The Nigerian dream for our parents was for their kids to go to the best schools in the world, come back home with good grades, work for a good company and start a family. I was an interview away from achieving a significant step in my parents’ Nigerian dream. My wife who was my girlfriend at the time, trying her best to convince my very broke self that this was the best way forward. But in my heart, I knew to go for that interview would be the worst mistake I would ever make, I had to walk away from their dream.
Now let me give you guys some context. The Nigerian dream was something my parents were able to achieve, both of them went to good schools, my mother went to university in Washington State, USA and my father got his Master’s degree, from the University of Bradford. They both found good jobs out of college; my mother was Chief Superintendent of Nigerian Prison Services before she passed away, while my father spent twenty-five years in an oil company before retiring three years ago.
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They found each other and had a twenty-two year marriage before my mother's passing, so yes they achieved the proverbial Nigerian Dream, and worked so hard to make sure my sister and I had the best chance to do the same. We went to the best schools around the world, I finished high school in South Korea at a private American school, that my father says cost more than any university tuition he ever paid. I got my first degree in criminal justice from the University of Louisiana Lafayette, barely survived a law degree at the University of Manchester, and finally a Masters in Human resource management and business at Aston Business School.
The pressure was on; I had no excuse not to be able to achieve this dream.
The issue was halfway through my law degree I had realized that this dream was not meant for me, I always wanted to own multiple businesses. I used always to tell my friends that nobody ever became truly wealthy by working a 9 to 5. By the time I got to Aston Business School in 2015, I had invested my entire life savings buying a 15.4% stake in my first business which was started by my future wife and sister in law. I had gotten my foot into the entrepreneurial world, and I will later come to realize how brutal and unforgiving it indeed was, as soon as I put my money in the business, it took a hit. And so did my confidence. I did what any logical person would, I started thinking of how I would get a job as soon as I moved back home.
The death of the Nigerian dream
Now during the 1980s when it seemed my parents’ generation were all achieving the Nigerian dream, Nigeria’s population at that time according to www.worldmeters.info was 73,460,724. The major obstacle they faced on their way to achieving this dream was affording a decent education. My father would always tell me that it took him over 15 years after high school to get to the point of obtaining a Master’s degree In electrical engineering because of how many times his education was placed on hold due to lack of funds.
He was only able to study at the University of Bradford, UK because his father, (my grandfather) borrowed money for his tuition, from the village elders that he had to pay back as soon as he started working. This is the reason why education is so crucial to every Nigerian parent. They all had to struggle to get that education and vowed that they would never let their children go through the same. Once they got their education, they returned as conquering heroes, getting good jobs. My father In law got a job with the same company my dad worked for right out of University and was with them for thirty-five years before he retired.
By 2015 when I was returning home, the paradigm had shifted. According to the world bank, our population had more than doubled since the 1980s, we became the most populous nation in Africa, and the majority of that population is made up of young people within the age of 18 to 30. Nigeria was about to enter a recession that we are just recovering from three years later. The unemployment rate according to Knoema Corporation in 2015 was at 9% and has risen to 16.5% in 2018. The Nigerian dream was on life support. There was an oversupply of young people looking for jobs, and an undersupply of the type of career-making jobs that were once available for our parents.
There was now a whole new generation of young Nigerians that believed in the Nigerian dream of a good university degree equaling a good career building job. Waking up to the nightmare of a job market that was overcrowded and corporations that pay very little because they can easily replace any of their employees with someone else who is desperately looking for any means of sustenance, our generation had to trade in our dreams of career building jobs, for survival mode work. The Nigerian dream was officially dead.
The New Nigerian dream
By May 2016 I had been applying for jobs for a couple of months, all rejections or no replies. My future wife had put me on a regimen of applying to no less than ten job openings a day. I could feel a little piece of my soul chipping away, every single day I filled in a job application. My first business had started doing very well, giving excellent returns. I had begun thinking of concentrating on my business full time, but any time the conversation came up everyone advised me to finish the NYSC program, and go to law school so I can jump start my law career.
I can remember the conversation I had with my father, he had just met my wife for the first time a week prior, and I wanted to let him know that she was the woman I was going to marry. I said to him that I was planning to purchase her engagement ring when I travel to the UK for my graduation that May. Then he said something that completely broke my confidence. He said I was not ready to get married; his exact words were “A man should have handwork, a job before he thinks of taking care of a family. You cannot take care of a family." I told him what I made from my business, and he still said I was not ready for that financial responsibility.
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A week before my journey to the UK a fantastic opportunity presented itself, a job that would have fulfilled my parents’ Nigerian dream. Some months back I had applied for an opening in a lucrative bank, for their Graduate International Programme. It was an 18-month programme that you spend every six months in a different country learning about the company. This was an opportunity that anybody would die for. I aced all the aptitude and psychometric tests thanks to my lovely wife and her siblings, which got me to the point of sending in my video interview.
Then a week before my trip I received an email saying I had gotten through to the last interview stage, this was it! I do amazingly well at interviews, I was going to get this job, but there was a problem, I did not want this or any other job. I had discovered my purpose, The New Nigerian Dream; I had realized that I was in a unique position to provide job opportunities for some of my fellow Nigerians who are desperate for a means to feed themselves and their families.
My little business venture, I joined in 2015 already had five employees, I enjoyed that feeling. So I planned to open up to the woman I loved. The one who for an entire year forced me to apply for jobs, who took my login information to apply for employment as me when she saw how depressed I was getting (if you do not realize by now, yes I married a amazing woman). I then gathered all the courage I had left in the world and spoke to her. I saw her freak out, and it broke me. She could not understand how I could walk away from such an opportunity. She tried her best to convince me to change my mind.
Once she realized I was not going to, she calmed down and became the most prominent supporter of my entrepreneurial dream. This gave me the courage to walk away from my parents’ dream, towards my vision. Two years later after I made this firm decision, I now own and operate three businesses; an import business, a chauffeur company, and a farm. Across all three firms, I employ over thirty employees. I want to say it has been rosy, and that regret does not creep into my mind from time to time, but that wouldn’t be the reality. Owning and operating three businesses comes with its headaches, I have chosen a challenging path. All my mentors tell me it takes at least ten years before you get to a stable state in business, my oldest business is just three years old.
I have had more failures than successes, my prayers have gone from— God please don’t let bad stuff happen to what I have built; to God give me the strength to face anything that comes. But I will end this with what my wife always says; I am never in the same position at the beginning of every year, my growth in this entrepreneurial lifestyle I chose, is incremental. And in the famous words of Falz the bad guy; ‘it’s the life we chose, we could have been in chambers.’
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