Nigeria and the people who leave

Dear Reader,

I write this with a throbbing toothache, one that has refused to let me have at least 3 hours sleep straight. In the meantime before the pain meds kick in, I will rant about my beloved Nigeria.

Honestly, I have been meaning to write this for a while now but when my friend and colleague puts up a link to an article written on Bloomberg about the Nigerian-Americans and the level of their education, I know I should drop this now. As is always the case when there’s some talk about Nigerians living in diaspora, Nigerians actually living in diaspora or those who have immigrated to other developed countries talk back. The conversation on the page leads to the current state of the country and of recent, our development plans for more infrastructure in terms of erecting statues to be built.

One macroeconomic goal down.

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As I read through the buildup of chats written by passionate young Nigerians who seem to have reached the point of making a way for themselves in a country not their own irrespective of the immigrant status they have, I’m reminded of the conversation I had with a friend a couple of weeks back.

Friend: “Are you visiting for the holidays”
Me: “Not this one, hopefully next year”
Friend: (With a snort in her voice) “Hmm, babe just try and be strong where you are. It’s better, let me come and visit you there.

This is just one of the many conversations with friends in Nigeria. Talented young people seeking a way out from the vicious cycle which consists of first class graduates who proudly walked the stage to get their award, now shamefully walking the streets of Lagos for job opportunities that even when they get, pay them stipends. The growing number of religious and tribal killings that have seemed to set base and tent in the country. People who speak up are shut down either with chunks of money or certain high level positions, killed or their families threatened. Political leaders you’d think would stand up for the people, sit down while direct deposits to personal private accounts are made. Cultural disintegration gaining more traction every day. Epileptic power supply which has always been a national artifact and traffic a form of culture. Health care only gets better at least for the rich who can afford it and the exchange rate of the naira today keeps sounding ridiculous. I remember as a young child, the clamoring for Vision 2020 in the mid 90’s. This vision is just two years away and in retrospect now, with N10 then I could buy myself a treat of the 2 for N5 Okin biscuits and shortcake. Today, its hard to find a good N10 biscuit and even when you do, it looks emaciated, almost like a bad joke. In my opinion, with the kind of economic stability we had then, we might as well have lived the Vision 2020 in those years.

I used to be judgmental.

“Why would you say you can’t live in Nigeria, I would say. Why won’t you come back to develop your own country? East or West, home is best. What do you mean? Aren’t there people succeeding in Nigeria? Our fore fathers fought to gain independence, how old were they? If everyone left Nigeria, who would be left to fix it?”

In a country of approximately 180 million people where about 112 million live below poverty level, that is to say almost 67% of the total population are poor, the Nigerian dream is not so clear anymore but I see things more differently now. People need to fend for themselves and their families in a country that offers them just the name “Nigeria”. People need to secure the future of their children in a place where even as a long term stay visitor, you are entitled to free health care. Young people who occupy about 45% of the population and are increasingly becoming breadwinners, need to provide for their families. People need sound education where your degree does not need some form of additional international education or experience as back up before securing a good job. No doubt that spirituality is key but still, people need something other than constant night vigils, back to back prayer sessions and marathon days of fast.

People need their sanity.

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Those who leave Nigeria for greener pastures have no fault. They want more, they want better. They have tried to work and make things work but were not successful. True, the grass is not always greener on the other side but the green grass in Nigeria at the moment is for a selected few. I actually cried when I saw and heard about the ordeals of immigrants especially in the recent Libya incident. This is just a part of what some Nigerians face in other countries so as to survive and not go back home empty handed. Truth is, more people will still cross the desert irrespective of what they have seen and heard. I imagine that if there was some kind of policy encouraging young Nigerians to come back home and develop the country with some stable form of support, we would have a different story. Elections are forthcoming and while most people got the “change” they wanted, some are redirecting and hoping for a younger president with the “Not too young to rule” campaign.

Is this really possible?

Nigeria still has quite a good number of past leaders who perhaps forgot something on their way out of Aso rock; hence, the need to go back. Maybe in due time a young leader will be revealed, one who will not be swayed by the enticement of “ghana must go” bags full of money, one who will speak with integrity and walk in uprightness. One who we would long to see on television and beat our chests with pride saying, “that is my President”. One who would understand the need to bring back brilliant and qualified Nigerians who ache to go home but have nothing to be offered to them in Nigeria.

This is possible.

Each of us has a role to play to make this happen. Maybe my role is that of John the Baptist. To shout with words and prepare the minds of the next leaders, whoever they are, wherever they might be.
Just like a bad toothache, maybe those who leave Nigeria are tired of the temporary pain meds and need an extraction. Just maybe.

No matter what though, my love for the country remains untarnished and my patriotism guaranteed.

This can never change.

Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to get back to. -John Ed Pearce

Peace and love

 

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