By Tony Ademiluyi
THE introduction and implementation of the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, by the General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida military regime, under the promptings of the Bretton Woods Institutions, was indeed the root cause of the locust years that have since haunted this once prosperous nation. SAP was a homegrown clone of the desire of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to remove subsidies from critical sectors of the economy, most notably education and healthcare.
The concomitant effect of this was the resultant brain drain by brilliant professionals who emigrated to the West and Asia for greener pastures. The migration wasn’t restricted to the professionals – Average Joes, artisans and even criminals found reasons to dump residence in the so-called ‘Giant of Africa’ and head abroad to have a more meaningful existence.
While some of these professionals made the nation proud with their exploits in their different fields of endeavour, a few of them who were criminally-minded made the country an international object of ridicule through their activities in drug running, credit card fraud, internet scams, amongst other crimes that projected the country in bad light. Things got to a head when sniffer drugs were used to search some Nigerians at the various international airports. Visa denials increased as many Nigerians went abroad on tourist visas and never returned to their ‘shit hole’ of a country, apologies to US President, Donald Trump.
Nigeria is a country which doesn’t work – all sectors of the economy lie prostrate, and so there is the pull of relocating abroad at the slightest opportunity for a more meaningful life. Any opportunity to relocate is always welcome. It is a thing of joy to have a family member or even a close friend abroad as it is seen as a status symbol and a sign of upward economic mobility. The financial contribution by Nigerians in the Diaspora runs into billions of US Dollars, making it a group that cannot be ignored. Some political parties even have a presence abroad underscoring their importance.
For a long time some young and promising Nigerians have been executed for drug running in some Asian countries that have zero tolerance for drugs. The Nigerian authorities have done little or nothing to put pressure on these countries to stop the executions. Nigerians who were caught on the wrong side of the law were tragically left to their fate in these unforgiving countries.
Nigerians were woken to the rude shock with the execution of a young woman in Saudi Arabia for drug related offences and the arrest of five young Nigerian males for the robbery of a Bureau De Change. The robbery was allegedly said to be about $225,000. Some other young Nigerians are on death row in Saudi Arabia with little hope of a reprieve. The UAE was said to have retaliated by slamming a ban of three months visa to Nigeria though they later came out to deny it.
Other countries would definitely tighten their immigration policies to not be in favour of Nigerians as the one bad apple has spoilt the entire cart. In an investigative report done by a national newspaper, the US Embassy makes a killing running into billions of naira through their N64,000 visa fee with only a few visas issued to Nigerians. This is worse than daylight robbery as it’s akin to an organised ring of a monumental scam.
At independence, we held so much promise. Our universities had foreign students and academics. The University College Hospital, Ibadan, was the best in Africa with foreign medical students trooping there to learn. The story of Malaysians coming here to borrow our oil palm seedlings has been rehashed again and again like a broken record. We financed the liberation struggles of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe and the late Joshua Nkomo even came to Lagos for Olusegun Obasanjo to mediate in their squabble. I still recall watching the video of the 1961 visit of former Prime Minister, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to the White House and the impeccable English he spoke when he addressed the Camelot led by the later to be assassinated President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo famously rejected the knighthood by Queen Elizabeth 11. Nigerian students who studied abroad returned home with the firm resolve to contribute their quota to nation building. Our literature flooded foreign libraries with numerous scholarship opportunities being given to our students to show their prodigy to the entire world. Our Judges were being exported to help the judiciaries of other African nations, most notably Justices Akinola Aguda who was the Chief Justice of Botswana and Egbert Udo Udoma, the father of the present Minister for Budget and National Planning, who was the Chief Justice of Uganda.
The problems of Nigeria and its decline from its former potential for world leadership were lucidly captured in Prof Chinua Achebe’s seminal book, There was a country. The decline of Nigeria is responsible for her citizens wanting or seeking salvation in foreign climes. You can’t blame them as ‘Man must wack.’
The followership is equally as guilty as the leadership as the complacency of the former leaves much to be desired. The onus of a functional state lies even more on the followership. The Arab Spring showed that with effective mobilization of people with the social media, change can occur. The recent resignation of former Algerian President, Abdul Azeez Bouteflika showed the potency of street protests and a determined populace to change their state of affairs. Ranting on social media all day wouldn’t cause the crisis to be solved.
The last elections were said to be fraught with a lot of malfeasances and fraud. What did the youths who are said to be future leaders do? After enduring four years of hardship under Buhari, they are ready for another lap of four without any iota of resistance. 2019 was supposed to be an electoral year of upset in favour of a youth focused government which would implement policies that would make economic migration and its attendant shaming not attractive.
Countries like Japan and the Asian tigers made migration unattractive by investing heavily in human capital. Tragically, there is no blueprint in this current administration for the massive investment in human capital development. We are in danger as the demand for our oil is in steady decline in the global market. It has gotten so bad that many states are practically insolvent. If care isn’t taken, the insolvency may spread to the Federal Government.
Ademiluyi, a social analyst, wrote from Lagos