By Jerome-Mario Utomi
I recall writing on August 2017, on the topic; Nigerian youth; celebrated abroad, despised at home, where I among other remarks stated that; a good number of talented Nigeria youths occupy enviable positions at the global stage; But back at home, these youths of ours are, by no fault of theirs, helplessly relegated to, and made to watch the socioeconomic and political affairs of their nation from the political gallery.
Submitting that government’s insensitivity to the plights of Nigerians and lopsided architecture of our political theatre and onslaught against the youths explain why the country is ‘losing’ her youths-those that will provide to countries such as the United States of America(USA), Canada and South Africa. And cautioned that if not arrested may sooner than later, that effect will be costly in human and socioeconomic terms.
Such prophesy has since become a word made flesh now and now dwells among us.
Going by the account of the recently organized resentment by South Africans which has resulted in the killing of over hundreds of Nigerians, and other Africans, one may be tempted to ring appreciation about the development. But a peep into Mahatha K. Gandhi’s account of the excruciating pains Indians passed through in the hands of the South Africans way back in 1888; it will not only expose South Africa as a country that is not suitable for self-respecting Nigerians but bring a fundamental change and a shift in the way we perceive the country.
In the Orange Free State, South Africa, the Indians were deprived of all their rights by a special law enacted in 1888 or even earlier. If they (Indians) choose to stay there, they could do so only to serve as waiters in hotels or to pursue some other of such menial callings. The traders were driven away with nominal compensation. They made representations and petitions but in vain. A very stringent enactment was passed in the Transvaal in 1885. All Indians were made to pay a poll tax as a fee for entering into the Transvaal.They were not allowed to own land except in locations set apart for them and in practice, even that was not to be ownership’.
Though some may say that the above account reflects the colonial days in South Africa, whatever the true position may be, the event of the past days has revealed that nothing has changed, or that South Africans may afterwards, be more wicked now than the colonial day.
The wickedness of the South Africans apart, why I, like every Nigerians of goodwill are feeling very worried over the development is that the source of the problem has since been identified and understood. Without any shadow of the doubt, Nigerian government set the stage for what her citizens are currently passing through in South Africa and in other parts of the world through formulation of policies and programmes that perpetuate poverty, consolidates unemployment and powerlessness among Nigerians. And as a consequence, forced many migrate to countries such as South Africa, Saudi Arabia, China where many are daily killed while others are languishing in prisons serving different jail terms.
Supporting the above claim about unemployment in Nigeria is the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment and underemployment index which states that youths form a chunk of people affected by unemployment/underemployment in Nigeria,
Certainly, the irony of this narrative is that from the body language of South Africans, things appear to have fallen apart for Nigerians in the country; difficulties lie ahead of the majority and Exodus may be a kind of fit conclusion.
But the question is; if Nigerians in South Africa decides to move, where will they migrate to? Back to the country that failed them in their period of need; and when the factor that made them migrate to South Africa are still alive and active on our shoes? Or will they still try their luck in another strange land?
Though it was in the news that countries such as Rwanda, Congo DR, Malawi and of course Nigeria have pulled out of the World Economic Forum (WEF) scheduled to hold in South Africa in protest for the ongoing xenophobic attacks- a move I consider a right step taken in the right direction. As South Africa by the current event has not only proved to be a bad neighbour but demonstrated the poverty of history by their failure to remember the role Nigeria and other African countries played during their trying moments.
In the same line of the argument, the South African government in my views is not stepping up, the police are corrupt, and institutions like Home Affairs are dysfunctional. But why I will again not appreciably blame the country is that if the enormous resources Nigeria is blessed with were well managed, our people would not have embraced South Africa as a place of economic refuge.
In my views, a reprisal attack by Nigerians via destruction of South African owned business offices in the country may not be the solution. It’s not South Africa but our leaders that is our major problem as a nation. Our challenge goes beyond the present happening in South Africa. The truth is that South Africa challenge may exist in ‘overt and glaring forms but the greater challenge posed by bad leadership exist in a hidden and subtle manner.
I believe very strongly that what the youths both home and abroad are facing is not a question of luck or fate but of attitude and method. While the youth have failed to ask questions or make a demand from their government, the leaders on their part have continued to implement policies that promote poverty but presents Nigerians and youths in particular as endangered species.
If we can still remember, globally, the main purpose of government is to guarantee a well-ordered society, ensuring that every citizen enjoys freedom to the maximum. But how can we enjoy freedom to the maximum, in a country where leaders not only shy away from responsibility but allow our nation become a breakdown of civil societies with guns, drugs, violent crimes and vulgar public behaviours.
Why can’t the youth run away from the country when idleness has become the culture of the youths as the government has no programme for them and unemployment frustrating many of them? Why can’t Nigerians run out of the country when the destruction of lives and farmlands by men suspected to be Fulani herdsmen in the south-east, north-central and south-west have continued unabated.
What about the south-south region were the farmlands of the people of the Niger Delta have continuously been polluted? And the people stoically endure socioeconomic, infrastructural injustices in the hands of successive governments.
Why will the youths from the Niger Delta region not run to South Africa to die in the hands of foreigners than dying here at home in the hands of a government that was supposed to, but failed to protect them? Why will Nigerians abroad come back to meet with the government that is neither interested nor ready to facilitate the discovery of solutions to; what impedes the development of the country or find a solution to why the country is not moving forward.
Instead of the government doing the above or giving the youths work and insisting that they work for bread, they give them alms.
In the same token, for a nation to make progress it must depend on the strength and influence of the family, hard work, and respect for elders and love for scholarship and learning to keep society orderly as these values make for a productive people and help economic growth. But what becomes the fate of a country like ours where value system which used to be sound has gradually been eroded and people no longer have value for hard work and honesty. This situation is further nourished by the prevailing harsh economic situation in the country, a state of depression (or is it a recession) that has been designed by yet to be established, architects. The country no doubt is currently a direct opposite of what it used to be.
All these are happening because our nation has unfortunately been blessed with a huge number of ‘coercive’ and selfish leaders as against truly ‘democratic, pacesetting and coaching’ leaders.