My name is Anita N. Ifudu. I am a lawyer and a blogger. I obtained my bachelors degree in law from the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus and I have an LL.M. in International Business Law from the University of London, England where I graduated with merit honors. Early in my career I worked as a litigation paralegal in the United States. In 2007, I gave up a career in litigation to practice corporate transactional law and for the next 6 years, I worked as a commercial contract manager in the contract administration department of a leading consumer reporting agency in the United States.
I currently blog on Anita Writes. I am single, no children and no pets and I now live in Lekki area in Lagos. I love to describe myself as a writer and a lover of life, and basically that is what I blog about. So lawyers are not all about the courtroom and the wigs and black gowns, some of us are socialists, artists, and that is the kind of lawyer I am. Being an artist does not make me less of a lawyer, it just makes me what I term a “New Age” Lawyer.
Most importantly, I have managed and grown content on my personal blog at: http://anitawrites.blogspot.com where I explore women’s issues, social commentary and the cultural impact of being a single, successful African woman living in America, and now suddenly living in Nigeria. The content is funny, insightful, titillating, and of course, very juicy! I also maintain a social media presence via Twitter (@aphy201), and Instagram (@anitawritesblog).
QUESTION AND ANSWER:
Q. Please take us through your background and how you got to (the country you lived in before coming back home)
A. I graduated Law School and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1999. After Law school, the climate in Nigeria was very tense. I was in Law school in Bwari, Abuja when Abacha died and just being in that kind of environment is very discomforting. Nigeria was going through its “politically unstable” phase. Also whilst interning in Lagos after law school, there was always some random riot or the other, either for fuel scarcity or area boys riot and my car often got attacked several times as I was on my way to work. My family in the US got pretty worried about my wellbeing so they decided that I would obtain a better stable future in the US.
Q. So, the big question, why did you move Back to Nigeria for good?
A. Nigeria is still my country. As they say, Like always flocks to Like, or some type of saying. In the US, you’re that black person who is from Africa not Alabama but from Africa, that country in Africa that sends the money scam emails, that country that is ostracized for several other things. It just makes you stand out from all the other black people.
It just makes you have to work a thousand times harder than the average black person to achieve your professional goals. I can’t remember how many times I had to answer the question, “Why is your English so good?” Or any of the other myriad questions foreigners are inundated with. It just made it so hard to get ahead professionally. I was always on a constant struggle against the stereotype that does not recognize or educate its people that there’s a whole world out there in Africa and we do not study with lions and tigers.
We actually have very good schools and are highly educated. Plus, in America you’re always struggling for that 15 minutes of fame in a country with so much talent, so many people wanting to be noticed. I felt I could start with my own market in Nigeria and then build my brand to make it overseas. I also missed the occasional bribe here and there to get out of a speeding ticket.
Q. Are there similarities between the country you moved back from and Nigeria?
A. There are no similarities whatsoever. The only vague similarity is the beach and our English speaking skills. There are also similarities in terms of our love of choice cars, fashion, real estate, capitalism. But asides from that Nigeria and US have nothing in common. At least to me.
Q. What are the challenges you’ve faced so far since moving back?
A. Plenty of challenges. The Nigeria I left in 2000 is so different from the Nigeria I am experiencing now. The people are different, the climate is different, the culture is so different. People are so cold, so off-putting, so financially wound up, not at all the “my brother’s keeper” culture that I remember back in school.
As a Lagosian described it to me, “It’s a Dog Eat Dog World.” And I was quickly advised to adjust my thinking to that mindset if I wanted to get anywhere in Nigeria. That reminded me of Wall Street mentality, so not the Nigeria I remember. One of the best things about Nigeria to me was that we cared about one another. I missed that touch, that human element to our dealings so much while I was in America, the capitalist center of the world. So to come back and deal with that mentality here in Nigeria just defeated me.
Q. What were your expectations and fears when you decided to move back?
A. I expected that I would immediately reconnect with my childhood friends, old classmates and we would hold hands and ride off into the sunset. LOL. That was not the case. Everybody is so busy chasing financial gain that folks don’t have time to reconnect, make friends, or retain old friendships. At least that’s how it’s seemed to me since I’ve been back.
It was rather disappointing when I called folks I haven’t seen in years and their enthusiasm level upon hearing about my return was dismal to say the least. I also expected that there would be no sort of culture clash, mainly because I grew up in Nigeria, went to school here, spent a better part of my life here. But when you immerse yourself totally into your new home in a climate where things are so structured and organized, coming home to a “make up the rules as we go” climate takes a little adjusting.
I was mostly afraid of returning to the lack of electricity situation especially with the blazing heat in Nigeria. That was my biggest fear. Also, losing a bit of my single girl freedom. As Nigeria is such a conservative culture, I knew it would be hard for me to live and move about freely as a single girl as I did in America without raising some “somewhat inappropriate” flags. However, I thought my friends would ease me into that atmosphere gently. The lack of employment fear did not reverberate with me at that time, it probably should have.
Q. When did you move back and what have you been up to since you moved back?
A. I moved back in May 2014. Asides from the occasional overindulgence of all the NIgerian food I missed over the years, I have been doing a lot of experiencing which has reactivated my writing. Experiencing the food, the people, the culture, the weather, the new environment, the good, the bad and the not so fabulous icks of people I haven’t seen in 14 years.
I’ve experienced so much since I’ve been back that the creative lull I experienced in America just before I left has been extinguished somewhat since I’ve been back in Nigeria. I have also been searching for steady employment as a lawyer, which is like a camel passing through the eye of the needle. Since the camel seems to be having some technical difficulties making it through, I have decided to put all my creative energies into building my blog, and establishing Anita Writes as a brand.
I’m also trying to set up a solo commercial law practice where I provide contract management services to small and growing commercial clients who cannot afford to fully outsource their legal work and are in need of someone to completely manage their legal paperwork. However, this is still in its infancy.
Q. Coming back to Nigeria, did you ever feel like you needed to readjust to life back in the country?
A. Not at all. I grew up here. Granted there were a few things I thought would have changed (or been totally eradicated) in the past decade such as the lack of electricity situation, or the occasional roadside street market. But when you come back and in the traffic your car is besieged by roadside peddlers, you just tend to clam up instantly.
Like I said, one of the first few challenges for me was the culture clash. I never visited Nigeria all through my stay and I totally embraced the Western culture. I was completely into life in America, the sports, the lingo, the music, the celebrity lifestyle, the way of life. So upon my return I went through a lot of kinks so to speak. Some of the kinks were experienced firsthand by the folks that didn’t know or appreciate what I was going through but as they got to know me, they excused my… ahem… foolish questions. One that immediately comes to mind are the roads. Victoria Island, Lekki, Ikoyi was not what it is now back in 2000.
When I returned I kept asking questions like, “What is this place? Is there a mall? Is there a movie theater? Why do they play Nigerian Music all the time? Who is P Square?” I remember asking one of my friends if a restaurant didn’t sell alcohol because they had lost their liquor license. Restaurants here don’t need such a thing, so of course my statement caused much ridicule. It was just hard to adapt and of course I quickly lost friends along the way.
Q. How do you deal with issues such as traffic, lack of basic infrastructure and the power situation?
A. I haven’t been dealing with it as well as other people, I have to admit. I still wonder why these situations are still in existence in a country that is so rich in natural resources, one of the largest exporters of oil in Africa. So I don’t deal with them well at all. I just get by day to day, and hope for a better Nigeria. A friend got me a rechargeable fan and it has been my lifeline. To deal with traffic, I try to walk as much as possible just like the New Yorkers.
I’m still at that “Tech Start Up” phase, just like Facebook was in its infancy, where the business is run from the basement. I haven’t graduated to the AC car with driver, 2 generators, inverter plus serviced housing level. That’s the stage you get to when you can ignore a few of the infrastructural deficiencies. But we’ll get there, na small small.
Q. If you had to do this all over again what would you do different?
A. I would make a plan for my return. I would sell everything I own in the US and use the money to live well in Nigeria for the first couple of years while I build my brand. I went with it as an artist, throwing caution to the wind and hoping that the chips would fall where they may, which is exactly what I did when I moved to America and the chips fell very well. You cannot do that in Nigeria. We are not as structured and adventurous as America. Nigeria is structured in other aspects.
People here don’t go against the grain so to speak, they live within the confines of their conservation so risks are calculated, methodical, strategic and financially driven. They always want to know how far taking a chance on you will get them, what will they gain from their relationship with you. In America, most of the employers that hired me took a risk on me, a girl from Nigeria – that duplicitous country – and in the end it played out well, I was an asset to the companies I worked for. You hardly find a Nigerian employer doing that unless you’re related to someone that’s funding their business.
Q. Finally, what advice would you give people moving back to Nigeria from the Diaspora?
A. Prepare for the worst. Nah, I’m just kidding. Prepare. Brace yourself. And be strong. Prepare to have people around you who will not have time for you as they are too busy chasing the Nigerian Dream. Prepare to live like you lived abroad, don’t expect that your friends would greet you with open arms, don’t expect nothing from anyone at all. Just prepare to do as much hustling, if not more as you did abroad. The hustle will not be easier because it’s your country, as a matter of fact, it’s even worse, it’s harder, it’s a lot more complicated, intricate and it can be very grueling. It can also be very lonely. But the road to success is filled with downs and it’s how we get up from it that makes us who we are. In your alone time build your dream and watch it unfold slowly. Most importantly, pray, that your big break is just around the corner.