These days, many Nigerian youths (and oldies) are emigrating to North America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the Pacific (that include Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other counties in droves).
It’s called “Japa” these days. Those who practically invade the consular offices of foreign embassies are the tame ones. Many others go on extremely dangerous expeditions, through the Sahel, unto stateless Libya and across the Mediterranean in dinghies.
Many go away from Nigeria because of they think Nigeria practically has no promises for them. The sundry governments that have ruled Nigeria have not been able to inspire the confidence of the people.
Their very reasonable argument is that they have only one life to live and so cannot afford to waste it while the bumbling lot who are generally running a more or less mediocre government are still in charge.
Japa, if you like to know, appropriates the experience of “escape” from the excruciating burden of living in Nigeria, while also enduring the frustrations and disillusionment of a state that has failed, practically.
Observers attribute the frequent failure of money transfers, reversals of wrong transactions and POS jams to the mass exodus of the young men and women who manage the backend technologies of Nigeria’s banking institutions.
The combination of inflation, high-interest rate, depreciating currency, near-famine, high cost of living, insecurity and near-absence of macroeconomic policies is causing the average Nigerians to conclude that there’s nothing here to support their economic wherewithal.
Nigerians are so desperate that they’d rather go to a war zone than remain in Nigeria. When the Ukrainian-Russian War broke out early in 2022, not a few Nigerian youths approached the Ukrainian Embassy in Abuja to sign up for the war.
The youths were discouraged only when the Ukrainian Embassy began to ask them to pay $1,000 in order to obtain the Ukrainian visa that will allow them to go fight in another man’s war, where they could perish.
It is ironic that this could have happened because the other reason that many Nigerians give for fleeing is the insecurity visited on Nigerians by insurgents, terrorists, kidnappers—sometimes called bandits—and herders who kill farmers who protest when cattle eat up their farm crops.
Yes, insecurity is all over the world, with almost no part of the globe free from violence. Japan, hitherto thought to be a safe place to live in, recorded the killing of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2022 at a political event outside Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara City, Nara Prefecture, in Japan.
Shooting to death is almost becoming a daily event also in the prosperous United States of America that is usually the first emigration choice of latter-day “Andrews” of Nigeria. To put it the way of fatalists, “There is no safe haven anywhere.”
Traditionally, those who travelled out of Nigeria were youths who went for higher education—which Nigeria’s first (ceremonial) President, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, described as the golden fleece. There were also professionals who went for further training (on the job) and tourists.
In the 1980s, towards the closing days of President Shehu Shagari’s administration, many professionals, especially doctors, nurses and paramedics, migrated mainly to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world.
It continued under military Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, and that of military President, General Ibrahim Babangida. Apart from those who went into exile after the annulment of the presidential election won by Bashorun MKO Abiola, the emigration slowed under the regimes of Generals Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
But it soon revived when America came up with the American Visa Lottery scheme, to recruit professionals of all cadres to work and live in America. When the demand reduced, Nigerians continued the surge to endemic proportions.
Recently in Canada, a 102-year-old Nigerian was introduced to Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, embarrassing proof that there is a very significant number of very old Nigerians in metropolitan economies, many of whom have become “Eroya,” spinoffs, completely lost to Nigeria.
Many young and top-level professionals have left Nigeria with the pretext of seeking high-quality education for their children, in these days that Nigerian universities experience more shutdowns than openings.
While there is no doubt that most of those fleeing are from Southern Nigeria, a considerable number from the North, who traditionally snagged plum government jobs, are now on the run too.
The way to demonstrate what is turning out to be the “futurelessness” of Nigerian youths is in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s report that says, of the 244 million out-of-school children between ages six and 18 in the world, Nigeria has more than 20.2 million.
This new high is way above the 10 to 15 million figure that used to place Nigeria in the same vicious loop as Pakistan and India, which once led the world as the capital of poverty before handing the disgrace to Nigeria.
Another dimension to the conundrum of crisis is the unending strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and affiliate unions, which the government seems unwilling or unable to address adroitly. Each demand of ASUU has been met with insensitive disdain from the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education.
President Buhari seems to be oblivious of the negatives associated with the epidemy of emigration by Nigerians. Dr Chris Ngige, his Minister of Labour and Employment, was once reported to have demonstrated a lack of concern about the brain drain of Nigerian medical doctors (and nurses) to more advanced economies of the world.
The president doesn’t seem to appreciate the urgency, or emergency, of the situation. He offers neither solution nor empathy but seems to have thrown up his hands in resignation. The president’s loose cannon Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, once admitted that the president had done his best, implying that the president could do no more.
As far as the most unimaginative state governors are concerned, they are more interested in travelling outside of Nigeria on extravagant jamboree, when they are not muddying the political waters with base intrigues against political opponents.
Watch the drama associated with the much-ado-about-nothing politics of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who lost his presidential aspiration and failed to snag the vice presidential slot, only to lapse into temper tantrums.
Nigerians, great men and women, have become the butt of jokes of the citizens of the nations they run to as economic migrants, engaging in less than dignified labour, sometimes washing corpses, minding the sick and old or working in the most dangerous conditions.
Some others however engage in top jobs in the white collar sector of the economies of their adoptive countries. Right now, more than two Nigerians work in the administration of American President Joe Biden, as Kemi Badenoch almost became British Prime Minister, the position that Liz Truss of the Conservative Party assumed about two weeks ago.
Well, many emigrated Nigerians are prospering, flourishing no doubt. Their remittances that run into billions annually recently inspired Obi to encourage them to translate into foreign direct investors in Nigeria.
But most, unfortunately, these diaspora remittances seem to have provided those, who should be stemming the needless brain drain, an excuse to shirk their responsibilities to run a good government.