By Adebayo Abubakar.
Without any fear of equivocation, Nigerians are among the most adventurous set of people, you can find in anywhere in the world, couple with the pull-effect of Labour migration. Hardly can you mention any country in the world and you won’t find a Nigerian, no matter how inclement the weather is. In so far as there are human beings, living there, a Nigerian must be found there. The reason is not far-fetched; the search for a better life. That brings about, labour-induced migration. Labour-related migration is as old as humanity itself. So human history is replete with unceasing movements of people from one part of the globe to another, in search of the proverbial greener pasture.
In recent years, Europe America (US and Canada) and South Africa, are some of the most popular destinations for these Nigerian migrants. Of late, young Nigerians have developed the penchant for wanting to jet-out of the country, damning the inherent risks and uncertainties that characterise the journey, especially those who go through the Sahara desert. Some get killed on the road by bandits or dehydration, before they get to the bank of the Mediterranean Sea in Morocco, Egypt or Libya. Among those who are lucky to make it up to this point, are those who get drowned in the sea and end up in the bellies of wild aquatic animals; while some of those who are able to cross over to Europe, unluckily get nabbed by the ruthless European border police in Spain, Italy, Greece other country where afrophibia is covert official policy. “Naijaphobia” is a notch higher in these countries, due to their perception of an average Nigerian as a fraudster. Some, very minute fraction get on to the street, starting lives with menial jobs to keep body and soul together, while enrolling for studies through which they acquire certificate with which they secure white collar or Well-paying blue-collar, jobs that would guarantee the good life they had envisioned. This scenario is for those who cannot afford to follow the legitimate process of applying for visa and wait on mother luck.
Nigerian Youths, trust them; they have come up with a lingo that encodes their quest to flee the country, at the slightest opportunity – Japa, they call it. You’d see them, post on social media; “Ọmọ mo ti Japa” (“Oh boy, I have bolted”). It has become so fashionable that, the immediate desire of an average Nigerian youth now is to journey into the unknown, after acquiring the minimum educational qualification – 1st degree.
As stated earlier, Europe is usually the most preferred destination. While there is nothing wrong about labour migration, everything is wrong with “making denigrating comments” about your country of origin (and of birth), especially when you are yet to acquire the citizenship of another country. Even if you have, you’d once enjoyed State protection from Nigeria, before you deemed yourself to have been of age, and applied for the citizenship of another country. Little did they know that, some restraint as a measure of gratitude to motherland, is expected, more so that you still have relatives behind, who might never be able to “Japa” like you.
The stark reality of not having a “state affinity” with any country stared at some Nigerians in the face, when in 2011, they left the country in search of “better life”, only to get caught in the crossfire between the different groups of armed militias in Libya, during the days of Arab Spring revolution, some two decades ago. It was amazing, as much as it was amusing to see, those who, on the eve of their departure, said some nasty things about Nigeria, trek back to a country towards which they have shown so much disdain.
The latest instance of the importance of the Nationality that the Nigerian State offer us on a platter, is the ongoing invasion, of Ukraine, by Russia, where Ukrainian and Ukraine-based foreigners, including Nigerians, were scampering for safety has the hailstone of Russian bombs descended on major Ukrainian cities. Many were stuck at the Ukrainian-Polish border, with the Polish immigration officials sorting blacks out, pushing them to the back of the queue, insisting that, white people first. If the Statistics that; at least, one out of every five black men is a Nigerian, then, your guess is as good as mine that Nigerians would most definitely be affected. But with the industry of the indefatigable Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, “Nigerians in Diaspora Commission”, NIDCOM, Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Nigerian embassies in Eastern Europe were galvanised into action, announcing their preparedness to render consular assistance to any Nigerian, especially students, who are stranded in the war-torn country, dishing out phone and WhatsApp lines through which they can seek consular help. Russia had invaded Ukraine, since Thursday, February 24, 2022, in a bid to prevent the latter from joining the US-led military alliance, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO. Reports and video evidences on social media show that, black people (most of whom were Nigerians) running for dear lives were prevented by the Polish immigration officials from crossing the Ukrainian-Polish border, in a move that could be described as racist. But in a matter of hours, through the efforts of NIDCOM and other Nigerian government agencies, the Nigerian embassy in Romanian opened a hotline through which any stranded Nigerian who feels endangered could seek consular help. This is contrary to stories of inefficiency we’ve been hearing about Nigerian embassies’ officials in the past; a one-off thing? Maybe. But this is encouraging!
As Nigerians in those online videos, including students, struggled to board buses and train, ferrying people to safety, I suddenly remembered those talking ill of the country, including those who even go to the extent of referring to her as a “Zoo”. I wonder what such persons would be thinking and or feeling, if they find themselves in the kind of situation Nigerians in Ukraine found themselves, last week!
I am not denying the fact that Nigeria as a country has a lot of problems, most of which are self-inflicted. But we must admit to the fact that, nobody will fix Nigeria for us (Nigerians). Russians, Britons, Americans, Poles, Ukrainians, Canadians, Dutch, or Ghanaians would never come down and fix our country for us. And if others (some Nigerians) are trying to fix it, or pretending to fix it (we must also admit that fact too), the least you could do is to not undermine whatever it is that they are doing, by de-marketing it, through negative comment. If nothing, Nigeria as a State, at least offers us “Nationality”, which is the minimum; and we must learn to cherish and appreciate, because of days like, the last one week in the lives of our compatriots who find themselves in Ukraine, where Russia shelled major cities. Let us always remember that, we have no other country we can call ours, but Nigeria. Nigeria is our country. Let us appreciate her gift of Nationality.
Abubakar writes from Ilorin. He can be reached via 08051388285 or firstname.lastname@example.org