When I first moved back to Nigeria people asked me a lot of questions:
Why would you leave a civil country to live here?
Do you think your accent will make you successful?
How will you keep your colour?!
I heard a lot. Ignored most but was asked a question that to this day I continue to ask myself:
What do you do?
This seemed at the time a rather daft question considering the question came from my colleague at my new television job. I was a reporter at NN24 — chasing stories, writing scripts, editing and in my head an all-round bad-ass. This response it turns out was more daft than the question. After an unwanted but necessary discussion I came to discover that when a Nigerian asks you here what you are doing, they mean what do you do to get money aside from working for someone for a salary… or in essence, “what’s your hustle”?
Being an entrepreneur wasn’t in my immediate plans. I wanted the chance to be a journalist in Nigeria. I longed to report on stories close to my heart and help change the Africa narrative one story at a time. When I graduated from Columbia in 2010 I was offered a job where I would have the chance to make my dream a reality. My dad advised me to get more experience in the West before I did so and I reluctantly listened. More than a year later having worked for Fortune, the United Nations and the Atlanta Post I decided it was time to make the big move.
So there I was, with an Ivy League Masters degree and a new job under my belt yet, unable to impress my Nigerian questioner with my achievements. Now having moved back (again) to Nigeria two years ago, I fully understand why.
My working life in London and New York post graduation provided me with a salary I was happy with and a day in which I knew without fail my hard-earned money would be paid to me monthly. Now, let me tell you a bit about what it’s like working in Nigeria. In a nutshell, I have come to realise that working doesn’t guarantee payment or payment at an agreed time. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to work here and be paid on-time as I have experienced this but I have also experienced the flip-side and I am far from being alone. There are many state workers across the country that are owed salaries and pensions. I’m not talking about the odd month or so (as if that wouldn’t be so bad) but more than 12 months! Picture that. Working for more than a year without pay! T.I.N — this is Nigeria.
Living in Nigeria makes having an entrepreneurial spirit not optional but necessary. You simply shouldn’t or in most cases can’t rely solely on your salary. I got my thinking cap on and thought about a key follow-up question to what do I do — what can I do. The answer and support from my amazing husband is what pushed me to think out of the box and register a company called OOTB Media Concepts.
I may have felt that being a journalist was the beginning and end of my story but Nigeria has helped me discover that there are more chapters to my story than I realised. This year has been a year of change giving me so much to adapt to yet I am still hungry for more change. My mind is constantly thinking of what’s next and that excites me.
Never stop questioning yourself:
What do you do?
What can you do?
Work these out and get busy!