HALTING THE UNWHOLESOME MIGRATION AND THE WANTON EMIGRATION
Lagos is bursting on its seams and so is Abuja. Everyday lorry loads of human beings land on the outskirts of Lagos and Abuja. Men and women, mostly men; young and old, mostly young; educated and uneducated, mostly both. What are they looking for? Work! Means of livelihood. Or Safety as in the recent times. During the militancy they moved from South-South, during the kidnapping, they moved from the South-East and now in the reign of Boko haram,they are moving from the North East.Some come prepared but most unprepared, no relation and no friend. They land and just begin to 'hustle', some ending up on the streets, some into crime and then into the prisons. Indeed some end up as destitutes, lucky ones repatriated overnight in trailers to their States of Origin.
When you go to the Foreign Embassies in Lagos and in Abuja, you get the wrong impression that Nigeria is at war. People arrive at Embassies by 4am to queue day after day, others pay visa agents who procure genuine and fake visas. Nigerians are emigrating to every Country on the globe, a few in pursuit of Education, but most in search of greener pasture and better lives. And since most arrive with visitor's visa, they can not work legitimately. And as soon as the visa expires they go underground and either join the grey labour market or are forced into crime and soon end up in Jails. Go to Vietnam, Indonesia, China and even Myrnmar(Burma), their jails are filled with Nigerians who are either illegal immigrants, drug peddlers or petty thieves. The situation is not different in the West,though, they seem to be more liberal or more tolerant to illegal immigrants.This week,at the South East Economic Summit in Enugu, the Nigerian Ambassadors to Vietnam and Canada were telling gory stories of what embarrassment they faced everyday, going to bail or visit Nigerians in Police cells or Prisons.
This Exodus has been unceasing in the last twenty years or more. At one time, especially during the Military era, there was a wave of emigration by Nigerian Professionals to the US, Uk, Asia and the middle East. Some claimed they were refugees or Prisoners of conscience.Now it has become a game for all,including young graduates, the unskilled and the half-baked. How come the World's 6th Major Crude oil exporter, a land of great agricultural and Solid minerals potentials is unattractive for this horde of emigrants. What is the driving force?
From all indications, all this unwholesome migration and wanton emigration is in search of OPPORTUNITIES. Opportunities to have a decent Job, to do business unfettered, to live a decent life. Of course we know that a few migrate or emigrate out of greed whereby they engage in crimes like Drug peddling, armed robbery and kidnapping. Even here, sociologists and behavioural scientists argue that many are forced into crimes when they are denied fair opportunities. While I understand the logic of this assertion, I do not think such crimes can be justified. Petty stealing,may be but not premeditated crimes. Anyway, whether justified or not, lack of opportunities or deprivation of fair opportunities is the major motivation of the internal migration to Lagos and Abuja and other major cities and the emigration to every country under the sun by Nigerians.
It therefore follows that if we must halt this unsavoury phenomenon,we must focus a great deal of effort in creating and expanding opportunities for Nigerians at home. I believe that the ongoing establishment of Private Universities for example,will help to stem the emigration in search of higher education. I propose that more Private Universities and other institutions of higher learning should be licensed by the government until we reach the point of equilibrium . If the National Universities Commission( NUC) works to assure the maintenance of minimum standards, some day,we may have excess capacity and we will then begin to market Nigerian Universities, the same way, Turkish and Polish Universities are marketed in Nigeria today. The recent criticism of the so called proliferation of Private Universities is ill informed. Even the complaint about high fees is untenable.If Nigerians pay so much in Ghana and Togo, why should we complain that much. Good and qualitative education is expensive. I am hopeful that the Private Universities will help to set new standards for some of our Public ones, whose standards have fallen, aided by ASUU's frequent strikes.
Central to halting this malady,is the creation of opportunities for Nigerians to be gainfully employed. Nigeria's operating environment still leaves much to be desired when it comes to the ease of doing business. Yes, some praiseworthy efforts are being made, like the recent ban on the use of Consultants to collect taxes by States and Local Governments,the deregulation of the Power sector to help improve Electricity and a couple of other measures, but we are still million light years behind. Ok,some attention is being paid to the big companies and investors but nobody is sufficiently interested in the small guys. All odds are against them. And they are the ones who produce the largest number of jobs in any economy. I strongly recommend that we go and understudy the Small Business Administation(SBA) agency in the United States of America, so that we can begin to support our small businesses and keep our young men at home. A definite decision must be made to give support to our young men and women in establishing and running businesses. We must stop pulling down their shops without offering them adequate compensation or alternative shops. We must show our Youth that the Country cares for their success and well being and stop 'pushing' them away with repressive policies and anti-business behaviour. We must not model favouritism nor implement policies that indicate that Merit has no relevance in the allocation of resources and priveleges. Our Youth must be made to believe in this Country and be proud to be Nigerians.
Critical to creating a business Promotive environment and expanding opportunities for gainful employment is GOOD GOVERNANCE- using the resources of the State judiciously and efficiently to make the place habitable for human comfort and hospitable for enterprise development under a regime of law and order. The State must take interest in the wellbeing of every citizen and ensure that both the poor and the rich are protected and treated fairly. When some people feel alienated,that no one really cares, then they will naturally go looking for where some one will care any where.
When you check the States with the highest levels of internal migration out of their States to other States, and the highest rate of emigration to foreign lands, you will begin to see a correlation. When I tried to check, I was startled to note that the States in the South East were high on both lists-unwholesome migration to Lagos and Abuja and other major cities and Wanton emigration to every Nation on Earth- including Iceland, Iraq and Somalia! Why are we deserting our homestead and going everywhere else in search of opportunities. What is constricting the opportunities in the region?
Yes, we can hide under the fact that the Igbos like to travel and that many are traders or that we are marginalised with minimum Federal presence especially since after the Civil War or that the Federal Capitals ( Political and Commercial) exist outside our region,but does that explain why many are languishing in the Vietnamese Prisons? Does that explain why the Igbos now conduct traditional weddings in Lagos and Abuja? Can that explain why many Igbos now spend their Christmas in Dubai and China. No, something is not right. This frightening trend must be halted by all means. Biko! Why can we not repair our towns, to expand the opportunities for our young men and women. Why can we not deliberately court our People to come home and provide them those things that are taking them all over the World, often at great peril and costs. Why cant those who have businesses in other parts of Nigeria and Overseas bring home branches or subsidiaries to create opportunities for the Youth just like Innoson Motors, Geometric and others. Why can we not make other People- Nigerians and all to come to our towns and States to do business and to live. Perhaps that's why the Abia Think Tank is collaborating with the Abia State Government, Geometric Power, Masters Energy, Crown Realties, Fidelity Bank, Diamond Bank, the Ukwa-Ngwa concerned Professionals and a host of other Organizations to host the ABA SUMMIT, November 20/21. The main objective is to mobilise a new wave of interest and investment inflow into Aba on the heels of the increased Electric power supply, to help recreate a Node of development that can absorb some of those seeking opportunities for good life in the region,and some how help reduce the pressure on Lagos and Abuja, at the least.
Finally, If we must truly halt this malady, then mothers and fathers must exercise some restraint on their children and wards. Yes,opportunities may be inadequate but they still exist perhaps for those who are ready to pay the price in diligence and endurance.Some of the money spent in buying visas and tickets to foreign lands and can be wisely deployed to build local businesses if well harnessed . Let us encourage our Children to play by the rules. Let us model good morals to them and let them know that money is not everything. The get rich quick syndrome must be condemned and the Youth made to know that success in life is not all about Money and houses and cars. We must moderate our penchant for materialism. A number of those in jails in Asia, some facing death penalties were lured more by the prospects of making it fast and going home in jeeps at the next Christmas.This craze must stop. Let the Leaders stand up! And please let us make this an agenda item at the forthcoming National Conference