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My Nigerian Mentorship Experience Rants

I understand the importance of mentorship and having someone lead you especially if you look up to them. These are random thoughts on mentorship I had this morning sitting in the toilet. When I say mentees in this case, I mean serious and determined people who know the pains, emptiness and hopelessness of living in Nigeria. I don’t mean unserious people who blow chances and feel entitled… (The world owes you nothing, nobody owes you anything….it is your life, be responsible for it).

One thing I have understood even more since coming to Sweden is just how much having the right connection changes everything. In some cases, it is clear cut-throat nepotism but that is how the world works. Well, if you have to be a nepotism champ with your full chest, at least allow the qualified ones to get through, not just someone random. The hard truth about the inequalities of this world and how much the system of the world is built for more success to the successful. You can cry and wail all you want but that is how the world works. In many cases, you need someone to give you a pass, through many doors in life. Some, you work your butts off to earn it but even then you will need someone to take a chance on you based on your potential. This is the same as getting a referee, a supervisor, or finding a faculty member for grad school applications. Yes, we will need a mentor at some point, either directly or indirectly.

As I sat in the toilet today, I began to relieve my mentorship experiences in Nigeria which have been mostly wack. The irony is that I found a great mentor working in Nigeria after moving to Sweden to study (And no, I did not ask him for money). On Nigeria's social media, the argument is “being needful or asking for money from a mentor is a deal breaker”. Not like I even asked for money then but in truth that mentorship rarely did anything for me. Instead, many people become mentors to further their brand, to become visible……it is in a way, a “hustle to sell yourself”. Mentees are the ones who eventually lose out.

You are spending your scarce resources, starving to stay afloat, running around chasing a mentor, who is not even doing zilch for the goal of the mentorship. You instead become an assistant doing their work for them which does nothing for you (they give you no credit) and they even owe you that little stipend for months (cry me a river)….."omo, shame and saving face no go let you ask for wetin work for” or you feel grateful to have their attention (something that will not pay your bills) and my God! how they cap on that ignorance. Many mentorships are set up in that way as i have confirmed for many people like me in Nigeria. A lot of programs and empowerment set up are props targeted to elevate the owners, and founders……not to help struggling poor young people with no connection.

Nepotism in Nigeria is on double steroids. Your qualification can rot under your box for all anyone cares, it is who you know even when it should not matter. At least, inside this abroad, you have some “low hanging fruit” opportunities to shine and with the help of social media, you can bloom from obscurity with consistency and a lot of hard work. So yes, you have your opportunities even when you have to work more to be seen and heard; for someone like me from Nigeria, that is enough. But back home, your connection, which sometimes is nepotism will be all you need to break forth. Even though, people will quickly make it look like it is “God”….hmmm, every Nigerian knows how things are. Yes, there is the place of faith, the long shot at having your platform, the place of grace letting you shine but Nigerians are very religious, in reality, God is absent in A LOT of doings (I kid you not!).

Back to mentorship. Many mentors in Nigeria are not ready to go the extra mile on your behalf. They easily dismiss young people to be lazy, hungry and unserious but who isn’t hungry in Nigeria? Is stomach infrastructure not the elephant in the room? More people worship their stomachs and live for the next meal….well, that is what deprivation, oppression, poverty, and hunger do to people. Everyone looks out for themselves. It is unfair to broke-shame mentees and expect jobless young people to continue spending money they don’t even have, commuting long distances in places like Lagos with crazy traffic, and running after you to get only “Aspire to Perspire”. I mean, come on, put yourself in their shoes. You are not ready to do a referral email, guide them to concrete access to guaranteed funding, you won’t give them a single dollar or Naira for transportation or food, and you won’t even let them maximize your contacts (At least with some caution). All they have is access and some props with badass social media packaging.

That is a fair deal some will argue but the thing about mentorship is that it is context and environment-specific. You can not be giving a Nigerian mentee living in Nigeria something like a UK, Canadian or U.S. mentoring style. Those countries have safety nets, young people can have their basic needs met and mostly carry through mentorship without requiring any financial or material assistance. Not making a case for mentees to become entitled to a mentor’s money or resources, the thing is…..if you want to help someone, commit to lifting them and give them something tangible in return (you know how hard some mentees follow through with so many expectations). Not just words, the hype that leads nowhere. Nigeria is a very tribalistic, nepotistic-loaded, ratchety-bougie classist society that you need an actual connection to get almost anything solid done. That is why you find ass-kissing very common even for the most basic things in every place including religious and academic centers. Young people’s time should not be wasted in mentorship going anywhere.

To approach mentorship like this is misleading even though deep down you know how many times, someone took a chance on you, stuck their necks out for you, risked that contact for you, and bought you a meal or a bus ticket.

I also understand a lot of people waste opportunities and that is on them but in all honesty, how many young Nigerians get that opportunity and connection they need? The system is set to frustrate you, with too much fraud and packaging. (shaking my head writing this). Nigeria is a very complex society and so is mentorship. As someone who has personal stories of mentorship scams and even how that in itself is a needless hustle, I will say either that format gets better or it should be packed up. We must stop wasting each other’s time. Life is too short and living in Nigeria is hard enough.

Help your Nigerian mentees secure something tangible to help them progress with your connection and resources. Nigerians can have a sense of entitlement but there are good young people out there toiling day and night to get the big break, enrolling in mentorship programs with mentors who do nothing for them. Some even end up as errand boys and girls in the name of mentoring. In ignorance, they relish the closeness to power, "famz" on social media but end up back where they came from with nothing tangible to show.

The worship complex of the master-slave setup passed down from colonialism persists today. Once you look up to someone, it slowly morphs into some kind of slavery and many for shame or not wanting to disrespect or bite the “hand that feeds them” (even though they are the ones sacrificing everything and getting nothing)……..refuse to recognize this is not going anywhere. I don’t blame them because that connection to popularity, power, and fame can be all they have even if they have nothing else. It can be a good fortune sometimes but many never break away to build something of their own, why they even began the relationship in the first place.

Please, let us not waste each other’s time. Mentorship must aim to produce results, especially in a Nigerian situation with many helpless, bright human beings with no connections to rise through the ranks. The mindset of using ignorant young people for your gain alone as a mentor must stop. Don’t tell someone to come from Mowe or Iyana IPaja to the Island every day or from Suleja to Asokoro or Gwagawlada, Kuje to Wuse in the name of mentorship and you will not even consider doing something tangible for them as a mentor.

Nigeria is a hard country to succeed in. Living in Sweden and seeing how internship and mentorship get your foot through the door, I know we must do better in Nigeria. The scam of empowering young people and mentees needs to stop.

Dear mentee, in life there is a place for respect, humility, and patience and there is a place for wisdom. In your bid to learn, know when that mentorship is a scam.

End of my rants….lol

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