Yemi Olaniyi and his family began their journey to Nova Scotia because they wanted more than the status quo
Modern Nigeria has been described as a country with no middle class. Yet the life of Yemi Olaniyi and his family would seem extremely familiar to any middle-class family in Canada.
He was a successful banker who had transitioned into management consulting; His wife, Dew, was a teacher in a top school in Lagos and their two children were all in school. Everything seemed ideal on the surface, but there was something nagging at Olaniyi just out of sight.
“There comes a time in life when you want to change the status quo,” Olaniyi says. “You set new priorities and you want to do more with your life. So, we started to look at opportunities outside our own country.”
Olaniyi and his family looked at many different places in the world, but he says Canada kept coming out on top because of its support for family life. Being able to offer something for everyone in the family is what sharpened the family’s focus on this country.
At first, that focus was on the bigger provinces and cities with bigger economies. That focus changed, though, as they considered other factors.
“When we started looking at Canada, we didn’t consider Nova Scotia,” Olaniyi says. “But, once we started the process, we began to look at other factors, such as weather, the four seasons, and we started to give Nova Scotia a second look. We checked its growth rate, the crime rate, family support, and the economy. We eventually put it to a vote at home and 3-out-of-4 in the family said Nova Scotia.”
That vote was more than five years ago. Although the family began the process almost right away, it still didn’t happen overnight. “Canada is a big country with a strong economy, is one of the best immigration-friendly first world countries, offers good support and is a country of opportunities. That makes it popular and it can be difficult to get in.”
Olaniyi says they found the immigration process straight-forward, but “no one can guarantee the timeline. It took us three years from application process to the final travel document approval. While waiting for O’Canada to manifest, we lived our normal lives during that waiting period. Then, the good news happened, at the peak of COVID-19 pandemic and we had to recalibrate, did cost-benefit analysis and moved on.”
Olaniyi believes the reason why they were eventually successful is because they spent the time up-front to make sure they were doing the right thing and going about it the right way, exploring all available information sources. “My philosophy is: opportunity meets preparation. Planning, planning, planning. Plan and think ahead in everything you do.”
He says the path they followed is easy for anyone to replicate. “Define what you want in your life first. Then try to find alignment with the province. Be authentic and be thorough, because Canadian immigration is thorough. You need to feel it in your gut.”
The planning and preparation didn’t stop even after the family’s arrival in Nova Scotia. Olaniyi says they sought out organizations that supported immigrants and registered with the Immigrant Settlement Association of Nova Scotia and the Halifax Partnership to get access to local information and start building out their network. “Networking and leveraging your contacts are crucial to success in any new situation,” he says.
All that preparation appears to have paid off. “Everybody is happy here,” Olaniyi says. “The kids are in school, uncovering their creativity and making new friends. My wife was a teacher back home and now she is a junior high teacher here, and I’ve been able to continue my career as a banker.”
Olaniyi says his family is grateful for the opportunities they’ve received and believes their choice to come to Nova Scotia will continue to pay dividends into the future.
“We believe the province is only going to grow and get bigger and more attractive to people,” he says. “Number one, it supports a strong family life; number two, it has a growing economy with an active tech space and creative industries. There’s something in Nova Scotia for everyone.”
Olaniyi shares his experience with others looking to relocate and he says he offers them all the same advice. “You need to do a SWOC (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Challenges) analysis of yourself at every point of your life. Who am I as a person? What are my weaknesses and how do I prepare for life challenges? What do I want? Amplify your strengths and use them to address any weaknesses. Believe in yourself and leverage your relationships.”