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Living Abroad: The Reality and Fiction

By: Kurtis Adigba
 minute read

Many Nigerians want to live abroad.

They fantasize about it. They have heard stories from their friends, family members, and associates about how beautiful and sane it is to live abroad.

Many believe that those living abroad pick money from the streets. You can’t blame them because that is the impression given to them by some people living abroad by their actions and words. But it is not true.

The devil is in the details. The pain is hidden in the pleasure. Don’t be deceived!

I have the privilege of having a leg each in both worlds and I know from experience that for most Nigerians living abroad, it is a constant struggle to make ends meet and keep their heads above waters.

Many are heavily indebted and can’t do anything beyond paying bills with their incomes.

Yes, they have a better environment to live in (depending on where they live); better security, more efficient service delivery, better public schools and others; but they work harder, pay higher taxes, and are confronted with rapid and unforgiving bills that keep pilling up.

They earn more money but their costs of living is higher, too.

Many Nigerians living abroad do more than one job to be able to pay their bills. Even in families with double income-husband and wives working, it is still a challenge to keep up with the bills.

The work environment is not the same. They work per hour and are paid per hour. Back in Nigeria, workers are paid for showing up, and in some cases for not showing up. Once the name is on the workers’ register, he or she is paid at the end of the month.

That cannot happen abroad, you have to put in the hours and earn the money.

A friend relocated to the United States recently. She got a factory job that required her to stand on her feet for hours. After standing for two hours straight, she collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital. She told me ”I never knew it is this difficult to work here, I almost died in the first few weeks here”.

My friend today understand what it means to live abroad. If you earn 75% in Nigeria of what people living in Europe or America are earning, you are likely to live better than them, exchanging rate notwithstanding. The cost of living is not stagnant abroad, neither is the earnings constantly increasing.

In September while I was in the US I bought a bottle of coke for $1.89 plus tax, in Lagos, Nigeria, I bought the same coke for N120. The coke in America at the current exchange rate is almost N1000. They also pay more for fuel, gas, electricity, and others. Very few Nigerians doing back-breaking jobs and playing by the rules are living above water level.

Many are involved in the crimes-credit card, insurance, and romance frauds, as well as Business Email Compromise. The cases of Obinwanne Okeke (Invictus) and Abidemi Rufai, are still fresh in our minds; not to talk of Hushpuppi and his gang!

This week, the FBI indicted another 9 Nigerians for a series of frauds ranging from business email compromise to romance fraud and unemployment insurance fraud.

These are the type of people that come back home to show off and create the impression that living abroad is simple, easy, and trouble-free.

Don’t get me wrong, we have many Nigerians living abroad and doing extremely well. We have doctors, pharmacists, engineers, nurses, software/tech guys that are earning unbelievable salaries and allowances; but they are decent people who will not even show off. They own big houses, drive expensive vehicles, and have kids in Ivy League schools where they are paying hundreds of thousands as school fees.

I have a brother who has been working for over 10 years as a nurse on a permanent night shift. He has no social life. He comes in 10-11 am daily, grabs sleep for a few hours, and heads back to work in the evening for another day at work. He is looking older than his age. I have been teasing him about his old looks and urging him to quit and come home to a new routine.

When politicians want to deceive us, they quote data and statistics from abroad. They tell you about the changes in GDP, Per Capital Income, Happiness indices and others; but they will never tell you about their roles in stagnating our growth. They will not tell you about the sacrifices made and being made by their counterparts in other parts of the world. They won’t open up about how they stole money from Nigeria and stashed them abroad, aiding the growth and expansion of those countries.

In the same way, criminals don’t tell you about what they do to make the money they come home to splash on luxuries and over-the-top lifestyles that has captivated many of our young people. Before he was arrested, Abbas Ramon, Hushpuppi, was the role model (may still be) to many young people. They don’t see anything wrong with his fraudulent activities. A group of young people told me that Hushpuppi was simply ”repatriating wealth” stolen by white people from Nigeria and Africa.

Living abroad is great if you have the way and means to live there, but don’t mislead people about the true state of things. Don’t lie to them about the difficult conditions and don’t give them false hopes about prospects and opportunities. Be real. Many people believe that relocating abroad is the only solution to the economic and political situations in Nigeria. It is not. Countries have their unique challenges and problems.

Running from yours to another may give you relief from the problems and challenges in your country but does not immune you from those in the country you are running to. The country you are running to was built by their citizens who endured pains and overcame hardship.

What happened if they left their countries and ran to others when they had problems and challenges? Living abroad is not the Eldorado they told you. If you can succeed abroad, you can succeed in Nigeria. Change your mindset, Nigeria is a great country loading.

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