As I stood outside Murtala Mohammed airport in Lagos, Nigeria waiting to be picked up and taken to our hotel I thought to myself ‘What did I get myself into?’
2 ½ hours late picking me up from the airport……yes I was frustrated. As we set off to go and meet the rest of the AFFORD UK delegates at our hotel reality set in – the traffic is terrible, the fumes are worse and the power is, to put it nicely, basically unreliable. My relatively frequent travel to the country had still not made any of these experiences more acceptable. However, in spite of all of this I can gladly say these were not my only experiences. Meeting an amazing sample of forward thinking youths, talking with passionate young entrepreneurs, exploring a successful large scale commercial chicken farm and meeting political figures working to make a real positive impact in Nigeria were just a few of the great things I experienced.
Hosted by Senator Babajide Omoworare of Osun State East senatorial district and his family the four AFFORD delegates (including myself) alongside an amazing cohort of youth from Lagos and Osun embarked on a two week mission to find out where we can potentially use our knowledge, skills and areas of expertise to sustainably key into Nigeria’s development working with the youth.
I have always been passionate about Nigeria and knowing that I want live there one day (sooner rather than later) my motivation for going on the trip was to see where I could fit in future and in the meantime see where I could positively contribute on a regular basis. Sadly the reality, which a young man at a conference simply explained moving me to tears (which I must say is a rare occurrence for me) is that the level of poverty in Nigeria is completely unacceptable. He described how sad it is in this day and age to witness on a daily basis our people with inadequate clothing, shelter and food. This happened at the youth conference held in Ile-Ife that we attended alongside youth in the community to share about the everyday challenges they face and hear what three Brits and an American were doing in their town. Surprisingly, they were completely floored when we spoke of our desire to come back to Nigeria, since many of young population are looking for a way out. A discussion about debunking the myth of greener pastures abroad was eye opening on both sides as they got to hear that things are not all rosy in the west and that there are many passionate Nigerians thinking of coming back and I learned that it WILL be a hustle when I come back but that I now have a network of people around me that are willing to help me along the way. But what I learned most from that day is that more open discussions are needed. The youth forum schooled me on real issues affecting people my age and it is not until you get down to specifics that you will understand where you can possibly contribute.