The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
Today’s subject on Abroad life watched the announcement of Buhari’s second term election win in tears and promised he would leave Nigeria before Buhari left power. Two years later, he tells us how he managed to leave — a process that involved changing careers and getting over 800 job rejections.
Why did Buhari’s election win affect you so much?
Everyone knew his first term was disastrous, so I was shocked that he was getting voted again. As I watched the officials announce the result, I shed a tear and swore that I would leave Nigeria before Buhari completed his second term.
LMAO. That sounds so dramatic.
For context, before 2019, I’d never thought of leaving Nigeria. I was okay here. The closest I’d come to was in 2018 when I had a dream I was touring Europe. The dream felt so real that I was confused when I woke up in my Yaba apartment.
What did you do to start your japa process?
I decided to start a new career. At the time, I was a graphics designer who also did stuff like 3D animation, product design, marketing communication and social media strategy. Once I decided to leave, getting a job abroad was my next step. For that, I needed to increase my own value, so I switched into product design fully because I knew I’d get better opportunities as a product designer.
Did you eventually get a product design role?
By June 2019, I did. I was out of a real job for eight months, but I survived by getting referrals from people I’d worked with in the past. First, I did some design work for an insurance agency on a two-month contract. It paid well. After that, I got a random call from someone who knew I did design to ask if I could work with a programmer of my choice to build a website for one of the biggest banks in Nigeria. It was his contract but he wasn’t in Nigeria and he passed it to me. It took another two months to complete the job, but it paid so well, I bought a BMW.
Ah wow. Tell me about the job you got in June.
For some reason, I’ve had a lot of finance sector jobs. When I was a designer, I worked at GTBank and Paga, and in June 2019, I got a product design job at First Bank. Immediately I joined, three other designers on the team left, so I had to carry a lot of workload. It didn’t phase me though, because I’m pretty resilient, especially when it comes to new challenges.
After a few months at my First Bank job that paid ₦425k, I had built a good enough portfolio for other companies to try to poach me and offer me ₦1 million naira salaries, but I rejected them all. My goal was simple: I wanted to build a solid enough portfolio by doing one huge job, that when I presented it to whomever, they would hire me. First Bank was giving me that opportunity because we were building a super huge app. I didn’t leave until we built it.
What were your japa plans looking like as at 2020?
My plans were still hinged on me doing good work at First Bank, so I focused extra hard. I also spent time building my mental strength and intelligence generally so I could survive anywhere. For example, on an average month, I read six books, but between March and April 2020, I read 16.
Whoa. Did you already know where you wanted to go?
I had a decent idea. I knew I didn’t want to go to Canada; all the pictures I’ve seen of Nigerians in Canada look boring. The US was also out of it. With Trump there, I considered it a Nigeria with 24-hour electricity. I always liked Europe because I read and was fascinated by a lot of World War history growing up, but not the UK because Brexit. If I was going to Europe, I needed to be able to travel within countries without restrictions, so I picked a Schengen Area country.
At what point did you start applying for jobs?
March 2021, after we finished the project we were working on in February.
How many jobs did you apply for before you got this one?
LMAO! Let me break it down for you. I applied for over 1000 jobs and over 800 companies rejected me. I had 43 interviews. Two companies said I was overqualified to work for them, and in June, one company in Amsterdam, the Netherlands accepted me. That’s where I work now. They were the only company that accepted me.
It was a crazy ride, but my life mantra is, “I can never disappoint myself”. My grit and determination come from me reading a lot about the world wars and seeing how young people made impacts on the world. If they could do all the things they did, I can do great stuff too.
How long did it take you to travel?
The relocation procedure for the Netherlands takes about three months. I first had to travel to Ghana to get a work permit and visa, then I left in October. After the Ends SARS protest, my 2021 resolution was to leave Nigeria before the year ended. Now that I’ve left, I haven’t set new goals, so I don’t know what my future here holds.
Expectation vs Reality: Netherlands edition. Hit me.
The first time I left NIgeria was when I went to Ghana to get my visa, so I didn’t know what to expect. When I got here though, I was pleasantly amazed over and over again. The first thing I noticed was how beautiful Amsterdam is. As a designer, the architecture and aesthetics of the city constantly blows my mind. It was when I got here I realised that we’re suffering in Nigeria because things that seem like luxury items to us are pretty common here. BMWs, Teslas, smart homes, everything you dream of acquiring when you become extremely wealthy after working for many years in Nigeria can be acquitted much easier and faster here. The standard of living is super high.
I haven’t gone out a lot, but the few times I’ve gone out, something has amazed me. For instance, when I saw the double decker electric trains, I shouted, “Holy shit!” The bus systems are amazing; the country is clean and the people are nice.
You want to know what my favourite part of moving here is?
Dishwashers. As far as I’m concerned, dishwashing technology is magic. Just load the dishes and go to sleep.
All my plate washing skills in the mud. Do you cook a lot?
Yep. The first thing I did when I got to the Netherlands was make jollof rice. I brought spices and vegetables from Nigeria because I knew I would cook a lot when I got here.
You sound like you’re enjoying the Netherlands so much. Should we expect you back in Nigeria?
It would take something really weird that I can’t even think of right now to make me move back to Nigeria fully. For now, I’ve made a new promise to myself: I’m not going back to Nigeria until Buhari leaves power.
Hey there! My name is David and I’m the writer of Abroad Life. If you’re a Nigerian and you live or have lived abroad, I would love to talk to you about what that experience feels like and feature you on Abroad Life. All you need to do is fill out this short form, and I’ll be in contact.