Nothing To Celebrate At 61, Poverty, Insecurity, Poor Leadership Still Thrive – Nigerians In Diaspora
Percy Ani feels the pulse of some compatriots living abroad as Nigeria attains 61 years of independence on October 1
In the 2000 hit movie ‘The Patriot’, Captain Benjamin Martin, acted by Mel Gibson, together with a band of ragtag disgruntled American soldiers fight to avenge the loss of property and loved ones and also reclaim their country from the control of the British Army. The men were willing to lay down their lives to defend the honour of their nation notwithstanding the strength of their opponent.
Though a movie, many citizens in several countries are willing to go the whole hog to see their countries prosper. This could, perhaps, be the situation for many Nigerians but for inept leadership and cycle of frustration and despair that continually stare them in the face even after 61 years of gaining independence from the British. It’s so bad that many of them see no reason to celebrate the independence which was hard-earned by the nationalists.
A Nigerian who is in the United States of America, Ebuka Okoro, said he went through a tough time after university education to get a job.
“I had great hopes after graduating from the university. But four years afterwards, the only reality that stared me in the face each morning was the one of packing sachet water into bags and hanging on a moving truck to supply to customers, to make ends meet.”
He stated that his mother sold many things to ensure he completed university education and supported his travel plans.
Dissatisfaction amid migration
Every year, dissatisfied with the socio-economic conditions of the country, along with high unemployment rates and worsening insecurity, many Nigerians voluntarily migrate out of the country.
An Afrobarometer poll from 2018 found that one in three Nigerians wants to move outside the country. This is especially so among younger, more educated males, who typically leave in search of employment opportunities within and outside the continent, travelling to the Middle East, Europe, America, and Asia.
Far away from home
Okoro stated that selling his family land to finance his travel plans was probably the hardest thing he ever did in his life as it was all that his father left for the family before his demise.
“Two years down the line and I can’t begin to list all the achievements coming to the US have provided for my family and me. My mother no longer has to queue for my father’s pension that never comes nor does she need to do strenuous jobs because, with the little work I do here, I can send money back home to my family that provides them with a comfortable life,” he stated.
He noted that the poor attention the government paid to citizens was one of the reasons many Nigerians were fleeing the country to other parts of the world.
Okoro said, “Isn’t it ironic that all the achievements Nigeria gained pre-independence has all been lost post-independence? Education, unity and hope have gone down the drain in recent years.
“In almost every American city I’ve been to, I always encountered clusters of Nigerians who moved to this country in the last few years. Many of them are professionals who should be helping Nigeria grow. But they are in developed countries working to develop an already developed country, while some, since they can’t get professional jobs, settle for blue-collar ones.
“Every year, Nigeria celebrates its independence, but six decades after independence, it’s only our leaders and their cronies that have benefited from it. I remember participating in march parades while in primary and secondary school to mark Nigeria’s independence. With hindsight, I think the ceremonies were unnecessary. What were we celebrating back then? Was it the incessant school strikes or the pervading poverty that choked the average Nigerian even in the face of abundance? I will only celebrate Nigeria’s independence when Nigerians are finally free from the clutches of bad governance and wicked politicians.”
Like Okoro, many other Nigerians, frustrated by their limited chances, had left the shores of the country in search of better opportunities. They also wondered about the importance of the Independence Day celebration. One of them is Ahmed Oyenusi, a Nigerian, resident in America.
Oyenusi said he left Nigeria with a student visa and since he couldn’t afford the fees of the graduate school, on getting to the US, he decided to work for a while to raise enough money to further his education.
He said, “I used to have so much hope while growing up in Nigeria. I envisaged that I only needed to work hard and in no time, I would have a job and raise a family close to my parents. But a graduate and master’s degrees afterwards, I was disappointed. After searching for a job for almost two years after completing master’s programme, I was forced to settle for a contract job in one of the commercial banks but after a merger with another bank, some other workers and me were sacked.’’
He added that eventually, he had to forge ahead and applied for graduate school in the US. Oyenusi said. “Though I knew I couldn’t afford the fees for the school I applied to, I just wanted to leave the country. I had had enough of wasting my physical and mental energy trying to make an honest living in Nigeria. The reward for hard work in Nigeria is unreasonable stifling government policies. I currently work in a construction firm in the US and with the money I make; I’ve been able to build a life for myself and my family back home in Nigeria.”
Oyenusi added, “For the teeming Nigerians like myself, forced to leave the country because of the uncomfortable situation in Nigeria, there is nothing to celebrate on October 1. I don’t even believe any Nigerian should be celebrating Independence Day. What’s there to celebrate? Is it security, healthcare, education, or economic growth? Maybe shunning all forms of the Independence Day celebration might show our leaders the level of displeasure we feel.
In her contribution, a nursing graduate from the University of Benin, Edo State, Osato Phillips, said he always dreamt of becoming a nurse. After graduation, she said she was lucky to get a job at a government hospital, hopeful that she was on the path to finally fulfilling her long-held dreams.
She said, “A few years of working in Nigeria as a nurse; the horrible working conditions, lack of modern medical facilities disillusioned me. All these were further compounded by a meagre salary that was irregular and one that we had to embark on strikes before we could get paid.
“Eventually, my parents encouraged me to apply to leave the country as they had heard that nurses were better paid and treated in foreign countries.”
Philips said her parents took a loan from a cooperative society they belonged to finance the preparations for her moving to the UK. She said within six months, she had finalised the plans to move abroad to practice.
Philips noted that on getting to the UK, she was shocked at the number of Nigerian nurses and doctors she met even in the hospital she got employment.
She added, “The Nigerian doctors and nurses are highly trained and qualified but because they were poorly remunerated back home, they have to leave Nigeria for a better life. Ironically, these doctors are the same ones Nigerian politicians run to when they come to the UK for treatment and their periodic checkups. It is shameful that an independent nation after 61 years cannot properly take care of its medical personnel. It is even more shameful that most medical facilities in Nigeria are decrepit and lack the facilities to cater adequately to its teeming population. I came to this country before the start of the Coronavirus and the National Health Service in the UK has catered for almost all my needs. My salary is always on time.”
Philips added that some Nigerians in the UK were planning to hold an event to mark Independence Day, noting that they seemed quite excited about it.
She said, “I guess this is so because they now live far away from the disappointment that Nigeria is to its citizens. For me, these memories are still too fresh and I see nothing worthy to celebrate. I will celebrate when my country is better and provides equal opportunities for everyone. I will celebrate when it is no longer considered normal for innocent Nigerians to be slaughtered in their homes or while going about their business.”
On his part, a Nigerian based in Ukraine, Promise Udenwa, said if Nigeria was comfortable enough for its citizens, no Nigerian would ever choose to go to a poor European country to school or earn a living.
For Udenwa, moving to Ukraine a few months ago was a culmination of many events he experienced while in Nigeria. He said since he had dreadlocks and tattoos, each time he was out on the streets of Lagos, he ran the risk of being harassed by the now-disbanded State Anti-Robbery Squad operatives.
He said, “I have been arrested more than three times and asked to make online cash transfers to the cops at gunpoint. This was why during the #EndSARS protest, I participated fully because I was a victim of their brutal actions as well. I joined the protest because I felt I was fighting for the soul of my country.’’
Udenwa said after the outcome of the #EndSARS he made up his mind to leave Nigeria through any legal means, adding that when the opportunity to travel to Ukraine became available, he jumped at the offer.
He said, “If Nigeria is not too harsh on its citizens, why would any Nigerian travel to a country with a poor economy and limited opportunities to escape Nigeria? I don’t reckon I’ll have any reason to participate in the Independence Day of Nigeria. What is the purpose of us claiming to be an independent nation when those who rule us are bad?”
In his contribution, Bolaji Olumide, who lives in Woolwich, southeast London, said he had yet to see why the country would continue to celebrate independence amid hunger and poor economy.
He urged the leaders to work hard to inspire hope to justify the celebration of the independence anniversary every October 1.
Olumide said, “At 61, there is nothing to celebrate and the leaders should know that they have to do enough to make the people happy. A country to me is really not a place of one’s birth but where one is able to maximise potential and achieve purpose. For now, Nigeria is not that for many Nigerians. There is no reason yet to celebrate independence anniversary.’’
On his part, another Nigerian who lives in Dublin, Ireland, identified only as Sylvester, said he would not know why Nigeria’s leaders continue to celebrate what he described as ‘failures’ every October 1 when it was glaring that many things were not working.
He stated, “I am a psychiatrist and I left Nigeria some years ago when it was glaring that despair was all I saw. Health, education, economy and many other sectors were and still in turmoil when I left. The only people who see hope in Nigeria at 61 are politicians who continue to use power and position to manipulate and enrich themselves. Celebrating the independence anniversary every October 1 to me is a waste of time. The government will need to tackle unemployment, insecurity and terrorism among many other challenges before they can boast of sterling performances because the country is currently in a terrible shape.’’
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