In the UK and the USA, the spectre of Nigerians achieving academic excellence in institutions of higher learning everywhere has increasingly etched for itself a significant space in the folklore of immigration. Such widespread excellence is even used with dubious effect to show how Blacks born in America or in the UK are simply lazy, unambitious and even of criminal disposition. This is certainly the Hegemon’s and Black Conservative’s comfort; one side of an overstated story. The prospect of Uber, the mobile app taxi business, losing its UK licence for gross corporate irresponsibility exposed a most understated side of the story in a shockwave.
The day the news broke that Uber’s licence will not be renewed but may continue to operate during a period of an appeal that may take up to a year, thousands of Nigerians were crapiously stunned, some directly and others indirectly. Of those stunned directly were mostly high I.Q. and university educated persons (many with postgraduate and chartered professional status). Their 2nd Class upper degree in electrical engineering from Brunel University; Masters in I.T. from London South bank University; PhD in Chemistry from the University of Southampton; their ACCA; CIT; CIM; CBiol; and other credentials could not secure many of them befitting jobs. Medical professionals are an exception to this rule.
The big question many should ponder is why is the spectre if not folklore of obvious Nigerian academic excellence in diaspora being touted so loudly by hosts when it is not translating into good or even average jobs for those who have excelled? Is Uber the answer? Normally, a person who leaves secondary school without any qualifications but has a clean driver’s license and clean criminal record can become an Uber driver.
Those who did get into the job market had to contend with glass ceilings, career changes and walkouts because the work place kept taking away whatever dignity on the inside a job gives one on the outside. Sometimes a return to working after a redundancy relatively early in one career meant no second chances. From the City professional to care work or Whitehall executive officer cadre to retail security guard was distressing for most if not all. Then there are those who did low paying graduate jobs in particularly in the public sector and needed an evening job to make ends meet.
Uber fortuitously came to the rescue of these High I.Q. and well-educated Nigerians. Apart from freeing many from the indignities of low-paid low-skill jobs [one does not obtain an LLM to clean toilets or become a parking attendant], Uber driving is ultra-flexible compare to traditional taxi cabbing which entailed specific shifts. As an Uber driver you had no boss. If you refuse a job you are not penalised by being sent to the bottom of the queue. Many of these Uber drivers would often repeat the mantra that they would return to law practice, job in I.T., the classroom as teacher or the Civil Service but their reaction to Uber’s license loss revealed that their reality was one of satisfaction working with Uber.
Families and spouses of Uber drivers, the indirectly hit, who had come the like both the flexibility and income as well as the low work stress were perhaps more shaken. Families and friends signed petitions en masse to ensure the Uber license would be reinstated. If the Uber operating licence is restored many High I.Q. Nigerians would be spared the indignities of job hunting, “obvious” underemployment and even unemployment. However, may justice serve its course for or against Uber.
Perhaps the next time one hears touts about the academic excellence of Nigerians in diaspora it would be interesting to ask were these brainy people work. If I had the statistics I would have told you.