June 22, 2024

 ‘Japa’: The good, bad and ugly


Soji was full of expectations as he departed Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, in search of greener pastures abroad.

The graduate of accounting headed for the U.S. after months of complaints of poor employment opportunities and general hardship in Nigeria.

His parents had to sell some property to raise money for his travel with the hope that, soon, Soji would begin to send home dollars to take care of the family’s many needs.

Although Soji got to U.S. successfully, things did not turn out the way he expected.

He could not find a white collar job and could not secure a good accommodation.

He had do three menial jobs daily in a bid to meet up with his personal needs and his family needs in Nigeria; yet, he could not meet up with expectations.

Soji’s story is among the tales of regrets of many Nigerians who emigrated in an effort to have a better life but had their expectations crashed.

Analysts express concern that Nigerians have been relocating in large numbers in recent years.

They say that the relocation in recent years has become worrisome as many of the travellers have no intention of returning home, at least, soon, prompting many Nigerians to tag it ‘Japa’

Japa is a slang to describe the act of escaping, fleeing, or disappearing quickly from a situation, often in a hasty and urgent manner.

Analysts also note that many of the travellers are stranded financially and emotionally in their countries of residence, adding that Japa can lead to loss of cultural identity of the travellers and their children.

According to the General Overseer of Calvary Kingdom Church, Okokomaiko, Lagos State, Archbishop Joseph Ojo, there is nothing wrong in someone going elsewhere to seek greener pastures.

He recalls that in the 1960s, Nigerians travelled abroad to study, work and come back.

“Then, it was not Japa, but of late, it has become travel without the intention to come back.

“Japa trend can tamper with the identity of Nigerians born abroad for they would not be attuned to the culture and ways of Africans.

“The way out is good governance. Government or should be proactive in creating jobs, stabilising foreign exchange rate and pursuing vigorously the renewed hope agenda.

“It should look for ways of re-working the economy by way of redistribution. Good leaders, secular or spiritual, will achieve results by courageously pursuing desired goals,” he says.

The General Secretary, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Mr Lumumba Okugbawa, also argues that relocating abroad for greener pastures is not new.

“In the past, people travelled abroad to seek better opportunities not found in their countries of origin.

‘’It is not new for people to travel abroad for business, work or personal engagements.

‘However, they are leaving now because of the challenges they face, such as insecurity and lack of opportunities‘’ he says.

Okugbawa strongly believes that the way forward is for the leadership to create the enabling environment for people to remain in the country.

‘’There is need for re-orientation about migration, and the government should fix the country’s infrastructure to encourage small scale businesses to thrive,” the unionist urges.

For the Secretary-General of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, Mr Aladetan Abiodun, Japa syndrome presented a complex landscape of opportunities and challenges.

According to Abiodun, while it opens doors to prospects abroad, it also necessitates a proactive approach to prevent loss of cultural identity.

‘’By promoting cultural awareness, leveraging technology, and encouraging educational initiatives, emigrants and their children can maintain a strong connection to Nigeria.

‘’Balancing the benefits of new environments with the preservation of Nigerian heritage is essential for fostering a well-rounded and culturally-rich diaspora community, ‘’ Abiodun argues.

Mrs Omolola Akindipe, a retired civil servant, is worried that Japa syndrome will make more parents to spend their old age in loneliness and regret that they may have lost their children and grandchildren to greener pastures abroad.

She says some relocated youths get soaked in western lifestyle, challenges or workloads that they have little or no time for their parents in Nigeria.

She adds that many do not visit their parents or bring them over to spend their old age with them.

” Either their wives, husbands, children, financial challenges, lifestyles or immigration rules will make it impossible for these children to bring their parents over.

“They cannot also spend a reasonable time with their parents here in Nigeria ( if they are able to visit) for the same reasons.

” Sadly, many have lost their roots. Those who still keep in touch will still have their children lose their roots,” she says.

Evangelist Victoria Bello of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, New Song Parish, Ikotun, Idimu Road, Lagos State, is of the view that prospective emigrants and their families should count the cost.

“One’s labour to make one’s children comfortable by sending them abroad becomes futile if they lose their roots,” she says.

Mr Emmanuel Abegunde, also a retired civil servant, acknowledges that Nigeria is going through economic challenges and the situation is making many youths, especially, to seek greener pastures abroad.

He, however, advises that any decision about emigration must be well-informed and cost/benefit analysis done.

Abegunde believes that hardworking people still record meaning progress in Nigeria. “No matter what, foreign land cannot be home.”

Mr Yusuf Adeyemi, Chairman, Youths Parliament, Jakande Estate, Oke-Afa, Isolo, Lagos State, claims that some of those affected by the Japa syndrome are ‘smiling through pain’ and won’t opt for it if given another opportunity to decide.

He is worried that some spouses relocate to different countries with the hope to unite overtime but never have the opportunity.

He also notes that some men travel abroad with the hope of bringing their wives and children later, but never did.

Adeyemi warns that such situations could break marriages fast.

Mr Nnamdi Chukwu, a Nigerian who resides abroad, says many Nigerians who relocated abroad lack the confidence to share their experiences.

He says some of the experiences are sad and unexpected.

Chukwu appeals to Nigerians to stop having much expectations from their relatives abroad.

According to him, such expectations put much pressure on them and make some of them go into crime or over work themselves in an effort to meet up with the expectations.

Chukwu says it is about hard work everywhere, advising the youth to think well before going abroad to live.

He emphasises that there is hardship everywhere, expressing worry that some Nigerians abroad are not able to visit home for years due to economic hardship they face in their countries of residence.

The Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, Lagos State Chapter, Mrs Funmi Sessi, does not see anything wrong with Japa.

According to Sessi, the trend rather has some benefits to the countries of origin of the migrants.

She argues that Nigerians who travelled abroad give back to the country meaningfully.

Sessi is also convinced that they still connect with their cultural roots.

‘’Most Nigerians value family life; once people travel, they have extended family members they relate with back home.

“They still have connections to their roots; definitely they will not forget. Also, most Nigerians in diaspora arrange social gatherings and activities that keep their roots intact.

‘’One way to ensure that Nigerians keep their roots is for them to educate and train their children in their culture; some Nigerians do that when they travel,” she argues.

Sessi acknowledges that it is not always rosy when people are abroad.

“With this in mind, people who travel should know that when the chips are down, their countries of origin are where they can fall back to, ‘’ she urges.

Analyst appeal to all the three tiers of government to do more to provide security and jobs and encourage entrepreneurship to retain more youths and professionals in Nigeria.

They warn that emigration without being certain of economic survival will fuel frustration and identity crisis, among other consequences. (NANFeatures)