Sunday, August 1, 2021 4:23 pm
By Jide Ololajulo
My wife and I often share a lot on our childhood, and such reminiscences are tools for imagining contemporary social issues or estimating the progress made by our country in its journey to nationhood. In one of her stories, she told me of how a huge and rounded calabash fruit that served as seat for everyone in the family compound suddenly disappeared, only for one of the uncles to later own up removing it.
The missing calabash, from the story, was originally placed in the compound by the uncle as a core ritual item he required to symbolically ‘buy an abode’ for her daughters in their marriages. The caring father was never going to allow the daughters experience the instability and capriciousness that characterise marriages nowadays. Interestingly, my wife was of the opinion that the ritual actually worked because the man’s daughters thrived in their respective marriages.
Like my wife’s uncle, many middle-class parents are buying for their children, abodes in the western world. They take loans from banks and cooperative societies and sell some of their valued properties to finance the trips of their children out of the country. Even civil servants, with their meagre salaries, have devised means of raping the system to fund the education of their wards in western countries.
I have carefully studied the motivation, the rationale behind the resolve of parents to ship their children out of here. Certainly, it is no longer about the prestige of western certification or the political economy of ‘being-to-ism’. The truth is that when we send them out to school abroad either at undergrad or graduate level, we expect them to find a path to permanent residency during their studies. We want them to stay far from the maddening crowd, which is our country. It is the only outcome that can justify the humongous school fees we pay to have them educated in Europe and in North America. Even the authorities of the preferred destinations are aware of the underlying motives of our educational tourism and are making Nigerians to literally buy these abodes.
But can anyone really be blamed for jumping ship under current strivings, turbulences and uninspiring leadership? Simply, no one seems to trust the project Nigeria to work; not even the drivers! Nowadays, the best among us are those that have emigrated or are unencumbered by the hitches and intricacies of visa application. While many middle-class parents see themselves as already ensnared and are prepared to absorb whatever the country throws at them, they would nonetheless prefer that their children experience a better society in their own lifetime.
Let us not make mistake about it! Nigerians who seek life outside the country are not less patriotic. They love the country and desire that it works for everyone. I understand this, having found myself in similar position in the past. Ironically, the political class has never given the ordinary man any reason to believe that a better Nigeria is possible. Even when they urge young people not to ‘port’ from the country like Governor Fayemi did sermonise a couple of months ago, the habits of keeping their own children abroad easily expose their hypocritical stances.
Unfortunately, as the elite are busy buying abodes for themselves and children outside of the shore of the country, the Nigerian poor are being tossed around by the tempestuous wave of an unsavoury marriage. The matrimony is indeed troubled and the home no longer habitable. Trust is lost but people say the union can yet be salvaged. Poor Nigerians! Their leaders never safeguarded the future for them. Quite unlike my wife’s uncle who fortified his daughters, these leaders never bothered if Nigerians became destitute; if they were serially abused by their partners; and if they had to constantly change homes. All that they bothered about was primitive accumulation!
Is it not disheartening seeing young Nigerians post on the social media messages such as “We die here” to express their frustration with a system that has made them so vulnerable? Sadly, the cliché, rather than communicate the resolve of a people engaged in out-and-out fight to reclaim their humanity, awkwardly connects to a notion of helplessness, resignation and fatalism. But how much is being done to assure these young people that they won’t die here but live here? In truth, they don’t want to die here. Many of them are engaged in the struggle to buy abodes for themselves abroad. Some patronise dating sites to try their luck while those that graduated from the university with good grades comb the internet for scholarship opportunities abroad. The few that secure travel visas thank their stars and relish the opportunity they have to exude their potentials elsewhere.
I think it should be a thing of worry for our leaders that many Nigerians feel safer and fulfilled outside the country. Come to think of it, can there be any better way of illustrating state failure than the realisation that citizens prefer to live abroad with the challenges posed by racial discrimination and xenophobia than stay back home? A friend recently told me that many Nigerians will voluntarily pay their way into any ship for as long as it takes them away from the Nigerian shore. It is that bad!
But it is never too late, I think what Mr President needs do as a matter of urgency is to commence a process of buying abodes here in Nigeria for the class of Nigerians who have no parents to buy them abodes abroad. It is never too late to prepare that essential rite that will offer the ordinary Nigerian protection from the daily cases of kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery, and ritual killing; the rite that will make jobs available and with decent pay to conquer privation, the rite that will guarantee provision of essential physical and social infrastructure, and the rite that will give everyone the assurance of equal access to resources of the state. Nigerians need that rite that will make them see the advantages that abound in being Nigerians!
Dr Jide Ololajulo writes from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Ibadan