According to a World Bank survey, 50% of Nigerian youths want to leave the country. This is the third highest figure compared with other West African countries. You could just be scrolling through Instagram, and you notice that about five of your friends or acquaintances have left Nigeria. In their caption they’re all “thanking God for seeing them through” and taking them out of Nigeria!
Apparently, the belief of many Nigerian youths is that their breakthrough is to japa. We have heard all the arguments about why it makes sense to leave. Less discussed are the arguments for staying in Nigeria. What arguments, you say?
We decided to explore reasons why you may Choose to Stay. To do this, first, we carried out an activity on social media to commemorate Nigeria’s Independence Day 2022. We reached out to some Nigerians home and abroad to share their opinion on two key questions. For Nigerians abroad, the question was “What do you miss about Nigeria?” And for Nigerians living in Nigeria (who have the means to japa but have chosen to stay), the question was “Why do you choose to stay?”
To further understand the reasons why most Nigerians may or may not choose to stay, we hosted a Twitter space on November 10, 2022 where Nigerians from different walks of life shared their take on the japa narrative. We did this to encourage Nigerians- home and abroad to believe in and work towards making Nigeria a home indeed.
We have summarized the most interesting arguments advanced by the varied Participants from the Independence Day activity and Twitter space.
We complain of a rotten system, but we do everything to leave. Truth is, we cannot all leave. Our parents, siblings, cousins, and friends will remain and will still have to deal with the underfunded schools, crumbling highways, and dodgy hospitals. The spectre of a broken Nigeria will haunt all Nigerians, wherever they choose to resettle.
For those who have left and those who plan to, think of ways to remain connected and to contribute to the country’s socio-economic development. According to Oluseye Seton, “If people from other countries can visualize and build wealth in Nigeria, why can’t we? The Nigeria that we want cannot be built by others.”
Nigeria has a good market for business. This is why in 2020, there were 3,300 start-ups in Nigeria, the highest in Africa. Half of these startups are fintechs which generated an estimated revenue of between $4bn and $6bn in the same year. In 2021, these Nigerian startups raised $1.7billion of the $2.9billion raised by Africa-based tech startups.
The business environment is indeed challenging, but the opportunities exist. It’s no wonder Kubi Igwe has been able to run her fashion business successfully. This and “the sense of ownership in dealing with the Nigerian ‘problem’ are some of the reasons why she chose to stay.”
According to Toyin Owolabi, “one great way Nigerians in the diaspora can still be actively engaged in Nigeria would be to invest in the country through different means; as well as patronizing businesses that contribute to the economy.” There are still many sectors to be tapped- Information Technology, Agriculture, Tourism, etc. Although, the IT space has recorded a significant level of growth with the rise of tech startups, there is still so much white space that has not been addressed.
For example, even though we think of the Nigerian fintech space as being crowded, the reality is that the average Nigerian holds about half as many financial products as the average South African.
I call it the spirit of companionship. Here in Nigeria, your neighbours’ business is your business. It is what makes us look out for each other. It is why we look forward to hanging out with our friends every Friday. It is even why sometimes, Nigerians are tagged “loud” people. The Naija spirit is a happy one, it is no doubt the reason why we excel so much in entertainment.
However, as Daniel Otabor rightly said “It is also important to fix the state of the country to allow it to thrive; and even for those that are abroad to return.”
No matter where you are, there’s no place like home. Wherever you are, the food will wake your tastebuds, the music will make you buga, the jokes never stop.
In Nigeria, your presence in a boardroom does not need to be explained. Your ambition will not elicit gasps of consternation. There is no ceiling to what you can achieve.
Having said all of these; if you find yourself on the japa train, remember to support the move towards a better Nigeria. You could choose to contribute to socio-political causes and movements or to return when the time is right. And if you Choose to Stay, endeavour to join hands with those of like minds towards making Nigeria a home indeed.