Nigerians in diaspora are many. You can go to any country or continent, and I bet that you will eventually encounter a Nigerian (even in Antarctica o!).
Nigerians go abroad for a variety of reasons: education, vacation, employment, asylum etc.
There is no concrete number on exactly how many Nigerians live abroad, but some estimate them in the millions.
This dynamic creates some unique circumstances.
There is a significant “brain drain” effect – educated Nigerians who take their skills, knowledge and business ideas abroad to set up shop in a foreign land, and in many cases, they end up staying and raising their families in the host country, thus their valuable skills and resources mostly benefit the country that they reside in.
While most Nigerians will come home during the festive period to see family and friends – and if you speak to many of these Nigerians abroad, you will certainly hear the longing and nostalgia in their voices, when they speak of home.
It is one of those conflicted dilemmas where Nigerians (who are fiercely proud of country and heritage) have to balance this with the decision to live, school and work abroad.
Living in Nigeria can be difficult, so it is understandable that Nigerians would want to better themselves and their circumstances by relocating abroad with ambitions to strike it big and then come home to help improve their local community.
But what sometimes happens is that when Nigerians go abroad, they get sucked in to the “rat race” and before they realize it, they have been living abroad for 20 years or more!
We spoke to a few Nigerians in diaspora to get their perspective.
Emmanuel Arinze is a Nigerian who is currently living in Chicago Illinois (USA). He is an an engineer working in the Chicago area.
ObodoNaija – How long have you been living in the United States?
Emmanuel – I have been living in the U.S. since 1996, I came here to study at Northwestern University in Chicago. I gained my masters degree in engineering in 2002 – so approximately 23 years.
ObodoNaija – How often do you go back home?
Emmanuel – My family and I go back every Christmas, but we always will send money throughout the year to our relations back home.
ObodoNaija – Why don’t you go back to Nigeria to work and live?
Emmanuel – Ahh , its not easy.. I cannot find a job in Nigeria that would pay me the amount of money that I am making here in the U.S.. The jobs back home are not as lucrative in my field. So what I do is to send money back to my people to help them out, and we also have helped train my wife’s brother, who came here to live with us.
ObodoNaija – What would it take to make you come back home permanently?
Emmanuel – We need better jobs back home, and we need constant power and water supply. Also, we need better roads and access to good health care… without these, it will be very difficult for us to live back home permanently.
ObodoNaija – What do you miss most about home?
Emmanuel – Well, I miss my family, and I also miss the weather- here in Chicago it is very cold!
We also caught up with Remi Ademola, she is currently studying marketing at the University of Maryland in the United States.
ObodoNaija – So Remi , what made you come to the United States?
Remi – I came here to study in the University, and I plan to get my second degree here.
ObodoNaija – Could you not study in Nigeria? We have many fine universities back home.
Remi- I could have studied in Nigeria, in fact, my father wanted me to go to the university of Ibadan, where he studied. But I knew that I would have more chance of success here in the U.S.. There are more opportunities, here, and there is easier access to resources and funding.
ObodoNaija – So when you finish your studies, do you have plans to go back home?
Remi- I do. But I will first find a good job here in the U.S. so that I can help support my family back home, and then by Gods Grace, things may be better in Nigeria so that I will be able to eventually find a good job back home.
ObodoNaija – What do you miss most about home?
Remi- Ahh! my mothers cooking! I miss her so much. We have a big Nigerian community here in Maryland, and It helps soothe my home sickness – but nothing is the same as my mom and her cooking!
You can see some of common refrains: Nigerians want to seek a better future for themselves and their families by studying and working abroad. They always send money back home to help out and are hopeful that Nigeria will improve conditions for its many citizens abroad to come back to live and work.
As Nigeria continues to improve on her infrastructure, and basic amenities such as power, water and medical care, we are hopeful that more Nigerians will come back home, or never leave in first place.
We would love to hear from you – what will make you come back home? Or do you never want to come back? Leave your comments below.