interviews the 5% success stories and a couple of you start getting in your feels. Please if you are in the obods and you are doing well. You can feed, you have shelter, you have a job and you are okay please stay there and enjoy your life. Don’t be tempted to move back except you have strong connections. Especially for the I want to come and do business in my fatherland peeps. Lol its always easy to read on BN but reality is very different. This guy attended Trinity college here and University of Toronto. Man must have spent circa 20m in education and he obviously comes from an affluent family so the money is there to invest, fail and reinvest. But if you don’t fall into this category and you get unnecessarily excited to come and do business here then I would advise you to think again and think hard. The economy here is terribly down coupled with the terrible amenities and high licensing fees and overheads. So you really need to think this one through.

    • DinonMC

      January 29, 2017 at 11:22 pm

      Here is a very smart and logical submission- I appreciate Diran contribution though- The thing about life is you should not let someone else’s ruler determine your measurement- No go use someone else clock go look time- With that being said, Kudos to Diran on the good works !

  17. aj

    January 29, 2017 at 12:20 am

    God bless you for your NGO work Diran…u seem cool because you like one of my favorite foods pounded yam and egusi! lol

  18. DAME

    January 30, 2017 at 11:56 am

    Hello Diran
    I work with an NGO that partners and gives sub-grants to smaller NGOs interested in OVCs.
    You could looks up CHEERS, also MSH, FHI360 etc

  19. Sam

    May 26, 2017 at 6:29 am

    I’m moving back in a few days. MIxed feelings. Gods favour and guidance. Amen

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