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‘Japa’: The trending time bomb we are ignoring – By Israel Ojoko

The number of young Nigerians leaving the country lately is mind-blowing. You could be chilling with a close pal on Tuesday, and boom, he has relocated to the United Kingdom the night after without you even knowing.

I even heard a story of three very close friends who grew up together. They know each other’s in and out, or so they thought, but one of them was planning relocation with his whole family without any of the other two having the slightest of ideas. They hung out as usual and gisted out in the evening, the next day, one of them headed to the airport and that was it. He only called to inform the other two after his arrival abroad.

We can all laugh over it, right? But have we considered the danger it is portending for the future of our dear country Nigeria? Has the government ever reasoned about the damage it is causing the education system? Have the leaders ever sat down or stood up or lied down to think about the devastating effect of a reduced population in today’s world? Today, countries like Ukraine, Russia, and Canada among others are in dire need of people, have we ever considered why it is so?

No doubt, the answer to the above questions is ‘NO’. Many years ago, Nigerians traveled abroad to school, learn a skill, or make some money, and come back home to work, live and invest their savings in Nigeria, but the story is different today, people just want to leave and never look back.

Software and hardware engineers, system integrators, digital marketers, accountants, and auditors are dumping high-paying employment in banking, financial technology, education, insurance, manufacturing, and teaching as economic opportunities shrink amid rising insecurity. The most common is the category of people leaving the country through the education route, driven by lingering industrial action in Nigeria’s universities. The majority of these people head to the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Canada.

Pastors are leaving, bank managers who are well-paid and living comfortably are leaving, and our engineers in the oil and gas are exiting. They find safe haven in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Canada. Our colleagues in the office are going to Europe to work in farms and food restaurants all in the name of traveling abroad. Our celebrities are also ‘japa-ing’ with their families, nobody is left out.

Go to social media and dare advise Nigerians not to travel abroad, they will come out at you with venom, dishing out as many attacks as they can process. They do not want to hear anything on the contrary, they just want to leave the country with the hope that things will change for the better when they get there.

Our celebrities don’t want to grow old on the screen anymore, that dream has been put aside for a better one. We know actors like the late Sam Loco Efe, Pete Edochie, Olu Jacobs, and many more who grew up and grew old in the Nollywood industry. But today, many of them shoved aside their Nollywood career for a greener pasture. Our beautiful actresses who sell the cover of movies are no longer seen around.

The likes of Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, Ms Pepeiye (Leona Mazur), Rita Nzelu, Doris Simeon, Lepa Shandy (Shade Omoniyi), Sandra Achums, Dolly Unachukwu, Oge Okoye among other pretty faces that light up our world back then, are no more in the country. What about the handsome faces? The likes of Emeka Ike, Pat Attah, Wale Adebayo (Sango), and Bayo Bankole (Boy Alinco) are just a few to mention. In the music industry, many may have forgotten Kaha, the ‘Heart-Robber,’ crooner who featured 2Baba in that song, our very own 2Shotz, and the too-much-money Olu Maintain. It’s a long list of great men and women who have ‘japa-ed’.

Come to think of it though, who will blame them? Everybody wants and deserves a better life, and that is why today, everyone is either making an attempt to japa, planning to japa, wishing to japa, or praying to japa. Very soon our leaders will lead themselves, they will have all the money in the Central Bank of Nigeria to themselves, they will loot the NNPC unhindered, and they will finally collapse the economy to their delight, by then the Naira may have been wiped out of circulation and the leaders will choose whether to change Nigeria’s legal tender to dollar or pounds or euro or Eco, they’re going to enjoy a field day.

Since they have decided to loot without contentment, they are playing politics with the security of a whole nation, they don’t know how the economy runs, they care less about the health sector, education, roads, basic amenities, and welfare of ordinary Nigerians. To them, it is all about raking the money and the power and making every other person their footstool. Creating a workable system like it is in those countries Nigerians are running to is not in their plans, or they deliberately do not want it to work.

A statistic in May 2022 showed that the number of Nigerians granted study visas to the United Kingdom increased by over 500 percent in two years. The UK government said as of March 2020, a total of 9,355 sponsored study visas were granted, but by March 2022, the figure had increased to 58,887. As of September, about 70,000 Nigerians were granted study visas to the United Kingdom alone.

Canada is also a preferred destination for many. According to the IRCC data, as of March 2022, the number of new study permits for Nigeria increased by 30.3 percent to 13,745 from 10,550 in 2020, making it the ninth most popular source country for international students. This is the highest in 22 years. Nigerians are investing, albeit unconsciously, in the education system and by extension, the economy of other countries just because they make their system attractive and fully functional, nothing else.

Furthermore, out of 722,962 non-immigrant visas issued by the United States as of June 2022, Nigerians got 6,915 with the B1/B2 category recording the highest at 5,061. Other categories of visas issued include G2, J1, C1/D, A1, K2, H3, and P4.

The future is bleak in Nigeria, many, if not everything, is wrong, but the worse thing is the authorities are not even taking note of this, we play too much with everything.

I have engaged in discussions with people, some of whom are based abroad. They expressed willingness in returning home to invest and create jobs, but first, the system must be working, there must be the security of lives and properties, and the environment must be made attractive for investors and entrepreneurs to put money in. These are not too much to ask, they are just normal things for a responsible government to provide.

The solution is not rocket science, we know it, and we can do it if we are willing. Only good governance and a functional system can help curb the ‘japa’ trend and put out the time bomb that is fast ticking, but are the leaders ready for that?

Israel Ojoko, a writer and content editor, can be reached via israelojoko14@gmail.com

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