Yes, Canada is not just taking our young people, they are taking the fattest of our crops, the best, the brightest, and the brainiest!
One of them is my friend, Olufemi, (not real name). He graduated top of his class and best in the entire university! Nine years after graduation, he got married to his equally cerebral lawyer wife, and they both had fairly paying jobs that admitted them into the struggling middle class in Nigeria. A year after marriage, Olufemi, disillusioned by the state of his family’s finances, the situation in the country and the underutilisation of his skills, and intellect at his place of work, sold all his assets and relocated his young family to Canada!
Femi’s story is not unique, almost every young Nigerian professional who is not in the process of immigrating to Canada, knows a friend, family or colleague who has relocated or is in the process of relocating. The situation is alarming, almost like the biblical “rapture”: you come to work one day, you see your colleagues, you resume the next day, and they are gone!
I recently had a conversation with a millennial working in one of the big four audit firms; the conversation bordered on the number of young professionals leaving the country for Canada. He informed me that their firm had started a WhatsApp group for ex-staff members that had immigrated to Canada; as of the time of having that discussion about 70 Nigerian immigrants had joined the group. A similar conversation with another tax consultant also working in one of the “big four” revealed the same trend. According to him, almost all his colleagues in their audit department had immigrated to Canada or some part of Europe!
Why Canada, you may ask? Well, Canada has an immigration process carefully designed to attract highly skilled young professionals. It requires you to be of a certain age bracket (the younger you are, the more points you gain) to take a “Test of English”, send your academic transcripts, have certain amount in your bank account and Voila! you get a Canadian Permanent Residence.
The process, while seamless, is expensive for the average Nigerian, and is also a clear indication of the class of people they want: comfortable, highly educated, extremely skilled, young professionals, hence the people who go through this process are not poor by Nigerian standard.
As a young professional in this country, you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with you if you have not commenced your own immigration process. When you see your friends and colleagues resign from their jobs, sell their property, and leave the country; when you watch them upload pictures of their new countries of residence on social media and ‘brag’ about how the system works; when they inform you gleefully of how they have “secured” the future of their children, and invite you to join them, you wonder if, perhaps, you are not missing out on life opportunities for your own children!
Sir, the young people leaving the country are not unpatriotic, the reality is that Nigeria has not been kind to her youths! Furthermore, this brain drain did not start with young people nor did it start in this generation. When political and religious leaders send their children outside the country to be educated or when they seek heath care outside the shores of their country, they send a clear and uncontroverted message to our young people that they do not believe in the future of their country! Young people are therefore simply taking a cue from her leaders, yet, this mass immigration in recent times is nothing like what happened in the past: it is massive, and it is alarming! Young bright people immigrating to a foreign land is the most telling evidence of a failed leadership!
What state of affairs of a country would make its young people leave e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.ng: family, friends, some measure of certainty and in some cases extremely good jobs for a foreign country, full of uncertainties and oftentimes for less than inspiring jobs?
The current state! The reality is that the state of affairs of this country is extremely discouraging for young people! Our country is ridden with nepotism, insecurity, poor infrastructure, unemployment and a lot more, underemployment! What is more discouraging, and frightening is that nothing in the present seems to indicate that things will get better in the future!
Our health care system needs a complete overhaul, medical “facilities” are in dire state of disrepair. The doctor to patient ratio in public hospitals is shockingly poor, yet our doctors and health personnel continue to emigrate the country, because they are overworked, overwhelmed and underpaid!
A close friend and her younger sister were recently threatened with deportation, as she had remained in the United Kingdom, after her student visa expired. Her British friends started a petition online in a bid to keep her and her sister in the UK. There is a back story to all of this drama: my friend had lost two of her siblings who had medical conditions, mainly as a result of the poor health care system in the country and has a younger sister with the same medical condition who may have faced a similar fate, were it not for the excellent and timely treatment she had received in the UK. Unfortunately, her younger sister requires continuous health care which is simply not available in our country.
My friend, a brilliant lawyer and patriotic Nigeria, is compelled to appeal to the British Government to offer a right to remain, because her younger sister’s life quite literally depends on it!
Why do we subject our young people to this kind of humiliation? Why do we have to beg to remain in a foreign land? How does a developing nation recover from such massive evacuation of its human capital? And more importantly, how do we address this issue to reignite a sense of patriotism amongst our young people?
Quite frankly, I do not have the answers to all these questions.
I hear that there is a common joke in Toronto, that the best place to have a heart attack is in a taxi, because the driver is probably an immigrant doctor. The young people leaving are some of the smartest and the brightest, they know that adapting to a new society is hard, yet they still go! Many of them are skilled professionals, lawyers, doctors, architects, pharmacists, they know that they must write and pass expensive professional exams, yet, they still go! They hear about racism, about the cold, the lonely nights and outright discrimination, yet, they still go! The frustration and disappointment amongst young people are real and palpable, but, they believe the country has little to offer so they leave.
We must address this issue with the urgency it deserves, because at the end of the day, Nigeria is the only country we can truly call home! It is for this reason that many Nigerians in the Diaspora still choose to come back home! They still build property, start businesses and make investments in the country. They still give their children African names and follow the local news closely; many are even more abreast and passionate about the happenings in the country than those of us in the country. They are never truly gone; one “leg” in, the other out! and how can they, their parents, friends, colleagues and relatives are still here!
Canada’s gain is Nigeria’s loss. It is impossible to stop this trend completely, sadly, but we can discourage it by creating a more enabling environment for everyone. We would need to do this gradually, perhaps, we can start with our health care, with improved power and security of lives and property!
More importantly, young people need to sense a clear redirection in the affairs of the country; when this is done, maybe, they will remain in the country. But first, we must start! The sooner we begin, the better.