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.
Did everyone know Canada had a housing scheme so new (legal) residents had a soft landing when they moved? Did you know its government plans a big monthly pay out to citizens to help manage the outcome of the coronavirus? Did you also know that the IELTS are not that hard, and will probably come at a discount when this virus is finally contained? Joking about the last bit, but for Ichiban, the subject of this week’s Abroad Life, leaving a country he was certain was headed in the wrong direction was no laughing matter. He tells us about his move to Canada here:
Let’s start from here. If I borrow ₦2 billion from the future money my pastor swore was my portion this 2020 and paid you to swap places with me in Nigeria, would you agree?
Wait oh, you can’t just drop maths on people like this, let me get my calculator first and do the exchange rate. If it isn’t up to $15 million, forget it. And that’s just for me, because I know where that money will reach in Nigeria. If you want me to move and carry my whole family along, just multiply that 15 by 4 and maybe we can start talking.
Na wa oh. Good thing my pastor also told me to avoid proud people this year. So, this country making you carry shoulders, where is it?
Canada. I currently live in the funny sounding province of Saskatchewan.
Now off the top of your head, what is your favourite thing, PC (ᴘʀᴇ-ᴄᴏʀᴏɴᴀ ʏᴜɴɴᴏ) about living in Canada?
Hm. Where do I start?
I think the best thing about life here is the sanity. I grew up in Shomolu, Lagos, so sanity where I live isn’t something I take for granted.
Let me tell you a story about when I first moved here.
I’m all ears
Truth is, it isn’t some exciting story, but it just opened my eyes to a different way of doing things. When my family and I first moved to Canada, our friends here decided to show us around, after a day’s sightseeing, we went to Tim Hortons which is like Mr Biggs in its heyday over there. After the new immigrants were done eating, we stood up and pretty much told our friends thanks for a lovely day, but they just looked at us in that, ‘we don’t do that here’ face. Apparently, you cleaned up after yourself when eating, throw the food into the bins provided and gather up the trays. I was actually in shock.
Chicken Republic naize naize can’t believe its eyes
And that’s just one thing. Pedestrians own the roads here, they have their sidewalks and even if they veer off of it, the road users still respect them. The zebra crossings work. There’s just a respect for life.
You can’t even see policemen to complain to because everyone is just so respectful, they’re hardly needed because everyone is programmed to have sense. But that doesn’t mean if you need a policeman he won’t show up at your door in five minutes when you call.
It was one favourite thing we said, this is how people fail exams.
Now that’s all good and fair, but Nigeria has … look, it doesn’t matter what Nigeria has. What matters is what was so bad about this country, you had to pack all your load and leave?
Easy. I read the writing on the wall, and anyone who does so too, is probably planning on leaving as well.
Let me give you a scenario. You see those people in the morning that gather to read newspapers under bridges? Look a little to their left and note the guys not saying much, just drinking their morning shepe and wondering where money would come from for that day. Those numbers keep increasing.
Now you may think you’re safe, with your Toyota Camry with the small lights, your nice ironed shirt and maybe ₦1000 in your pocket, not doing great, but not doing too badly — but these people, still looking for the day’s income, they probably see you as rich, you’re likely the one standing in the way of their riches, and the day they decide to revolt, because that day is coming, Nigerians not doing great, but not doing too badly will probably be their first targets.
As an upper lower class resident of Lagos (and yes that’s deliberate), I spent too much time waiting for the security time bomb to go off. It got to a stage where I would wake up about six times every day, making sure the doors were locked and no one was attempting to break into our home.
I can’t argue with that
And if that wasn’t enough, it was becoming increasingly hard to cope. I obviously want the best for my children. So when the chance came for my children to have their secondary education in the upscale school my wife taught at, we jumped at it. That just came with paying what we normally would for a school year in one term. So imagine we were paying ₦800,000 per child for three terms, and that suddenly jumped to ₦800,000 per term.
What? ₦800,000 per term?
Yepp. ₦800,000 per term for each child. We have three children and this was on a teacher’s discount. I had to start thinking. I was doing okay, but the financial burden would have eventually taken its toll. Again, I want the best for my children, I had to start thinking. With the security in the country and just the want for better, not just for my kids, but for myself — moving to Canada just seemed like the logical next step.
I completely understand that. What were you doing in Nigeria before you moved?
Everything video. I was a filmmaker, I had a production company, I was involved in entertainment. I used to do music, I was a Director of Production. It was good for me, I was able to carve out a niche for myself.
Oh great, you worked for yourself, I imagine packing up and leaving wouldn’t have been too hard. Was the process as easy for your wife? How difficult was it convincing her to move?
Convince ke? Somebody that had been singing ‘let’s move’, ‘let’s move’ into my ears for years. It was ultimately her decision. When we had planned enough, making the move wasn’t difficult for either of us.
And this move, how long did it take you to make it?
So, we got to Canada last year, but if we had gotten in at the moment we started putting things in place, we’d have been enjoying the abroad breeze for about four years.
Oh yeah? What happened there?
Well first we were duped by immigration lawyers. About a year’s work and two million down the drain.
See, let’s not even enter that matter. So the way we got in was through a provincial nomination. The provinces in Canada inform the government of immigrant needs they have, say teachers, doctors. The government posts it on the immigration website and aspiring migrants apply. But see, if you pocket isn’t ready for the move, you just manage where you are.
Wait oh. How much are we talking about here?
First off, with this Provincial nomination, our province was in need of teachers. My wife’s Masters in Early Childhood Development qualified us to apply, which was why we had a shot in the first place. After that, because I have a family of four, one wife and three children — the government requires my proof of funds (money to show you can care for yourself for at least three months after the move) to be many many.
Hm. Define ‘many many’
When we applied, they needed at least thirteen million Naira in the bank. Building that sum takes time. This added to the period it took for us to make the move.
Scratches ‘move to Canada by December 2020, coro willing’ away from year goals.
So you’ve moved now, what are some things no one could have prepared you for in Canada?
Well, I’ve talked about the sanity, but I think I expected that.
Another thing would have to be, you know, probably not getting a job that you were qualified to hold in Nigeria, when you make the move.
I’m a qualified film maker and I haven’t used my skills here yet because I need certain qualifications before I’d get a decent hire. If you’re impatient, you might get frustrated by that. But honestly, don’t. The opportunities that await you when you do will make it so worth it.
I hear that.
My family doctor, when he moved to Canada, he did all sorts. Worked at a factory, did shifts at restaurants, everything because despite being qualified in Nigeria, he still had to be certified in Canada. Now, with his certification, this man owns his own practice and is pretty much a prayer point for anyone who knows his story. You just have to trust the process.
Whew the Nigerian excellence jumped out
Haha. So just knowing to lay low and build was something I had to accept. Accommodation follows suit right after. No one told prepared me for how efficient the government housing scheme was. I currently live in a three bedroom flat, paying around $1200 CAD per month and this doesn’t count bills. With bills it’s maybe $1600. I have recent Nigerian immigrant Nigerian friends that live in similar housing, paying $400 CAD, plus bills, all thanks to the government housing scheme!
Do you have their jazz man’s number? Asking for a friend who’s about to add ‘moving to Canada before December 2020, coro willing’ to her year list.
See you. It’s a working government you’re calling jazz. The government just subsidises bills for legal residents, irrespective of your nationality, to make life easy, especially when you’re still finding your feet. The subsidised bills will go up once your earnings do too, but that soft landing is so important when you first come into the country. I didn’t apply for the government scheme because I thought there was more to it, see the trust issues Nigeria gave me?
Hm. Buhari has been real quiet since we had this conversation
Haha, I tell you. Moving away from things I wasn’t prepared for. I’ll add to how good this government is. My friend wanted to pursue some academic career, so he applied to the government for assistance and they gave him a $4000 CAD grant, as well as $15,000 CAD in student loans. I can’t imagine that happening in Nigeria without some kind of politics getting involved, and this was a migrant asking a government for help. It’s things like this that just stamp it in my head that I made the right choice to move.
You ain’t ever lie.
And my children! In Canada, it is illegal for a child to be out of school.
A school bus comes to pick them every morning and drops them off everyday. If they miss the bus, I have to call the school to give an explanation. And it’s all free. The government makes it clear that these children are their children and you’re pretty much a caretaker for their child. It’s wild. My wife receives the equivalent of almost half a million Naira every month in government assistance for caring for the children. Can you imagine that?
At this juncture, I have to ask if there’s anything you miss about Nigeria?
Be asking. Do you know how much the government is going to give every legal resident to cope with the coronavirus?
I’m in Nigeria every day abeg. On Instagram. I say hello from afar, I like the distance and I prefer it that way, please. So nope, I don’t miss anything. Trudeau got me.
Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 9 A.M. (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.