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Monday, July 15, 2024

Emmanuel Onwubiko: ‘JAPA’ of Meritocracy, Excellence

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Basking in the euphoria of winning a national election as leaders of the elite Nigerian medical Association, the members of the newly elected hierarchy led by their national president, visited the number two citizen of Nigeria at the Presidential Villa in Abuja to felicitate with him.

It is not clear why they made the choice of visiting the Vice president who is not a member of the medical profession nor does he have any association with that powerful body of doctors with well over 300, 000 membership drawn from all over the federation. It is also not known if their visit was to congratulate him for his soon to be ready Abuja mansion that cost the taxpayers some princely sum of N22 billion even amidst the costs of living crises.

All the same, the reading public were duly informed of this visit by doctors when the newspapers and the mass media in general, picked a human angle story out of that encounter.

The Vice President who is a former governor and former bank manager, Alhaji Kashim Shettima reportedly appealed to Nigerian doctors to resist the “Japa syndrome” and stay put in Nigeria to support the Bola Tinubu administration in its efforts to salvage the nation.

Apparently cautioning against the recent surge in a phenomenon colloquially referred to in the local Yoruba parlance as “Japa Syndrome”, Shettima did not just ask the doctors to remain in the country but to resist the temptation of absconding without flashing a ray of hope.

He told them in confidence that the government has their interest at heart, saying he (Tinubu) has a lot of empathy for medical doctors who have chosen to stay back at home despite juicy offers abroad.

Shettima spoke on Tuesday when the National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) led by its newly elected President, Prof. Bala Audu, paid him a courtesy visit at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Urging the Nigerian doctors not to despair, the Vice President specifically implored them to

“remain steadfast” and resist the temptation of offering their services in foreign lands, noting that In President Tinubu, you have an ally who will stand by you at all times.

“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has Nigerian doctors at heart. He has a lot of empathy for our medical doctors who have opted to stay put at home, not for lack of offers,” the VP emphasized.

On the challenges facing them in the country, Shettima commended the giant strides of Nigerian doctors and their sacrifices in the service of the nation, especially in repositioning healthcare delivery.

He continued: “Let us stay back and salvage this nation together, this is our country and the greatest black nation on earth, and a promising nation that we need to invest in.

“The NMA is one of the most prestigious, preeminent associations in this country. We must commend you for the sacrifices you are making and for staying put in this nation.

“All hope is not lost because Nigerian doctors are making giant strides, recording milestones in the profession and, most importantly, making tremendous sacrifices to serve this nation.”

Senator Shettima further asked the NMA to encourage young doctors to specialize in key disciplines of medical practice and also check the activities of quacks in the profession.

On his part, the NMA President, Prof Audu, said the executive members were at the Presidential Villa to show solidarity for the Tinubu administration, particularly on account of its laudable policies for the health sector.

He stated: “The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has come here today as a partner to your government and a patriotic group of Nigerians dedicated to the success of the Renewed Hope Agenda of this government and to ensure that this government delivers quality healthcare to all Nigerians.”

The NMA President assured that the body “remains patriotic to this nation and will fully support the health policies of your government to drive improvement in quality healthcare delivery and universal access to services to all Nigerians.”

It would seem that the doctors did not make any commitment not to join their colleagues that took the opportunities of better payments and the best available working environment in some developed societies to emigrate to overseas to practice their profession but ended up telling the Vice president what he actually wanted to hear including the often overused clitche or pledge to continue to be patriotic citizens.

The joke in this final pledge of patriotism is that even top members of the ruling All Progressives Congress don’t see anything unpatriotic about embarking on the japa syndrome. There is nothing wrong in emigrating overseas to work where the practitioners will have the right environment and the best facilities not forgetting the good remuneration offered them for their invaluable services to the well-being and welfare of the citizens of their host nations. Most developed democracies prioritize healthcare and often have huge budgetary provisions for the health sector. Nigeria’s health sector is grossly underfunded and the medical workers are grossly underpaid even when they work under very strenuous circumstances. So these factors make most of the young medical scholars and nurses to nurse the ambitions of going to foreign jurisdictions to work and save funds which they often send back to their families back home in Nigeria. So, japa is a great source of foreign revenues that flow into Nigeria. This is why it is almost impossible for government to try to stop it. The attempt made by the legislators at the federal House of Representatives to bar medical workers including Nurses from travelling to gove their services to better funded and better equipped medical facilities abroad is a futile one because on what legal basis will Nigeria seize the academic credentials of medical scholars who paid their ways through thr medical and Nursing schools and faculties? How can the government contemplate such illegality that would be successfully challenged in any court of competent jurisdiction?

No wonder then that one of these top politicians of the ruling party in the person of the Imo State governor Hope Uzodinma even promised that if elected for second and final term of 4 years in office as governor, that he will facilitate japa (emigration) for hundreds of youths. This promise elicited extensive applauds from the members of his audiences who were mostly youths.

As reported on September 29, 2023

Governor Hope Uzodinma had promised to assist no fewer than 4,000 interested indigenes of Imo State to relocate to Europe and Canada before the end of December of last year which was the immediate post -election season.

Uzodinma gave this pledge at a campaign rally during one of his voters mobilisations tour ahead of the November 11 governorship election in the South Eastern State of Nigeria.

The governor, addressing a jubilant crowd of mostly young Imo residents, promised to assist interested Imo indigenes who want to relocate to Europe or Canada with the relevant employable skill sets that would ease their entry and adaptation into life there.

“Let me tell you something: I have gone further to negotiate with the European Union companies and the Canadian companies,” Governor Uzodinma said. “They are sending us areas of visible skills which our youth will also learn.”

The excited youths burst into euphoria when he made the promise that “by December this year, 4,000 Imo youths will be employed in Europe.”

The governor wasn’t done with his promises, as he vowed to assist with transportation to any of the countries of their choice once they get their letter of employment.

He pledged, “Once that letter comes, the governor will pay for your air ticket.”

The overjoyed crowd couldn’t believe what they just heard as they burst into a scream of joy.

Uzodinma’s promises have been trending on X, formerly known as Twitter, with many tweets condemning the governor’s action, calling it a desperation to cling to power.

FS Yusuf, shocked by the governor’s promise, tweeted, “A governor is promising 4000 youths japa. A state governor o. No! This is the height. I’m done here!!!”

Another person, Ossy FA, who happens to be from Imo State and is disappointed with the governor’s quest to retain power, tweeted, “Man is a disgrace to us Imo people. May APC never happen to us again.”

“A man who cannot create job opportunities for his citizens in his state wants to get jobs for them in Europe; no, be Juju be that,” Panache tweeted.

Uzodinma’s video has generated more than 500k views on Twitter and will perhaps be talked about extensively on social and conventional media because he is the first governor to actively and intentionally want to grow the economies of Europe and Canada by relocating young Nigerians from Imo State to there, says the report.

The governor, who is representing the All Progressives Congress, will be contesting against Senator Samuel Anyanwu of the Peoples Democratic Party, Lincoln Ogunewe of Action Alliance, AA, and Senator Athan Achonu of the Labour Party.

If we analyse this campaign promise by the Imo state governor further, what we can decipher is that his political party does not necessarily reject the idea of japa. This is even as a recent news report gave us an idea of why not too many people will even listen to the Vice president regarding his campaign against migration for greener pastures given that the general situation of insecurity and instability have made it compelling that travelling outside of our shores has become meritorious and excellent.

Also, the fact that most wealthy Nigerians are busy buying up homes in Dubai the United Arab Emirates for their wives and children, is a clear demonstration that the politicians don’t believe in Nigeria. It would seem that these rich Nigerians know something that most of us don’t know. But one of the reputable newspapers: BusinessDay has just broken the news that about 200 Nigerian politicians and security officers have invested nearly $1 billion (N1.49 trillion) in the sprawling Dubai property market in less than two decades, BusinessDay can exclusively report.

Wives and children of politically exposed persons (PEPs), court judges and top civil servants are in the party, amassing 1,600 properties in choice locations in Dubai, which is famed as the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and capital of the Emirate of Dubai.

This investigation came to light as part of a project named ‘Dubai Unlocked,’ which is a six-month investigation into the UAE’s booming and secretive property market led by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) together with more than 70 media partners. Economy Post is the only Nigerian firm which participated in the project.

BusinessDay obtained exclusive files from Economy Post detailing all the properties owned by Nigerian PEPs, their family members, civil servants and other individuals linked with Dubai properties. The estimated value of properties owned by these Nigerian individuals in Dubai is $997.79 million.

As at 2020, only 800 properties valued at $400 million were traced to Nigerian PEPs in the UAE’s commercial capital, but this has now increased to nearly $1 billion and 1,600 properties following new revelations, according to BusinessDay painstaking calculations of assets belonging to Nigerians in Dubai.

Nigerians are the second highest foreign purchasers of Dubai properties after India, owning 1,824 real estate assets in the flourishing market, according to Dubai Land Department. By BusinessDay data analysis, PEPs, top security agents, civil servants and people connected in government with their family members own 88 percent of properties ascribed to Nigerians in Dubai.

Those amongst the politicians listed include Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former vice president, reportedly linked with a three-bedroom flat estimated at $1.23 million at Palm Tower in Dubai. His daughter, Hadiza, is also linked with a one-bedroom flat at Trade Centre Second, valued at $104,135. The 23-year-old Atiku’s daughter also owns another two-bedroom flat at Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid estimated at $289,305.75. The flat, the data shows, serves a commercial purpose.

Lateef Olasunkanmi Fagbemi, Nigeria’s chief attorney and justice minister, is linked with an $85,846 property at Al Hebiah Third. Fagbemi is a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai owns a four-bedroom flat valued at $193,084 at Al Hebiah Third. He governed the northwestern state of Kaduna for eight years. He allegedly squandered billions of public fund in many dubious contracts. The Kaduna State House of Assembly has recently indicted him of widespread corruption and protesters garhered few days back yo demand his arrest and prosecution by the EFCC.

Others are about eight properties valued at $2.28 million which are linked to Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 elections. The properties are located in choice locations such as Burj Khalifa, Al Yelayiss, Al Barsha South Fourth, and Town Square Safi 2.

Ersrwhile Senator Datti is currently not in government, but he was once a senator and member of the House of Representatives. He founded the prestigious and expensive Baze University in Abuja.

Given the danger of remaining in the country as someone without any plan B, most Nigerians have therefore opted for irregular migration even with the attendant risks, since even the politicians who benefit massively from government are also buying up homes overseas. Nigerians are prepared for the multifaceted risks that come with migration and most especially the irregular migration.

The Missing Migrants Project counts migrants who have died in the attempt to migrate to a country different from their country of residence. The count does not include the deaths occurred in immigration detention centers as well as deaths occurred after the deportation to the homeland. In addition, the project does not count the deaths of migrants occurred as a result of labor exploitation.

Deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea 2014-2024 as Published by Statista Research Department, May 24, 2024.

The report indicated that in 2023, it was estimated that 3,105 migrants died while crossings the Mediterranean Sea. As of May 2024, 880 casualties were recorded. However, the accurate number of deaths recorded in the Mediterranean Sea cannot be ascertained. Between 2014 and 2018, for instance, about 12,000 people who drowned were never found.

Casualties and missing people

Worldwide: it was estimated that 8,000 people died in the attempt to flee their country. According to estimations, over 5,000 refugees lost their lives in the attempt to reach the European shores in 2016. Therefore, the Mediterranean Sea was the deadliest migration route. Indeed, over the last couple of years, the Mediterranean Sea held the largest number of casualties and missing people.

Western, Central, and Eastern route:

According to migration studies, the Mediterranean Sea is crossed by a Western, a Central, and an Eastern route. Out of these routes, the Central Mediterranean route was the deadliest. In 2016, roughly 4,600 people lost their lives while pursuing this route. The identification of bodies is challenging due to the sea. In 2019, for instance, the vast majority of refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea were not identified and their country of origin untraceable.

Looking at the totality of the factors at play including the fact that there is really no national policy against japa, the fact that politicians of means are already making alternative homes for themselves and their children and in the face of mounting insecurity and threat of persistent instability created by the activities of armed non-state actors including terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and the apparent failure of the Federal government to find sustainable solutions to all of these negative indices of underdevelopment and threats to our national security, most people think that any risks that can be taken to successfully relocate to somewhere outside of this chaos called Nigeria, is worth embracing.

To most people, taking any risks to escape from the lawlessness and organised chaos that have combined to threaten to destroy Nigeria, is worth taking.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was national commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.

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