There is hardly a day that passes by in Nigeria without two things happening; one Nigerian ‘escaping’ the country and another starting the process to leave. That the so-called giant of Africa is losing the best brains that she requires to build a virile country is no longer news. Thousands of Nigerians of various classes, young, middle-aged, and adult, are currently in a crazy rush to leave the country either through employment opportunities, education, marriage, and for many, through illegal means and this has given rise to what many now refer to as ‘Japa’.
Over the last decade, ‘Japa’ which is a Yoruba slang that means ‘to run, flee or escape’, has taken root in the minds of young Nigerians and is almost like an anthem. Latching on to hopes of a better future in a more structured system, many people have become very desperate about leaving Nigeria at all costs. However, the truth is that while these young citizens move out to seek greener pastures in other countries, it spells doom for the Nigerian economy and future Nigeria hopes to build and sustain.
Several Western countries have become abreast with this burning desire to leave Nigeria and quite a lot of them have resorted to tightening their doors to ensure that they are only taking the best, the brightest, and the brainiest of Nigerians. Many of them have designed their immigration processes carefully to attract only highly skilled young professionals and so far, they have been getting the job of ‘stealing’ the best of Nigerians done with so much ease and finesse. One thing that has to be established here is that the entire ‘Japa’ process, even though it could appear seamless at times, is quite expensive for the average Nigerian to easily afford. This clearly paints the picture of the class of people they want: comfortable, highly educated, extremely skilled, young professionals, hence the people who go through this process are not poor by Nigerian standards.
Today, the burning desire and ambition of an average vibrant, active, and talented young Nigerian is not how to find solutions to the biggest problem confronting the country or to change the ugly trajectory of Nigeria. Rather, it is how to discover the easiest ways to migrate to the US, the UK, or Canada. For this crop of Nigerians, the country has failed and is irredeemable, hence the need to ‘escape’ from it alive.
The ‘Japa’ movement has so much infiltrated the Nigerian social fabric to the extent that it has become quite herculean a task to see a young professional in the country who is yet to commence his or her own immigration process. In many banks, hospitals, schools, and other places of work, a large chunk of their staff are actively seeking funds and opportunities to migrate. The sad truth is that many of them are so desperate that they do not even give a hoot about warnings that life is not easy anywhere and that staying in Europe, Asia or North America has its own peculiar challenges.
Today, Nigeria leads the chart in the UK for African countries with regard to migration. According to official records from the UK government, the number of Sponsored Study grants granted to Nigerian nationals rose to a record high of 20,427 between June 2020 and June 2021 compared to the previous year. It is the highest number of visas granted in a single-year period to Nigerian nationals on this route.
Over the last decade, Nigeria has also been leading the rest of Africa in the number of immigrants ‘donated’ to Canada and the country has consistently been part of the top five countries contributing the most immigrants to the country in the world. Last year, where the Canadian government welcomed 341,000 immigrants, over 15,000 of them were Nigerians. With every passing day, the numbers continue to soar and no one seems to be taking note.
The ongoing economic and insecurity travails of Nigeria coupled with a big chasm that already exists between the leadership and the people has placed the country at the lowest echelon of development and made her situation nothing to write home about. Currently, despite being Africa’s most populous country with very intimidating potential, Nigeria scores low on several developmental indices, such as the Human Development Index (HDI) which covers areas such as life expectancy, per capita income indicators, and education (years of schooling upon entering the education system). All these indicators are red and scary in Nigeria yet, the country’s leaders do not seem to care.
One truth has to be established and that truth is that the young people fleeing Nigeria in droves daily are not unpatriotic as some people erroneously assume, the reality is that Nigeria has so far not been kind to her youths! These things did not happen overnight, they started after many years of total neglect and lack of patriotism from the leaders themselves. Many people conveniently ignore the fact that whenever politicians send their children and family members abroad to get an education or when they themselves go abroad to seek medical treatment, they are actually sending a clear and uncontroverted message to young Nigerians that they do not believe in Nigeria or it’s future. The ensuing bandwagon to leave Nigeria only points to failed leadership at every stratum in Nigeria. If Nigerian political leaders had any iota of shame in them, they should be apologising to the world every day for mismanaging the country and snapping out any hope left in it for a better tomorrow.
Nigerian as presently constituted is almost hopeless and this is the key factor driving the ‘Japa’ trend because nothing else explains why young enterprising people in a country will prefer to abandon everything they have including family, friends and in some instances, some measure of certainty and even good jobs in search of greener pastures in a foreign country which is not even guaranteed. Nothing can make Nigerians that desperate if the country was working. Young Nigerians are fleeing the country because lives mean nothing in Nigeria, because the government has blatantly refused to prioritise the security of lives and property. They are fleeing because the rule of law means nothing in Nigeria, no one cares about the rights of the next person. They are fleeing because the healthcare system is in a state of comatose and the life of the average Nigerian may be cut short at the instance of one health emergency. They are fleeing the country because Nigeria is ridden with nepotism, poor infrastructure, unemployment, and many other negatives. They are fleeing the country because their country does not sell hope to them under any guise. The situation is simply as hopeless as it seems.
The desire to leave Nigeria has landed many people into very odd and horrific situations. Many Nigerians have been swindled, cajoled, and scammed by different kinds of people out of desperation. Many Nigerians have sold everything they own to leave the country in search of greener pastures only to end up in the wrong hands, lose everything and possibly slip into depression. The Japa craze has sunk many Nigerians into deep troubles which they might never come out from in their lifetimes. These things wouldn’t be happening if successive leaders were a little bit more intentional about governance in the country.
No serious country with solid plans for the future should allow this kind of level of capital flight as well as other economic benefits to other countries of the world. In the UK alone, it is already estimated that Nigerians will this year, contribute an average of close to £3 billion to the UK economy. What a colossal loss. It is the same story everywhere and it must change. No country grows by losing its best brains to other serious countries for free.
In conclusion, it is high time someone spoke to Nigerian leaders in a language they will understand. They must become intentional about making efforts to help Nigeria reclaim her lost glory. The country needs a clear redirection to save her from the shackles that have held her down. First of all, there is a need to restructure the country politically to begin the journey to fix it. The sooner someone presses the panic button the better for Nigeria. It is shameful to see a country as blessed as Nigeria on its knees.