The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
Today’s subject on Abroad Life wanted to move to Canada for just one reason: his dad’s health. He talks about losing the motivation to travel when his dad died in Nigeria and how the Lekki massacre made him rekindle his passion for leaving Nigeria.
When did you decide you wanted to leave Nigeria?
Leaving Nigeria is an idea that flies up and down in Nigeria, so I’ve always been mildly interested in it. This interest got a bit stronger in 2018 when the HR at the oil and gas firm I worked at told every young person at the office that they needed to move to Canada because Nigeria didn’t have anything to offer them.
Haha… HR that is meant to help you stay at the job?
LMAO. She is even in Canada right now. I was a 22-year-old boy earning ₦300k and carrying a lot of family responsibility because my dad was sick and couldn’t work as often. When I got the job, I had to move from Lagos mainland to Lagos island because I couldn’t do that commute every day. I slept on a floor cushioned by dirty laundry at a friend’s house for four months before I was able to get an apartment. So I wasn’t doing well that period.
When did you start the process of moving to Canada?
In 2019, I realised my dad’s health was getting worse and the only way I could help him survive was if I helped him get healthcare outside Nigeria. He had a partial stroke in 2013 and his health deteriorated from then. By 2019, his heart had gotten weak. He went from being able to walk up to 100m without panting to barely being able to walk 30. The Nigerian healthcare system failed us — we had to wait weeks to see a specialist, and we didn’t even know if they were giving us the correct diagnosis anymore.
I wrote the IELTS and had my credentials assessed by World Education Services (WES) to see if I could enter the pool for the Canadian Express Entry permanent residence. My points were not enough.
Damn. What did you do next?
I decided to learn French and take on a brief degree that would be evaluated by WES as a 1-year certification to increase the number of points I already had. I was about to write the application exam for the course in November when I got a mail saying that I had been nominated for a provincial-based visa award. Ontario had selected me to come to Canada as a permanent resident.
Ahan, blown! Do you know why this happened?
I have a background in tech, so my skill set was pretty impressive and useful for the job market. That nomination gave me more than 600 points, which was more than I needed to be assured of a successful express entry into Canada once I rejoined the pool.
Omo. What happened next?
I applied, and by December, Canada sent a mail asking me to apply for permanent residence. I was more or less in Canada at that point already. You know what’s ironic though?
The mail came a day after my dad died. He died of a stroke in his sleep.
That’s insane. I’m sorry. How did this affect you?
I didn’t care about leaving anymore. The reason I was leaving was so that I would be able to invite him to get better healthcare, but he was gone. The process went much slower after that. If I hadn’t already started the process by then, I wouldn’t have bothered anymore.
What happened next?
COVID and lockdown. I got so scared of what the world had turned into and the possibilities that many more people could lose their lives that I threw myself into a rabbit hole of self-development. I took about 11 courses in the lockdown period and developed a new skill in cloud computing. At that point, I knew I had become more employable.
In June 2020, I posted about my new certification in cloud computing on Linkedin and an old acquaintance reached out to ask some cloud computing-related questions. Because I was still very excited about my new knowledge, I gave him an insanely comprehensive answer. A few weeks later he reached out to me with a job opportunity. It was a cloud computing job in the US that paid in dollars. I took it, and my salary went from ₦300k to approximately ₦970k overnight.
The quality of my life became better because I had more money, but I became very unhealthy because of my working hours and lifestyle. I worked from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., slept at 1 a.m. and woke up at 9 a.m. I ate at odd hours and didn’t work out. My energy levels dropped. After some time though, I had to fix up because I saw that things were getting out of hand.
An advantage of my job was that when I eventually moved to Canada, my North American work experience would make me more employable. I was super grateful for that.
At what point did your interest in moving out of Nigeria return?
October 20, 2020. The entire #EndSARS period was super tough, but after the violence and murders, I decided that there was no way my family and I could continue in that country. Up until that point, I was chilling. I knew my application was still live and COVID was slowing things down, so I didn’t do much to move it forward.
But after the Lekki massacre, omo.
What did you do?
I automated a week’s worth of emails to Canadian immigration asking what was going on with my application, and why I hadn’t been asked to submit my passport for stamping. I set the emails to send to them by 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Canadian time every day. By the second day, they replied and asked me to send my passport.
With Canadian immigration, you have to disturb them sometimes because they can forget you.
When did you get your passport back?
February 2021. I sent it to them in November, and at first, I thought I was going to get it back in December, so I booked a December flight to Canada. They didn’t send it back on time, so I had to pay to move my flight to February. All of this wahala was happening because they said I had to re-do my medicals as the one I did in 2019 had expired.
When I finally got the visa in February, I told all my friends and family bye-bye and threw a party.
I got turned back at the Lagos airport because Canada wasn’t accepting people whose visas were approved after March 20, 2020, as part of their COVID restrictions.
Omo, I was devastated. I had to go back home to the people I had said goodbye to. Thankfully, the ban was lifted in June and my visa was still valid, so I carried my bags and left.
Did you tell your job that you were moving to Canada?
I told them two days after I got here, and then they changed my salary to reflect that I had moved cities. It’s more money than I was earning in Nigeria.
Sweet! What’s Canada like?
Because I had done a lot of research, nothing caught me off guard — except when the guy at the airport stamped my passport and said: “Welcome home”. That felt really good.
I wasn’t shocked about anything. It just seemed like I was waking up in a different neighbourhood. I stayed in a hotel for the first three days and then an AirBnB before I got a place. Since I completed the mandatory COVID isolation, I have gone out every weekend, meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends and exploring all the beautiful places in my province one by one. I also have family here and they’ve been amazing in helping me settle in.
Do you have any struggles adjusting to your new environment?
I have had to learn a few things: Firstly, if you convert your expenditure to naira every time, you will almost never buy anything because you’ll think you’re overspending. The way I think about it is in percentages. So if for example, a bag of rice costs ₦25k in Nigeria, it would probably cost ₦40k here. But if ₦25k is 5% of my salary in Nigeria, ₦40k would probably be 1% of my salary here.
Another thing I’ve learnt is to live within my means. Living a flashy lifestyle is encouraged here, and people do unnecessary things like buying expensive cars on credit to impress people when they could just use normal cars. If you’re not careful, you’ll start living beyond your means.
One thing I’m a bit scared about is winter. I hear it gets super depressing during winter here. I’m not looking forward to it.
Are you bringing the rest of your family to Canada?
My mum and sister? They like Nigeria and have decided to stay there. But if they ever want to move, it’ll be easy for them because I’m here.