Donald Obi Okoye – Diaspora Person of the Month

My name is Donald Obi Okoye. An Engineer, Analyst Programmer and Marketing Entrepreneur. I am married with four fine boys! I met my wife on a visit to Nigeria five years after I moved to the UK, we got married in Nigeria four years later! As an only son it was pertinent that I touched base at least once a year and that has helped me keep in touch with Nigeria!

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 attended a catholic juniorate. Left Nigeria in my 3rd year of civil engineering at the university of Nigeria, to continue my studies in The UK, being a UK citizen, I tried to make the UK my home as best bas I could but always found the attraction to all things Nigeria extremely difficult to ignore! I studied civil engineering later switched to electronic and communication engineering, I have worked for blue chip Uk companies like JBA international Uk limited, CSI international limited having been trained at Forbes Uk in RPG400 and ILE programming. In 199 I obtained an M.A from middlesex university business school Hendon in marketing management with combined studies. I am in the process of starting P.HD program me at the university of Nigeria Enugu campus in 2015. In 2000 I was lucky enough to accept redundancy payment from CSI and subsequently started shipping heavy equipments and machinery to Africa and Nigeria in particular. By 2002, we had to take up office space in Grays Essex, where we metarmorphed into the no 1 heavy equipment, Asphalt and Quarry equipment company in the UK exporting to Nigeria. Our UK company has supplied Asphalt plants and tun key quarry plants to various companies and state Governments. We are representatives of UK companies in Nigeria!


Q. So, the big question, why did you move Back to Nigeria for good?

A. I moved back to Nigeria because I could not really live anywhere else, I had wanted to move back for years and had started building and planning for an eventual return about 8-10 years before I eventually moved back. It is not an impromptu spur of the moment decision. For that duration i had business in Nigeria that meant I travelled at least 5 times yearly as well as spending time on projects.
In the UK, I felt I had gotten to the top of my career as a Senior computer Analyst programmer! I was bored and I wanted to taste real business, while working , I dabbled in bulk goods export and got hooked, while on business trips to Nigeria.I had requests for construction equipments and from the initial order of a Blaw knox BK95 asphalt paver, we have probably shipped 300 different machines as well as larger bespoke plants, supplied and installed in Nigeria.

when you are in the equipment business, factors like exchange rates and seasonal changes are always major issues, so it was easy for me to decide since it had been on my thoughts for some time to build a proper business at home while the children attended secondary school in Nigeria. So it was a “must do” as well as a “win win”affair!

My experience of 23 years abroad had taught me that the only way of truly ensuring that our children are aware of their heritage and background was to send them to school at home! My secondary school influenced my life a lot. Today my sons are in my Alma mater using the same classrooms and things i used, nearly 30 years ago! We have tried the very posh Bourgoise schools and had to revert to the trusted system of catholic Boarding schools run by the Marist Brothers of the school.


Q. Are there similarities between the country you moved back from and Nigeria?

A. Good question! Yes.. We watch the same programmes on TV ….DSTV..shopping malls like Shoprite and Roban has bridged the gap in terms of Luxury good items. There are places like Oaklands amusement park in Enugu for the kids, cinemas like Silverbird and Genesis to watch movies. The Internet has improved a little and this week, the Glo globacom tariff gives a 300%bonus for Internet data bundles, making it cheaper than the UK. N10,000 gives you 31gb for 30days. Generally there are little things I miss, but you can always travel naa!.


Q. What are the challenges you’ve faced so far since moving back?

A. The biggest problem has been the mindset, some people just cannot be trusted with money in Nigeria, the effect of money and greed on Nigeria is what we generally term corruption! And that is the only hindrance we have in being great!


Q. What were your expectations and fears when you decided to move back?

A. I actually landed my biggest contract, immediately I returned. This helped cushion any effects or even expectations since I was plunged into active construction from the onset!


Q. When did you move back and what have you been up to since you moved back?

A. I moved back to Nigeria in 2011 and my family followed suit, a year later. Having lived abroad since 1990. I have been into property development, civil engineering and heavy equipment supplies. I have built an 18.5KM road amongst others.presently we are undertaking a 3km road for a state parastatal. We have supplied equipments to Government agencies and will open up our poultry farm in February!
As a hobby I have dabbled into politics in a supporting and advisory role and a senior member of my Local Party PDP.


Q. Coming back to Nigeria, did you ever feel like you needed to readjust to life back in the country?

A. yes ..but only to the mindset of the people. It takes time to adjust to bribes at checkpoints even when you are in order, to understand that some people believe that money is their everything. To understand the poverty of the mind in the midst of plenty! Apart from that, as a hard nosed Nigerian, I ve always known what to expect!


Q. How do you deal with issues such as traffic, lack of basic infrastructure and the power situation?

A. We need improvement in areas like electricity and water but I dare say I live in an area with regular water supply and use an inverter for auxiliary power as well as the usual petrol and diesel generating sets! Nigeria has improved to the point that most major city centers have serviced flats with 24 hr ameniies included, furnished and unfurnished. Depending on your location, Nigeria is wonderful, full of promise if you can look beyond the immediate issues of every day Nigerian life! The truth is that I am a Nigerian and have always been one, so Nigeria has always been where I am at peace! No matter the difference. Home will always be home! The legacy of our fathers will be kept alive in our children and the best legacy is an identity!


Q. If you had to do this all over again what would you do different?

A. I would have loved to have moved back earlier, I left Nigeria as a teen and returned at 40, with 4 kids. I love the experience abroad, I have been to all the major continents and have developed into a better more enlightened person but east, west, north and south, Home is still Best!


Q. Finally, what advice would you give people moving back to Nigeria from the Diaspora? A. my major advice is not an Advice… It is a statement. You have only one home! No matter what or where you go, on earth. You are Nigerian. Be real and accept Nigeria as your home then everything will be half as easy! Every good thing comes with its own sacrifice. In nigeria …there is an adept adage …that good money makes good stew… Well good planning makes a good return!

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