BY ERNEST OSOGBUE
Despite the efforts of various agencies of government to repatriate Nigerians enslaved or stranded in Libya, and the reported curse placed on human traffickers by the Benin monarch, Omonoba N’edo Oba Ewuare the 2nd, there is still a constant stream of citizens heading to Europe or the Americas in search of greener pastures.
One must acknowledge the lack of scientific approach to governance by our leaders over the years, which is responsible for the large number of unemployed youths. The constant re-engagement of retirees in the civil service, to the exclusion of the youths has equally not helped matters.
These and other misguided government policies have ensured that while our tertiary institutions constantly produce graduates, there are no factories or businesses to employ them hence the ready availability of a vulnerable group ready to be enticed abroad.
From all indications, these set of vulnerable adults have given up on Nigeria and have bought into the obsession that the only way to a better life is to jet out of the country. A visit to the visa section of top European nations or that of the USA will convince you of this fact.
Outside of the failures of government, how did we get to this sorry situation where the average Nigerian youth no longer has faith in his country? While there are many factors, my observations have revealed that our radio and television stations are equally culpable.
Every day in the Nigerian space reports of happenings in Europe or the Americas suffuse news bulletins and general presentations on the radio and television, so much so that a person visiting the country for the first time could be forgiven for thinking he is in a European country. Radio and television presenters acquire phony European and American accents in an effort to impress the youths that they are up to date and know what’s up.
I confronted a radio presenter friend recently, after I heard him open his sports show and close it without a single Nigerian story, and his reply was instructive. According to him, the management of the radio station is targeting the youths and their observation is that the youth are not interested in Nigerian stories, but are only interested in European football leagues and other foreign sports news.
To say I was shocked would be putting it mildly. But there it is, watch most television stations in the country and listen to the radio as well; all you hear is news about American or European celebrities, some television shows are clones of popular American programs. It’s as if there is a conspiracy to Americanize Nigerians at any cost, with the presenters fighting over whose American accent is phonier.
When the youths are inundated with the easy ostentatious lifestyles of people in America and Europe on a regular basis, there’s little wonder they become deluded that the streets of these countries are paved with gold to be plucked at will. One is even forced to ask; where is the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission NBC and other regulatory bodies, when foreign customs and lifestyles are being peddled brazenly to the detriment of our culture?
Another issue that encourages illegal migration is our attitude to those who have escaped the country. Recently, it was reported that a young Nigerian immigrant Tanitoluwa Adewumi won a chess competition in New York. The reactions of the media and several Nigerians including the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa as well as Senator Ben Murray-Bruce and many others was surprising to me.
Dabiri-Erewa had been profuse in congratulating the lad on his achievement, while Murray-Bruce had eulogized him to the heavens; the media had been awash with the reportage of the boys’ accomplishment, while many other Nigerians had sung his praises in a bid to outdo each other as to who knows how to congratulate the most!
While I have nothing against the lad and his parents, the question must be asked; are we not the same country fighting illegal migration, did we verify how this family left Nigeria and what they told the American authorities? I ask because I have been a witness to situations where Nigerians told lies, and fabricated stories against their country only so they could be granted asylum.
As a senior government official, does Abike Dabiri-Erewa realize that by congratulating Tanitoluwa, she has given credence to whatever stories his parents told the American authorities about Nigeria? By the same token, she has given tacit approval to any Nigerian seeking to escape the country by whatever means to do so, as long as one good story comes out of their escape.
I have seen Nigerians fabricate lies about being persecuted for being gay or lesbian. Some women lie that they escaped in the nick of time before their genitals were to be mutilated. These and many other fabricated stories are what some Nigerians tell to foreign governments in order to be granted asylum. In the long run, these stories come together to create the negative perception of Nigeria in the international space and we start to complain.
As a government and as a people, we must be circumspect in anything we do that could impact Nigeria’s image. By the general reaction to this issue, we have accepted that it is correct for Nigerians to be refugees abroad. The governments’ reaction also means that it has abdicated its responsibility to citizens as they are now free to escape by any means and seek asylum in foreign lands where their talents could easily be discovered.
Is it not a shame that Tanitoluwa was discovered in America where he had just been for only a few months; that means he already had the talent here at home. Does that not prove that there are millions of youths like him in our country with various skills and gifts waiting to be discovered? What has the government done about them, or is it only when you escape abroad that you get recognized? How come a Nigerian suddenly becomes more important to the nation when he escapes abroad than when he is at home?
If we want illegal migration to stop we must discourage it at every level and not apply double standards. I am not an admirer of the American President Donald Trump, but I completely share his views on migration. People must learn to stay in their countries and tackle the challenges therein; the so called developed countries achieved those positions by the efforts of their citizens who stayed home despite the challenges. Nigerians can do the same.