Her video went viral. The one in which she confessed to the whole world that she was lonely in far flung Canada away from her family and friends all in the search of the Golden Fleece. The video elicited comments from us all – she should find a community, she should come back home, she is doing it for views and likes, it’s not as bad as she is making it seem, it’s very bad and you are not in her shoes and a roaring debate as to the advantages and disadvantages of migrating overseas.
It is general knowledge that a migration wave is ongoing. It’s the third wave, the first being that of our parents who went abroad to study but who came back home to fill the many posts left by the leaving colonists, the second wave peaked in the ’80s with the introduction of SAP (the structural adjustment programme) and had mostly young graduates and medical professionals relocating to work and send money back home to their kith and kin, they themselves returning or planning to return after retirement to a more comfortable life at home.
This third wave is the most encompassing and involves people of diverse social status, ages and professions scrambling to leave the country in large numbers like rats abandoning a sinking ship, traversing both legal and illegal paths and doing almost anything to guarantee their elongated stays in these countries. Unlike the migrants in the first and second wave the crop of people leaving now have no plans to come back to the country and are ready to take up the citizenship of the countries that would have them.
I have never wanted to live abroad, it just never occurred to me to settle down in a country outside my own. Like most people who haven’t considered migrating, I am content with long spells outside the country but an eventual return to Naija as we fondly call this mismatched geographical entity. I tell people in the diaspora that unlike them, I don’t have to buy local food in dried or fresh form at extravagant prices, I don’t have to scout around shops wondering when they will get fresh supplies of the staples we all enjoy eating, I don’t have to call ahead of time before I land in a friend’s house with another friend in tow and lastly everyone knows that not many races or tribes can beat a Nigerian party in terms of food, drinks, music, entertainment and the guest list. Truth be told, a major reason why I am loath to relocate is my social lifestyle. I love people and like being around them, so I love parties and social functions. They serve as a rejuvenation tonic and stress reliever for me as with so many others.
Although I never wanted to live abroad, I wanted my children to have other options and so although I was mindful of my mother’s saying that sending children to study abroad was like throwing away the child and becoming childless, Mr Aisi and I decided to stretch ourselves to give them an education outside the country knowing fully well that there was the strong likelihood that they may not come back home to live and work. I discussed the idea with a senior friend who gave me a word of caution that I didn’t take fully to heart then but which I found to be true. She said that she knew many young people who had gone especially to Canada and had come back home dysfunctional having experienced an emotional breakdown and that it was important that my children have a good social structure when they left.
One mistake that we made was not having family in the province where my eldest went to school but I tried to make up for it by ensuring that for her first year I spoke with her every single day and also ensured she came home for the summer vacation at least for the first year. Even at that, she found it tough adjusting to the weather, school workload and solitude and although it wasn’t smooth sailing, she was able to find a strong social circle that serves her well till date.
It’s the recurring thought in the brains of most of our youth and not a few of the adults, me inclusive. A friend in his mid-fifties recently left and although it took me by surprise because undoubtedly, he was going to have to start from ground zero after he had attained some measure of success here, I couldn’t blame him much, same as I couldn’t blame a friend who relocated after she was diagnosed of cancer.
A lot of us have good reasons to leave, we are not doing so well here, we are not overly ambitious, but we want a better quality of life and access to the things that make life worth living. Some of us have had Nigeria happen to us especially with regards to security and health issues and bailed with our dear lives and an oath on our lips never to return home. Some of us are going for the sake of our children and the opportunities open to them in other climes. Whatever the reasons, they are valid and no one should be shamed or mocked because they decided to leave for greener pastures.
Migration is as old as the world itself and for as long as the earth remains, people will move from one end to the other mostly in search of a better life – the proverbial land flowing with milk and honey. A lot of people have told those desperate to leave that the sums of money they pay to leave the country could be used to establish thriving businesses here but most times these people forget that the environment makes it so difficult for businesses to thrive. In the past month a lot of businesses have closed shop even though they had good prospects.
Not to Japa?
Most of us, especially the youth, romanticise migration. We think that stepping onto foreign soil automatically makes for a better life without counting the cost either physically, financially and mostly emotionally. We seem to forget that man is a social animal made to interact with people like him and that if we are not fulfilled emotionally or have a balance in the most important but overlooked area of our life which is our emotions, the spinoff affects all aspects of our lives.
The hard truth is that not everyone can live, thrive and bloom abroad and no one should be mocked or castigated for finding themselves unable to do so for whatever reason. Increasingly, we are beginning to hear stories of people who left the shores for a better life becoming addicts, having mental breakdowns, becoming dysfunctional and even killing themselves. Also, evident but not talked about is the strain migration takes on our family lives both on those here and in the diaspora. Parents are left to live and die alone at the mercy of either extended relatives or mercenaries disguised as help and staff. Families are being split because spouses are living apart for long periods without any physical contact.
It is okay to say Japa is not working for me and to come back home with your senses, emotions and dignity intact. It is okay to say I can’t function without my spouse and so unless we go together, I will not go. It is okay to say I miscalculated, and I want to change my mind in-spite of the time and finances I have put into migrating. It is okay to stay back even if everyone is going and also to go just because you believe it is the best thing for you to do.
It is an individual journey, be true to yourself and do you. That’s just what I would have advised the girl in the video if I had her ears.