“Simply put, an immigrant is a person living in a country other than that of his or her birth. No matter if that person has taken the citizenship of the destination country, served in its military, married a native, or has another status—he or she will forever be an international migrant.” – From the Migration Policy Institute.

Readjusting to life as an immigrant in the UK is just, bleh, meh, and more blahIt feels like a taboo to pause from counting your blessings to look around you. But my maturity as I near my thirties lets me know that two seemingly conflicting things can be true at the same time. It’s always said that anyone who does not live in my home country Nigeria, should be grateful they do not, and should never dare to talk about their adjustments, because it’ll reek of privilege. “At least they left”. That is toxic positivity, and not in my circle of concern or influence.

I did not immigrate from Nigeria to the UK. It may be coincidental with the “japa wave” (relocation wave) but it was simply a “what next” move for us. I had a pretty cushy gig going in Kenya where I lived for about 3 years. But relocating from there to the UK just hit differently. It’s not just my company I closed down to be here or the blasting winter cold I’m enduring today. It’s not my close-knit friends I don’t get to see again, or that I’m starting from ground zero, again. It’s the entire lifestyle change! 

I wrote here about how I never felt the urgent need to leave Nigeria. Kenya was a sweet spot between living among people of my own race and not having to stare directly into the face of my incompetent government. There’s a higher standard and cost of living compared to Nigeria, because it is a country focused on tourism as one of its major exports. You could find pretty much anything you wanted there if you could afford it.

*Privilege trigger alert* : In Kenya I had a maid come in 2 times a week. I did not have to do my grocery shopping. The maid was responsible for blending peppers, chopping carrots, and cleaning out mackerel fish. All of the kitchen grunt work most women do not enjoy doing, I skipped them. I could cook 3 square meals without breaking a gallon of sweat. I don’t enjoy eating out often, I like to feed myself. My maid made that somewhat fun for me. Guess who chops her own peppers now in her tiny suburban kitchen in the UK?

My apartment had a pool. And a sauna. And a steam room. And a garden. And a rooftop. And a lounge/bar area. The presidential house was a 10 minute walk from my house. There was security, there was fun, and there was healing and relaxation. A typical day in my life involved lounging by the pool and conversing with my fancy neighbours, and for a while even complain that I was bored of staying at my luxury home and I needed a job.

I CANNOT believe I gave all of that up. Am I “ment” (mental)? I acknowledged and revelled in all of these privileges when I had them, and when it was time to let go, I let go for the bigger goal. But it doesn’t mean I’ve completely moved on. I’m still moving. Continuous tense.

It’s not like the almighty colonial United Kingdom doesn’t have all of these things. But the cost of existing is way up there with Queen Elizabeth! Having a maid clean your house twice a week? Ha-di-ha-ha. An apartment complex with all of these utilities aand a pool? You can work for it… you’ll probably not live long to enjoy it. You will definitely drop dead from exhaustion, and you will have given away all of your life earnings to service providers. 

The first mini shock I had was when I heard that you’ll have to pay taxes to watch TV, taxes to own a car ( or bike), and when you rent an apartment it doesn’t come with parking space. You rent the parking space as you rent your living rent. Taking the phrase “house rent” really literally.

You may ask, why? Why not just stay in Kenya? 

First and foremost, as a Nigerian, nowhere except Nigeria, is home. You might face racism in the West, but you’ll also face racism in Kenya. From the Indians who own almost everything, to the Caucasians who flaunt their dollars and pounds everywhere, to the Kenyans who think you’re the problem; why they’re not getting jobs and their women won’t date them. So there’s muted Xenophobia. And it’s not just the citizens. The council found my company address one day and made it their booty call every other weekend. The licence fees I had to pay? The fines being dredged up for no reason? The harassment my staff had to face? Take away the house and the nice pool? It stank there too. I daresay it’ll be the same all over east Africa. I’ve been to Tanzania, and they’re not our biggest fan either. No one would dare to treat me like that in my own country. When you’re not home, you’re exposed. Plain and simple. But will I go home? 

I was flying from London to Nairobi in February of last year, and I decided to have a 20-hour layover in Egypt. I had seen it done. The gist was that Egypt air would lodge you in a hotel outside the airport, and you’ll get a transit visa to wander about as you like. It sounded like a sweet deal. Now I can hear Miss. Hindsight’s voice tell me to call the airline to confirm, but I thought, what could possibly go wrong? 

Upon landing in Cairo, it turns out, this sweet deal does not apply to me because I shouldn’t have booked that flight when there were still seats on shorter transit flights. Yes, I’m having the same “huh?” reaction you’re having now. I tried the “Can I see the manager” and all the other cards. It did not work. They said I’ll need to get a visa at the visa kiosk for $25. Somehow, most of the humans on flights that landed at the same time were Europeans, so they breezed through customs with their passports. I get to the front, feeling cheated but still excited, and I’m told I cannot get a visa on arrival as a Nigerian. I have to apply at a consulate. As in, fill a form, then go for an appointment type of Visa Application. 

Yes Miss. Hindsight, research could have told me that, I promise I research everything better now. But the shock was rather unbearable. Inside that same Africa, elite countries exist and will make laws that do nothing except inconvenience you as a Nigerian, because of stereotypes that seem to apply to a country of over 250 million people. So how did I get out of this quagmire in Cairo? You must be interested in knowing. I paid about £150 to stay at the airport hotel for a few hours, and only then could I get a transit visa. The airline could not be bothered. The other choice was to stay inside the airport for the 20-hour layover. We thank God for disposable income. I had to see the pyramids that day. And I did, rather grudgingly. 

So if I’m not going to live at home, I might as well hope that in a few years, I can apply for another colour of passport and have certain privileges no country in Africa can offer me; no matter how much I spend or how long I live there. If I’m going to be exposed outside my home, I’ll rather be exposed to the same people that used my ancestors and our resources to build themselves a nice cushy country. The holy book says everywhere my feet touches is mine. Except, in this case, the steel on the train tracks from Trafalgar Square to Camden, is indeed mine.

It’s a long game… a plan I bought into without thinking too much about it, and Lord knows there’s no turning back now… but on cold winter mornings, and nights, and days; every time I feel my bones creaking from lack of use, bound inside thick puffer jackets, and my joints croak from dehydration… I think of the slick sweet essential oil smelling sweat in that blue-tiled steam room… the sun shining as I take a long drive to a neighbouring town to see Zebras and hyenas play hide and seek… And I see my realities as a Nigerian even clearer.

The shege (pain), is about to be multiplied x 1000.

There is something wrong with greed. And greed is the problem. Because once everything has been touched by greed, there can be no good intentions. No good decisions can happen if it doesn’t benefit the people in charge. The people who voted and rigged to let a greedy fox guard the chicken coop.

The greed to be in power, to acquire more money, to own, and to keep an entire country and its resources in their bloodline; this is what we have to fight against. It’s a hard fight.

How you personally handle the president-elect announcement is up to you. You either fight now, or you fight for your life on the streets for the next 8 years. You can retreat and pray to the same God/gods you’ve been praying to since before I was born while doing absolutely nothing. Or you can draw strength from your deities because that’s actually what they’re there for. And those who believe emigrants do not have the right to fight from the outside, is it ment? Do you really think we don’t get to be the brunt of “Nigerian Prince” jokes?

Me? I’ll go and double down on my grind. At least when my anxiety has calmed down a little. The meditation session this morning was completely meh. I’ll try again tonight. After I’m done cleaning my own house. Unbelievable.

Just know, whether you japa or not, if you still identify as a Nigerian anywhere, the bad PR will follow you like the stench of the rotten corpses Emcee Oluomo has helped his godfathers dispose of.


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