Offoaro - Poet without Borders

If you left over ten to twenty years ago and you are planning to be back, know that you have become unemployable. You have to be self-employed for a long while. Be sure you have enough resources to keep you going through the period it would take you to re-acquaint yourself with your "former" home.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007



Godson Offoaro

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101 THINGS YOU NEED TO RELOCATE TO NIGERIA


"Don't worry. A sprouting palm frond pointing skywards never makes it to the sky. It soon would relapse to join its mates." - Igbo Proverb

irst, the down side of Nigeria. Its economy has predominant characteristics of a third world's. It is No. 35th on Transparency International's rating on the list of the world's most corrupt nations. It used to be No. 1. Thanks to the EFCC and ICPC. NITEL has now completely collapsed. Where NITEL failed, mediocre local independent telephone operators dominated by Indians are carting billions to the banks and their banks in India. NEPA is tottering.


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The road networks are in a very, very dilapidated condition. The transportation system in Nigeria is in a big mess. Travel by road in Nigeria has seized to be a thing of joy. By air is expensive and froth with danger of air crash due to the preponderance of molue aircraft in the air. Still, it is expensive. A forty-five-minute flight to Abuja from Lagos costs between twelve and fifteen thousand Naira, ($90-$130) depending on the airline.

Crime is climbing because of joblessness, particularly among young school leavers. Politically motivated pen robbery is still with us. Economically induced robberies are on the rise too. Banks are now robbed in broad day light. You cannot open your favorite daily any morning without reading about a robbery incident here and there. Because it is not an election season, assassinations are on the wane - it looks like.

In spite of all, this is the best time to start thinking of relocating to Nigeria. Nigeria is changing. This is very fast. You begin to notice this at the airports - your first points of entry. The air cooling systems now work most of the time. The conveyor belts work too, most of the times that I have seen. Power systems at the airports fail intermittently but not as they used to do.

The people you meet either at departure lounges or on arrival halls are beginning to imbibe the culture of courtesy. Trolleys, though for hire are now available for the jaded traveler to cart away his luggage. Even the toilets are manned by professionals who say hi to you before use and after. (Some times they hide the tissue papers and make you pay for service.) Inside the airports, touting has been kept at bay. There are banks with ATM machines competing for the business of the Nigerian traveler, at most Nigerian airports now. Modern communications gadgets are on display at every nook and cranny displaying wares, arrival and departure times.

Before you relocate, make sure you have the wherewithal to get back to where you are relocating from - just in case. The reasons are too many. But the first you would notice is how far high on the economic ladder your mates have climbed. And as you know, economic progress has a twin brother climbing the same ladder - social mobility. Your contemporaries have moved and they did so slowly but sure-footedly while you were gone. Your mates dine at the most expensive restaurants and drive the latest model cars - not on credit.

Your mates have bought up properties in the choicest areas of the land. Your mates are to be found in, Wuse II, Asokoro and Maitama areas of Abuja. Your mates have occupied the choicest areas of Lagos, particularly the picturesque sites of Lekki, Victoria Garden City - fancifully called the VGC. Of course, your mates now use their Ikoyi and VI previous homes as offices. It is no more fanciful to say I live in Ikoyi or VI. There are new places of abode in the land - from Kaduna to Port Harcourt and from Enugu to Maiduguri, and your mates have taken them up while you were gone.

If you left over ten to twenty years ago and you are planning to be back, know that you have become unemployable. You have to be self-employed for a long while. Be sure you have enough resources to keep you going through the period it would take you to re-acquaint yourself with your "former" home. Things have really changed - changed for good for those who did not jet out and somehow changed for bad for those of us who took the next plane and left the country.

In Nigeria, your mates in the public and private sectors of the economy, particularly the banking and oil industry, have become highly placed. Most earn the equivalent of between 200,000 and 300,000 dollars a year plus other incentives to wit. There was an advert recently placed in one of the papers for a job opening which warned those not earning twenty million Naira and above, per annum, in their present job not to apply. Most have built their own houses in Nigeria. Most have more than two cars in their drive way. Most live in homes that smack of opulence, with every modern gadget ranging from large sized Plasma TVs to Microwaves.

Most have genuinely saved enough to send their children to some of the best educational institutions over seas, including to the Ivy Leagues. Most are share holders in most of the emerging markets that have been liberalized during the eight boom years (and counting) which we that left, have missed. Most of them have savings in liquid cash that run into tens of millions. Most have invested in the now, very lucrative Nigeria stock market. You would marvel when you have a snippet of what amount of shares your mates now hold. You would shiver in self pity.

If your mates joined politics, they have occupied the choicest of political positions in the land and made new friends that will be hard to dislodge. If you happen to have showed off to them in your hey days of "returning" from America, be rest assured they have not forgotten. They call us mercenaries in politics. It is now their turn to show you, that you can't have it both ways. They have built a barricade and insulated themselves from out side interests - you the returnee being an outside interest that must be dreaded. If you have real or passing interest in politics, you must show it with extreme caution. They would like to invite you to political meetings and discussion only to put you to size.

While not accepting everything they say, when making your presentations, or contributions avoid using phonetics. Avoid such phrases as "if it were in America or Europe." They do not like to hear that. One of them surely will remind you "this is Nigeria" to the embarrassing applause of others, there present. They see Nigeria now as a trophy. They labored for Nigeria while you were gone. They suffered the June 12 crises together while you were gone. They suffered the Abacha era while you were gone. While you were gone, you probably had returned on one or two occasions only to scurry out soon after complaining of incessant heat, erratic power supply and mosquito bites. At the airport, you must have been caught criticizing everything in sight. They have not forgotten your new borrowed accent and the phonetics that do not rhyme.

That you need a shelter to live in Nigeria if you planned relocating to Nigeria is an understatement. There are many ways to do this. It's either that you have managed to build something for yourself in the city you would want to relocate or you could find an affordable apartment. With the kind of money we make overseas from genuine everyday livelihood, it is almost next to impossibility that you could build yourself an abode commensurate to what you are used to. If you find yourself in this position, don't worry, if you endured the pains and worked hard and kept a low profile in order not antagonize your former friends, within five years your will build your self, your dream home.

You need to feed well. This too is an understatement. Avoid going to the supermarkets to get your food - raw, processed or cooked. Buy from the local sellers at the nearest mammy market. Go to the supermarkets and shops to buy the essentials. At the malls, you will find that while you spend a miserable amount to buy your essential needs, Nigerians who are not been tos, buy up anything in site both the ones they need and those they do not need.

This people have so much money. How they make it, you will find out if you endured. Closely related to this is your phone habit. It is very expensive to use the telephones in Nigeria. As you know, telephone calls in the western world are taken for granted. Here, while it's beginning to happen as if it is for granted, it is very, very expensive. To Nigerians who are not used to such freedom of expression, they are spending millions everyday to make phone calls - to satisfy their newly found phone freedom. If you are not mindful, telephone bills may cut into your feeding pattern. If this happens, before long, you will become an object of gossip. You will lose your complexion and weight and they will notice.

You need clothing to cover the body you have labored to nurture while you lived abroad. This also, is an understatement. Nigerians pay too much attention to dressing. Your dress mode can shut the door at you or open the door for you. Avoid casual dressing, particularly when you are going to meet with the Nigerian big man. He knows the stuff you're wearing and could place you based on that. Be simple but neat if need be occasionally be flamboyant. Express yourself. Speak good English, where there is a need, do not use slang such as I wana or I gonna….

Do not lend money. Give out only that which you could afford to lose. Beware of relatives and the extended family system. If you manage to set up a small business, never employ those closely related to you. They will ruin you.

You would need to dry clean. Dry cleaning here is too expensive. You pay as much 300 naira (about $2) to dry clean an inner vest. Think then of what it would cost to do a bunch of laundry. Think seriously of having a washer and a drier installed - wherever you may decide to live.

You must have at least two good cars. That car of yours, which you price so much, is not fashionable in Nigeria. Here some people drive the next year's model before they become common in Europe or the Americas. How they make such money to pay upfront is still the mystery I am struggling to unravel. The roads are so bad and the drivers so ill-trained that if you drove yourself, and not being used to their adversarial/confrontational pattern of driving, your car and you would, in a very short while be a sorry sight. They hit you and beg you. They hit you because you are conscious of driving rules and apply it. They, who do not apply simple driving rules, rule the highway in Nigeria. In a society not used to insurance, and where vehicular laws are not implemented, begging has replaced insurance coverage. Even passer bys would chip in to ask the offending reckless driver to beg you and get on with his life. If they beg you, you must accept. That's your only recourse.

To this end, you must have a good mechanic as a friend. He will introduce to you, a good panel beater (your (n) used car will always need to be panel beaten back to form after constantly being bashed by ill-trained Nigerian road users. Most Nigeria drivers, I hear, buy their drivers license) who will in turn introduce you to a vulcanizer and an auto electrician, here, fancifully called a rewire. You need a vulcanizer because the roads are bad. Flat tires occur very often here than usual. Of all the auto-related experts you will work with, the rewire should be the one you must dread. He is not well trained in the operation of modern day computer induced auto cars. His method of rewiring has set many late model computerized cars ablaze.

11/20/07