It sounds very much like an apocryphal tale. But it is true that the joke is once again on the Nigerian society. What I am saying is that Nigeria is constantly losing batches of experts to the larger world. Thousands of highly trained medical doctors and other professionals are daily departing these shores for greener pastures abroad. Even those who summoned the courage to return back home during the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan are heading back abroad.
They are going to join millions of talented Nigerian intellectuals, academics and professionals, who had been driven out of our land by the harsh realities of our current existence. It is not a matter of profound argument or intellectual debate to say that the death of the Nigerian middle class due to equivocation and compromise has long been awaited. Yet, implicit in the very meaning of compromise as a means of harmonizing the best features of opposing values is an element of tension. And it is this unwearied straining after the ideal within the actual rather than any lame begging of issues that imparts so devastating a tone on the social life of our dying middle class. Check our various passport offices, consular offices of other countries in Nigeria and international airports to confirm this. The exodus of Nigerians to other lands in the past six months is frightening. It sends shivers down the spines of most of us who don’t have money to move our families to our villages not to talk of traveling abroad.
In fact, it takes a thorough grounding and deep reflection on our belligerent and turbulent social system to appreciate the interplay of the social forces that impinge on the growth of the Nigerian educated elite. But the situation now exerts a critical immediacy and honest evaluation. “We cannot pretend that the profound implication of the exodus of members of the Nigerian middle class to foreign lands have been intellectually confronted except in pious lamentations and official platitudes.
For instance, the Ibrahim Babangida task force on brain-drain was another comic relief constituted in 1988 only to signal the official recognition of the menace.” Professor Ibidapo Obe who headed the committee even attempted to bamboozle Nigerians into believing that brain drain was a good thing. Whereas, according to Professor Adebayo Williams, the inimitable critic and essayist, “nothing can be more excruciating than the pain of having to abandon one’s patriotic post at a time when national events demand scrutiny and vigilance, yet to remain in Nigeria is to surrender your life to grinding poverty and penal servitude or even death. Hence the compelling need to choose between dying in abject poverty and negating your patriotic obligation by checking out”. Consequently, in 1986, the first batch of Nigerian experts, having felt the suffocation occasioned by a wanton reduction of their wages to mere pittance as a result of the senseless devaluation of the naira, fled to the United States, Saudi Arabia and other Asian Tigers for survival.
It was indeed precipitated by a fall-out of the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, a right-wing economic policy dictated, during the Ibrahim Babangida military dictatorship, by the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Bank. Between 1985 and 1988, three years into Babangida’s regime, 260 specialist doctors had fled Nigeria to the United States, Britain, Western Europe and the Gulf region of the Middle East. Presently, three-quarters of our pilots and aeronautic and flight engineers have fled the country and only ten out of our 60 orthopedic surgeons are in the country.
Of the 10 million Nigerians who are said to be living outside our shores, 7.5 million are highly skilled experts. During the yearly United States Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery, an estimated 3 million Nigerians competed for the 4000 visas allocated to the country. Also, thousands of Nigerians are daily stranded in Morocco and Algeria while others are dying in the hands of wild animals and starvation in an attempt to trek across the desert to Spain. Even though it was revealed recently that about 2 million Nigerians reside in the United Kingdom, the emigration still persists. With a take-home salary that virtually cannot take him home, the average Nigerian middle class man, with his chains of academic degrees can no longer afford the commonest house-hold property like brand new sound systems, fridges, washing machines, cookers, etcetera, not to talk of buying new cars. Most Nigerians are now economic and political refugees seeking asylum in countries to which they flee.
Now, with persistent kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killings, cascading militia uprising and drumbeats of war echoing all over the country, how many would like to stay and die like a rat? To say therefore that we should remain silent while our beloved country is bereft of men and women of great and uncommon ability, who cultivate knowledge with such remarkable zeal, is to admit the absurd. Of course, the military who brought us to this collective state of arrested development had always hinged their claim to power on the failure of politicians to make life meaningful to the people. Yet, since the past 55 years of our political independence (29 of which have been under, military rule), no unified political solution has been proffered to mitigate the social injustices inflicted on the middle and lower classes by our shameless and sadistic ruling class.
It is most unfortunate that the focal points of our national life do not have noble embodiments. For instance, how on earth can we rationalize the drift into the abyss which the country is currently experiencing even under a democracy? It is now safe to say that in terms of the essential needs of the average Nigerian, the Buhari administration has made the military era look like Eldorado. How can one believe that our currency now exchanges N400 to the dollar from N165 to the dollar as of May 2015? Public infrastructure and improvement in the people’s standard of living have been fleeting passages in this government’s programmes. Our highways are now very empty because Nigerians can no longer afford to buy fuel to power their cars.
Nigerians must extricate themselves from a condition of helpless impotence in the face of overwhelming power show by incompetent politicians. This is the time for us to defend liberty and the advancement of democracy – not in the framework of mass exit to foreign lands, but in the fiery glare of a dramatic confrontation with the forces of retrogression ravaging as a cankerworm in our country. There must be that humanitarian desire for a nation in which poverty, injustice and misery must be eliminated. To advance as a model nation, we must develop a faith in mankind based on belief in man’s dignity and innate desires given education and the right economic conditions to help his fellow man.
We must stay back to salvage this country together.