For many in Nigeria, living abroad is synonymous with wealth and affluence. But just like the coin, there is always the other side of dwelling abroad. Hardly do people talk of the other side. That other side is indeed what paints the real picture. The side most talked about is more of the facade.
The other side is a life of struggle to guarantee livelihoods, both abroad and back home. While many make money abroad to support families back home, others use living abroad as a two-way-street to make ends meet. By and large, there are millions of Nigerians that survive on the growing population of diaspora citizens.
Many Nigerians I know, living abroad, including myself rely on commodity trade to keep body and soul together. If it does not feature as a main source of income, it comes in handy to defray the high cost of living or a way to keep friends and family members back home engaged in one business or the other instead of them expecting and depending on handouts from you.
In my case, instead of facing the constant pressure of monetary demands from relatives, money I don’t have, I rather send some goods for a relative to sale, while I make less than 20 percent out of the sale, the relative earns double or triple of that amount in profit after sales. They deposit the amount, making up your capital and the marginal profit in your Naira Account in Nigeria.
With your debit card, you’re able to access that sum and commit it to further the direction of enterprise you desire. Nothing is simpler and more engaging, even dignifying than this. For many in the Diaspora, including myself, it saves a great deal of hassle. You send goods to a few friends and relatives, turn them into small time entrepreneurs. Those that repay stay in the trade, defaulters that fail to remit monies into your account are out. And that means, they will never constitute a nuisance to you anymore.
This is the outline of how am able to keep my family going. Not only am I able to handle my bills, it helps to put a little smile on the faces of many in Abuja, Kano, Jos, Maiduguri and Adamawa, where my customers are based. Also, once or twice a month there are clients who are rich enough to pay their way to Dubai but do not wish to.
With a simple WhatsApp message you are assigned to task: They offer the equivalent in US dollar of their return tickets to you in return for sourcing goods for them, purchasing, and ferrying the goods back to Nigeria on their behalf. The profit is multi-faceted for me. First its the cost of their air tickets for your service, the shop owners in Dubai also give you between 5% to 10% after purchase, and you generate a commission from the cargo to Nigeria.
The more reliable you are, the more clients you get back home, from one or two it grows into a handful. This was my line of principal business engagement before the policy of stifling everyone of foreign exchange by the government in Nigeria. As a journalist, I didn’t need a lecture to know that Nigeria is more of a trading nation than anything else. Her citizens are all over the continents of the world engaged in limited or extensive trading.
I am not an economist, this fact ought to be obvious to anyone. And my simplest of expectations from any government in Nigeria is to leverage on this reality to build the national economy as well as empower its teeming population. But alas, what you get is a most unthinkable of policies. Shut down every avenue of legitimate enterprise by your citizens and keep an ignoble straight face in shoving your citizens to the precipice of desperation.
The thought of returning to the newsroom in Nigeria and placing my future in the hands of platforms that have made records of unfulfilled obligations to personnel is not an option. And this is even when I decide not to factor the escalating threats to my life arising from the stories I did on activities of the Islamic State affiliate in Nigeria. The activities of insurgents were not the only stories I focused on. I reported on the environment as well. But because most of my stories revealed failings by constituted authorities, I was regularly put at cross with authorities.
The situation had so degenerated that my family was practically living a nightmare. Arising from these, I had to run for dear life. Essentially, this is why I find myself today in a foreign land. So, has the situation changed as to warrant a return with my family. Not in anyway. In fact, as a way of remaining anonymous I had committed time and resources into my trading to keep me out of media traffic. To make the best of the opportunities in a society as organized as here, you do not need the trail of unnecessary controversy.
Journalism, nevertheless, is not a total waste. It was the little goodwill I earned in that profession that I deployed in business. All over the organized world people are in need of integrity. Nigerians have earned the reputation of being in deficiency, generally, of integrity. For me that integrity is my selling point. People are reluctant to do business with you at first. But when they start and taste the uncommon integrity they do not leave you.
For once, my children began to enjoy a settled life. And quite amazingly, as I discovered, locked in some part of their memory is the trail of nightmares we suffered as family in Nigeria. These children today associate a life in Nigeria as a life of nightmare. I have been unable to change that. The UAE is for them a definition of Nirvana.
Nigeria is beautiful. Abuja is peaceful and somewhat decent, but where I come from, Borno, life is short, nasty and traumatic for so many families. It cannot serve as a model of a society where any parent wants to bring up his or her children if he has an option. With children, it would surprise you how much of what happen with adults they read perfectly. It is not the savagery of the Boko Haram crisis, I discovered that scares them about Nigeria. It was to do with the harassment and arrest they witnessed against their father by Nigerian security personnel.
In one occasion I was picked up by security operatives just after getting my kids at close of school. The very idea that I had sources among the leadership of the insurgents seemed like an instant death sentence. Sadly, even when I decided to retire from active reporting in the last months before my self exile, the name Salkida became synonymous with the crisis. Many Nigerians, even some professional journalists couldn’t appreciate that a journalist can build a confidence level with a source in whatever position.
This resource of having contact among the leadership of the insurgents had served and could still serve better purposes. On a couple of occasions government had reached out to me and I believe they are still in a position to use that opening to achieve greater good for all. I believe I owe society a duty to deploy my professional skills to save lives and engender peace.
As my family and I are beginning to settle down to a new, serene environment, this policy cessation of foreign transactions through your debit card has put one in a new point of despair and exasperation. I have waited in vain to hear any official explanation and a step to cushion the possible unintended effects on citizens. I have asked questions, and still ask questions, what does Nigeria take her citizens to be? Some vermin that must be decimated and exterminated? I have been effectively rendered helpless and I need help and answers.