Rich man Pikin’s, IJGB’s and OG’s: Not all returnees are created equal
There are lots of misconceptions about returnees, but one of the most common assumptions is that we’re all the same. I have a friend who thinks like this. He’s heard all the tales of the people who moved back, hit gold and are now running multi-million Naira enterprises. He’s read the #NigeriaRising articles, watched the documentaries proclaiming the tide has turned for Nigeria, and now he’s ready to move back.
I’m happy for him, but (as always) his enthusiasm gives me pause, because despite what he (or perhaps some of you) think, not all returnees are created equal. Just because some of us have a shared appreciation of Wagamama or happen to know the way to The Emirates it does not make us a unified community. As secondary school and life, in general, has taught us, there are as I like to say ‘levels to this’.
This is by no means a definitive list but indulge me as I attempt to break down the various types of returnees:
The IJGB’s a.k.a
The ones who get all the credit. The ‘I Just Got Backs’ are often viewed as the de facto face of all returnees. Usually born in Nigeria or born abroad but returned to Nigeria at a young age. IJGB’s usually live in Nigeria up until their pre-teens or teens then make the trip overseas. Then it’s off to boarding school/secondary school and university. Quite a few IJGB’s plan to move back after studying, others do so because they don’t have a choice. They fret about NYSC but more often than not do it anyway, albeit grudgingly. IJGB’s tend to have a hybrid accent or one from wherever in The Abroad they returned from, but can switch on the Naija when necessary, which usually involves bargaining.
Acclimatisation for IJGB’s is usually easier because they have existing ties in the country but some of them struggle with the reality of life ‘back home.’ Some have been away long enough to forget Nigeria’s quirks, others have chosen to forget. Either way, IJGB’s tend to get on quickly, rising to the top of the returnee food chain.
Government/Rich man’s pikin (RMP’s)
Also portrayed as the face of #NigeriaRising but the rest of us know they do no walk among us. They exist in a realm beyond the food chain. These guys and gals are the sons and daughters of the elite. The Abroad is more or less a second home for them- to study, play or shop. They have it all, the connections, the leverage , the cash minus the struggles. These are the people that are ‘about that life’ in real life, not just for the ‘gram Is it Ikoyi, Mayfair or the French Riviera? It doesn’t really make a difference to this set of returnees. Frequent travelers, RMP’s haven’t necessarily moved back, Nigeria is just the current stop on their journey. Strangers to NEPA, the falling dollar and the price of tomatoes, they live in their own little bubble of comfort. When things get stressful, they jet out, returning whenever they feel like. You may not know what they do for a living but what you do know is that they’re nobody’s employee.
Naive, bright-eyed and bushy tailed. This set are born and bred in The Abroad with little experience of Nigeria besides the odd holiday every few years. They are very likely to have held a position in the African Caribbean Society (ACS) or the Nigerian Society at University. They usually feel like they have a ‘connection’ with Nigeria, best demonstrated by their enthusiastic celebration of Independence Day and their ownership of at least one flag. Freshies are driven to move back by one of the following: a) boredom, b) adventure, c) overconsumption and belief of the #NigeriaRising narrative, d) motivation to help make things better e) to find a spouse. This group of returnees likely spent a good chunk of their lives trying to convince people that Nigerians aren’t all scammers and there’s more to Africa than war, poverty and corruption. They are eager and excited to move back until reality hits them like a brick in the face.
Owo ni koko, as the song goes. This group of guys and girls have a lot of money but nobody really knows how. They are self-made who have somehow funded their way to The Abroad. How they made their money doesn’t matter, they move back to Nigeria with bags of riches which seemingly continue to increase. Despite no traceable source of income, visible business or job, they still manage to live the Instagram life in real life.
The Short Courses
The list wouldn’t be complete without The Short Courses. This group are born and bred in Nigeria and don’t travel abroad until they are adults. When they do go abroad it is for a short period of time, either for a short university course, an exchange program or something similar. Upon return, these are the people that will often talk endlessly about their experiences overseas and lament loudly about why Nigeria is so different from The Abroad. Despite their short stay abroad, they almost always return with a new accent in tow. The choice accent is either British or American irrespective of what part of the world they returned from.
The Ones With No Choice aka ‘Visa Ti Expire’
This set of returnees is at times an addendum to the IJGB contingent. Few will admit to being part of this group, but the fact is not all returnees ‘move back’ by choice. Some have no option but to carry their load and go. In a lot of cases, this group would rather be abroad than in Nigeria and say so, often. Most likely they are usually planning their next mode of escape via marriage, another degree, or a multi-million dollar business idea.
This set of returnees are spoken about the least but in many cases are the real MVP’s. These men and women have been out of Nigeria for 20-30 years, have built lives and raised families in The Abroad. However, Nigeria was never far from their minds and once the time was right, usually when the last child is safely tucked away at the university, they run back home. The OG’s are usually very informed about what’s been going on in Nigeria courtesy of Cable TV, WhatsApp and long conversations with friends and relatives. Even after decades abroad, the pidgin English and local dialects are untouched. Moving back to them is the equivalent of putting on a familiar pair of slippers.