There’s a reason many of us Nigerians living abroad are local celebrities in our overseas bases.
It’s the same reason many of our relatives in Nigeria fall over themselves to get our attention and don’t mind if some of us have to sell drugs, import written-off car parts or bales of underwear already worn by foreigners. It’s the exact reason why Western Union backed the Igue festival: remittances.
Because I, like 30 million other Africans living outside our continent send money home, the lady at my local Cheque Centre knows my name and actually asks how I am feeling. In fact, we have an unspoken agreement where I walk in and she says: “Hi there, Ruona…the usual?”
I either nod or will raise the required amount of fingers to indicate how many more hundreds of pounds will be added for the transaction of the day.
The rest of you should not be too quick to raise your noses at our few seconds of fame; UN figures show that “as a share of total investment in a country, remittances represented 57% in Nigeria.”
In fact, the African Development Bank says funds sent to Nigeria and Egypt together accounted for 64% of total remittances to Africa. Nigerians sent home US$ 21 billion and Egyptians sent US$18 billion in 2012.
If you still are not impressed, then let me tell you the average sweat and gore that goes into sending money home. No, I’m not talking about standing in some shop stacking shelves or trekking on the streets prostituting my female organs—I am too un-athletic and married for all that.
I’m talking about the brainwork and legwork that goes into transferring money home. Anyone who sends money home at least once a month will likely have this routine.
Your computer/laptop/smartphone’s search history includes phrases such as: “GBP to NGN,” “Change money online western union” or “opening times *Western Union vendor name*.”
When the request comes from home it doesn’t matter if we have only seen the insides of a university because we clean its toilets, or that we have a bunch of useless degrees and one PhD. We all turn into investment bankers of sorts, seeking the best deal for our clients, aka free-loading family members.
Some of us already know the exchange rates—mainly because it’s the first thing we check before even having morning sex—the rest of us will run a quick check on Google, converting GBP or USD or Cedis to Nigerian Nairas. If the president has just had the bright idea to sack his dandiest CBN governor or the fools at Boko Haram have been daft enough to kill innocent souls, or crude oil decides to do whatever the heck it does, then we may break out in a praise-worship session thanking God for the fall of the Naira.
If the folks in our countries of residence have decided to announce the recession isn’t going away or more cuts will be made to the damn budget, then we have no choice but to let out a sigh and send curses to our lazy relatives who think we all pick money off a tree in our backyards here.
Either way, depending on the urgency of the need, we may choose to read some news articles to see why the exchange rate is all over the place and ascertain if it will last. At this point you can see the similarities between us and the finance gurus. We monitor the markets just as well.
Some of us will simultaneously check online how much the Western Union folks want to cream off what we’re sending. If the Naira has fallen, we really can’t be bothered to feign sadness because we get more Naira for fewer Sterling notes.
If the Sterling is weak, then we get more creative and fiddle with the books. We will usually check what rates MoneyGram can give us, then check out Ria and end up begging the Nigerian guy in the cubicle at some Asian shop to help us wire it through his UBA account so we pay the barest minimum in transfer fees. All depends on spending power, see?
Next begins the spiritual cycle. We begin to pray that the Naira continues to go down low like those cellulite-riddled females in Olamide’s videos. In fact, the past few weeks where £1 has been the equivalent of N270-N260 has seen us all smiling to our Western Union vendors. I know of people cashing in by being able to purchase a house at this time, and paying up tuition fees in advance in Nigeria before the numbers do a U-Turn.
So don’t hate on us, because as the Waffi proverb says; “e need bad for one person so that e go better for anoda person.”
Long may the Naira go down low, so our Sterling can go farther and pay for grander weddings and automobiles in Nigeria.
But truth be told, in times like this there is only one thing that ruins our parole; when someone in Nigeria decides to pay you for services rendered—in Naira.
By the time the Naira makes its way into our overseas account…go figure.
It seems we African immigrants can never win. Oh well.
As always, excuse me while I find my crowbar, folks – I need to extricate my tongue from my cheek.
See you next week.