Nigerians and the Japa Syndrome: Slave trade or Self-trade?

By Waheed Ogunjobi
The social media was recently awashed with comments, counter-comments, reactions as well as counter-reactions concerning a controversial comment by a Nigerian Professor based in the United States of America, Uju Anya who expressed disgust through her tweet that the late Queen Elizabeth II was the one who supervised the colonisation of her people, the aftermath of which is still hunting the people till the present moments.
The likes of Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world had since responded to that tweet and was caught up in the web of arguments that follow, and the rest as they say is history even as the debate is still on, on almost all platforms as people continued to share their views based on their personal convictions and sentiments.
Apparently, that outburst was a sad reminder of the era of colonisation of the African nations by the British empire who trampled on African citizens and ended up putting us under the commonwealth of nations with no less than 56 member countries or nations being under the cloak of the British Empire. The Commonwealth of nations is no doubt an appellation and a nomenclature that kept reminding the nations that they were once a subject of the British Empire and they are still indirectly tied to the apron string of the United Kingdom.
Thus, between the 16th to 19th Centuries known as the “Big Scramble”, when the British Empire and other European warlords were scrambling for the soul of Africans, African were made to go through excruciating forced labour. Estimates have it that about 12 million to 12.8 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic over a span of 400 years.
That was history and it was supposed to be in the past. Queen Elizabeth did not start it, neither did her father George Vl. They all inherited the practice and chose to preserve it.
However, while the scars of the colonial rule is yet indelible, such that the likes of Uju Anya are still embittered to the point of calling for compensation or justice, a new wave of colonialisation is brewing and the fear in this case is that Africans may have no one to blame but herself, if and when the latest trend later became a major issue of global concern in the future. This current trend is no longer related to slave trade but can justifiably be termed, “Self-trade”
This is due to the rate at which Nigerians, especially the youths are leaving for the foreign lands in droves. A friend simply described such as “human flight”. Of course, we have heard of brain drains and all such issues in the past, but recent events of exodus of people and the reasons behind it are worrisome.
A Chattered Accountant, Dr. Gbenga Adeoye recently painted the gory picture of what he noticed abroad, when he lamented the fact that most Nigerians who were albeit living a better life back home have now seen the urge to sell off their property and relocate abroad. This exodus of individuals to foreign lands of a fact has its downsides and the brightsides.
According to The Guardian of September , 10 2022″ the mass exit from Nigeria, tagged Japa, caused by high level of insecurity, unemployment, infrastructural deficit, hunger and failure of the various levels of government to provide opportunities for the youths to live their desired life and achieve their dreams, is becoming a social epidemic”
Matter of factly, this is not the first time such scenario is playing out. The first of the wave of ”japa” (Nigerian slang for emigration) in Nigeria was said to be in the ’70s/’80s, according to findings.
Faced with an uncertain future owing to military interregnums and a volatile economy, then, the Nigerian young were said to have to journeyed to the West — the US and UK.
On the recent phenomenon, the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs had observed that the number of international migrants from Nigeria in 2020, the latest year for which figures are available, was 1.7 million, up from 990,000 a decade earlier.
Nigerians, again especially the youths have every reason to rethink their destinies. Some of them reckoned that if they had missed it, their children must not miss it. Their children must get good education, quality health, live a healthy and fruitfulled life. Those in this line of thoughts are absolutely correct. They are sure on point, owing to prevailing situation and circumstances.
Periscoping into the future however, not many people who are scrambling by themselves to join the “Japa train “, stopped to have a rethink of what becomes of their children after their demise. Such children after acquiring the British Green Card may not be able to trace their roots back home. Some of their grand children will automatically become nationals of other countries and the trends will surely continue. Again, is this slave trade or self-trade?
Let us then stop to think. Is this trend a bad omen in all entirety? No! Expert say it could be a major boost to the economy of the nation’s involved.
According to nairametrics in a recent report, amongst the benefits highlighted by the experts include, increased diaspora remittances, an upgrade in remuneration for loyal employees, decline in the level of unemployment in the source country among others.
The report however, on the downsides says skill gap and decline in productivity were some of the possible outcomes.
Who then is to blame? We should blame our leaders who have refused to provide the necessary ambience in terms of security, good business atmosphere and a a sense of self- worth; we should blame ourselves the followers who still sing praises of politicians after being handed the crunch; we should blame everyone who has a voice for keeping quiet or silent in the face or tyranny by either being a coward or a traitor; we should blame ourselves for refusing to stay back and rebuild Nigeria together, against the odds.
Truth may be bitter, but it has no colouration. No foreigners will build Nigeria for us, foreigners will hop in and out to get what they needed. When we continue to loose our best brains to the foreign lands, when every Nigerians opting out see Nigeria as never-do-well and pray never to return to what they usually term “God forsaken country, I wonder if angels would be sent to rebuild the nation and right all the wrongs ? The Americans will continually say” God bless America”, the Chinese despite also witnessing serious migration in the past still find a way of repatriating their proceeds from foreign land back home. For them, home is still home. Home, sweet home.
The task of rebuilding Nigeria is a collective task. This is the time for all hands to be on deck. The likes of Uju Anya who after acquiring the needed skill abroad prefers the dollars to the naira should stop passing the buck.
Sure, the gods are not to blame, the Queen is not to blame. We are our own enemies. May God heal our lands.
*Ogunjobi, journalist, writer and Public Affairs Analyst writes from Abeokuta, the Ogun State Capital and can be reached via:

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