By Kingsley Ugwu
BATCH after batch, the number of Nigerian returnees from Libya had continued its swell as days went by in the recent purge of migrants from the troubled North African country. Not many believed that such number of Nigerian citizens could be quartered in the desert country of Africa, until flights bringing in Nigerians back home began to touch down and passengers began disembarking, with manifest clearly revealing which traveler was coming from Libya and others from the rest of the world.
Between November 2017 and January 2018, not less than 4244 persons believed to be Nigerians according to NEMA report had been flown from Libya to Nigeria. Even with the enormous population figure of Nigeria, there are communities that do not add up to this number in an accurate census exercise. This implies that the Libyan returnees can make up a modest community in some parts of the Nigerian demography.
But for political reasons, this number of Nigerians would not have been forced back to their fatherland, and Nigerians at home would not have known that sizeable community of their relatives are there in the mix of the Arabs and other foreign races in the land of the foxes.
Reports show that these Nigerians, mostly youth had harrowing experiences in the hands of their host country as many were hounded into prison, subjected to slave conditions and dehumanized in the most bizarre manner inconsistent with 21st century civilisation.
Further, the coast of Mediterranean had consistently drowned a good number of African migrants who dared the perils of the sea to reach Italy and other parts of Europe through Libya.
Surprisingly, legions of migrants from Africa are either still preparing to head for the sea or are already sojourning across the desert to get to Europe enroute Libya, Nigerians constituting quite a number in this population.
The question begging for immediate answer is, why had these migrants, Nigerians particularly, defied the risk inherent in this voyage and taken a choice that even the devil would ponder before delving?
One of the returnees from Libya while speaking to newsmen (anonymously) on arrival at the Muritala Mohanmmed Airport, Lagos affirmed his predilection to see it all in Libya, even if it was to die ignobly than the return to Nigeria.
Shockingly, this returnee is one of those Nigerian migrants subjected to slave trade in Libya. While his colleagues were praising the Nigerian authority for their effort in facilitating their safe return, his mind was differently made, believing to die a slave in such country than a free man in Nigeria. How on earth could somebody think on this line?
This brings to the fore, what elicits the ‘do or die’ travel tendency of the Nigerian youth in the first place.
Four decades back, Nigeria used to be a destination point for African travelers. Ghanaians were everywhere in the country, making their living out of the robust economy then. There was food sufficiency in Nigeria. The Naira was very strong against the dollar and other foreign currencies. In mid 1970, up to early 1980, Naira exchanged the dollar to 0. 550. It continued its good run midway into 1980, but really turned on its head in the 90′ s and never got back again to its enviable level. The food basket began to lean such that austerity hit the country in 1985.
The military having taken over in 1983 came to weed out corruption but ended by institutionalizing it.
The Nigeria youth had their dreams and hopes aborted over these dark years of monumental corruption, when ethnicism, nepotism and embezzlement reigned supreme. Vices got celebrated and values relegated to the background. Money became the rule and how it was acquired counted little anymore. That was the culture of impunity Nigerian youth were bred and nurtured.
The pride of being a Nigerian had been lost to the flaunting of ill gotten wealth. Leaders champion the cause of corrupting young minds with unabashed display of ill-acquired wealth and the young minds now only have their eyes focused on acquiring the wealth no matter how. Nigeria environment no longer promote rectitude or provide promising atmosphere for actualising dreams, as all structures capable of engineering growth, socially, politically and economically are on their reverse gears.
The educational institution has steadily churned out misfit graduates whose prospect for good job lies on the connections they have than the quality they are made of. For those who are not connected, they also want to belong, and looking for greener pastures abroad is an option. Who says Libya episode is ending soon?
The rate of unemployment in the country is alarming, pushing trained and untrained personnel into seeking for survival elsewhere. As at 2016, an estimated 277, 027 American resident doctors are Nigerians according to American Community Survey (ACS) report. This represents Nigerian doctors in the American soil alone. There are equally substantial number of them in Europe, Africa (South Africa specifically). That this has cost Nigeria great man-power loss in the health sector is a fact too absurd to deny. Other professionals are leaving the country also, while the unskilled believe they can equally meet a better opportunity in the foreign land to grab whatever work they may engage in, with their raw talent. Even the women believe that prostitution is more profitable abroad, since it affords them foreign currency against the much-devalued naira.
This is the mindset driving the many Nigerian youth and their counterparts from the ‘Shithole countries’ as they were labeled by the loquacious American President, Donald Trump in one of his recent comments.
Hate or like the statement, the truth is that the ordered societies where African migrants run to are made congenial for living by humans not spirit. Leaders in the civilized countries have made worthy inputs and great sacrifices for the development of their society, than what African leaders think of, and give to their own society. With the magnitude of lootings in Africa generally and Nigeria specifically by leaders and people in positions of authority, to the detriment of human and infrastructural development, what other option can their citizens explore than a more hopeful clime? The result is an adventure into the desert and turbulent sea to get to delirious Eldorado places- Europe and America.
Bad treatment of Nigerian citizens abroad has not curtailed the migration tendency of her citizens in any way. According to a Social analyst, and Human Relations expert, Lawrence Agero, Nigeria needs attitudinal re-engineering. There is need for mind-revolution (if there is anything as such), where nothing that falls short of acceptable standard in the value scale will not be allowed to stand.
African leaders must conduct self examination of their conscience and make a choice to build their own bridge. Nigeria should as a matter of necessity take the lead in this self-realisation course and know that with the resources at their disposal, her citizens have nothing to look for, elsewhere that cannot be found within. Who takes responsibility for the deaths of young Africans in the sea of Pacific and Mediterranean? Who accounts for the blood of Nigerians forced into these deadly seas and deserts in the search of greener pastures?