‘My Tokunbor Experience’

Nigerian Born and England Raised Mariam Tijani’s returned to Nigeria in 2015. She recounts her experiences of being an ‘IJGB’ or ‘Just Got Back’ in Nigeria.

“The Tokunbor Experience” – You may be wondering what is it? In my native Nigerian language, Yoruba “Tokunbo” means someone returning through the Sea “Ti Okun Bo”. (The word “Ti” = Returning, “Okun” = the Sea, and finally “Bo” = Through).  Tokunbo, in other words, means ‘someone who came from overseas or abroad’. The profile can be used for Nigerians who were born overseas or those who grew up there. They are sometimes referred to as Returnees or I Just Got Back (IJGB) in the community.

Even though I was born in Nigeria, I moved over to the UK with my family when I was 13 years old. Personally, I considered London Home because I did most of my growing up here. However, while growing up here, Nigeria kept haunting me. Between 2002 and 2013, I visited Nigeria just twice without my family.

My yearning desire to be a change maker within the Nigerian and African community at large led me into making the decision of moving back to Lagos, Nigeria in 2015. The initial plan was to be in Nigeria for 12 months. Interestingly, 12 months turned into 19 months.

My Nigerian experience was not perfect due to culture shock from growing up in the UK. However, in midst of all the challenges, there were also lots of opportunities. It has been a great learning curve for me and taught me a lot about myself, culture, people in general and also the value of money. For that, I am very grateful for. I have developed a hustler’s mentality which I very much needed. I was not streetwise enough growing up in the UK.

I have also come to realise that Nigeria does not have a country problem, but more a people problem. Unfortunately, the people make up the country. There are endless of opportunities and talented people, but the socioeconomic environment stifles development and growth.

Source: Mariam Tijani

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