Uchenna Njoku’s childhood dream, from an early age, was to be a lawyer. So he studied law at Imo State University and did his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in the American multinational. Exxon Mobil.
During the NYSC program, he decided to work full-time in the oil and gas industry as in-house legal counsel for one of the major oil companies.
And to prepare for this, he enrolled at the prestigious University of Aberdeen because Aberdeen in Scotland is the oil and gas capital of Europe. He believed the experience would be helpful in making him a globally sought-after oil and gas lawyer.
After moving to the UK on her own, Uchenna experienced culture shock. He said:
- “There were many culture shocks, but the one that stood out to me the most was how everyone I met in the UK treated each other with empathy and respect. No anger, d envy or unnecessary competition. I found men who wore kilts that fascinated me so much.
Japa: Loss of Nigeria, gain of the United Kingdom
The UK is one of the most popular destinations for young Nigerians who want a better life abroad. However, Uchenna worries about the nonchalant attitude of the Nigerian government as the country continues to lose its best minds to the Western world, especially the UK. He said:
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- “As a Nigerian in the Diaspora, I think Nigeria still has a lot to do to encourage promising young people to do their best and bring out the best talent to develop Nigeria and not force them to leave for a living. better. I’m in the UK because they used it to their advantage, creating the right environment for us to continue to grow and improve their economy while paying so much tax into their system.
Connection to Nigeria – the land of his birth
Uchenna said he still felt very connected to Nigeria despite his long stay abroad. After all, he was born and raised in the country. He said:
- “I feel very connected to Nigeria because it is a country that I love very much. I have a lot of family and friends there, I have lived a large part of my life in Nigeria and I appreciate the bohemian free spirit of the average Nigerian.These and many more are the reason I visit Nigeria every year.
The temporary “Japada” back in Nigeria
There’s an old cliché that says that over time, dreams evolve. And this is true for Uchenna because, after studying in Aberdeen, her interest shifted from law to banking. The banking sector is arguably the most lucrative in the UK.
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Unfortunately for Uchenna at the time, it was difficult to break in as he needed to have significant work experience in the UK. Also, many UK-born nationals were competing for the same jobs they were interested in. He stated :
- “I left the UK to return to Nigeria to work at Fidelity Bank because I didn’t have the opportunity to work in the corporate environment in the UK. Each organization required me to have UK work experience, which was difficult to achieve with the number of UK citizens and EU nationals for the same job.
- I moved back to the UK because I saw things getting worse in Nigeria in 2015. At first I thought I was going to progress in Nigeria, have a good standard of living financially and bring my family from the UK to join me, but it was an impossible dream. Therefore, I had to return to the UK to enjoy a better quality of life and reunite with my family.
Conquest of Tesco Bank, RBS and Barclays Banks
Upon returning to the UK, he joined Tesco Bank as an Audit Analyst, where he distinguished himself in the predominantly Caucasian workplace. He then joined the Royal Bank of Scotland as a financial crime analyst where he used his skills and talent to combat terrorist financing and money laundering, as well as maintain the reputation of the organization.
He then transferred his in-demand skills to Barclays Bank where he currently works as Assistant Vice President, Intelligence Development & Investigations.
No glass ceiling in UK corporate workplaces
We’ve all heard of the famous “British Reserve” which is an innuendo for a surreptitious racist streak in the average Brit. Many Nigerians in the UK are complaining about racism which is holding back their career advancement. Famous Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta once wrote a widely read book “Second Class Citizen” which highlighted the inherent racism in the UK. Trinidadian writer Samuel Selvon had previously written “Lonely Londoners” to show the plight of ethnic minorities, using his Caribbean nationality as a case study. Uchenna, however, thinks differently. According to him, “there is no cap for racial minorities, especially black migrants in the UK corporate workplace. Stand out and excel here!”
Advice to fellow countrymen intending to “japa” in the UK
The buzzword on the streets among many young Nigerians is to go into economic exile or ‘japa’. Ironically, the UK, which colonized Nigeria, is one of the most popular destinations for Nigerians, especially among those wishing to do their postgraduate studies abroad, a popular japa route.
Uche warns that although living in the UK offers a better deal than there is back home, it’s still not a bed of roses as living there comes with its own set of challenges. He said:
“My advice to Nigerians considering migrating to the UK is to keep hope alive. Leave behind the negative attitude and way of life in Nigeria before you come here, know that it is not easy to save a pound here. You have to work very hard to have a comfortable life here, and so it will never be business as usual like in Nigeria. If you follow the law here, you will definitely live a dignified life.