It is interesting that the Japa phenomenon entered the list of activities at the on-going United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Although a sideline activity, there’s still a message in that in terms of rising or additional concern with the trend.
This time, it was the event put together by Nigeria Governors’ Wives Forum on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) – ‘New York 2023 Nigeria Economic Growth and Trade Summit’ – at the Nigeria House in New York and whose theme was “Stemming Migration Flows by Providing Basic Needs’’. It featured Senator Oluremi Tinubu, the First Lady and the wife of governors of Oyo, Ogun, Imo, Gombe, Lagos, Borno, Kogi and several others.
That’s the latest of evidence of rising concern. There are others.
Last June, the House of Representatives rejected declaring the syndrome a national emergency but, according to a Punch report of the proceedings on it, the House is worried that those leaving Nigeria are not just the poor but skilful, middle class elements such as including bankers, lecturers, health care practitioners, doctors, nurses, and trained manpower, the cadres “who would be needed to build a strong and vibrant economy in Nigeria”.
About this time in 2022, Dr Martins Uhmoibi, a former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was out there on how much of a problem the Japa phenomenon is, symbolically and practically.
The number involved is getting substantial but, above all, the notion fuelling it: the idea that there is a land flowing with milk and honey out there to which Nigerians can escape from frustrations with underdevelopment at home.
True, frustrations with underdevelopment at home is real but are there lands flowing with milk and honey out there? Surely, there are relatively more secure and functional places or countries than Nigeria but which is not the same as saying that such places are problem-free polities. There are no places that are free of problems, general and peculiar.
So, the overarching notion of escaping underdevelopment to places where there are no problems challenges the Japa syndrome.
Otherwise, nobody would be against people migrating to experience diversity or to acquire specific training or for business reasons. That would alarm no one. After all, it is not as if there will be a day when the diaspora population will not have its own contributions and benefits for all parties involved.
Seen as such, the activity of the First Ladies at UNGA has its significance. Who knows, something new could emerge from the native intelligence of members of such an informal collective to everyone’s chagrin.
The number involved makes it a worrisome commentary on Nigeria and a problem to confront through continuing conscientisation of the category of Nigerians most vulnerable to the syndrome. Nobody can say where the most practicable policy responses can come from. Those who worry enough to make it a topic of engagement could also come up with the joker.