The current focus on Nigerians in diaspora illuminates what is currently a lacuna in the acknowledgement of many Nigerian immigrants who are achieving great heights. City People interviewed Nike Campbell- Fatoki , a fiscal director with responsibilities that span from ensuring that financial operations are conducted in accordance with applicable regulations to reviewing and applying relevant laws, regulations and legal opinions for a state agency in Florida. We rarely hear stories of those Nigerians that are leading the day-to-day financial operations of organizations, rather the western media has focused on the Nigerians that have defrauded financial institutions.
Nike Campbell- Fatoki revealed her motive for immigrating, which she indicated was the attraction to the more open opportunities of advanced scholarship in America. Being an African in the United States is no easy feat, immigrants experience discriminatory treatment, accent barrier, mistrust, alienation, career glass ceiling, exclusion, stress, and negative estimation of competence – YET, Nike rises.
Tell us about how you got into your current profession
I am a Fiscal Director at a state agency in Florida and an Author. I’ve always had an affinity for numbers and analyses. My educational background – a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Howard University and a Master of Arts in International Development with a focus on Community Development and Basic Needs from American University. I worked for a few years in the International development field and then decided to apply for a public administration graduate management program in Prince William County, Virginia. It’s a one-year rotational program within the County Departments to gain hands-on experience in the municipal government. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the finance department rotation. I ended up accepting the job offer in that department and the rest is history.
Tell us about your breakthrough career-wise in the U.S.
There was not one breakthrough moment in my estimation but if I were to pick, it would be when I decided to apply for a position that required that I supervise. I became the Budget and Finance Manager at the Sheriff’s Office Prince George’s County, Maryland. Managing people is underestimated. It requires a person with high emotional intelligence, the ability to be fair across the board and think outside the box. It requires a certain temperament to supervise and lead successfully. Becoming a supervisor in a dynamic environment like the Sheriff’s Office honed my skills in supervision, budgeting and finance, human resources, grants writing and management, and performance management.
When you mentor young Nigerians who look up to you on how they can make it in life, what advice do you give them?
Develop the foundational skills you will need in any position you find yourself – good money management, presentational skills, public speaking, organizational skills. Build a good work ethic, don’t give up easily. Remember that there’s usually always more than one way of accomplishing a task. A lovely young lady that completed a mentorship program through the non-profit I founded- Our Paths to Greatness (OPTG)is a great example I can reference. Her name is Bisola Junaid. She enrolled in the OPTG Mentorship program last June in Lagos, and I would intermittently check in on her, though she had a primary mentor. I always reiterated that she was her greatest advocate, to keep believing in herself and keep working hard. Since completing the mentorship, she’s developed her skin care line – Bellissima Botanicals which is now operational.
Tell us about your schooling. You were born here in Nigeria. Why did you relocate to the US
I was born in Lvov, Ukraine, but I grew up in Lagos Nigeria. I lived there for 20 years of my life before moving to the US to continue my tertiary education at Howard University in Washington D due to the University strikes in the mid-to-late 1990s.
What were the major challenges you encountered along the way?
I really didn’t have any issues adapting to the educational system in the US, I have to say that I found the educational system in Nigeria had prepared me well enough to excel here. That has a lot to do with the individual though. I had been equipped with the foundational skills to adjust. The only area that I did find it a bit challenging was the public speaking and others not understanding my ‘accent’ when I first arrived. It was frustrating at first. The funny thing was, in one of my classes, my lecturer was a Nigerian professor with an accent just like mine but my fellow students understood him but not me. That was my Aha moment. I decided to embrace all of me, – accent and all. When people see how much you value yourself, they will have no choice but do the same,.
How do you see the current negative image Nigeria is suffering from?
I think that though there are negative images and portrayal of Nigeria (just like every other country), there are also many notable positive stories. I’m Nigerian, lived in Nigeria and connected to her in many ways so I know that there are good people and great things happening there. It is on me and us, to counter the negativity with positive stories, and be our own storytellers now. We don’t have to depend on others to tell our stories anymore. We have the tools to do so ourselves.
Why have you remained proud of being a Nigerian?
Before I was anything else, I was Nigerian. The culture and traditions are beautiful. We are diverse, but yet one. Anywhere I go and find out there’s a Nigerian, we immediately form a bond, though we may be from different tribes. We are a resilient people, hardworking and determined to be the best. I love that about us.