Sixty-two years after independence, Nigerians are not celebrating the freedom from the grip of colonialism. They are celebrating the mountain of challenges before them—the insecurity, the double-digit inflation, the striking university lecturers and the frightening unemployment rate.
There is a mass exodus of Nigerians leaving the shores of the country to the UK, US, Canada and other European countries. The word “japa” has become one of the most frequently used slang among young Nigerians. Japa is a slang word derived from the Yoruba language which means to ‘run hastily’. ‘To japa’ means to run quickly, to avoid, to terminate, to retreat, or to remove yourself from a difficult or uncomfortable situation or circumstance.
Young Nigerians have given up on the hopes that their country will be cleansed anew from the old dirty lineament. They are tired and exhausted of living in a country with a mediocre government that frustrates their dreams. Nine out of every ten Nigerians want to travel out of the country. Opportunity and finance are only the hampering factors. Between January and June 2022, more than a dozen people whom I have a personal relationship with relocated to the United Kingdom.
Some of them who are into tech and other small startups pointed at the clampdown on Fintech by the CBN, the sinking economy and the ubiquitous insecurity as core reasons. Generally speaking, Nigerians are relocating to get a better life in ‘saner climes’ where almost everything works as it should.
Apart from the fact that the government frustrates startups, the economic situation is chasing industries away. Industries that should ordinarily employ young, talented Nigerians.
In the academic sphere, there is an increase in the desire to study abroad. Understandably so, the Nigerian educational system has been in a life support machine. ASUU, the main Academic staff body of universities has been on strike since February 14. The children of politicians are in foreign schools. So, they do not feel the suffering of Nigerian university students, neither do they understand their plight. The empathic chamber of their hearts is clogged with corduroy fabrics.
According to the United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the number of international migrants from Nigeria in 2020, was 1.7 million, surpassing the 990,000, ten years earlier. Also, British statistics show that in 2019, about 14,000 visas (study and work) were issued to Nigerian nationals. However, this figure quadrupled in 2021.
Workers in the healthcare sector were the largest recipients. Meanwhile, It is worth noting that Nigeria lacks adequate manpower for healthcare workers.
In Canada, more than 15,000 Nigerians were granted permanent residence in 2021 compared to about 4,400, five years before.
As Nigeria celebrates 62 years of independence, we reflect on some of these sad realities. The realities that our best brains are abandoning their country to find a sane environment where they can thrive, flourish and prosper. A working system they can get jobs, and attend school without the incessant strike actions. An environment they can dwell without having to bother about banditry; without having to worry much about the many diseases plaguing their country.
Nigerians who have ‘japaed’ and the privileged few still living in the country are the ones celebrating the Independence in grand style. They have left the nether regions and are free from the agony of mental, physical, social and economic captivity.
God bless Nigeria.
Bright Okuta is a writer and digital journalist.