Of Japa and failure of leadership

Although the recent deportation of 542 Nigerians from the United Arab Emirate’s city of Dubai and the continuous arrest and imprisonment of able-bodied Nigerian youths in the same city are ugly incidents deserving of national concern, they are not surprising.
Murtala Muhamme

Although the recent deportation of 542 Nigerians from the United Arab Emirate’s city of Dubai and the continuous arrest and imprisonment of able-bodied Nigerian youths in the same city are ugly incidents deserving of national concern, they are not surprising. While the Dubai incidents may be justifiable punishments for criminal violation of the laws of the host country, they portray the image of a failed and helpless Nigeria incapable of constructively engaging its youth. They also send a signal to the youths to muster courage to create the kind of country they desire.
In the last decade, Nigerians seemed to have faced the worst that can ever have been imagined in their life time. Amidst denials from the political leadership, Nigerians are witnessing miscreants and terrorists threatening the sovereignty of the country. They are misgoverned by an expanding draconian gerontocracy of self-seeking political elite; they are pauperised by surging inflation and near zero-production economy and emasculated by a decadent system of dysfunctional education with high unemployment rate and non-existent succession management.

Given the accompanying disenchantment and hopelessness amongst young people, Nigeria is fast becoming one of the most unlikely places to contemplate a rewarding future. Consequently, there is, without doubt, a multitude of disillusioned Nigerians who are on the march to migration to other countries, if only to save their sanity.

Indeed, migration is a fact of human existence and has been instrumental in the overall development of host countries. In some cases, it may be beneficial to the home country of the emigrant. However, it becomes a source of worry when it occurs suddenly and increasingly to a point where it begins to drastically affect a country’s economy and human resources, as is the case with Nigeria.
Today the dire consequences of this ‘Japa syndrome,’ as it is called, is everywhere for all to see whether at home or abroad. At the moment, the medical profession has been one of the most badly hit. With an estimated 50 medical doctors taking flight every week out of the country according to the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), our hospitals and teaching hospitals are fast becoming like an undertaker’s workshop rather than wellness centres. Healthcare, if any, subsists at the mercy of overworked and ill-motivated professional as well as on the opportunistic interventions of quacks. The ruling elite, especially the president, underscore this sad fact by their shameless oversea medical trips.

In the information technology (IT) industry, the lure of better conditions of service abroad and the inclement working environment at home are also forcing IT professionals to seek greener pastures. In many firms and private companies, IT departments are experiencing depletion of staff. In the education section, especially in tertiary institutions, young lecturers are being head-hunted by prestigious oversea universities, even as the frequent strikes afford opportunities for students to seek educational prospect outside the country. This does not include the multitude of dissatisfied individuals and frustrated Nigerian families seeking relocation abroad. In all of these, succession management for socio-economic growth is threatened.

While the government or its agency cannot prevent people from migrating or relocating, measures can be taken to prevent the damage to Nigeria’s national image by unruly Nigerians abroad. First, the government and people of Nigeria must promote stability by ensuring that there is a sense of belonging for every bona fide Nigerian in this country. The impression that Nigeria is solely owned by a certain part of the country that must appropriate it as theirs should be discouraged. To make this effectual, successive administrations should seek out broadminded, refined, vision-casting, pan-Nigerian professionals rather than party cronies and clannish nominees to occupy positions in public service.

Furthermore, concerted efforts should be made to promote educational and employment opportunities by supporting capacities for production. Education should be tailored to solve problems; problems of character and conduct, rights and justice, as well as problems of material development. It is worth reiterating that promoting employment opportunities does not mean the phantom job-creation schemes occasionally brandished by the Federal Government. These are mere insulting hand-outs that subject people to slavery.
For too long, successive governments have put forward spurious political solutions to youth development and social engagement that are merely ad hoc, tokenist and casual responses to entrenched social problems. They have tied the resolution of socio-economic problems to agendas of political campaigns. As such, with all the mendacity and intrigues associated with clinching political power, they address socio-economic problems not as developmental issues but as a means of beating the political opponent and rewarding political constituencies.

Besides, youths should be encouraged to own the country. Their energy to effect change has been tested time and again; and with this they should form coalitions that can harness their capacities and potential for ideas generation to address crucial needs of the country. For those who desire to migrate, government agencies and non-government organisations should genuinely enlighten them about the prospects and challenges they may face upon migrating.

We may blame deportees and imprisoned Nigerians abroad for their lack of resilience to eke out a living for themselves rather than embarrass themselves and the country. We may argue: if they had nothing to do in their host countries, then why embark on such fruitless mission in the first place? Notwithstanding the reasons for their deportation, or the crimes for which they might have been convicted, the large presence of teeming Nigerian youth population unemployed and under-employed in foreign lands should be clear indication of leadership failure and obvious structural collapse of governance back home. It is a blatant negation of the much touted aphorism “Youths are the leaders of tomorrow.”

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