MBTN: “Don’t rely on your ‘connections’, leverage the people and resources around you” – Peter Akeredolu

Hello MBTN Family! My name is Abdul-Wahab Oyesiji Peter Akeredolu, also known to people as AOP. Currently, I work for the British Deputy High Commission in Lagos and I moved back to Nigeria in July 2013.

Awesome! Let’s start from the beginning, what are some of your fondest memories from childhood?

I am the first-born of my parents and was born on the 21st of January 1987; I grew up in London with my mother and two younger sisters. Growing up, I remember how I loved playing football and listening to music, my life as a teenager was about music and football. I desired to pursue a career as a professional footballer, however that didn’t happen. As a teenager, I was neither focused nor ambitious. Consequently, I failed all my GCSE’s but my mother gave me two options, which were to either attend University or move out of her house. Ha-ha!

LOL! Did you visit Nigeria at all when you were younger?

My first holiday was to Nigeria and I was about 8 years old. The only things I remember about the country back then were that the roads were bad, electricity was poor and the cars were old. I didn’t enjoy my stay in Nigeria because I wasn’t able to play football. My mother would visit Nigeria regularly and sometimes I would follow her. I wasn’t really interested in visiting Nigeria, as I loved London so much and didn’t want to be away from all my friends. However, the turning point was when my mother and grandmother had a joint birthday party at the Yoruba Tennis Club in Lagos Island. I had so much fun and made so much money from the party. I was about 16 years old then, and after that I came to Nigeria every year, building a stronger connection with Nigeria with each visit.

Alright then, so you have a degree in Community development and local policy, was this course of study deliberate and why?

I decided to study this course because I developed a passion for development and ensuring people have opportunities to live a sustainable life. I wanted to empower communities that face high levels of poverty. I also studied this course because I knew one day I would move back to Nigeria and I wanted to study a course that would help me add value to the country. Nigeria is a beautiful country, and of course we have our issues. However, I truly believe with the right leadership and the people uniting as one country, Nigeria will improve. Everyday, I meet and see people giving me a better understanding that this country has great potential and people need the right support in life to help them excel. In the future, I hope to be involved in politics in Nigeria, but for now I am trying to learn and understand the needs of the country. Hence, the reason I am involved in community projects in Lagos.

What are some of the opportunities available in this field?

The course I studied is a broad subject and you can work in many different fields. That’s the beauty of working with people. People are diverse and have different needs, so you can have a career that focuses on your passions and interests. The job opportunities in Nigeria relating to my field involve working with Non-Governmental Organisations such as the United Nations or working with the government as a community developer, consultant, or civil servant. Sadly, jobs here are limited, which troubles me because Nigeria is a country where development should be of major concern. On the other hand, it also creates an opportunity for me because it’s a niche market.

So you got the opportunity to volunteer in Brazil? What’s life like out there?

Yes, that is one of my proudest achievements in my life! I volunteered in Brazil for 6 months, working in a centre for children who experience high levels of poverty and gang violence. It was a difficult experience as I was faced with new challenges such as learning a new language. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Brazil. It is a beautiful country that has a rich, unique and diverse culture. I had to learn Portuguese to ensure I got the best out of this experience. Nigeria and Brazil have some similarities, like the diverse people, the love for music, food and parties, the importance of religion and the love of football. Salvador, which is in the north of Brazil, has a strong connection with the Yoruba tribe as some of their traditions originate from the Yoruba tribe. This goes back to when slaves were taken from Nigeria to Brazil. The Nigerians also took their culture, beliefs and lifestyle, and fused them into the Brazilian culture. I strongly believe that it was the Nigerians who founded carnival, not the Brazilians, as most of the world believes!

Seeing as you had never “lived” in Nigeria, what gave you the confidence to pick up and move ?

I had been thinking about moving to Nigeria since I started the first year of my university degree. Ideally, I wanted everything perfect before I moved back but it didn’t work out like that. I secured a job in Nigeria with the British Deputy High Commission. I knew a few influential people in Lagos but I never connected with them before I moved. I truly believe God granted my heart desires, allowing me to move to Nigeria. Some felt it was a big risk moving away, but I knew the greater risk, the greater benefits and success. I see myself as a confident and outgoing person, so it wasn’t a big issue for me to move to Nigeria.

What were the first few months like after you arrived?

Thankfully, the transition to Nigeria wasn’t too bad for me. I had been going to Nigeria regularly and made a few friends before moving here. It was a smooth transition for me because I had the support of my family in Nigeria. However, I did meet a few challenges moving to Nigeria. The lifestyle is clearly different from the UK. I had to understand how people reason and try not to complain but adapt.

Tell us about some of the volunteer work you do here in Nigeria.

I am currently volunteering my services to Igbobi College, coaching and managing their football team. We are having trails over the summer for the next academic year and I have also organised for a Youth Coach from Chelsea to visit Nigeria to empower the students through a training session. I am also in talks with them to donate some football boots as most of my players train without them. I have shipped all my football equipment from the UK which is FA certificated to coach an 11 a side football team. I have also partnered with the British Deputy High Commission working with youth corps members from Coker Aguda Local Council Development Area. I have developed a project that will boost their employment skills. The project focuses on interview techniques, cv writing and advice on personal development.

Are you in Nigeria for good or do you have plans to move away in future?

I plan to build my career and raise a family in Nigeria. My girlfriend moved to Nigeria this year in January from the UK and is working for a UK based production company. We have plans in the near future to get married and build a successful life together in Nigeria. We are currently setting up a Piggery farm together in Ogun State so it’s safe to say we are here for a while.

Sounds great. So, what’s your social life like out here compared to what it was in England?

Nigerians love to party, especially Yoruba people. They always have a reason to party or celebrate something. I love food and always tell people eating is my hobby. A few restaurants I can recommend are Radisson Blu Grill Bar, Yellow Chilli, Oriental Hotel the Japanese Restaurant, Southern Sun on a Sunday for the brunch and lastly Wheatbaker. I also enjoy chilling with my friends at the Maison Fahrenheit, Freedom Park, Grill at the Pent and Shakz Shack Tiki Bar at Mei Dei.

On a final note, any move back tip(s) you’d like to share with prospective returnees?

Nigeria is currently facing tough times in the economy but it is also an opportunity for young people to be involved in the process of developing this country we call home. I want to encourage prospective returnees to come back and add value to the country. Currently, the government is promoting agriculture, mining and manufacturing in diversifying the economy. If you have interests in these fields it would be wise for you to research and see how you can tap into this opportunity. My final tips would be do your research, network with a diverse range of people, take your opportunities, find positive role models who can assist you, be open minded, don’t always compare Nigeria to the west, and have a clear plan and don’t rely on your ‘connections’, use the people and resources around you. You will be surprised how helpful your local bread seller can assist you in pursing your dream.

Watch this space ———> ‎‎

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