By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
In the last five years, and this has increased since 2020 astronomically, youths and middle-aged professionals migrating from (read ‘fleeing’) Nigeria, just to any other place in the world, never to return to ‘that country’, has become fashionable, celebratory, and encouraged. Different organisations have sprung up with the singular objective of facilitating the migration of youths and professionals from Nigeria. Securing the benefits of higher education, rendering professional service have been adduced as reasons for moving. Their choice destinations are the UK, America, Canada, and South Africa.
Lately, the concept of ‘ja pa’ has taken on more urgency with the terrorism which the ineptitude of the current administration has unleashed on citizens. The young people of the country have taken exception to members of the old guard lording it over them and depriving them of their future. The outpour of popular support for Peter Obi by young people is an expression of that disenchantment. There are reports that some of the young ones abroad flew into Nigeria just to cast their ballot. It is yet to be seen what their anger will translate to in the elections that were done last weekend.
Getting the Canadian and US visas is a tough exercise, costing applicants both plenty of cash and psychological stress. I have been at the US Embassy a couple of times and have seen how well behaved and righteous my fellow citizens are once they enter the precincts of the ‘holy’ Embassy, while answering questions, and while waiting for any hint of success or failure! It’s like being denied access to heaven, and the Visa officials feel and know their power and abuse it sometimes! Which is humiliating!
So, less attractive countries like Italy, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, and a few others have been thrown into the ring of destinations. China! China is now favoured by those who do business, good and shady. You will be amazed by the number of Nigerians learning Mandarin! Also, there are too many unscrupulous Chinese men who are willing to do bad business with our equally unscrupulous business men. I love my Nigerian brothers and sisters. They are indeed like MTN – everywhere you go, just like the Igbo in Nigeria who are found anywhere business can be done! Nigerians are found in almost all nations of the earth that can give them a chance to prove their mettle. If there is a business opportunity in the Arctic, you will find a Nigerian. I am almost certain there are Nigerians in Afghanistan and Syria. And perhaps North Korea!
Often, getting a visa is followed by thanksgiving and celebration in church. I don’t know whether the Mosque welcomes such celebrations. I need to ask. The thanksgiving is invariably followed by prayers for those who have not succeeded in getting the almighty visa, and who must do everything it takes to just leave. Well, it seems a little odd to flee the country of one’s birth, where God has placed a man on account of economic hardship and give God thanks for making the escape possible. Is this not a contradiction? But of course, we live in a world of contradictions, caused by the nature of rulers and political office holders.
Medical doctors, other health personnel, IT specialists, and now teachers have continued to seek greener pastures in countries that are relatively stable. This reminds me of the mass migration of medical doctors and consultants who emigrated from Nigeria in the 1980s at the peak of the biting effects of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). Saudi Arabia was an excellent destination for medical consultants from UCH and other big hospitals. They paid mouthwatering salaries!
That country! This is pejorative, isn’t it? I am often amused when diaspora Nigerians refer to our homeland as ‘that country! It shows an attempt to detach themselves from the land of their birth, the place they have escaped from with the help of God. It encapsulates the feeling of despair, of lack of faith in the managers of the homeland. Their adopted home becomes the real home and before long they begin to create a pathway for family members to evacuate before the house finally crumbles, before the house caves in.
Citizens reserve the right to move to wherever they believe that offers them a better opportunity to the good life. We have only one life. Once nature or the socialization process offers one an opportunity to relocate, there is usually no hesitation. But the cause of the disdain which people have for the country is failure of leadership. Not only have the rulers failed to establish a credible and enduring state with institutions and structures that have not created the right atmosphere that will engender hope and optimism. The atmosphere is polluted with the spirit of exploitation, state roguery, leadership apathy, despair and insincerity. Not even religion has escaped the polluting hands of state power. There is this feeling that the state as currently constituted will not last long. Decay and decadence usually precede the collapse of kingdoms, empires, and states. Nigeria, it is believed, has degenerated into that cesspit.
Yet all is not lost. IBB openly admitted in the 1980s that he was surprised that the nation had not collapsed. It means that there is something resilient in the Nigerian spirit that will triumph ultimately over the vicissitude of the current season and that the dreams of the founding fathers of the nation will be fulfilled by a new generation of Nigerians who are poised for action. There is cause therefore for hope, for a celebration of the spirit that is Nigeria. When the results of the 25th February election are released, the future path of Nigeria will be sure. And so, the real thanksgiving would be for electing a government that will place the people first before their personal and sectional interests. A government whose policy trajectory would be that of doing things differently! That way, mass migration would be a thing of the past!