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Assessing The Brain Drain



Abba Mahmood

One of my favourite columnists is Mr. Eugene Enahoro. I personally enjoy reading him always as his articles are always very incisive, analytical and patriotic too. Recently, he wrote on the migration of Africans, particularly Nigerians, in search of greener pasture elsewhere. The article was titled: The Grass Isn’t Green on The Other Side. I hereby reproduced it below for you my dear readers. Happy reading:

Every year thousands of Nigerians abandon the country legally or otherwise, and there appears to be no end in sight. The largest overseas Nigerian communities are in the UK and USA, while significant numbers also live in South Africa, Canada, Ireland and Portugal.This exodus has been enormously costly to the nation as some of the best, brightest and most able citizens have left in a “brain drain”. For example, in the USA, Nigerians have the highest percentage of Bachelor Degree holders amongst African immigrants (2010 US Census).

Remarkably, Nigerians living overseas influence the nation’s social, political and economic development by contributing more to the economy than 34 of the 36 Nigerian states. Only Lagos and Rivers States have a GDP higher than the amount they remit annually. Regrettably this global migration, has gone hand in hand with a dramatic increase in Nigerian prostitution, drug trafficking and fraud by worldwide, leading to the stereotyping of Nigerians as criminals. In the Netherlands for example, the debate on Nigerian crime has reached an intensity described as a “moral panic”.

In Switzerland, the crime rate of young Nigerian males was reported to be 620% that of Swiss males in same age group (2009 data). The smuggling of Nigerian sex workers has become an industry which now extends from Africa to Europe, Asia and Arabia. With many Churches now described as “business centres”, and many Mosques preaching hatred, it’s no surprise that Nigerian youths have no moral compass. They are unemployed while their mates are Members of Parliament and Congress overseas. While governors fail to develop their States and instead waste money on statues of other failed leaders, and other white elephant projects, citizens queue up to leave the country in protest against the discomfort and agony they have created.

Nigerian political leaders have proved incapable of managing resources and wealth for the benefit of all. Security is abysmal leaving citizens to the mercy of all shades of crooks and miscreants. The education system is in crisis, the economy in a mess and employment opportunities few and far between. Government creates employment only for the beneficiaries to be friends or relatives of Ministers, Governors, and Senators. It’s no wonder that our youth are fed up and trying to flee in droves. Unfortunately, many of them are meeting a dreadful fate dying in either the Sahara Desert or Mediterranean Sea in the mistaken belief that “God will see them through”! The irony is that unlike the supposedly “greener pastures” they flee to, Nigeria is blessed by nature with no earthquakes, hurricanes or volcanoes, no cold winters and no natural disasters.

The current joke is that the worst disaster Nigeria suffers from is poor governance! Indisputably social amenities in Nigeria are disgraceful. The road network is in atrocious condition, electricity supply is sporadic, and hygienic tap water is a luxury. In light of this it seems absurd to expect young Nigerians with good educational qualifications, mental skills and financial capabilities to remain hopelessly in Nigeria trying to overcome frustration and lack of opportunity, rather than attempting to succeed overseas where at least they believe there is hope. Expecting youths to be patriotic is silly, when many of their mates who left, clearly got a better life abroad and don’t want to return home.

Paradoxically, Nigerian youths aren’t the most suffering youths in the world, yet few other nationals are migrating like them. Worst still, comparing to the numbers who succeed in improving their lives to those who die both inside and outside prisons overseas, it’s clear that there is a need for a rethink over the issue. Many young Nigerians who made it without dying, are stranded as a result of not having correct papers, or having papers but not being able to afford to return home.

Unsurprisingly most Nigerians have no pity for their compatriots who suffer, die or become stranded in a bid to emigrate illegally. They believe that everyone should be left to deal with the consequences of their actions. Really there is no reason to discourage Nigerians with good intentions from travelling abroad. As long as they have the right documents and a proper plan for their journey they should go. On the other hand, those with no papers or professional skills shouldn’t even consider migrating because they are unlikely to get a god job and are more likely to end up in prison or dead.

Indeed, the main reason people think that the grass looks greener on the other side is because they don’t water their own grass! Instead of running away, our politically unconscious youth need to fight to improve the system at home. Most Nigerians in diaspora are doing menial manual work. Many of them could have aspired to be first class citizens here, but will never be first class in diaspora even if they are financially successful. Besides which it really doesn’t make sense to spend $3,000 travelling to a foreign land in search of greener pastures when most of their citizens don’t have $1000 in their account!

Truthfully the worlds developed nations like USA, UK or Canada aren’t inherently better than Nigeria, they are simply better governed. President Buhari’s Change Agenda is off course. It must be fast-tracked to create jobs, wealth and homes in which citizens can live comfortably. Nigeria deserves to be a country to be reckoned with. It’s a nation with the largest population of blacks on earth, endowed with numerous natural and mineral resources, and the home of some of the most brilliant minds in the world. Other than in war torn areas, migrating to another man’s land in search of greener pastures just doesn’t make sense because all the evidence points to the fact that the grass really isn’t greener on the other side.