Thoughts on emigrating from a country in-dependence

This year’s Independence Day celebrations have been spiralled by an air of mixed thoughts and emotions. For some, the ‘day’ is a moment for counting our losses, reflecting on our failures, and lamenting our inability to emigrate away from this “cursed” country. These thoughts have been heavily validated majorly by the Lekki Tollgate Mass Shootings on the 20th of October, 2020, the day when they tried to break the resistance.

For others, however, it is a celebration of the Nigerian spirit, of resilience and unity in the face of continued threats of succession for 61 years. These categories must have gotten their validation from the nation’s success in being unified despite continuous agitation for a Biafra state and a Yoruba nation, from the annals of history on the country’s survival in military regimes and democratic governments, from the country’s survival from an economic recession, terrorism, Ebola outbreak, Covid-19 pandemic amongst many others.

For me, my feeling about the independence day celebrations is perfectly captured in Nigeria’s foremost satire platform, Punocracy’s informed infographics, stating that “to japa from sapa is the ultimate independence”, buttressed with a graphic from popular Sola Sobowale’s declaration in “King of Boys”, stating “welcome to a new dispensation”, now popularly used by newly-emigrated Nigerians in the diaspora.

This brings me to the question of emigration and the question of patriotism.

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Nigeria is a country away from our best expectations. Far from it. Its citizens still battle with poverty, unemployment, harsh government policies, corruption, and poor infrastructure amongst other challenges. These challenges have continually confined many Nigerians into the confines of poverty and low economic sustenance, and it permeates all circles of the Nigerian less-privileged class. The system seems perpetually concerned to continue to keep the Nigerian economic class in permanent stagnancy – where the rich remain perpetually rich, the poor do not leave the slums and ghettos, and the middle-class, well, continue to struggle away from poverty and into sustenance.

The average Nigerian citizen must have had hopes of the nation becoming better and greater, fuelled by the imposed spirit of patriotism and dedication to the nation-state. However, these have been dampened by the government’s show of non-concern to the citizens’ plight, and the continuous stifling of general dissent and promotion of harsh policies. These have peaked by the #EndSARS protests, and the resultant shootings at the Lekki Tollgate.

Our true status of independence has been a question that has been continually asked: are we a country in independence or independence? Do we feel justified, being the “giant of Africa” that we proclaim ourselves to be, to continue to look up to the West and other aid-serving nations? Do we remain independent by being dependent on foreign aid, external interference, and intervention?

This is why my colleagues and many Nigerians would remain in anger whenever you wish them “happy independence” because, what are we truly celebrating? The unascertained, denied loss of souls at the Tollgate? The terrorism-infested Northern states? The ransom-fuelled kidnappings? Or all the problems and menaces that quake our hearts to mention?

The Nigerian citizen’s primary instinct is survival, and in a nation where lives no longer hold value, emigration to “the abroad” for greener pastures serves a perfect leeway into prosperity and sustenance, away from a country not yet in full control of the optimization of its own destiny. This has provoked a lot of conversation on escaping the problems of the country (which we might have created – through our leaders) towards nations that are “fully-made”.

The Nigerian society values almost anything foreign – from certifications, experiences, currencies and every other thing that carries the abroad badge. Due to this, it is fruitless to convince people who have access to abroad to stay to “to develop the country”, when their toiling would not be recognized in the first place. The resultant effects of this are that a lot of talents and human resources are being lost to foreign shores and markets.

However, while I am not against emigrating for better conditions, I advocate that Nigerians in the diaspora should not abandon the country as soon as they exit its borders. The problems we complain of are created by us by extension, and the countries we run to did not become great by running away from their problems. Nigerians abroad should continually ensure that they push relevant policies, either from abroad or within, to ensure that the situation eases up for individuals stuck in the country, with no access to the kind of privilege they might have had or benefitted from.

It is only when these are done that I do believe that Nigerians have effectively “japa from sapa”, and would boost Nigeria’s chances of being lifted from its position of being in-dependence to being truly accorded the status of independence. It is only then that we ease the situation in the country, to propel us collectively to greatness and independence, thereby welcoming us all into a new dispensation.

Abdul-Hafeez is president of both the Union of Campus Journalists and the Students’ Union Bar Association, University of Ilorin;

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