In 1999, I rediscovered my first love! She had grown up. I mean I had grown to become aware of her beauty.
She was stunning and full of all possibilities. I could not wait to spend as much time with her as possible; to reacquaint myself with her enchanting beauty. She had the best smiles, and her culinary skills filled me in ways I had long forgotten was possible. She was energetic, with a spectrum of colors and music that moved my soul. It had been years since I experienced the warmth from her sun. It radiated and kept my being energized like a warm embrace on a chilly day.
This was how I felt when I realized that I had a hidden love for my country Nigeria. I knew in that moment that I would return to her shores to live with my wife and beautiful kids I was yet to have. She had me in her grasp as the plan was set. Everything I did from then on was just to get me back to my Nigeria.
I gave away property, put my newly purchased home on the rental market, packed up my American Trinidadian wife, three kids and boarded a boat to Africa. Well, we did board a plane to Nigeria.
It was adventure and we were excited. We did all the required planning and timed executions to get a new home in Nigeria, get the kids into schools and generally settle into our new home, Lagos.
We had plans to travel in Nigeria and all over Africa. This was an exciting plan and we couldn’t wait to begin. I don’t believe it took us months to discover the folly in our plans. The security issues, the logistics issues, the expensive and vastly unreliable nature of air travel in Africa. Okay, I digressed, this is not where I was going.
My story above is not unique. A lot of my peers moved back in the early 2000s out of the same love. It was a returnee epidemic, or a brain gain– as the economists would call it. In New York, Chicago, London and the likes, there were constant farewell parties. The trigger was an article written by my good friend Chukuka Chukuma, which spread like a dry forest fire, and was likely the first viral message in our email experience. He basically told us we were wasting our time living anywhere else but Nigeria.
The excitement was in the air, early adopters were hailed as champions. I remember always chasing down returnees when they came back to visit New York; I wanted to hear everything about my love – Nigeria. Soon enough, I was sick about hearing about my love. I longed to become an indispensable part of her. I hatched a plan and headed back to Nigeria.
We moved back to Nigeria in the early 2000s in the same mass and drive as our parents left Nigeria in the mid to late 1980s. It is now been almost two decades; the reverse is now in play. We are now doing farewells or simply just hearing that people have left – as leaving Nigeria is not always celebrated. People just sell their items and book a flight not looking back and just leave.
It is now an epidemic, a brain drain!