By Fredrick Nwabufo
The usual victim shaming and blaming has assailed CNN’s report on African migrants – some of them Nigerians – who are being sold into slavery in Libya.
I read a potpourri of opinions on the human tragedy on social media, but I was irked by the non-lateral insult of the victims. I may condemn the action of the risk-taking voyagers, but I will not condemn them. Perhaps, I would have taken an equal risk 15 years ago. While we mock these hapless victims of an insalubrious country, we should try to know their motivation by vicarious deduction.
According to the National Population Commission (NPC), Nigeria’s population is currently 182 million. The NPC says more than half of this number is under 30 years of age.
Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education, disclosed a searing population-literacy figure in September. He said about 65 to 75 million Nigerians were illiterate – being illiterate in Nigeria means no job or opportunity. It also means you are consigned to the backwaters of existence. Let us keep this in mind.
In a report in June, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said 28.58 million Nigerians were either unemployed or under-employed as of the fourth quarter of 2016.
In May, the Investment Promotion Office of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in Nigeria said only 20 percent of small businesses survive in the country. What happens to 80 percent of small businesses? They atrophy and collapse owing to ramshackle infrastructure – no electricity, poor transportation –, no access to credit, extortion and excessive taxation.
When you put all these statistics together, you will understand why young Nigerians take that tortuous and torturous route to Europe. It is an innate fight for survival.
I may sound unpatriotic, but the truth is, life in Nigeria is Hobbesian. Besides, how do you convince a young Nigerian whose security is not guaranteed, who cannot get a job after searching for one for three years, whose business collapsed in its first year, whose future is not assured and who cannot feed to jettison the idea of walking the valley of death to Europe?
Sometimes, I tell people that if traveling to Europe was visa-free, no young Nigerian would be in the country – arguably though.
On Thursday, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) said more than 40,000 of 75,000 registered doctors were plying their trade abroad, and that 70 percent of doctors in Nigeria were considering exiting the country.
The NMA also said more than 100 doctors resigned from the University College Hospital, Ibadan this year, and that about 800 had resigned from Lagos state hospitals in the past two years. Is this not a cause for concern?
We will not shame and blame these doctors because of their elite profession which gives them considerable ease to relocate abroad, but we will do so for Nigerians who have nothing but the air they breathe.
In addition, those advancing the argument that these “victims of Nigeria’s failure” could have used the money for the risky adventure for business should know that living in Nigeria is an equal risk – nothing is guaranteed here.
As long as Nigeria remains “Nigeria” many young Nigerians will walk the dragon’s lair to get to Europe. I believe some citizens are even crossing the Mediterranean now.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist. He was the Abuja Bureau Chief of The Cable, Nigeria.