By Sadiya Abubakar Isa, PhD
It is precisely one year since we returned to Nigeria from Malaysia. My experience has been a roller-coaster ride since my return. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
Alhamdulillah for the gift of life and a loving family. The primary reason why we chose to return was that I missed my family so much. My son would always request to see his cousins – “I want to go to ‘Naijilia’, I want to see grandma”, he cried – until my neighbours once pled with us to take him to Nigeria. He has never been there. He just wants to meet his grandparents and cousins as he has only met them via video calls. I responded.
I thought about the consequences of extending my stay abroad; what if my parents also die (like my husband’s)? Does that mean my kids would never see any of their grannies? I pondered and discussed it with my husband. Maybe we should just return home after my viva. We thought it through thoroughly, and home it is. We finalised our decision.
Of course, there were other reasons. Our scholarship tenures ended towards the end of 2020, so if we had chosen to stay back, we would have to work extra hard to manage our finances. Additionally, the world was fighting a pandemic, a not-so-good time to job-hunt. So rather than being stranded abroad, we got additional reasons to fly back home.
Many people, mainly family and close friends, tried hard to dissuade us from returning, but what do you do with homesickness? Or the fear of losing loved ones (again) without meeting them after seven years of being away? We overlooked all the negative news. We thought we could make a difference. We felt that we could directly contribute our quota to bettering our dear country by returning to Nigeria. We discussed, planned and strategised lots of projects to do when we return, but Nigerians aren’t ready – we realised.
On that fateful day, we arrived in Nigeria on the 19th of March 2021. From the airport in Abuja down to Kano airport, the manners of the airport officials and the treatment of our luggage, we knew we were ‘home’.
Sometimes I’m glad I’m home, but I often regret this decision. I have tried to settle down since, but I’m still in the process. Truth be told, if one is entrepreneurial, there are many business opportunities in Nigeria, but its challenges wouldn’t let you achieve the desired results in time. Even if you have a good-paying job, your salary is hardly enough this time, thanks to the inflation everywhere and the devaluation of the Naira. Moreover, with the overwhelming decline in Nigeria’s energy sector, things can only worsen over time.
The vulnerability of an ordinary citizen in Nigeria is very discouraging, thanks to the exacerbating insecurity in our region. You can’t travel around peacefully. You can’t trust your neighbours, not to mention strangers. You can’t even take off your attention from the kids. So we are always living in fear – fear of the unknown.
Basic amenities are still not basic in Nigeria. The first time my son experienced a light-out, he asked, “Mama, what happened? Please, put on the light, Mama I can’t see”. It was funny, and we all laughed, but it hit me very hard.
Adopting has been quite tricky for my kids. We are all Nigerians, but my husband and I are more Nigerian than the kids are. Till today when writing this, they quickly have diarrhoea resulting from food poisoning and difficulties in eating local foods. The worst is when you don’t have good enough hospitals around, and It’s tiring. I can’t count how many times we have been down due to malaria or thyroid fever; watching your child suffer from illnesses that would have otherwise been avoided is appalling. It’s exhausting and sometimes frustrating.
We were mugged at Kofar Danagundi in Kano; we have escaped a series of phone snatching scenes. I have been duped and cheated by people I tried to help out of poverty. I still cannot explain the concept of almajiri to my son. He asked, “where is the ‘almadiri’s [almajiri] mother? Why does he have to beg for food?” I still haven’t answered his questions satisfactorily.
While travelling to Borno in mid-January, I experienced what it really means to be in a war zone after slightly escaping a Boko Haram attack. By the grace of God, we are surviving in this country. When we look back at life, we see how far Nigeria is from the developed and developing world. Even India, which is still struggling with all forms of corruption, offers a better life experience than Nigeria.
I will not advise anyone to return to Nigeria if you ask me. Nigeria is currently at its worst. So don’t relocate to Nigeria if not for very tangible reasons. If you have a good job in your country of residence, please don’t come back. If you have a scholarship, do your best to prove your worth to be retained there. If you have a valid visa, look for a job; keep searching, make yourself useful in any way possible. If you can afford to stay there, don’t even think of returning. Yes, living abroad is expensive but also efficient.
It could also be exhaustive, but the basic necessities are available and accessible. You may pay too much tax but drive on good roads with cameras. You get to eat good food and sleep without battling mosquitoes.
So if you choose to return, think about the future of your kids here, think about their safety and think about the opportunities they may be missing because of your decision. But then, Alhamdulillah for everything!
Dr Sadiya Abubakar Isa can be reached via email@example.com.