Everyone natirally grows up with infantile dreams. But for Uchenna Njoku, his childhood dream right from when he could remember was to be a lawyer. This was why he studied law at the Imo State University and proceeded to do his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in the American Multinational Exxon Mobil.
At the time of of his NYSC programme, he set his eyes on working in the oil and gas sector full-time as an in-house legal counsel for any of the leading oil companies.
Thus, 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 that the experience would come in handy to make him a globally sought-after Oil and Gas Lawyer.
However, upon relocating to the UK by himself, Uchenna experienced some culture shocks as he said: “There were numerous culture shocks, but the one that stood out for me was the way everyone I met in the UK treated one another with empathy and respect. No anger, envy, or unnecessary competition. I found men who wore kilts which fascinated me so much.”
According to Uchenna, the UK is one of the most popular destinations for Nigerian youths who desire a better life abroad. However, the Nigerian-born is worried about the government’s nonchalant attitude even as the country continues to lose its best brains to the benefit of the Western world, especially the UK.
This, he said: “As a Nigerian in the Diaspora, I think that Nigeria has a long way to go in encouraging promising youths to be their best and bring out the best of talents to develop Nigeria and not compel them to leave for a better life. I am in the UK because they used it to their advantage, creating an enabling environment for us to continue to develop and enhance their economy while paying so much taxes into their system.”
Commenting on Nigeria – the land of his birth
Uchenna said he still feels highly connected to Nigeria despite his long sojourn abroad. After all, he was born and bred in the country.
Hence he said, “I feel very connected to Nigeria as that is a country I love very much. I have lots of family and friends there, I have lived a large part of my life in Nigeria, and I enjoy the free-spirited and bohemian spirit of the average Nigerian. These and many others are why I visit Nigeria every year.”
It is generally held that, an ancient cliché opines that with time, dreams evolve. And this is true for Uchenna because, after his studies at Aberdeen, his interest shifted from law to banking. The banking sector is arguably the most lucrative in the UK.
But quite unfortunately for Uchenna at the time, it was difficult to break into banking as he was required to have significant UK work experience. Also, many British-born nationals were competing for the same jobs he was interested in, he pointed out.
So, he said, “I left the UK back to Nigeria to work in Fidelity Bank because I wasn’t getting the opportunity to work in the corporate environment in the UK. Every organization required me to have UK work experience which was difficult to achieve with the number of British Citizens and European Nationals going for the same job. However, I returned to the UK because I saw things getting worse in Nigeria in 2015. I initially thought that I would work my way up in Nigeria, have a good financial standard of living, and bring my family over from the UK to join me but it was an unrealizable dream. Therefore, I had to return to the UK to enjoy a better quality of life and be reunited with my family.”
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By the time Uchenna returned to the UK, he joined Tesco Bank as an Account Review Analyst where he distinguished himself in the Caucasian-dominated workplace. He later moved to the Royal Bank of Scotland as a Financial Crime Analyst where he used his skills and talent to battle terrorism financing and money laundering as well as maintain organizational reputation.
Then, very much later, he transferred his well-sought-after skills to Barclays Bank where he currently works as Assistant VP, Intelligence Development & Investigations.
This was so easily possible because, there is no Glass Ceiling in the UK Corporate Workplace
Moreover, we have all heard and read about the famous ‘British Reserve’ which is an innuendo for a surreptitious racist tendency of the average Brit. Many Nigerians in the UK complain of racism which throws the spanner in the works of their career advancement. Famous Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta once wrote a widely read book ‘Second Class Citizen’ which highlighted the racism inherent in the UK. Trinidadian Writer Samuel Selvon had earlier written ‘Lonely Londoners’ to show the plight of ethnic minorities, using his native Caribbean nationality as a case study. Uchenna, however, thinks differently. According to him, “there is no ceiling for racial minorities especially black migrants in the corporate UK workplace. Just distinguish yourself and excel here!”
In Uchenna’s, opinion, the buzzword on the streets among many Nigerian youths is to go on economic exile or to ‘japa’. Ironically, the UK which colonised Nigeria, is one of the most popular destinations for Nigerians, especially among those who want to do their postgraduate abroad, and has become a popular japa route.
With a sleight of hand, Uche warns that while living in the UK offers a better deal than what obtains back home, it is still not a bed of roses because living there comes with its fair share of challenges.
He said, “My advice for Nigerians intending to migrate to the UK is to keep the hope alive. Leave the negative attitude and way of life behind in Nigeria before coming over here. And be aware that it isn’t easy to save a pound here. You have to work extra hard to have a comfortable life over here, and so it will never be business as usual as it was in Nigeria. If you are law-abiding here, you will certainly live a worthwhile life, he concluded.”