On this page last week, I expressed the ravaging hunger sweeping through the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. In my written thoughts, I also mentioned the maddening and sickening inability of the Nigerian government to mitigate and assuage the scourge. It is a known doctrine of life that where you find hunger, there’s anger as a corresponding response from the people. Nigerians are angry. Among other frustrating factors, they are angry because they are hungry. Nigerians are not just hungry for food; they are for good government, for a health care system that works, for liberty and freedom that are not susceptible to bruising banditry and senseless killings of the innocent, and they are for life and life more abundantly. It is an understatement that there’s palpable tension all over Nigeria! Prevalent trials and tribulations have brewed much discontentment. Too many talents and treasures have been wasted and are still wasting away. That informs why many people, the highs-and-the-mighties; the lowly and the poor are angry and finding their ways out of a nation of plenty, beaucoup resources and wealth. I was touching up on this treatise when I received the following message from a friend in Nigeria:
“Lecturers are leaving Nigeria in droves! Doctors are leaving. Lawyers are leaving. Bank professionals are leaving. Footballers and other sports professionals are leaving. But politicians are not leaving. They only go on holiday and return. Politicians are the most patriotic Nigerians.”
It is understandable when a young man after graduation from University remains unemployed for five years and later decides to seek means of livelihood outside of Nigeria. It is understandable when young and restless boys and girls surge to make adventurous moves in lands unknown. I was in my late 20s when I did same. It is understandable when a man of means who unfortunately is hunkered down by illness and sickness seeks respite abroad. But the recent daily outflow of Nigerians is different from what we have seen in the past. It should be a source of concern to everybody. Allow me to share my personal encounters with a few people in my orbit just a week ago in Nigeria.
My friend is a big name who works in the Nigerian presidency. He called me last week while I was in Nigeria requesting some information regarding how he can settle his wife and kids who will be leaving Lagos in a few months for the US. When this present regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, rounds up in May 2023, he will be joining them. I wasn’t surprised. I get similar calls frequently. But I still asked him why. He said there is so much uncertainty for his family, especially his children after he leaves office. My friend is financially comfortable. There are good but expensive schools in Nigeria. But living in Nigeria today is beyond money. It is about quality of life and bright hope for tomorrow. He was not the only one who sought counsel.
A famous anchor on a major television station, a young man I will call my son, also told me his wife and kids had already left for a Southern State in America. He confirmed that he will be out to join them toward 2023 Christmas. My brother-in-law is a medical doctor in Lagos. I was told that at any moment, he will be on his way out to the United Kingdom with his wife and kids. That will be their home for a long time.
I also heard the story of a very popular pastor in Lagos with branches all over the place who recently relocated to Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and kids. He shuttles between the US and Lagos to hold his scheduled services. Why are Nigerians, big and little, abandoning their country for the unknown? The answer is simple. Their country has abandoned them! Everybody now has to fight for himself because the government fights for nobody. Academic Staff Union of Universities has been on strike forever and the destinies of Nigerian children in school are now in the jaws of a devouring lion of failure and misgovernance.
The IMF once projected that Nigeria was on track to becoming one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020 because Nigeria is rich in treasures of the earth; and rich in milk and honey flowing across the nation. Now in 2022, the cyclone of corruption and ineptitude in leadership has scuttled that aspiration. Not too long ago, the sum of N9.759trn revenue was collected and N7.488trn distributed by the three tiers. In 2014 the sum of N10.091trn was generated and the sum of N6.058trn was shared at FAAC. During the civil belligerences of Liberia and Sierra Leone not too long ago, Nigeria had enough to commit over $3bn and hundreds of well-trained, cutting-edge soldiers to help end the scuffles in those countries. It was a success story. Today, the Nigerian military is rattled, confused, dominated and cannot hold its own against rickety and raggedy household enemies on motorbikes. What a sad story. No life is safe anywhere and everywhere. Mr President surrounds himself with bragging military brass with padded resumes and curriculum vitae. They seem not to have been tested in this manner of guerrilla warfare Nigeria fights today. They are servile, recumbent, confused, directionless and retreating from the fire-power of an invincible and indomitable hoodlum who dwells in cacodemonic and fiendish forests from where they launch assaults on innocent women and children. Terrorists are now kings. Nigeria is now boxed up in the torture chamber of terrorism and banditry. That’s why people are abandoning Nigeria.
Buhari’s government promised that one litre of fuel will be sold for N94. Government may have now reneged on the promise. They are now contemplating that same may sell for N500. Under this administrative watch, 38 million litres of oil worth about $700m is smuggled and stolen daily. In the 2022 budget, N43bn was earmarked for oil subsidy. A few months ago, Buhari requested an increase up to N4trillion. Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed later announced that the amount might be more than N6trn by the year ending. She also said that Nigeria may have not enough funds to run capital projects next fiscal year. This ugly picture of our finances will not contribute to the expected beauty of this wealthy nation. If a nation’s economy collapses, the people seek greener pastures, comfort, and happiness where they can find them.
Is there a respite to the leaving-bleeding now hitting the nation? Will things change with a new President in 2023? Nigerians can only hope and stand strong in the place of prayer. With our natural eyes, a solution to this malaise and others is a long shot.