WHEN 13-year-old Daniel Oikhena squeezed himself into the tyre compartment of an aircraft last year, believing he would end up in America, his action sent a strong message of desperate migration, driven by frustration.
Government officials, who should be shame-faced, for making life in Nigeria hell, celebrated the young boy’s heroism. He could have died like other desperate persons who tried to migrate through irregular circumstances.
Migration is an essential aspect of human existence. Human beings and animals move from hostile to more life sustaining environments. Migration plays pivotal roles in the advancement of civilizations. Recent migrations have sparked off debates in destination countries whose political establishments are sensitive to socio-economic pressures and demographic consequences of migration.
Emigration in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, has been tumultuous. While it is a constant feature on the continent, the pattern has changed from forced migrations, as exemplified in slave trade, to voluntary migrations in search of the better life that they believe is abroad.
Political instability, lack of economic opportunities, bad governance, natural disasters, escape from persecution or quest for knowledge and leisure, have over time remained as key precipitating factors for net movement of people from Africa. Globalisation and promises of a better life are behind new wave of migration. Desperation drives this type of immigration.
About 87 persons perished in the Sahara Desert last year from lack of drinking water. More die, monthly, crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats. Dangerous as the routes have been for centuries, human trafficking syndicates extort money from desperate young people with promises to assist them to Europe.
Many of them have been killed and their organs become commodities in the global human organs trade. Those who move southwards notably to Central and Southern Africa either succeed or meet with fatal fate.
It is disheartening that millions of those trapped in this desperation are young people, whose sweat and blood should build our continent, our future. They prefer to die in dangerous migration because life in their countries is meaningless.
The fault lies at the doorsteps of governments. Poor leadership and the quality of governance cause desperate migrations.
Even when life in their destinations may not be rosy, promises that they could find opportunities to explore, provides the impetus for the would-be immigrants. They believe the risk is worth taking, a better risk than the wars, strife and limited opportunities at home.
The lessons of the Arab Spring are strong and evident enough for governments to realise that they should promote the common good, through policies that make life meaningful. Where governments fail, people search for survival outside their countries; not minding that the search could cost them their lives.