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Japa syndrome and its reality on Nigeria

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Have you ever wondered why almost everyone in Nigeria can barely have a conversation without mentioning the word ‘japa’?

This time, it is not just about the millennials or the Gen-z’s who want to migrate to make ends meet and survive, even some baby boomers and generation X would japa if given the slightest opportunity to.

The ‘japa syndrome’ is a phenomenon where Nigerians, both young and old, are emigrating in large numbers, and ‘japa’ is a Yoruba word that means: “to flee quickly from a terrible circumstance.”

Sadly, the everyday threat of an economy that is collapsing with no hope for the average person and the desire to survive where the grass is greener are the main causes of the japa syndrome- a terrible circumstance.

According to the International Organization for Migration (UN Migration), a number of economic, regional, demographic, and other factors affect how many Nigerians decide to leave their country.

The economy of Nigeria is in a shaky and unpredictable state, and the climate for young people is becoming more oppressive. In spite of the outdated stereotype of lazy Nigerian youngsters, it is important to recognize that young Nigerians are creative, vibrant, and extraordinarily bright. They are also becoming more and more attracted to countries with more promising economic prospects.

The amount of medical professionals and students who have recently immigrated to the west has had a significant negative influence on Nigeria’s health sector and educational system, leaving one to question the country’s existing capacity in both areas.

In January 2022, the Nursing and Midwifery Council of the United Kingdom reported that in 2021, a total of 3,782 Nigeria-trained nurses were granted licences to operate in England and Scotland.

Also, not less than 5,407 Nigerian doctors currently work with the British National Health Service. In addition, the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria reported that between 2020 & 2021, Nigeria lost over 100 consultants. These statistics are greatly alarming and leave one to wonder what exactly is the state and strength of our health sector.

Doctors, nurses, architects, bankers, and other professionals have recently expressed concern about the rate at which the nation is losing its professional workforce, and it is impossible to say that the government is still unaware of the japa effect in general at this point.

Since so many people are leaving the country, it should not come as a surprise that in the next few years, our hospitals in particular won’t have any doctors or nurses available to deal with emergencies. Although we all hope for good health, ill health, too, is irrevocable. This means that we will now be subjected to the harsh reality of the effects of japa.

In a recent conversation with Success Ugo, a good friend of mine who travelled to Europe for his master’s degree, he revealed that he completed his program in less than two years and emphasised that there was no way it would have been possible in Nigeria without any breaks.

I was reminded that there is frequent conflict between ASUU and the Federal government in Nigeria, which serves as justification for incessant strikes that last for months without taking students’ needs into account.

The Nigerian educational system, he claimed, “is in a shambles because it is not given priority by the government and its administration. Thus, it solely prioritises its political problems over the educational system.” Deep!

The Association of Nigerian Students in Europe said that more than three million Nigerians are enrolled in various educational institutions in Europe alone as of July 2022. According to a survey, 89.87% of Nigerian teenagers want to attend a university outside their home country.

Imagine if 89.87% of students and 60% of doctors want to japa—that is, they want to leave the country!

Heart-wrenchingly, emigration has resulted in the loss of a number of deserving talents among Nigerian professionals. 12,595 Nigerians moved to Canada in 2019, according to information made public by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). According to the IRCC data trend, from 2015 to 2019, the number of Nigerians moving to Canada increased steadily, from 4,000 to 12,595 individuals.

In another interview with a banker friend, Elizabeth Megwa, I discovered she had not been to work for a week as a result of the redesigned naira note chaos. It is no longer news because of how everyone is affected by scarcity in one or the other.

She also discussed how they are both overworked and underpaid. She claimed that prior to this, some of the IT staff left their positions to move to countries like the UK and Canada, where their abilities would be more highly valued.

Does Elizabeth also have plans to japa? Yes, but in due time.

On this note, It is horrifying to see how experts in their respective disciplines relocate, leaving their industries to suffer as a result of the broken political system.

It is unquestionably true that every young Nigerian who has left or intends to leave the nation is doing so out of desperation and the desire for a better, more peaceful future where their straightforward lives won’t be hampered by dysfunctional institutions, ineffective policies, insecurity, and poor governance. However, if everyone leaves, who will repair the system that we have all thought has failed us?

Nigeria has witnessed significant internal and external migration flows over the past few decades, according to Statista. Because of the oil boom in the 1970s, more individuals entered the country through immigration than left it.

The economic slump and political unrest, however, have led to an increase in the number of Nigerians who have left the nation and those who have plans to do so since the 1980s. The net migration rate has remained negative since that time. Simply put, this indicates that more individuals are leaving Nigeria than are coming in.

In light of this, there is a belief that Nigeria is rapidly experiencing a severe brain drain, which calls for a stronger justification for the government to change the system to provide a better standard of life so that those who stay back do not experience depression.

The japa syndrome is not new, in fact, it was a common phenomenon in the days of military rule in Nigeria. Many Nigerians travelled to the West, including the US and UK, while others ventured as far as Ukraine. The narrative has remained the same ever since.

The truth is people will still have to migrate out of Nigeria, but then, it should be of their own free will not because of the socio-economic circumstances prevalent in the country. It is therefore best that we all come to accept the japa syndrome, even as we continue to hope that the government creates an enabling environment for people to thrive.

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