Over and over, I have been part of conversations with friends, peers and family on the topic of whether to stay in Nigeria or leave for ‘greener pastures’ abroad. This is a raging topic that has continued to generate passionate interests for obvious reasons. For most people, the hope for their desired Nigeria seems to be dwindling and the kind of radical revolution needed to tilt the country in the right direction doesn’t appear in the offing.
According to a report released by The Pew Research Centre on August 15, 2018, 74% of Nigerians would relocate to another country if given the chance. This means out of every 10 Nigerian, at least 7 will jump at an opportunity to ‘relocate’. The research lists unemployment, low paying jobs, political instability, and conflict as some of the reasons people want to leave. Also, according to migrant population data from the United Nations, More than half (51%) of sub-Saharan African migrants living in the U.S. as of 2017 were born in just four countries: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya, with Nigeria expectedly leading the pack . Everyday you hear of various means people are exploring with some endangering their lives in the process just to ‘japa’
Personally, there have been times when I wished I could just carry my ‘load’ and escape from Nigeria and other times when I have wondered how I will survive living outside Nigeria. Growing up and till date, I have always had a very close relationship with my family both immediate and extended. I am one of those people who grew up travelling to the village (Olode) for festive seasons, special church events (Ikore, Bazaar, etc) and we always had one family member or the other living with us. After my grandma passed, the party moved to my Parents’ house and our home became a mini-community in the truest sense of it. I am happiest when I am around my family members and I sometimes wonder if I could ever give that up. I wonder what it will be like living in a world where Ibadan is not a car ride away with ‘amala’ and ‘fresh ewedu’ waiting for me. Don’t even get me started on the owambes, party jollof and live band; but then getting stuck in a 4 hour traffic afterwards can fling the excitement out in seconds.
People sometimes argue that you can be immune to some of the problems in Nigeria if you have enough money; They say you can live close to your work, get a driver, get an inverter etc. and live the ‘abroad life’ in Nigeria. That may be true in some way but when I think about it critically, we are all still suffering from some form of ‘collective poverty’. Even when you have the fanciest cars, you will still drive on terrible roads; everyone is at risk of a bridge collapsing at any time due to lack of maintenance. What about healthcare – you can only just pray not to have a critical emergency and even when you do, you better have enough money to be flown abroad.
During our vacation this year staying with some friends, I got a glimpse of what it meant to live in countries where the systems work. I mean, you can literally plan your day to the last minute. The transportation system was functional, trains well scheduled, there is a neighborhood grocery store that has everything you need for a nice homemade meal with premium placed on quality. On the flip side, I also saw that it could be very lonely, with friends and family being so far away and a palpable struggle to continually try to fit in to the culture and life.
Overall, I know people thriving in Nigeria against all the odds and similarly know people thriving ‘abroad’ as well. I believe these dynamics are largely based on individuals and opportunities, not just location, as there are struggles on both ends of the spectrum. That said, I believe everyone deserves the experience of living in saner climes at some point in one’s lifetime. As of today, I am somewhere in the middle of the divide.
Are you team stay or leave and why?