There is this documentary showing young men from Portugal escaping the harsh economic realities in Europe and migrating to Angola and Brazil to work. As both counrties are former Portuguese colonies, Portuguese is spoken there. Thus, the migrants do not have to battle with a different language. However, the real attraction is not language, but the fact that Angola and Brazil are experiencing an economic boom.
Angola’s case is truly interesting, more of a fairytale than a true story.
Rememeber the 27-year war that erupted right from its independence in 1975 and ended in 2002, with some interludes in-between. No news bulletin in Nigeria in the 1980s and early 1990s was complete without a reference to the Jonas Savimbi-led National Union for the Total Independence of Angola in the Southern African country, or the John Garang-led Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, or a clash between the Mangosuthu Buthelezi-led Inkatha Freedom Party of South Africa with the African National Congress, or between the ANC and the brutal apartheid regime.
We used to see our “peaceful” country as a lucky one.
Now, Angola’s economy has undergone a period of transformation in recent years, moving from the disarray caused by a quarter century of civil war to being the fastest growing economy in Africa and one of the fastest in the world. In 2004, China’s Eximbank approved a $2bn line of credit to Angola. The loan is being used to rebuild Angola’s infrastructure, and has also limited the influence of the International Monetary Fund in the country.
Angola emerged from such a long-drawn war and becomes a booming economy in less than 10 years, to the extent that it would not just attract other Africans but also citizens of their colonial masters. It is both surprising and exciting.
But to us as Nigerians, it is rather depressing and somewhat embarrassing.
Remember the book, "The Anatomy of Female Power", by one of Nigeria’s most celebrated critics of the 1980s and early 1990s, a man with no surname: Prof Chinweizu. Do you know his whereabouts? Nowadays, he seems to be residing in Ghana.
Ghana? Why Ghana for such a brain like Chinweizu, and not Nigeria?
Furthermore. Where is Africa’s highest-selling author, Prof Chinua Achebe? - The United States of America. If at 82 a home-grown African icon like Achebe still resides in the US, when he should be in his home town Ogidi receiving visitors like an oracle, when will he return to Nigeria?
Prof. Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate, is home-based, but seems to be more outside Nigeria than within.
What about award-winning authors such as Ben Okri, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helon Habila and others? They are either in the UK or the US.
This brain drain is not just prevalent in the literary sector; in different sectors of the economy, our best brains – young and old – are fleeing the country, while those who left long ago have refused to return, even in their old age.
Spirits don’t build nations: human beings do.
With the drain of intellectuals and youths from Nigeria, the resultant effect is better imagined. Those who should be using their talents and energy to develop the nation are using such to the benefit of other nations.
And while those nations grow, Nigeria suffers.
In most other countries, their youths who travel to Europe or the US merely go to acquire education and skills. After a couple of years, they return home to use such to better their nations. But in the case of Nigerians, even when attempts are made to deport them, they resist deportation. And when successfully deported, they start making plans to emigrate to another nation.
Discussions with so many people who live outside Nigeria show that if not for the state of things in Nigeria, they would have no business living outside the country. They usually agree that they could go on holidays abroad but would have preferred to be resident in the country. No matter the amount of freedom and development overseas, Nigerians abroad who were born in Nigeria usually feel incomplete in their countries of residence. They usually miss the communal and family life that is available in Nigeria, the wonderful weather, the delicious cuisines and the feeling of home. When the citizens of many nations display unfriendliness and hatred to Nigerians in their country, such Nigerians usually curse those who have made Nigeria hard to live in.
For other Africans and Blacks from other parts of the world, Nigeria’s situation leaves them with a feeling of disappointment. The thinking is that if Nigeria had taken its rightful place in the comity of nations, it would have been a country other Africans and the Black race would be using to boast about the power of the Black man to build a great country. Nigeria’s success would have spurred other African and Black countries to be successful too. It would have been the type of country the United States is to the American sub-continent: a country of refuge for all manner of people.
For the rest of the world, they just can’t understand how a wealthy nation like Nigeria can be among the poorest, with her nationals swarming all over the earth like refugees from a country at war or in a terrible famine.
There is no denying the fact that if Nigeria had an enviable economy as well as administration, Europeans and Americans would be coming into Nigeria on their own accord to look for jobs. Currently, the foreigners who work in Nigeria are treated as extraordinary staff, because they are lured in with mind-boggling salaries and conditions of service, which are different from those given to their Nigerian counterparts, and they live in choice locations such that which will not be available to them in their home countries.
The return of democracy in 1999 had given high hopes to many that in a couple of years, there would be a tremendous turn-around in infrastructure, quality of leadership and administration as well as the economy such that the best and brightest of Nigerians would be in charge of affairs in all sectors and millions of Nigerians living legally or illegally in other countries would flock back home to be part of this rebuilding process. Unfortunately, those who came back in 1999 and 2000 had to go back sadly, while those who adopted the let’s-wait-and-see attitude were happy that they did not rush back home.
Die-hard bashers of President Goodluck Jonathan would readily put the whole blame on him. But it goes beyond him. He has his portion of the blame, because of his casual pace in governance. But former President Olusegun Obasanjo has a huge chunk of the blame. Here was a man who had the chance to be another Mandela. Despite his seemingly honest efforts to turn things around, he ended up personalising governance by having those he tagged “friends” (who called him Baba and kowtowed to him and therefore must never be touched), and those he tagged “enemies,” who must be dealt with brutally. The late President Umaru Yar’Adua initially sounded as if he would be different... but also ended up protecting his “friends” vigorously from prosecution in the short period he was in office. Jonathan seems to have everybody as “friends” that must be protected, except one or two isolated cases. He seems to be the perfect Mr. Conviviality, more eager not to create enemies than fix the nation.
The result is that corruption soars, the economy gasps for air, frustration and despair mount in the citizens, acts of terrorism and violent crimes sky-rocket, and those who should be the engine room of the economy flee to other countries where they hope to get a better life.
And our fatherland continues to lose.
Coutless sons and daughters of Nigeria did not die as happy people because of the status of Nigeria.
Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Mallam Aminu Kano, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mrs Margaret Ekpo, Chief Anthony Enahoro and many others, who had lofty dreams about Nigeria, were not happy that they died without realising the Nigeria of their dream.
We pray that in our lifetime we will see the Nigeria of our dream.