Emigration: The old-new rage

These days, emigration is a hot issue in Nigeria and beyond. The human mind is structured in such a way that, people are always looking for comfort zones. Unfortunately, the nature of the narrative is often skewed. So Skewed that, we tend to feel that, when emigration is on the table, it only applies to Africans, who are seeking to want out of their respective social formations. Strictly speaking, this is not true. On this note one only needs to cast his/her mind back to the fact that in various parts of Africa we had what can be called settler-colonialism.

The whites mainly from the United Kingdom left their country in droves to settle in places like Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. This was owed to the fact that the climate was very congenial-cool summers and vast land spaces. And in the process they were able to indulge themselves in ways that were not possible in their homeland. They turned out to be big time farmers. To this extent, and till date, the land issue continues to be a big factor in those countries. Our Nigeria was spared this fate, if only because the climate was deemed to be harsh. So harsh that, at a point in time, Nigeria and other associated place in West Africa were regarded as the white man’s grave.

Even then, what is being said here is not exceptional. Beyond Africa, the scourge of emigration was also a subsisting reality. Take the United States for instance. It was settled at a point in time by various caucasian groups – English, Dutch, British, Germans and Italians. It is instructive to remember here that those spaces in the U.S were not empty. They met people who were indigenous to the place. What to do? They forcefully negotiated with them, killed some off and physically displaced the rest. Which possibly explains some of the appellations you come across in the United States. The names which readily come to mind here are: New York, New Jersey and New England. What this suggests is that, there were old York, Old Jersey, Old England and what have you. Meanwhile what has been deposed in the immediate foregoing also occurred in places like, New Zealand and Australia where there is a place called New South Wales. See?

Evidently, the emigration game also occurs from this part of the world, Nigeria and Africa. It is instructive to remember here that much earlier on, there was the forced emigration which is popularly referred to as the slave trade. It was a phenomenon which accounts for the fact that the United States has the largest black population in the world, next to Nigeria’s. However, we are yet to tap into this potential and organic assets in terms of linkages. But then, we digress. This is a story for another day.

These days, that starry eyed youth on his way to seek a first degree in the developed country is really, on a one-way trip

In more contemporary times, the emigration game was still on, when our fathers and mothers went abroad to study. The plan was to do so, and return to base as soon as possible. Not anymore. These days, that starry eyed youth on his way to seek a first degree in the developed country is really, on a one-way trip. He is not hoping to come back. He will only do so, when he has acquired double citizenship, which is why on the streets of a place like London, the place is teeming with Nigerian youths. And very much the same thing can be said for other capitals in Europe and the Americas. Increasingly, and overtime, some of these destination countries have been resetting their policies with a view to ensuring a steady flow of young, skilled and educated youths from Nigeria in particular and Africa in general. This is a huge loss to us in this part of the world. But evidently, who cares? Afterall, one manager of the Nigerian State has gone as far as to state that, Nigeria produces enough doctors, and as such we have surplus to export. Really?

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In actual terms, one country which stands out, and has played the game within a consistent frame-work is Canada. With a low and ageing population as well as a low birth rate, the country has mastered the art of prising away young and educated people from their home countries. There is for instance the clever route of studentship, work permit, permanent residency and finally citizenship. The situation is so rosy, or appears so, that in our large cities, there are bill-boards announcing that Canada should be the desired destination. Still it must be pointed out here that the country is not an Eldorado. Settling down in the place has its own challenges. Perhaps the main one is that, as an immigrant if you want to mainstream yourself into the Canadian society, you must be armed with Canadian certification and qualifications, irrespective of your previous academic credentials. Else, one will just remain on the margins of the system, and in the process, perhaps wistfully long for home. But then, as Femi Osofisan has memorably remarked: home is where the hurt is. And as such, home is a no-go area. The broad picture above can do with some generalizations however. This is because U.K, U.S and Canada are not the only destinations.

Almost everywhere in the world continues to attract and distract our youth. This is not good. The managers of the Nigerian State should rise up to the occasion. Our skilled youths are wanting out at an alarming rate. Something must be done to stem this scramble from Nigeria. With the right indices of creativity and thoughtful planning it is possible for us to reverse this dismal and unwholesome trend. I can only hope here that I am not steeped in too much optimism.

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