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Japa Story: I left my privileged life in Lagos to become a gateman in Canada

Why do Nigerians leave their country for greener pastures?

Japa Story: I left privileged life in Lagos to become a gateman in Canada [Image generated with Dalle.E]

There are many reasons people begin to think of migrating, bad electricity, the violence of our people, the police, the failing institutions — take your pick. But for many people, something flips the switch and finally forces them to make that jump.

This is what Japa Story will focus on. For the inaugural edition, we spoke to Olaoluwa, who had always wanted to leave the country, even when the American dollar exchanged for ₦175. When we asked him if he missed anything about the country his response was deadpan. “What is there to miss?”

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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I've always known that I was going to leave, like from when I was very young because it has always been like a discussion in my family. So it's something that we've always looked forward to since I was in like primary school or even secondary school.

Japa didn't influence the decision in any way. I remember I wrote my SATs just before I got into university. And then multiple times I tried, just after I finished university too. I tried to leave for Turkey for instance, to the UK, US, and Germany as well. And then Canada was just one option that worked, you know, amongst other plans.

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School. It was education. It is a postgraduate course in digital communication.

So you have to consider like financial responsibilities. For a good master's programme here in Canada, you're looking at say maybe, I don't know, between CA$20,000, CA$25,000 to maybe as much as CA$70,000 depending on the programme and school. For postgraduates, you'll probably be looking at CA$15,000 to CA$17,000.

So there's the financial aspect to it. I also would not jump to the conclusion that all post-graduate programmes or courses are not useful enough. This course that I'm taking, it's a course that I feel is relevant and it's something that builds on what I have studied for my undergrad in Nigeria. Also, you can get a master's and still not get a job before someone who has a postgraduate diploma.

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It wasn't easy at first, I won't lie. Like I said, at that time, I was considering multiple options and it was just the last one that just seemed to work. So everything just happened within the space of like three months. I hadn't even known at the start of the year that it was going to work out. I think I knew in like November, and I left in December so it was just like a month to prepare and do all that.

I spent my first night at an Airbnb. That was a good option to consider. It was cheap too, CA$15 a night, which is actually below the average if I'm being honest. I stayed there for 15 days before I found a place.

It was pretty much learn-as-you-go. I basically had to learn from people that I was meeting here and gather as much information as I could from Nigerians and other people from other countries as well. In the Airbnb that I stayed, a Nigerian lived there as well and she added me to a group chat of other Nigerians within the city.

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I'm sure my case is quite different but it took me five months to get a job here. I know so many other people who got it much earlier, within the first month or the first two months, Nigerians included.

I feel like if I'm moving anywhere – it feels sensible but I don't think a lot of people do it – you should also find out about the jobs that are prevalent in that city or community where you're gonna be staying, like, even before you eventually move here, try to find out if they are for you.

If you come here and you think you're just going to go on Indeed or Linkedin and then start applying for jobs, which is what I did before because I didn't have enough time anyway, but still not an excuse, you're just going to be competing with other people that are coming. This is a school, so you're talking about 1,000, to 3,000 people who are competing.

Knowing people is very important. I don't mean knowing people for the sake of knowing them, but like just building stable relationships. They don't have to be like close friends or anything like that. But just knowing someone who knows someone who can get you the information that you need would definitely help in the whole job search.

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Yes. It's a little bit of that. And the truth is everybody else was also going to be doing that.

The thing is you probably won't get a corporate job as a student because they want full-time and balancing school and that will be a problem. But someone referred me for a security job that’s how I got the two security jobs that I have done.

Yeah, you need a license. It costs about CA$400 in total. You're gonna go through the actual first aid training. The whole process takes four weeks.

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You're looking at an average of $18 to $20 an hour. Probably more. In some places that are more sensitive like a hospital, you earn more.

Luckily for me, in the first year, I didn't have to do much of that because it took me like five months to get a job. So I had all the time to do whatever my school demanded of me. But this year has been a little draining because now I'm working and doing school at the same time. I'll be honest, it's very doable. But my job is more demanding than some others because there are a lot of physical responsibilities there.

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When I first heard about security, that's why I was reluctant to do it in the first place. I always assumed just like Nigeria probably it’s like the whole thing, dealing with criminals and thieves. Here, you're more likely to observe the situation and try to, you know, calm the situation down with your words, rather than brute force. Security don’t carry arms.

One thing about Canada is that there is dignity in labour. People don't look down on you or anything like that. In fact, they respect you and ask you questions and call you sir.

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Yes, many times. There was this one guy who was being a nuisance where I work and he is white of course. And I tried to calm him down and he called me nigger and tried to put his hand in my eye and I found it really funny. Nothing you say can offend me.

He had no idea. I don't know, for some reason, at that moment, racism seemed like the stupidest thing that anybody could ever do. Other racist incidents I have experienced are more subtle, many times it's like they don't expect you to be able to speak English well. And the girls especially avoid me.

I don't think so. To be honest, it doesn't feel like there’s much to miss for obvious reasons. I've been here for a year but I think about this a lot, like, there's always the honeymoon phase, like when you come the first month or two, you know, everything is different. But here it doesn't feel like abroad anymore. I really don't miss Nigeria. What am I missing out on is the question.

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