Home Blog Diaspora Diary: Japa Should Be About Skills, Skills And Skills!

Diaspora Diary: Japa Should Be About Skills, Skills And Skills!


To grow capacity in your career, you need to move from the place of position to a place of skill acquisition.~ Olawale Daniel

When I talk about skills it is because I’ve seen what a lack of it can cause. Some of us emigrated late in life and I can tell you it’s tougher to integrate. Firstly, you have to get a job and many entry-level vacancies target younger people. If I knew what I know now I would have stayed back in Cardiff after my masters over a decade ago. By now I would be an associate Professor. But my belief and businesses in Nigeria were far too convincing so I went back to oil money.

As you can see, that decision didn’t age well because, like some people I mentioned in my defence of japa, I moved again after 4 years. This time to Ireland where my family had been since 2004.

I’ve now lived here for 8yrs. Who would have thought?!
My plan was to return after meeting the following objectives.

1. To be with my family as the kids navigate their teenage years.

2. To get the citizenship that will facilitate my globetrotting lifestyle.

I travelled to Nigeria almost every quarter to oversee my businesses. But as the years flew by, the naira continued plummeting as the Buhari administration plunged the economy into deeper turmoil. When the situation continued to worsen with rising insecurity and unbearable economic hardship something had to give. Yours truly wisely decided to make the relocation permanent, and here we are.

I’m rambling again innit? Ok, back to our story for today and it will do intending japarists (migrants) and new immigrants as well a lot of good to read to the end. It is an interesting encounter with some valuable lessons.

I usually dispose of my recycle heap bi-monthly. Sometime in 2021, I called my usual man with a van, an Albanian named Fitor who has previously helped me with more than disposal to do the job. But he had moved on to bigger things. He informed me that he is now a software developer.

So I searched online and called a few numbers but received high quotes till I got Mohammed. Yes! I knew I had someone who should understand a fellow immigrant’s budget constraint and be amenable to negotiation. Mohammed was polite and charged me €20 cheaper without requesting a picture of the load. What more can I ask for?

When he showed up he was like I imagined. A slender Arab-looking guy in his 30s or thereabout. We immediately hit off and got talking as we loaded the van with sacks. He was more energetic than I thought and in 10–15 minutes we were done.

As we drove to the dump our gist shifted to the usual “Where are you from?” that immigrants rarely miss when they get together for the first time.
“I’m from Somalia,” he said proudly to my delight.
When I replied that I’m a Nigerian he exclaimed
“Bruv are you new in the area? Cos I know most of the Nigerians in this hood. I run disposals for them.”
I explained that I don’t have many Nigerian friends over here as I’m almost always back home in Nigeria.
“So what do you do?” he asked.
“I’m currently studying for a postgraduate diploma at UCC.”
“Oh that’s good, are you working too?”
“Not really, but I have businesses in Nigeria that’s why I’m always there but I do a little trading on Donedeal.”
“No bruv No, you need to get a job or get into self-employment like I’m doing. You will pay me €80 for a job that will take half an hour. Believe me, scientists don’t earn that. There is more money to be made here and if you can delegate your businesses, do it and start earning here.”

Mohammed ended up telling me his life story. He migrated to Ireland in 2003. As a 20-year-old boy he had hopes, the land was full of promises and the future looked bright. The state welcomed him, gave him a home and placed him in CIT where he started studying Engineering. He took up a part-time telesales job to augment his welfare package from the state.

By the time he graduated the Irish economy was struggling in a severe recession with rising job losses and unemployment. After many unsuccessful attempts to secure a job, our fresh engineer continued to his telesales job to make ends meet. As God would have it this disappointment proved to be a blessing in disguise.

Mohammed worked hard and had a limited social life. He told me that he didn’t know what nightlife looked like because he often used the weekend to work extra hours. As 2 years flew past he was surprised to learn that he had saved over €30k.

It was time to evolve. He would quit the job and start a business. Fortunately, he partnered with 4 pals to start a carwash but unfortunately, that meant he had money to spare which he used to build a house back home in Somalia — a mistake as he later confessed.

The carwash business did well but he realised that his income wasn’t steady. Some days he will go home with €200 and on rainy days he will close for the day without a dime. He wanted regular income as he now had a family. One day he was chatting with an elderly customer. Each month the man usually visits Portlaoise to spend time with his grandchildren. So he leaves his Jaguar S-Type at the carwash and Mohammed will walk him to the train station across the road. As they strolled along the following exchange ensued;

“Sir, I want to be rich like you”, said Mohammed.
“I’m not rich, I’m just a comfortable pensioner. It is people like you that get to be rich in this country”, the man replied.
“Well, I find that hard to believe because I’m struggling to save up for a house of my own”,
That was when the man gave Mohammed the interstellar advice that changed his life.
“Save? For what? If you want to buy a home walk into your bank and discuss mortgage terms. You don’t have to save if you want to be rich, you invest!”

For days Mohammed mulled those words and realised that the Western world has been designed just like that. Rather than save to buy a car he could just finance one. He doesn’t need to save for emergencies like sudden illness when he can get health insurance coverage. If he had invested the money he used to build a home occupied by rodents in Somalia his returns would be tenfold.

Mohammed sold his share of the carwash to his friends and started by investing in himself. He acquired all the available driving licenses. Taxi, HGV, Artic, Tractor, Forklift you name it. He has worked as a cab driver, in warehouses and with haulage companies. After gaining the needed experience in the logistics industry he bought his first van which he drives on weekends and during his off days to earn more income. He bought another and employed a driver. But his main job is truck driving because he loves seeing the countryside.

He told me that he also receives free training in Logistics & Supply Chain Management from his employers and plans to start his own haulage business after 5 years. Over here the economy revolves around production and consumption largely facilitated by machinery and logistics. Driving is integral to all these and I previously wrote on why new migrants should prioritise a driver’s license because it’s a skill you can start with.

At 38 Mohammed has a wife and 3 kids. He visits Dubai, Doha and Marrakech for vacations. When I asked about his house back home he smiled and said it’s up for rent and he sends maintenance money regularly to his cousin. Throughout our discussion I noticed that Mohammed kept repeating one line; “Bruv there’s money to be made here, all you need is a skill”

This is true everywhere but especially in the Western world. All you need is a skill to start and as you climb the ladder you can stack up other complementary skills that will help you reach your goals.

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