In this week’s episode of Navigating Nigeria, Citizen spoke to Naomi*, a 22-year-old Cameroonian who migrated to Nigeria under special circumstances. She talked to us about the process of getting in, her experience with Nigeria’s educational system, being in darkness for the very first time in her life and why she thinks Nigerian police are the worst.
Walk us through your experience.
Where do I start? I was born in Cameroon. My dad is someone whose job takes him around a lot. So we sometimes moved with him. Today he could be in Mali, tomorrow Niger, next Togo, and so on.
He got a job in Nigeria and it was time to move again. We weren’t supposed to move with him this time around, but there were a lot of family issues happening in Cameroon. You know those kinds of issues where your dad’s family doesn’t like your mum’s family and vice-versa. This was why we had to relocate.
The arrangement for relocation was taking longer than usual and I really wanted some stability to move on with my own life. I was tired of the constant moving. Eventually, we found our way to Nigeria and it was a totally different experience for me.
What was the first thing that surprised you?
For starters, the schooling system here is totally different from what I had known. I went to register for WAEC at a secondary school in Fagba as an external student. It was a “special center”. Omo, I wrote WAEC and failed woefully. I got F’s everywhere. I started hearing talks about how to handle “expo”, that there’s a way to “dub”.
I used to think of myself as a scholar because the competition was quite tough in Cameroon and I was acing it. Nigeria humbled me.
I think part of what affected me is that Cameroon is majorly a French-speaking country. Although I stayed in the English-speaking part, we had to adapt to the French standard.
Another difference I noticed was that in Cameroon we had off days for school. I think ours was Wednesday. So school was four days a week. Here in Nigeria it’s everyday.
Anyway, I wrote WAEC again and this time I was more attentive and passed. Then I wrote JAMB too and passed.
I got admitted to study medicine and surgery in UNILAG.
But ah, the competition was too much and exhausting. I had to drop out. I went back again to take up psychology and I’m almost done now.
How has life in Nigeria been for you?
I would say it has been interesting for me. First off, stepping into Nigeria was the first time I ever experienced darkness in my life. I passed out when I saw my shadow. That is something I’ll always remember.
When we first moved in, we hadn’t wired our house. So my mum lit a candle that night. I came out of my room and saw this mighty shadow and screamed. I ran to a corner of the room and this shadow followed me. I saw it and passed out. They took me to the hospital after. My mum couldn’t explain to people that it was my first time seeing the shadow of a candle.
Secondly, I remember that when I was trying to register for JAMB, I was told that northerners in Nigeria have a better chance of getting admitted. And my name sounds like someone from the North, so I went to get documents claiming that my state of origin was from the North.
The immigration process was something else. They told us that residential fees, work permits and all would come at outrageous prices. My dad had someone who advised him to take shortcuts. To even get Nigerian citizenship I think the law says you must have lived in Nigeria for fifteen years. See, I got my Nigerian passport through magomago. The forgeries were done so well. My National Identification Number and all were attached to one northern state.
I also had to deal with a lot of bullying. In my first three years here, I had five cases with the police that centered on bullying. I had lots of fights with girls who sometimes beat me up.
In 2017, three girls beat me because apparently, they thought I stole the boyfriend of one member of their clique. I was living around Shomolu then to give you an idea of my environment. I was beaten up so badly, I spent one week in the hospital. Crazy times.
My friends at the time wanted to handle the matter their way but I felt the police would do a better job. My mistake. My experience with the Nigerian police was bad. They’re very terrible at their jobs. I went there with my clothes all torn and covered in blood and they told me to pay them before they’d attend to me.
I transferred ₦5,000 to them. They still asked me to buy fuel for their vehicles. The whole process was irritating. Another thing I learned too is that no be who report to police first dey win case. Sometimes, you just have to take matters into your own hands.
My parents were angry because they felt I wasn’t adapting to life in Nigeria. I had to create a narrative in my head that I wouldn’t allow myself to get into police trouble again.
All in all, I do enjoy Nigeria. The experiences are what keep you on your toes. If I hadn’t come here, I don’t think I’d be the way I am now. I’m now street smart and know a lot of things.
Nigerians are lovely and very sociable. In Cameroon you could be in an estate with your house close to others and you’d die inside with no one noticing. In Nigeria, people know you right to the compound you reside in. If they don’t get to see you for days someone will come knock on your door. “Ah, e don tay wey I see you o, how far?”
I really love that and the attention they pay to their surroundings. If I ever get to leave Nigeria I won’t take my experiences for granted because it has really shaped me.
*Name changed to protect their identity