BusinessDay

Travel boom in today’s unpredictable Nigeria

It takes a lot of gut to live in Nigeria.

As conditions in the country continue to worsen, the desire to leave heightens among the middle class and the poor alike. Almost every Nigerian now focuses on travelling permanently out of the country to secure the integrity of a decent livelihood in saner climes.

A 2021 report published by the African Polling Institute shows that more than 7 in 10 Nigerians are willing to relocate abroad with their family if they have the chance. This fraction represents about 73 per cent of Nigerians who would rather pack their bags than remain in the country where little or no hope remains. In 2019, only about 32 per cent of Nigerians would consider relocating abroad. Hence, between 2019 and 2021, the percentage of those willing to permanently leave the country for greener pastures rose by 41 percentage points.

Indeed, the numbers will continue to rise since citizens have completely lost their trust in today’s government. Nowadays, Nigerians would rather believe their religious or traditional leaders than they would like the government. Furthermore, many more believe that there is no future in or for the country, given the current state of economic and political disrepair the country has slid into.

Today, it is common to find that Nigerians are more patriotic to their religion or ethnic identities than their nation. This loss of national identity and possessiveness has given room for increased social strain among citizens; so intolerance brews. Over the years, there has been an increased division among citizens along ethnic, socio-economic, political and religious lines; national dissonance has been exaggerated beyond an easy fix, and Nigerians wonder if there is anything like one Nigeria.

There is growing frustration among fellow citizens across all classes. In older times, the desire to “japa” was common among the poor, who constituted the jobless, homeless, hopeless, and most unfortunate population. This class of Nigerians were committed to leaving the country by all means, such as the refugee class migration schemes, desert travels, illegal sea and land border crossing arrangements, sex trafficking schemes, marriage scam schemes and other shoddy channels. While some can cross over successfully, many are either caught by border patrol officers of the transit or destination countries or drop dead along the way due to harsh conditions.

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Nowadays, however, the hunger to pursue a more predictable and decent standard of living is rife among Nigeria’s middle-class population. Citizens in the middle-class category are now pressed towards resettling themselves abroad after running low on their much anticipation that Nigeria will become better again. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see large crowds of young, energetic, literate and intelligent Nigerians trotting around IELTS, GRE, GMAT or TEF coaching classes and test venues in preparation for the required examinations that enable their qualification for overseas study or residency.

Also, many are seen around medical screening centres, biometrics capture centres, international passport offices and airports, all around the country in a rush to process their application and leave as quickly as they can. Most popular routes engaged by these middle-class citizens to permanently escape the fast-crumbling economy of Nigeria are the international postgraduate study and permanent resident programmes of the various countries that flag these schemes.

While young and energetic Nigerians keep leaving the shores of this country in their thousands each day, the immediate consequence to the nation is the looming labour shortage the country must suffer. Seeing that the labour market-ready class of individuals are fleeing in vast numbers, the Nigerian labour population will continue to shrink, leaving only dependents to determine the country’s fate.

Nigeria’s productive workforce constitutes those young educated individuals whose physical energy and mental might can be utilised to drive the economic and political change that the country needs. The current generation of the oldies has failed, and their contribution to national development over the years has been frustrated by an inept and insanely corrupt system. The recent #EndSARS movement attests to this truth. During the time, the productive population of youths and young adults who were majorly of the middle-class category staged a nationwide protest, which also attracted global attention, in disfavour of police brutality in various shades and forms. They also demonstrated against all conditions of unfavourable economic and political majeure, which continue to oppress the nation.

Sadly, while the youths protested for better governance, the leaders, who are mostly of the old population class, subdued the voices for change and reverted the economy towards a harsher regime: peaceful protests were banned, Twitter was suspended, freedom of speech was fought against, and alternative investments were prohibited under the guise of a decentralised system. Frustrated, many more young Nigerians thought it best to leave the country for saner climes.

Worse days are coming. For Nigeria to revert itself to the good old days of agricultural and industrial bliss, capable hands and bright minds are needed on the ground to forge an escape route for the country. When absent, the nation’s future can only be considered as bleak.

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