About a fortnight ago, the Federal Government grabbed the headlines with its reported “plan” to end the mass migration of Nigerians to foreign countries.
Those who thought that the supposed initiative was coming from President Muhammadu Buhari’s office, discovered that it was the Minister of State, Science, Technology, and Innovation, Henry Ikoh, who merely called for synergy with the Digital Cooperation Organisation, DCO, for human capacity development when the organisation’s Secretary General, Deemah Yahya, paid him a routine official visit.
The problem posed by the daily mass migration of Nigerians, both young and not-so-young, has gone beyond paying it mere lip service or making routine official speeches to make it seem as if action is being taken. Our international airports are brimming with individuals and families moving out of the country to foreign lands, especially Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, many with the intent to settle there permanently or until things get better in Nigeria.
The less-privileged migrants follow illegal routes and fall into the hands of human traffickers. Many of them die in the Sahara Desert, the Mediterranean Sea, or get sold to organ traffickers or into slavery.
Even the few that manage to get into Europe mostly end up on the streets. While some become destitute, others turn to crime when legitimate work is not forthcoming due to their illegal status. Many of these people routinely get deported with tales of woe.
Nigeria’s international image has been battered. This is a country otherwise full of milk and honey but turned into an economic and security wasteland by corrupt, visionless, and incompetent leadership who hop abroad to enjoy at our expense the same things we expect them to do for us here.
What can a junior minister, who was appointed a few months ago and has about six months to leave office, really do about this menace? The Muhammadu Buhari government has spent seven and a half years in power, during which the problem worsened considerably because of economic and security challenges.
We have no choice but to hope that the new government, which will take office in May next year, will solve the problem from the ground up. If Nigerians feel safer in their own country, they will likely stay back. If the economic, educational, and health systems improve and gainful employment opportunities open up, most Nigerians will prefer to stay back and build their nation.
Nigeria’s human and natural endowments are the envy of other countries. All it requires is for us to vote wisely next year. The coming elections will put the ball in the court of the people to elect leaders who can actualise the Nigerian possibility. With adequate support, a good leader can quickly reverse the ugly situation.