By Hassan Ahmad
The term “Japa” is slang used by Nigerians to refer to the continuous exodus of young Nigerians to the developed countries in search of greener pastures with the intent of not returning home. Japa is widely accepted in southern Nigeria, with many youths leaving Nigeria in the last decade. The justification for this mass departure is not farfetched. They include unemployment, insecurities, incessant strike actions by university teachers enabled by the government and other social problems cumulatively, among others. But on the other hand, the direct opposites of these push factors are the pull factors that also encourage it.
The southern region of Nigeria housed the larger percentage of industries available in this country, with a better literacy rate and a better standard of living.
However, in the North, the story is by far worse. Topping the list is insecurities from the Boko Haram ravaged northeast to the bandits’ taking over of northwestern villages and the ethno-religious conflicts in the north-central states. Don’t forget farmer-herders’ conflicts, too.
Aside from insecurity, the poverty rate in the North is alarming – constituting 86 per cent as of 2021. In addition, illiteracy is prevalent, and there is high existence of unemployment as well as under-employment.
From the above, we’ll understand that northern youths have more reasons to Japa and never look back, but that has not been the case. This can be understood to play out this way for obvious reasons: deep kinship relationship, lack of understanding of the evolving nature of the 21st century, fear of the unknown, ill contentment and others.
The underlying issue is that it’ll no longer take long before the northern youths follow the footsteps of their southern counterparts and get fed up with Nigeria, and look beyond the seas and deserts to better their lives. Oh! It has started already. Thousands of youths are already risking their lives through the Sahara desert with the hope of reaching Europe or the Middle East. Many others who were chanced to have acquired scholarships overseas ended up staying in those countries to pursue a living. This creates two scenarios.
While the educated northern youths get out of the country legally through scholarships and fellowship, the less educated and uneducated look for their ways illegally and, in most cases, lose their lives or ending as sex slaves. We lose our best brains to the developed world while losing our uneducated ones who can alternatively be a source of labour to the graves. This means that the youths who are supposed to carry the northern and Nigerian dream (if there is any) are giving up already.
Where is the Northern Governors Forum? Have they provided a roadmap for the development of the North, how to tackle insecurity, unemployment, poverty or even improve education?
Or the Forum is meant for negotiating power between the ruling elites? So why must it be far away Lagos that’ll have the foresight to partner with Kebbi in producing Lake-rice? Why not Kaduna, Kano or Nasarawa?
Why is the same Forum quiet while their young people are out of school for an avoidable strike? North is the most hit by the ASUU strike because 90% or more of her students depend on public universities for their education. Is this too hard for the governors to understand? Have they ever intervened?
Northern leaders should rise to their responsibilities before it’s too late. The outside world is open to all but cannot afford to embrace us all. So it is either they make the North a home for the younger ones, or we look for another home. There is no sense in sticking to the parents that humiliate you all your life.
As things are, if there is an opportunity, let’s Japa too, legally.
Hassan Ahmad Usman writes from Lafia, Nasarawa State, Nigeria. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.