“Japa”: Empowerment Beyond Escape – Illuminating Solutions for Nigeria’s Bright Future

1. What is the “Japa” phenomenon and why is it prevalent among Nigerians?

2. What are the different perspectives on “Japa”?

3. Is “Japa” the ultimate solution to Nigeria’s challenges?

4. What are some alternatives to “Japa” for contributing to Nigeria’s future?

5. How can individuals get involved in shaping a brighter future for Nigeria, whether they’re in the country or abroad?

see all the answers below

As a British-born Nigerian who’s experienced both sides of the “Japa” equation, I understand the complex emotions and challenges tied to this mass migration phenomenon. My story reflects the dual pull of seeking opportunities abroad and the yearning to contribute to my homeland.

Having moved back to Nigeria in 1971 at age three and then left again in 1990 at 22, I witnessed the early waves of “Checking Out” firsthand. While I built a successful career in the UK, a void lingered – a disconnect from my roots and a desire to make a difference in Nigeria. That’s what led me to return in 2009. Yet, bureaucratic hurdles and the absence of an enabling system forced me to return to the UK part-time to fund my youth empowerment venture. By 2014, with hope dwindling, I closed my Nigerian business and rebuilt my UK life.

Now, in my mid-50s, the call to be part of the Nigerian solution remains strong despite my past experiences. But how do I, someone who once “Japaed” twice, encourage others to stay? Addressing the root causes of “Japa” and offering alternative solutions fostering hope and progress.

Understanding the “Japa” Phenomenon:

The drivers of “Japa” are multifaceted, encompassing:

  • Economic hardship: Low wages, high unemployment, and inflation make ends meet a constant struggle for many Nigerians, with young graduates with limited job prospects and stagnant wages.
  • Security concerns: Violence, crime, and instability create a sense of unease and push individuals towards safer environments, such as families living in an area plagued by extortion, fearing for their safety.
  • Lack of opportunity: Limited access to quality education, healthcare, and professional development fuels the desire for better prospects abroad, with students seeking specialised education unavailable in Nigeria.
  • Brain drain: The loss of skilled professionals further hinders economic development, creating a vicious cycle such as the shortage of qualified doctors due to many leaving for better opportunities abroad.

What is the “Japa” phenomenon and why is it prevalent among Nigerians?

It refers to the mass migration of Nigerians seeking better opportunities abroad. It’s prevalent due to economic hardship, security concerns, lack of opportunities, and brain drain, pushing individuals to seek greener pasture.

Perspectives on “Japa”:

  • The Frustrated: Many, like myself once, view “Japa” as the only escape, citing government inefficiency and a lack of an enabling environment like an entrepreneur struggling with complex bureaucracy and unable to obtain permits.
  • The Idealistic: Some young Nigerians see “Japa” as a path to personal growth and achieving their dreams, often fueled by social media portrayals of success abroad, such as An artist yearning for a more vibrant and supportive creative community.
  • The Government: Officials emphasise improved policies and youth involvement in government initiatives, advocating for a collective effort to address challenges exemplified by The Minister of Education highlighting increased youth participation in government scholarships.

What are the different perspectives on “Japa”?

Frustration with the Nigerian government’s inefficiency to idealistic views of personal growth and success abroad. Government officials emphasise improved policies and youth involvement in addressing the challenges driving migration.

Is “Japa” the Answer?

While individual circumstances vary, “Japa” often comes with unintended consequences:

  • Disconnection from roots: Leaving can lead to social and cultural fragmentation, weakening community ties and family bonds of Nigerian families separated due to migration, and experiencing cultural and social challenges in new environments.
  • Mental health implications: The pressure to succeed abroad, coupled with feelings of isolation, can lead to anxiety and depression, as seen with Nigerians facing discrimination and limited job opportunities despite their qualifications.
  • False promises: The “greener pastures” abroad may not always be as rosy, leading to disappointment and disillusionment evidenced by the high cost of living and challenges of integrating into a new society.

Is “Japa” the ultimate solution to Nigeria’s challenges?

“Japa” may have unintended consequences like disconnection from roots, mental health issues, and false promises. Hence, it may not be the ultimate solution. Alternative approaches to progress and hope in Nigeria are encouraged.

Hope Beyond “Japa”:

Individual and collective action can offer alternatives to “Japa“:

  • Entrepreneurship: Supporting and nurturing small businesses creates jobs and fosters economic growth within Nigeria by Young Nigerians starting small businesses and creating jobs in their communities.
  • Advocacy and accountability: Holding the government accountable for transparency, improved infrastructure, and security creates a more enabling environment—for example, Individuals using social media to raise awareness about social issues and advocate for change.
  • Diaspora engagement: Leveraging the skills and expertise of Nigerians abroad to support development projects back home fosters collaboration and progress, for instance, Creating platforms for skilled Nigerians abroad to connect and contribute their expertise to development projects.
  • Shifting mindsets: Promoting a culture of innovation, collaboration, and collective responsibility fosters optimism and a sense of agency, such as Countering negative narratives about Nigeria and fostering a sense of national pride and community.

What are some alternatives to “Japa” for contributing to Nigeria’s future?

Other alternatives include entrepreneurship, advocacy, diaspora engagement, and promoting innovation and collective responsibility.

My Story, Your Inspiration:

My journey reflects the complexities of “Japa”. While I’ve experienced its allure and setbacks, I haven’t given up on contributing to a brighter Nigerian future. Having “checked out” twice, I understand the allure of “Japa.” But my journey has shown me that true fulfilment lies in contributing to the solution. My story is familiar. Many Nigerians, successful abroad, grapple with the mental and emotional cost of disconnection. We must remember Nigeria’s success depends on its people, within and beyond its borders.

SamSoyombo.com is my contribution, offering career guidance and empowering Nigerians to thrive, whether they stay or go. But this is just one step. Let’s embrace collaboration, celebrate our diversity, and work together to build a Nigeria where “Japa” is not the only option but a choice made from a position of strength and opportunity.

How can individuals get involved in shaping a brighter future for Nigeria, whether they’re in the country or abroad?

Support local businesses, advocate for positive change, engage with diaspora communities, and promote national pride. SamSoyombo.com provides resources for Nigerians to thrive anywhere.

This journey is not about guilt or judgment. It’s about harnessing our collective potential to create a brighter future for ourselves and generations. Whether you’re in Nigeria or abroad, join me in this endeavour. Let’s rewrite the narrative, one empowered individual at a time.

Remember, Nigeria’s success is in our hands together.

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Sam Soyombo
Sam Soyombo

I am a highly skilled Careers Coach passionate about guiding individuals towards successful career paths and personal fulfilment. My proven expertise includes comprehensive career development support, empowering clients to make informed decisions and achieve their professional goals. I have a strong aptitude for assessing skills, interests, and values to identify suitable career opportunities. I use my excellent communication and coaching abilities to foster a positive and motivating client environment. I am committed to staying updated on industry trends and best practices to deliver exceptional guidance in today's ever-evolving job market.

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