As President Muhammadu Buhari seems nostalgic about his 20-month rule in the 1980s such that he draws inspiration from it, he will do well to recall the campaign against Nigerians emigrating in their numbers as we have started to witness.
Shortly after he became the Head of State after the ouster of the civilian government of President Shehu Shagari in 1983, Buhari’s military regime initiated a passionate campaign on why Nigerians should remain at home to salvage the country.
The major tool for this campaign was a TV commercial which had a national resonation. The commercial had the late actor, Enebeli Elebuwa, playing the role of Andrew, a man totally bent out of shape about the state of affairs in the country.
In his frustration, he made up his mind to leave the country and ventilated his determination at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, luggage packed, as follows: “Men! I’m checking out. I’m tired of no water, light, and no good roads. You can’t even find a bottle of soft drink.” Andrew would eventually repent of his cynicism and join the crowd of enthusiasts.
The only unfortunate thing is that this propaganda did not achieve much than attaining the pop status that any good artistic offering would accomplish. That it made any appreciable impression on the behaviour of the people it was meant to persuade is very doubtful.
The meagre success of this campaign and any other one that government might be fiddling with is that no amount of preachment can inspire patriotism in a people. To avoid a drain of its pool of intellectuals, a country must earn the loyalty of its people.
Social science theorists, chief of which is Abraham Maslow, have told us that the first instincts of a man relate to self-preservation and the conserving of personal dignity.
Any country which takes no interest in the survival of its people and fails to protect them from the indignity that poverty, ignorance, insecurity and sickness impose cannot demand their love.
This is more so in situations where leaders do not live by manifest examples. Leaders who hurry after self and class preservation over the good of all, leaders who do everything to preserve their own dignity without much consideration for the people stand in no good place to seek the total dedication of the citizenry.
Didn’t President Buhari, contrary to the promises he made during electioneering, fly to Europe to treat a mere ear infection earlier this year? Wouldn’t that pass for self-preservation and conservation of personal dignity? For how can it be heard that the leader of the most populous black nation in the world has become hard of hearing? So, the President helped himself!
And since we are a country where people are either too star-struck to discern or too possessed by hatred to ask the right questions, where the legislature is engrossed in an endless quest for mammon over the interest of their people, the event went without a whimper of questioning.
The big man did not think he owed anyone explanations as to why a country blessed with professionals who hold their own all over the world is unable to attend to their leader’s defective ear.
Is Nigeria short of Ear, Nose and Throat specialists? Did the official statement tell us half-truths or was this just a result of the profusion of money at the President’s disposal that medical tourism became expedient?
This is the same spirit behind the President’s brag about the capacity to enrol his children in universities abroad when the country is facing a foreign exchange drought.
Without regard to whether a President sold a property or a kidney, public officials in Nigeria should cause their children to attend school in Nigeria in solidarity with the mass of the people, who do not have houses to sell. This would also propel an improvement in standards.
These insecurities more than any other factor, explain the daily exodus of Nigerians into developed countries. This is particularly true of Canada, which has continued to ease its immigration policies to motivate foreigners to work and take permanent residence in the country.
Take the education of children. A lot of Nigerian parents have become hypertensive over the cost of the school fees. This is because the fallen standard in our public institutions compels parents to turn to private schools. And here, they cough up monies equal to the totality of the sum that I paid for my entire educational career, every term!
A friend who is an executive in a prominent company in Lagos confessed in a recent conversation that his wife and children now reside in Canada where there is assurance that his children would have quality and affordable education. And what’s more, the education of these children is going to be free at the primary and secondary levels.
The same thing goes for health care. Here, in Nigeria, life means nothing to a lot of our medical workers. Someone argued that the care-free and careless attitude of medical workers in Nigeria may be due to poor remuneration and conditions of service.
But instead of tackling the issues, government officials fly out at the drop of the hat to see doctors on the bill of the same people whose lives seep out daily from exposure to all sorts of inhumanity.
Here, we have heard of numerous cases of medical errors that have brought fatal consequences; we have seen cases in which doctors refuse to save the life of a patient unless deposit payment is made and patients losing their lives while hospital personnel wait for money.
There is the very critical problem of diagnostics, the lack of community health insurance schemes for the people, poor coverage of the National Health Insurance Scheme as well as the lack of deliberate health education for the people.
One also wonders what is happening to the National Health Act that was signed by the previous administration. Practitioners in the health sector have the confidence that this law is able to change a lot of things especially as it concerns primary health care in the rural areas where70 per cent per cent of our people live. But it is clearly not being implemented.
This is why Nigeria sits pretty in the league of countries with some of the worst health indices in the world. Check the mortality rates of women in pregnancy and children under five; check the incidence of cancer, especially the breast and cervical variants; check the rate at which malaria and cholera kill people in Nigeria and you will see the reason why our compatriots jump at any opportunity to “check out”
This is not to speak about the level of insecurity in the country, the daily occurrences of kidnappings; the increasing cases of armed robbery, the proliferation of arms in the country, the menace that herdsmen have suddenly become and the general disrespect for processes, standards and rule of law.
Put it all together with government’s obvious lack of enthusiasm in dealing with these issues and you will understand why people sell their property to raise funds and explore the chance of being part of the labour shortfalls in Canada.
Curiously, government hasn’t given any indication that it is aware of the massive migration of Nigerians. Or, is it that the administration cannot be bothered since the President was quoted on Wednesday as saying that people who have other countries to go can leave Nigeria fast.
Now, that is an unfortunate take especially at a meeting where a disgruntled part of the country was meant to bare their mind to the President.
The President must realise that the country may be losing some of its best minds to developed countries where our professionals are welcome with more quality livelihood.
What is even more tormenting is that the education of children is the main motivation for most of these emigrants. Having taken these children out, there is every chance that Nigeria would lose access to a generation of its citizens. That is not what Nigeria, a country which is at least 200 years backward, needs.
This is a loss that any country should not accept without putting up a fight, without working to increase the faith of the people in their country. This is a phenomenon that may keep Nigeria in perpetual insignificance.
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