Dolapo Ajakaiye: My Book Reflects the challenges Nigerians Face Abroad

Mrs. Dolapo Ajakaiye is a Human Resource Manager that trains Nigerians in diaspora and a number of foreigners. She wrote a book “Searching for Greener Pastures” which is a reflection of the challenges she passed through in life. She is currently running a training and consultancy firm in the United Kingdom. In this interview with MARY NNAH she explains the conflicting value and psychological effects on children raised by Nigerian parents in diaspora and legal battle they face to be stable in a foreign society

Can you give a brief detail of yourself?

I migrated from Nigeria; about two decades ago with my family; settled in the UK. In the UK, I started as a student, did my first degree, did my Masters degree; raised two children, went through so much but am really glad that after everything, I manage my own business in the UK at the moment.

What informed your decision to relocate from Nigeria to the UK?

At a point in time, life was becoming tough, the government policies affecting what I was doing because, then, I was running my business. I would go to the UK to get goods but by the time you come back, the policy would change – exchange rate and everything. You get your goods at a cost you can no longer sell them. Telecommunication was difficult. We did not have all the GSM we have now, so, the head of the family was always abroad; most of the time and when he was away, he could not communicate with me and the children. And at a point in time it was becoming very tough. The crisis all the time… NEPA…hmm.. The children were going through so many challenges and then you think, “Ok. Let’s relocate, let’s go abroad; So that we are closer to the head of the home, he is closer to the family and the children will have a better life and then for me to get more education”

Two decades down the line, you have been in the UK. At the point you arrived in the UK what cultural differences did you see there that kept you wondering if you were in the right environment?

It’s a very big shock from what we see in the country to what we have over there. In the country we have the family network. It’s your mother, your mother-in-law, cousins, friends, etc.

The first shock I got in the UK was when I wanted to go for a job interview and I wanted my neighbour to look after my 3-year-old daughter, she asked me to pay her 5 pounds. I was shocked. It was a cultural shock because normally I will do it without hesitation and a fee. But the society is different from African society, where there is a network of people, you can approach, we can lend a hand but, you have to pay, surviving here was extremely difficult cause of the cultural practices that portrayed a different environment and beliefs. My 13 year old daughter took her baby sister to school and the impact was truly challenging, as I was told outrightly that she is not a caregiver.

She was already raise to take care of her sister in Nigeria but was not allowed. Most children are taking into care, once you are reported, I had to battle legally, our Nigeria parents raised their children, the only way they know and the foreign culture equally raise them, there is conflicting value that has psychological effects, and you have to comply with the law of the land. Gradually your values are eroded and you lose it. It is painful because what you teach your children at home is different from what the environment teaches them. Your child says something, they get into trouble, because it is seen as abuse and most times are taken into care. Once a child is taken into care, you may lose the child for life, because they regard you as unfit parents. When a child is taken into care, at 18 the government is no longer responsible for them. The child becomes responsible for her upkeep.

Was there a time you felt like returning home?

Yes. I tell you, the first time I felt like returning was less than 3 months into the UK because what you expect is not what you see.

Tell us more about your new Book, “Searching Greener Pastures” which talks about the trajectory of what most immigrants face in the UK.

I wrote this book at a point in my life when I was really down. I went in as a student, complied with all the rules but you got to a stage when you get to the end of your visa, you want to renew but you can’t renew. And you find yourself at that point in time where they tell you, you can’t renew.

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