Sunday Magazine

Insecurity, poor economy: Nigerians’ exodus for greener pastures continues

For many Nigerians, a liveable country where there’s security of lives and property and the  welfare of the citizenry is taken seriously is all they crave for. But that has remained elusive, going by multiple reports on Nigeria’s worsening insecurity and poverty rate. LADESOPE LADELOKUN writes on the desperate search for greener pastures by Nigerians and an urgent need for the government to live up to its responsibilities

 

Confronted with the likelihood of a bleak future, which is oxygenated by what is deemed economic hardships, insecurity and rudderless leadership, Nigerians in search of greener pastures swarm embassies and immigration offices like bees to get a chance to live a life they only have in prayer requests in their fatherland in other countries.

 

At least, that is the story of a Computer Engineering graduate of the Lagos State University(LASU) ,Olawande Adekoya, who is now based in Maryland, United States of America. “I can boldly say that the things we used as prayer requests in Nigeria are things we can easily get here because there are systems in place that have made provisions for them.” he told Sunday Telegraph.

 

In a song titled Dreamer, which was recorded to mirror the frustration of young Nigerians, Singer GT Da Guitarman sang these lines: “When am I gonna be what I wanna be “When am I gonna see what I wanna see “Time is ticking and I can wait no more “Do dreams ever come true in this part of this World.” These were the questions that remained a riddle to Adekoya till he decided to seek a US Visa for 13 straight years before leaving Nigeria in 2020.

“I didn’t just japa(Nigerian slang for emigration) unexpectedly. It was actually a planned process, which took 13 years because I was actually processing an immigrant visa into the United States due to the fact that I have a biological brother in the US. So, he was the one that initiated the process as far back as 2007. When I left for the United States in 2020, things were not as bad as they are now in 2022. At least, as of then, a dollar was around N350.

 

“The nation was also tough then because I remember putting my travelling process as a special prayer request because I saw it (leaving the country) as my life support and “breaking through” from this hard country. “From my personal experience, the poverty level was very high. I stayed in Lagos because of my job while my family stayed in Ogun State. I couldn’t afford their staying in Lagos with me because of the high cost of living on my side.

 

The transportation fare was killing that I had no better choice than to sleep in office (without the prior notice to my supreme boss) from Monday to Friday. So, by weekend, I would travel back to Ogun State to meet my family. “Insecurity wasn’t as bad as it is compared to now.

 

Even as of then in 2019, cult activities were so rampant around my office area at Obalende that most times, I had to sleep with one-eye closed. It got to the extent that police presence in my area had no effect on the activities of cultists. Apart from the insecurity problems caused by the activities of cultists, the rate of ritual killings was alarming. Armed robbery was on a countless rate.

 

Now with kidnapping and banditry that is ongoing, what would you expect an average Nigerian like me to think of? I have to Japa.” “Even with the little income I was receiving then, my family could not boast of eating a three square meal. There was a lot of frustration everywhere from the work place  to family stress. Even to do man’s activities in “the oza room” (bed room)was nothing to write home about because when your mind is divided and stressed ,”How body wan take move?”” he explained.

 

From Ghana must go to Nigeria must go

Ghana must go, a phrase made popular in Nigeria in the early 1980s , came to light following a presidential order by the then President, Shehu Shagari , to illegal immigrants to leave Nigeria, according to reports.

In an interview with Sunday Telegraph, a senior citizen and economist, Babatunde Ishola, explained that ”the oil money was steady and hopes were high that Nigeria could prosper, despite the brutal military regimes that marred that period. ”In the 1970s, the economy was buoyant. The fact that oil prices rose worldwide made it very clear that Nigeria got a lot of money from oil. So, it was not surprising that the standard of living improved. There was an influx of people from the farms into the cities and from neighbouring countries.

 

But the drop in the price of oil had adverse effects on our economy. 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign reserves had disappeared; food prices shot up and states were struggling to pay salaries. So, I want to believe that prompted President Shagari at the time to send Ghanaians back to their country when our economy tumbled. They were everywhere and that was because they had it good here.” “If they don’t leave, they should be arrested and tried and sent back to their homes. Illegal immigrants, under normal circumstances, should not be given any notice whatsoever. If you break a law, then you have to pay for it,” Late President Shagari had said.

 

However, in recent times, Nigerians in search of greener pastures in South Africa and Ghana, reports say, have suffered xenophobic attacks and incessant deportations. According to Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, no fewer than 825 Nigerians were deported from Ghana between January 2018 and February 2019.

 

Lamenting the treatment meted out to Nigerians in a statement, Mohammed said: “Federal Government has been documenting the acts of hostility towards Nigeria and Nigerians by the Ghanaian authorities. These include; seizure of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 10, Barnes Road, Accra, which the Nigerian Government has used as diplomatic premises for almost 50 years,” he said.

 

Speaking during a discourse on “Xenophobia in South Africa: Its Origins, Trends and Remedies”, organized by the History Department of the Kaduna State University, a professor of Diplomatic and Military History, Abdullahi Ashafa, said: “We are living in past glories by telling South Africans our roles in their liberation struggle, which they have all forgotten and treated as event of the past.

 

“Our country has retrogressed and became irrelevant because we have been surpassed by countries that once looked up to Nigeria as a destination for better living. We have been sleeping for too long, governed by corrupt, gluttonous, predatory and irresponsible clique of elite.

 

“We have allowed our corruption, terrorism, banditry, lawlessness and laziness, bad roads, non-functional institutions and infrastructure to define us, which allowed the world to treat us as bunch of criminals. “If anything, the South African events should wake us up as Nigerians once woke up Ghana in the 1980s, with the popular slogan ‘Ghana Must GO’. Today, Ghana is the envy of not only Nigerians but the rest of African countries,” Ashafa said.

Brain drain

The exodus of skilled medical professionals is a source of worry for the Nigerian Medical Association. This is also a pain shared by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, which is currently on strike for over five months, blaming the Federal Government for the mass departure of Nigerian lecturers to other tertiary institutions abroad.

 

 

According to the NMA, Nigeria lost abut 9,000 medical doctors to the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America between 2016 and 2018. At the maiden NMA Annual Lecture Series in Abuja, the President of the association, Professor Innocent Ujah, said the loss left Nigeria with only 4.7 per cent of its specialists to service the healthcare needs of an estimated population of 200 million people.

 

His words: “According to the World Health Organisation, sub-Saharan Africa has about three per cent of the world’s health workers while it accounts for 24 per cent of the global burden of disease. Nigeria has a doctor-to-population ratio of about 1: 4,000-5,000 which falls far short of the WHO recommended doctor-to-population ratio of 1:600.

 

Nigeria is still grappling with disturbingly poor health indices. “Available records show that between 2016 and 2018, Nigeria lost over 9,000 medical doctors to the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America. The loss left Nigeria with only 4.7 per cent of its specialists to service the healthcare needs of the most populous black nation in the world.

 

This does not paint the country in a good light at all.” Meanwhile, contrary to the claim by Nigeria’s Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, that Nigeria can export doctors to other parts of the world because it has a glut of doctors, the NMA said that the country had a deficit of 315,426 medical doctors to cater to the health needs of its 215, 266, 984 population. On why mass departure of Nigerian lecturers to tertiary institutions abroad may not end anytime soon, ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, blamed the development on the poor remuneration and funding of Nigerian universities.

 

Osodeke specifically said while a professor in a Nigerian university earned $700 per month, his counterpart in Ghana was paid $3,000, adding that in the United Kingdom, a professor would go home with between £8,000 and £10,000 per month. According to him, lecturers are recruited from every part of the world, not from a particular country, adding that Nigeria has thousands of Nigerian lecturers across the world.

 

“You go to Benin Republic, go to South Africa, go to the United Kingdom; you have Nigerians teaching in all these countries. But because of our poor remuneration, nobody is coming to teach in Nigeria. That is the deficit; while some people are going out to teach outside, nobody is coming in to teach here because of the poor remuneration.

 

“A professor is earning about $700 a month in Nigeria; would he leave the UK where he is earning between £8,000 to £10,000 to come and teach in Nigeria? Would he leave Ghana where he earns between $2,000 and $3,000 to come and teach in Nigeria? No! That is the deficit. “So, when Nigerians are going to teach in other countries, nobody is leaving these countries to teach in Nigeria as we had in the 70s, 80s and early 90s.

 

That is why we are having this shortfall.” In two and a half years, my children have forgotten UP NEPA – life here is so good Speaking on what life is like compared to his stay in Nigeria, Adekoya said: “Yes, I will say there are lots of differences here in the US with back home in Nigeria. I remember back home, I stayed without having a paid job for nine months in 2017. You could imagine a life without a paid job and having a family to cater for.

 

But when I got to the US in March 2020, I got a job within 3 weeks of my arrival after getting my green card and my social security and ever since then, I have been able to achieve at least some of my dreams in life. “We have security. It is not as if there are no criminal activities here but there is rapid police response in case there is any form of emergency. In the space of two and a half years, my children have forgotten the word “Up Nepa” because there is no cause to shout such words here.

 

There are systems in place that will cater for health insurance for the whole family. So, you don’t have to fast and pray before visiting hospitals for medical issues. “There are more than enough jobs for everyone. So, there is no room for unemployment. We dont have to think of the exchange rate before buying anything.

Although there are also some challenges here like the high inflation that the whole world is facing, I can tell you that we did not feel it that much because there is money in circulation and there are jobs available for people to do. So, there is no reason to shout “Kos’owo” (there is no money) except you are lazy.”

Another Nigerian living in New York, USA , Tolulope Olowo, told Sunday Telegraph that the fear of an uncertain future fuelled principally by poor governance compelled him to desert his fatherland: “Many people are leaving Nigeria for several reasons. Personally, when I completed my bachelor’s degree in 2010, the future wasn’t certain.

 

I decided to play America Visa Lottery and fortunately I won. “I managed to complete my NYSC in 2011 and left immediately, to escape the persecution of unemployment, poor governance, and political instability. The bitter truth is that most of us must start afresh and blend with the new system but it’s worth it if one has the opportunity.

 

Most young and old are leaving for greener pastures. “Honestly, the journey is worth it and it was easier for me because I came in legally, and my uncle has been here for over 30 years and I lived with him for 2 years without any responsibility. So, I was able to save some money before moving out to rent an apartment . People that came in for visitation and decided to stay face hell.”

 

We can make Nigeria great again, I won’t leave Nigeria –Cleric

 

In a chat with Sunday Telegraph, Moruf Adisa, an accountant, said the failure of leadership has given Nigerians more reasons to leave Nigeria than stay. ”Yes, more than 100 per cent sure, I am going to leave Nigeria. For Economic reasons, inflation will strangle us in Nigeria. Dollar keeps rising every month, every year. This is affecting our purchasing power.

No economic direction and we are being taxed down basically on everything. “In fact, I don’t have faith in this country again. Why? No patriotic leaders again. The spirit of patriotism is no more. No basic amenities; our hospitals don’t worth the name. Education has been shut down for months. So, where is the hope? Where is the faith? “Nigeria is not a place to train kids anymore.

The Nigerian society celebrates negative things. No moral values again. We cannot go to farm because of insecurity and the people in power keep collecting huge salaries and sitting allowances. Children grow, learning how to steal in Nigeria. There is no justice and equity again. No fairness! So, If I have the opportunity to flee, I will not think twice.”

 

For Olade Odulana, a cleric, leaving Nigeria is not a decision worth considering. It is the responsibility of all Nigerians to make Nigeria great again, saying that it is best done when Nigerians stay here to build a great country together. “I am not willing to leave Nigeria. There is no place like one’s fatherland. I strongly believe we can make Nigeria great again,” the cleric said.

 

Why US policies favour Nigerian than EU policy –Ex-DG NIIA,Prof Bola Akinterinwa

The United States, according to former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) Bola Akinterinwa, has a more favourable policy stance than European Union countries. Explaining why many European countries are hostile to migrants in an interview with Sunday Telegraph, Akinterinwa said: “First of all, there are three levels of analyses.

 

The European Union has a policy on immigration. The mere fact that there’s immigration law on agriculture, economic development, promotion of democracy, et al has always brought member states of EU together and divided some of them. Remember Britain decided to leave EU.

 

“That said, on the basis of international law, when someone is transiting, whether they’ve been deported, repatriated or otherwise, the immigration authorities will not allow the refugee to come down from the airplane they’ve boarded because the moment the refugee does that, they have stepped out of a nationality. The airplane carries a nationality.

The law says that if a national gets down from an airplane and they refuse to go back to their country, you cannot force them back to their country. “In Europe, many Europeans believe that the many problems they are having are caused by migrants.

So, they don’t want them. Look at France. In that country, the Muslims are trying to carve out a place for themselves, which prompted the French authorities to say “this is a French country; you can’t impose a foreign culture on us. And they have a new law aimed at containing Islamic excesses.

“At the level of EU, some countries are more favourable. They believe they have menial jobs they want people to do. In Europe, it is no longer as easy. At the level of the US, it is not that the problem is not there. It is the environmental conditionings that are different. In America, federalism is at its highest level.

America supports right to self-defence and human rights. America is the land where dogs and animals have equal rights with humans. America is a well known land of unlimited opportunities where if your brain can work and you’re not lazy, you can make a successful living. I’m currently in California. America is a society that is well organised for the comfort of the people of America.

 

Even if you do menial jobs here, by the time you settle down, you’ll do it with modern technology. The dust bin here is digitised. As you’re getting closer, it opens. The US accommodates the strong and the weak as long as you’re not a threat to the security of the US and you’re not a landed immigrant. A landed immigrant is one that comes for visiting but changes his status.

 

The US wants people that will add value. Unlike Donald Trump, Joe Biden is still showing a friendly attitude. He’s not showing any discrimination. I would say the US has a more favourable policy stance than EU countries.”

 

A win-win situation

According to the World Bank data, the Nigerian Diaspora remittances stood at $24.31billion, $23.81billion and $17.21billion in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively. Speaking with Sunday Telegraph, an investment analyst, Jimi Aderopo, opined that,” Much as I agree that brain drain harms us as a country, we can’t rule out the fact that emigrants from Nigeria send their hardearned money to Nigeria. They don’t just keep the money under their pillow.

They help those here to establish businesses and this has a ripple effect on the standard of living of families and domestic economies. “But it’s win-win situation. Emigrants from Nigeria not only transfer their expertise to receiving country but also pay their taxes and other social contributions in the country they choose to live in and work. That’s a loss for Nigeria.

But, like I stated earlier, we still get Diaspora remittances.” On how to stem the tide, Aderopo said: ” It’s simple. Just make Nigeria liveable for people.If people feel safe in their country, if they can get good jobs after school, if they can feed well and a bright future is guaranteed, why would they leave their country?

 

It all boils down to leadership problem. We need to get that right first and other things can follow. It’s the reason I tell people around me to vote in the next election. Not just voting for voting sake. They must vote right.”

 

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