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.
This week’s Abroad Life subject is a Nigerian Twitter influencer who’s known as Oluomo of Derby. He lives in Derby, United Kingdom, where he doubles as a business entrepreneur and founder of the Nigerians in UK Community. He speaks with us on migrating to the UK, starting his community of 9,500 members and his views on the 2023 elections back home.
What motivated you to move to the UK?
Mostly my desire to have a better life than the one I was living in Nigeria. I grew up with a single parent, my mother. Paying bills for a family of five wasn’t easy for her. Many years ago, my uncle advised me to continue my education in the United Kingdom, so I could have more chances of providing a better life for myself and my family back home.
What was the migration process like?
I did my undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering on a student visa. After my graduation, I was able to get a work permit and the rest is history.
What was school like?
It was a unique learning experience for me. The teaching process was more practical than Nigeria’s theory-based style. I could therefore assimilate everything much faster and easier. UK nationals usually see Nigerians as smart, so I was tagged “a bright lad”.
Focusing on school while working odd jobs, which I needed to pay my bills, wasn’t the easiest thing to. Sometimes, you want to go out with your friends, and you need money to finance the outings. I had to consistently remind myself of my goals to keep from giving up. The good part was that my uncle gave me shelter during my stay at the university. I didn’t have to worry about rent, at least.
How did you transition from mechanical engineer to business entrepreneur?
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. After university, I got a job in London where I made less than £2k a month. It sounds like a huge amount of money, but there are so many bills to pay: rent, car insurance, the British council tax, regular tax and black tax. By the time I paid those bills every month for three years, I realised I couldn’t continue working under someone. This strengthened my resolve to be an entrepreneur.
My friend who runs a business in Derby offered to train me as a business entrepreneur. I was under her for a few months before I started my own business. At the end of the day, finances will always be a key factor in choosing a career.
How are the living expenses in Derby compared to London?
Living in London is very expensive. I wrote a thread on Twitter a couple of months ago, about how London is like Lagos in the areas of cost of living and the general “hustle and bustle”. On the flip side, Derby is this peaceful town with affordable living conditions. I’d like to call it the “Ogun State” of the UK.
For instance, in London, you can rent a room for about £700 a month, but the same room in Derby will be £350 a month, with bills all-inclusive. If it’s a house, you can rent that for £700 in Derby while you’d pay £1,400 for the same house in London.
Yup. And the one in Derby would be a well-furnished house with a driveaway, garden, everything. That’s why it’s always advisable to live in cheap cities around London like Northampton, especially if you’re new to the UK. And it’s always better to seek a Nigerian community in whatever new country you live in, so you don’t get stranded.
How did you build a Nigerian community with over 9,000 members in the UK?
The idea came to my head in March 2022. I noticed other diaspora communities, like the Indian, Filipinos, Polish and so many others, have made a lot of progress in terms of the standard of living for their community in the UK, but Nigerians? Not so much. We always say we’re intelligent, but as a community, we’re not doing so well with issues like tuition fees, job hunting, accommodation and what have you.
I decided to take it upon myself to build a community to make sure these issues become a thing of the past. I achieved membership growth by partnering with other Twitter influencers in the UK plus calls for membership on my own platform.
What are the benefits of being in this community?
Personal development trainings, career networking, job opportunities, real estate ads and even speed dating. Essentially, the Nigerians in UK Community is a home away from home. Recently, we started political awareness meetings to remind ourselves of the elections that’s about to take place at home. And we started a movement for members to contact their family back home to collect their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC).
We didn’t tell our members to vote for any particular candidate because everyone has the right to vote for whoever they choose. We don’t organise rallies, but our members attend the candidates’ rallies to show their support. For instance, I went with some to Labour Party (LP) candidate, Peter Obi’s London rally in 2022, where we had the opportunity to speak with him and Aisha Yesufu on his plans for implementing diaspora voting here in the UK.
We’ve tried the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for 16 years, and they didn’t change Nigeria. We’ve tried the All Progressives Congress (APC) for eight years, and that didn’t work out either. We’ve heard about national gridlocks, fuel scarcity, nepotism, inflation, high level of unemployment, Buhari’s “medical tourism”, insecurity, kidnapping, etc. I cannot in my right mind vote for another APC candidate after everything that could go wrong HAS gone wrong with Buhari. Nigerians are tired of suffering. We can’t keep going in the same direction.
I’m not saying Obi is a Messiah, but compared to two bad eggs, he looks like a saint.
So you make sure your members remember their Nigerian roots?
Yes, I do. I use my Twitter platform to educate Nigerians on politics and policies like minimum wage, unequal distribution of wealth, etc. Lately, I’ve also hosted a lot of Twitter Spaces with political analysts to keep Nigerians abreast of the 2023 elections.
It’s important that even as we work towards making a living for ourselves here, we never forget who we are — Nigerians.