Nigeria and dreams that must live
Bad as this is, the tragedy, indeed, is that the returnees often have nothing but tales of woe to tell about their sojourn in foreign lands. Forced labour, sexual abuse, physical abuse and sundry woes befell ordinarily well educated and hardworking young men and women.
It would be easy to quickly accuse the returnees of gullibility, believing stories of untold bliss abroad and foolishly rushing into places they know nothing about in the hope of making it quickly in life.
But the point must be quickly established: Nigeria has largely been a land of unhappiness and frustrations for a majority of its young people. With no help coming from incompetent, corrupt leaders and governments at all levels, it should not be surprising that they have had to take their destiny in their hands and plunge into the unknown for whatever it is worth.
No man or woman with bustling energy should ever be blamed for legitimately seeking his or her fortunes in any corner of the world if the homestead hardly permits that. It is only unfortunate that the search has turned out badly for many but their adventurous spirit, for those in legitimate pursuits, deserves no condemnation.
If anything, such persons deserve the compassion of their governments and the sympathy of their compatriots. Indeed, everyone, especially those who have been part of formulating, and implementing policies at all government levels should be doubly ashamed that this Nigeria, blessed with unbelievable variety of natural resources, with exceptional people who excel phenomenally when exposed to other climes, is in so sorry a state. In truth, the point must be made that the grass in other countries is hardly greener than in Nigeria. But the managers of the affairs of these other countries have merely done a far better job at building their countries than the persons who have run Nigeria in the last four decades. Every country, which started out on the path of self-governance at the same time as Nigeria has left this country behind.
Nigeria’s youths who flock to Europe, America or some other prosperous or more conducive countries cannot be blamed for this. On the other hand, they may be blamed for a particular form of blindness to the fact that the grass in other places is greener by a deliberate act of the people who stay to nurture it. Nigeria, they need to know, therefore, will not improve by the act of running away from it but by staying to work on it.
To keep the nation’s restless youths within these shores, they must be productively engaged in productive and fulfilling ways. And only the governments at all levels, with their immense powers as well as resources at their disposal are best positioned to bring this to pass. Such interventionist youth empowerment programmes as being run by various governments are good but they can only go so far. Massive investment in agriculture, of course, is necessary and enough incentives should be there for the young ones, especially to be attracted to it. But more important is the kind and quality of education the nation gives its young ones. Skills for innovation, creativity, self-development and employment should now be emphasised in the various curricula at all levels. Nigeria’s educational system must be relevant to the needs of Nigeria so that the nation’s young men and women would already have their jobs cut out for them even before they leave school.
However, there is no doubt that all exertions notwithstanding, the political structure with which Nigeria is governed today holds the nation down and will never allow it to be the land of dreams it ought to be. Not for the youths and not for just about anybody.
The only way, therefore, to open up Nigeria for maximum productivity in all areas is to practice a true form of federalism that enables the federating units to harness their own resources in order to develop their areas and liberate their people’s creative and productive energies. In a country where the federating states possess so much human and natural resources, there will be no shortage of opportunities for the citizens as each unit leverages on its area of comparative advantage for prosperity and all sections engage in a healthy rivalry for development. Once that is done, the tide would change and people would be striving to find their way to Nigeria instead of Nigerians seeking their fortunes away from home.