OVERTIME, “Japa” a Yoruba street parlance which means “to get out or escape” has permeated Nigeria’s social media space especially Twitter as a favourite word amongst its users. The word connotes the need and desire to emigrate to other countries. People who have successfully emigrated usually post pictures of themselves in their new location and a scene from Kemi Adetiba’s movie, “King of Boys 2” where the lead actress, Sola Sobowale raised a glass of wine to a toast with the cabals saying: “Welcome to a new dispensation” which depicts her regaining her crown. This social phenomenon of movement is at its peak in the months of April, May, August, September and October, when new academic sessions set in, in Europe and the United States.
In relation, many who have emigrated to the northern divide of the world from Nigeria see it as a triumph of light over darkness, with the belief and knowledge that their new abode does not only guarantee security of life and property, it extends to the presence of unlimited opportunities to explore, innovate and at its barest minimum, enjoy the basic needs of life.
Many at times, the engagements and traction such media post garner are usually out of this world. Comments from users are usually complimentary while they hope to replicate such feat in the nearest future and giving testimonial on how they too left the trenches.
Away from the social media, parents, family and friends rejoice and celebrate when one of their own travels abroad either for education or work. As it is with many, most sell off their properties while those who have access, seek loans to achieve this purpose.
In respect, many who leave the country to make ends meet belong to the youth demographics which constitutes a large proportion of Nigeria’s population – about 34 million of the total 200 million citizens. This demograph represents a large chunk of the country’s human capital and labour force.
However, with many leaving the country and millions wanting to do the same route, the gap this gross social phenomenon is creating with regards to brain drain, depreciating labour force, shrinking economy and politics extends to socio-cultural development. There’s already a lacuna in the transfer of values, norms, traditions and the way we live in general as a result of this movement.
In truth, we acknowledge that the factors pushing the youth to seek greener pastures have roots from the accumulation of many years of bad governance and leadership. However, the past seven years of the present administration have not only reduced the bar of governance but have equally succeeded in uprooting it entirely that there’s no benchmark on how bad, governance could get.
The ineptitude of the present administration has resulted to tsunamis in all facets of our nation. What we have experienced as a nation in the past few years cannot be replicated anywhere else on planet earth.
In recent data released by Statisense, 40.1% of Nigeria’s total population were classified as poor – that’s 95 million citizens. Accordingly, between May 2015 to May 2022, a span of seven years, Nigeria’s GDP value fell from $568.5 billion to $441.5 billion while the overall inflation rate which was at 171.1 rose by 161%to 447.2.
Following this, Nigeria have in recent times continuously interchanged with India as the poverty capital of the world in the yearly global ranking while Lagos, her economic capital better only Damascus, a war-torn city in the 2021 world’s least liveable cities ranking. Similarly, the country has the highest number of out of school children in the world- 11.1 million aged between six and 15, representing one in 12 of all out of school children globally. Despite these data, many believe that the current realities support the notion that the conditions of the people are underreported.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities have been engaged in an industrial action for the past five months, keeping tertiary institutions under lock and key and the students away from school yet no one has been held accountable. The standard of living is nothing to write home about and is a constant deterioration, small-medium scale businesses which are the bedrock of economies are winding up as with security of life which is at individual prerogative to protect.
These and many more are the reasons youths are forced to leave. Here, seems to terminate and deflate ambitions, efforts, projects and opportunities always. Government policies or lack of it antagonises efforts that the presence or provision of basic needs of life becomes luxury.
The outflux of Nigerian youths is highly underemphasised maybe as with the diaspora remittances but it doesn’t override the drain it costs the nation in general. Between the year 2013 to 2019 academic sessions, Nigerian students in the United States colleges and universities contributed about $2.7 trillion to the US economy. This leaves one to ponder what many in the US workforce and in Europe contribute to the economic and infrastructural development of countries of their residence.
It’s imperative to point out that the effects of bad governance do not affect the economy alone, they usually takes its toll on socio-cultural relationship and its development. Our system dominated by ostentatious and frivolous leadership with no interest of the public at heart have created a widened dichotomy where to make ends meet, youths aged 15-35 are forced to leave their environment which is the cradle of their socialisation, migrating to a new country to start life afresh.
Many tend to stay 10-15 years before coming back, thereby alienating from their family, friends and socio-cultural dialectics attributed to their place of birth. For many who cannot handle the pressure that comes from home, crime becomes the alternative while others often break ties with their roots.
For the many times we celebrate the sojourn of one of us to study or work abroad, we lose not just labour force but there’s a break in transfer of knowledge, traditions, culture and values and human capital from one generation to another. And except this gap is bridged with a gradual reset of the basics of governance and leadership, we’ll continue to play catch up in civilisation and human development.