Out with a Bang! In with a Crunch!

Are you going to Lolu’s Exit Party? That was the question all around the African Community in the weeks leading up to the biggest party in town. Our very own Lolu was relocating to Ibadan in Nigeria after 25 years in Diaspora. He had just turned 50 and this was his dream, in fact it was top of his bucket list. He had completed a modest house back home, put things in place to begin a new business in Nigeria and sold off his UK home. Working 9 to 5 in this cold country would soon be a thing of the past, he kept saying. His wife and 3 teenage sons seemed a bit hesitant but with dad going on about this for the last 5 years, they had no choice but to tag along. After all it was only the youngest that would make the move as the twins were due to go to University.

The party was everything it was cut out to be! Music, food, ambience; it all went well. When Lolu gave his speech on what was waiting for him in Africa, a lot of us felt a twinge of regret at not having the guts to make this move. Some even began to plan their own exit at the party. All of a sudden, life in the UK seemed so dull and dreary as sounds of jubilation and felicitation echoed through the elegantly furnished hall. We bade Lolu goodbye as he cheerfully hugged us, he was due to leave in 2 weeks or so.

Not more than 15 months after the party, I was returning from a meeting in the South East of London. The train service developed a fault and I called for an Uber so as not to be late in picking up my children from the minders. The electronic confirmation from Uber regarding the driver had a familiar face with an unfamiliar name. It didn’t take long, the car pulled up and as I made to get in, there was our Lolu. I was in shock, he was in more shock! “Oga Lolu, I yelled, what are you doing here”! “My sister” he said, “the story long”. I was speechless. Anyway he dropped me at home and stayed back until my husband returned and there began the long miserable tale.

Lolu had indeed gone back home as he intended with his family in tow. Things went fine initially but then they fell apart pretty quickly. While there was no mortgage to pay, the running costs of the house and the agricultural business he had started was not sustainable. He did not realise that so much money was being spent on fuelling the generators to run both his house and the fishing farm that he had started. Lolu’s attraction for fish farming had been because a lot of experts had stipulated on Agriculture being the next most important revenue earning sector for Nigeria. While this is true, I believe it is still a very delicate area to venture into especially as the country is yet to develop effective technical know-how, distribution networks, water supply and more. There are successful fish farmers but the profit margins were not as much as Lolu had imagined. Chances of success too in the business can go either way as wrong feeding, inadequately trained personnel, low survival rates, management techniques are only a few of the issues that can lead to failure. Anyway from Lolu’s tale, every possible thing that could go wrong did happen in his fish farm and before he knew it, he was harvesting dead fish. The tomato farm did not fare any better. In addition, his wife’s boutique business was not as profitable as they had anticipated. He explained that they did not have an existing customer base and repeat patronage was low. To put it simpler, there were bigger and better boutiques than theirs. They simply did not have the capital to differentiate their offering.

Now I wondered why all this only came to light after this big move and Lolu kept saying “wrong advisers, we didn’t think it through”. The part that hurt him the most was that the friends back home that he thought would rally round them were too pre-occupied to assist. Things were simply not the way it seemed when they were all beckoning on him to relocate. We felt his pain, we felt his anguish. He had left his Data Analyst job at the Local Authority, how could he go back? In less than a year, he had a little less than half the equity he garnered when he sold his house. He was currently renting a flat, while his wife was still back home trying to sell off and return to the UK.

I wondered how many people knew of his return considering the numbers that knew of his exit. What a life!

You know the moral of this story so need I say more? It all appears fancy, when you see it on Social Media. Please remember, whatever you decide, think it through thoroughly.

 

As ever,

Uloma

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8 thoughts on “Out with a Bang! In with a Crunch!

  1. The thing is that generally when people are coming from abroad they think they have all the answers and people would come just because they are from “the abroad”. They forget that there are already established supply chains which they are trying to break into. As with any business it generally takes about 3-5 years to break even, whether you are in Nigeria or London it would take time. So the trick is to start small and make tweaks as you go along. This is where having a fund manager helps especially with managing cashflow. So in this first 5 years in this new venture you must be frugal, ex you might need to enter bus from PH to Lagos in order to save money when you come for a business trip. It’s the same issue even with those in Nigeria. I’m sure you’ve seen retired folks use their money for a farm in their village. They don’t live there they just give is to a relative to monitor the business for them and they may or may not visit the site periodically. One day they wake up and the account is empty

  2. What a story! I kinda sympathise with Lolu, i’m sure alot of people would be chastising him for making such a decision despite all the ‘doom and gloom’ stories coming out of Nigeria.

    I can understand why in part, regardless of how long you stay in the west (especially UK and US) there is still that feeling of being second-class. Having been in the UK for 10 years leaving in the metropolis and working a white collar job i still feel bouts of homesickness. Maybe it is born out of growing up in Naija before emigrating? Do folks born here feel the same?

    Anyways i’m sure he will bounce back.

  3. I feel like those of us that grew up and worked in Nigeria before relocating have seen it all. Take me for instance, after living and working in Lagos and relocating at the ripe old age of 34, i am not in any doubt about what is waiting for me back home. I remember clearly why i moved and i know that the issues are still very much there regardless of the fancy pictures i see online. While i am not saying that everyone back home is suffering, the fact still remains that i made my decision and i stand by it. It is the issue of balancing your being seen as a 2nd class citizen and the quality of life in the place where you are 1st class. To each his own. Thank you Kenny as always.

  4. I feel really bad for the family. For every success story are 7 unsuccessful stories. So far 6 of the 19 friends I have that relocated back to Nigeria are thriving and doing really well, a further 8 are struggling and the rest are back in the US

  5. Oh wow! Such a sad story.
    However I moved back to Nigeria from the U.K. two years ago and things are moving on fine. My business is doing well and I am happy so far. Ofcourse there are good days and bad days, but the good outweighs the bad. I can’t say I miss the U.K. much except for my kids who I sometimes feel sorry for. The truth is we have tried to make life as comfortable as possible for them , so they are not missing that much.
    The secret though is starting small and not feeling too big, the business I started was from very humble beginnings. Infact when we started I was earning profit as low as N5,000 but I kept pushing and didn’t mind. I put in the UK skills and ethics I learnt and it has made us stand out in the market. I will say now, we are among the top brands in my sector in Lagos and we have only been here two years. We have virtually grown from little beginnings and deprived ourselves of so many things . No asoebi, no partying, no unnecessary bills. We focus on giving our kids a good life and living well. We appreciate the rate at which we are growing.
    Nigeria is scary but it’s not that bad depending on how you view it and what you do for a living.
    I didn’t enjoy my time in the U.K., so I was happy to leave. I was bored and felt I could be more and achieve more instead of living like a third class citizen in the UK. Nigeria is definitely the place for me to fulfil such dreams.

  6. Dear Ayo, thank you so much. You know everybody’s story is different and I am happy yours is good. Really wish you could do a story for me on how to relocate successfully. Take care.

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