While growing up, it was a standing wise counsel to always remind the younger folks that wherever they went in life—”East or West”, they must always remember that “Home is the Best”.
That counsel was put to test recently when the Russian-Ukraine war broke out. Out of the estimated 4000 Nigerians who were mainly students in Ukraine, only about a little over two thousand students expressed desire to return home, regardless of the hot missiles and shells shattering everything, including human beings, in Ukraine. A few more students however changed their minds. But quite a number chose to relocate to neighbouring countries like Poland, Hungary, Romania, and just try to “rough it out”, there.
Some of them interviewed, stressed that there was no point coming back home, asking pointedly:” come back home to do what?”. Not even the pangs and ire of restiveness and outright danger are enough to make them consider returning home as an option. Quite a number who reluctantly came back home did so at the behest of their parents.
It is interesting to also note that some of the returnees have said even after the war, they will not like to go back to Ukraine.
A curious point is the number of Nigerian youths who are willing to sign up and be recruited as Ukranian soldiers to go fight the war—just so they can escape the domestic hades they are entrapped in.
Some of them have argued that joining the Ukranian forces may just be to help their own fortune, not minding if in doing so, they could encounter death. Like a swan song, they insist, as they say on street argots, “all die na die”.
The Russian-Ukrainian crisis raises quite a number of questions, chief of which is why many Nigerians youths are interested and keen on pursuing their studies in that cold block of Eastern Europe, especially those pursuing medical studies.
The answer may not be far-fetched. There is little or no guaranty on the system of education in Nigeria, especially those of the public universities. It is instructive that at the time of the Ukrainian war, all public universities in Nigeria have been on a four-week warning strike, yet again. And just when people thought the strike would be called off, it only got extended by another two months, last Monday. That means a whole semester is gone. That would be the umpteenth strike action that has the notoriety of disrupting the academic calendar and studies of Nigerian undergraduates. There is nothing else Dr Chris Ngige does as Minister of Labour and Productivity, aside negotiating with striking labour unions. If it is not ASUU, it will be Doctors or Clearing Agents, or Teachers, or Judicial workers’ Union etc. etc.
So, question is why should a student who had “escaped” that regular malaise in Nigerian universities be enthusiastic to return to it?
There is no doubting that the quality of education being dished out in Nigerian public universities to students is damn low and unassuring, yet it is worse that even that sub-standard measly quality will still not run smoothly. Very recently, a member of the House of Representatives bemoaned the lack of faith of public officers aka Nigerian Big men on the Nigerian educational system, the reason why many of them send their children to foreign schools.
How can the Ukranian returnees return to this thick darkness, complicated by unbearable heat wave? Back home, the irregular and epileptic power supply has suddenly gone comatose with yet another collapse of the national power grid. From epilepsy to stroke… so to say. The resort to use of generators has even been made more difficult with the prolonged fuel scarcity, marginally improving a in some states. With near complete absence of public supply of energy, even those who have inverters cannot charge them to get the alternative electricity they laboured to procure. Nigeria seems desperate to frustrate its citizens from all fronts. For those who have diesel-powered generators, they are sweating profusely from all pores as the cost of diesel has hit N650 per litre. How can an economy—private and industrial, that runs largely on gas, continue production at that terrible price hike? N650 per litre! Perhaps before this column gets published, the price of diesel would have hit N700 or more per litre. Those in aviation sector are already wriggling in pain with the huge cost of Jet A1. Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has issued a notice of hyper inflation. Is anyone still asking why inflation is faithfully climbing to the roof top unchecked? Everything but salaries and incomes are steadily on the rise. How can these Ukrainian returnees be excited to return to this pall of uncertainty?
In a clime where home news is perpetually bad news, how can the children return home with glee? A forthnight ago, the news broke of how a missing 22-year old Oluwabamise Ayanwole who had been declared missing after boarding a BRT bus in Lagos, was found dead with parts of her body missing. She was raped and murdered. This is the hitherto safe haven called Lagos, now hosting ritualists on parade even in government-owned facilities and services. How can such a home where this bestiality happens be the best? How good is the home where the dignity of labour has long been sacrificed on the altar of magical riches, alias Yahoo-Yahoo?
How can this kind of home be the best when kidnappers are on the prowl, hounding the rich and even the poor.
This is a home where unemployment is choking. No matter how qualified and certified you are , the jobs are just not there. A home where “connection” and not competence, is might. How can such a home be best?
In the Ukrainian system, as in most foreign schools and climes, students can school and work as a means of supporting themselves. But back home, graduates are hustling as “black market operators”, chasing motorists with kegs of petrol, just to make a few wads of Naira, a currency that is itself gasping at N570 per United States Dollar.
It is curious that the Nigerian government does not seem bothered that our critical workforce as a nation is on the “jakpa mode”— ready and eager to flee the country. Right from the days of Andrew, ‘checking out’, has never been this huge and compelling. Just go to the airport and see the volume of Nigerians—young and old, pushing to stream out of the land.
The Nigerian government issued a statement disallowing Ukraine from recruiting Nigerian youths into its fighting force. On the surface, that may seem the ideal thing to do. But does the government not know that signing up to go and fight (and probably die) in a foreign land on the side of a weaker and less equipped nation, a mark of utmost desperation? What is the alternative presented to such youths at home?
It is not lack of patriotism to speak of, or writing on, these things. They are just simply disenabling to right thinking members of the society, especially those who are not in the small circle of the ‘chopping’ crew.
This was a government that promised, in 2014/2015 to create at least three million jobs a year. If that had worked, this is the seventh year, over 21 million jobs would have been created. But rather than create jobs, millions of jobs have not only been lost, life and living has simply become tough and torturous. Even the rich are also crying.