Recent statistics have pointed to the fact that many young Nigerians, over the past few years, have been leaving the country in alarming numbers. The search for better living conditions and an enabling environment to fulfil their dreams drives the youths to seek more financially stable economies.
It is no secret that the economic condition of the country has plunged many into poverty. Although Nigeria is rich in natural resources, its economy is unable to meet the basic needs of the populace. Alarmingly, the population continues to increase at a fast rate. The disparity between the snowballing rate of poverty and the growth of the GDP shows that distribution of wealth in Nigeria is slanted.
Thirty-two percent of households in Nigeria have testified to their economic situation worsening over the period of a year while 64% consider themselves poor. National statistics reveal that poverty is declining, but in a slow manner. Lack remains a critical challenge for the youths. Many have dreams that need to be fulfilled. Others desire to go to school. Jobs are hard to come by and businesses need financial backing to thrive. The plight of the youths is worsened by the indifference of the government.
These factors, therefore, create the mentality that life in Nigeria is not worth living. The belief is that countries outside Nigeria and Africa, in general, have better standards of living. Although, this may be true, and migration might be the answer to the financial situation of many Nigerians, there is need for the youths to be aware that a conscious and thought-out migration plan is more important.
Choice destination countries for most migrants include Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Russia, Greece and Spain. All mentioned countries already have organized and established guidelines and laws for their citizens and immigrants. This is to ensure that everyone registered legally in the system gets the basic amenities and support from the government.
In addition, it is to make certain that crime is brought to the barest minimum, ensuring the safety of everyone in the country. Their borders are open for migrants, but only via regular means. However, the bulk of Nigerians migrating into Europe do so via irregular means, with no plans as to how they would better the economy of the destination countries they plan to get into.
The mentality is to simply get in, and the rest would take care of itself. They end up being on the run from the police, struggling with decent jobs and accommodation, working twice as hard as they would in Nigeria, and finding themselves being exploited, sold into slavery by traffickers and smugglers and engaging in crime. The journey alone, via the desert and through the Mediterranean Sea, has claimed the lives of thousands and left many more in slavery and debt to traffickers.
Women are sold into prostitution while men are used for hard labor and crime. The freedom to live and work as one desires here in Nigeria is taken from them. They are then left to grapple with worse financial difficulties than they had previously had, and added hardship. Some are killed and their parts harvested for organ trade.
This is the reality of illegal Nigerian migrants on transit to Europe and even for those living there. Very few of them make it into comfortable living conditions. Very few significantly turn their situation around enough to lift others back home out of poverty. Little wonder you hear scores of stories of family members disappearing abroad and never being heard of again. You hear of many traveling and abandoning their families back here.
What then is the solution to this? How can young people be encouraged to look within themselves and their immediate environment to lift themselves out of their current struggles and to create an oasis in the middle of the desert?
The answer lies within the youths themselves. A change in government policies would go a long way, but while we wait for that, it is imperative for the youths to seek enabling environments and programs within Nigeria that can push them forward.
Certain non-governmental organizations have risen to the occasion to better the economic condition of young Nigerians via empowerment initiatives. Notable amongst them is Dare 2 Dream. Founded by Kinabuti, it engages the youth and women through empowerment and economic development, using various initiatives such as the “Dare2Dream” initiative. It is a youth empowerment platform set to channel young creative talents with opportunities that can help them achieve their dreams and design their lives the way they want.
Suleiman Danladi Lukman from Kwara State is a beneficiary of one of Dare 2 Dream’s programs in conjunction with OIP Computer Institute in Lagos. Unable to further his education due to financial constraints, he picked a form that helped him register for basic training in ICT. Subsequently, he attended a class that spanned over the course of four months, which had him falling in love with computers. He now tutors others with the same knowledge he had learned.
His motivation is seeking a life that is better than what his parents had. He is now the breadwinner of his family, and hopes to do much more for them in the near future. Suleiman believes that Nigeria brings the best in all of us. “Even those who are fleeing away, the best in them is hidden. They will go abroad and have to adjust to the way of life there, killing their talents and dreams, just so that they can survive.”
He believes the hardship in Nigeria doesn’t have to kill you. It can rather drive you into pursuing hard after your dreams. He advises youths to start planning for the future and not seek for quick cash that won’t last long.
Suleiman emulates what Dare 2 Dream has done. He plans to pay it forward by empowering young people with knowledge on information technology.
Yusuf Lukmon Olawale has similar dreams, and is already living them. Dare 2 Dream had given him the boost he needed to kick off his career in ICT. Because of the free training he gained, he passed his final exams from Yaba College of Technology with an upper credit, and today he is a junior instructor in OIP.
Yusuf is certain that the Nigerian situation has pushed him to be dogged. He believes he has the die-hard Nigerian spirit, and every Nigerian has it as well.
“When you open a particular book, each page gives a different story. I don’t see the Nigerian problem affecting my own success. My plan of the future is how to have my own company and not work for anyone.”
Counseling Nigerian youths, he tells them never to let any challenge weigh them down. “Keep moving, be focused and be prayerful. Things would get better.”
Millions of Nigerian youths remain skeptical about the improvement of the state of things in the country. However, one must divorce oneself from wallowing in a perceived reality and accept reality, and work hard at accomplishing what one desires to have. The journey through the Sahara desert and Mediterranean has not produced great minds. Instead, it has robbed a beautiful nation of dreams, youth, brains, labor, creativity and innovation. It has made many parents childless and left young people traumatized and haunted by nightmares.
Like Yusuf and Suleiman who made green the grass on their own side, every youth must seek to build their dreams with their own hands.
Chyllian, a returnee from Libya, who now works in helping Nigerian youths pursue their ambitions here in Nigeria, has this to say: “Travel for the right reasons. A lot of us travel because of finance. That’s not a good reason to travel. But how about building our country? It’s our responsibility. We don’t have to start running off because there is hardship. We have to look at what we can do to proffer solution to what we are passing through. If all the brainy and intelligent people in Nigeria should leave, who would build the country?”