When Mrs. Faith’s daughter was diagnosed with Appendicitis in January, she never imagined that she would lose her child because of this. Her eighteen years old daughter, Pheona, had usually complained of stomachache and she’d get drugs from the neighborhood pharmacy to arrest the pain. After some time, the pain became severe and Pheona had to be rushed to a nearby hospital.
On getting to the hospital, some tests were quickly carried out and it was discovered that Pheona had an appendix that had burst inside of her. The situation required urgent surgery and it was made known to the mother of the sick youngster who immediately gave her approval for the surgery to be carried out.
All seemed to be going on well until some nurses ordered Mrs. Faith to go and hire a cab that will carry her child to another hospital they will refer her to. She was quite confused and asked why the sudden referral when the surgery could be carried out immediately at the hospital. The nurses couldn’t explain immediately but Mrs. Faith got to know later that there was only one doctor present at the hospital and he was busy in the operating room. The other doctor who would have attended to her daughter just dropped his resignation letter that morning because he had gotten a better job in Canada and was relocating with his family.
Mrs. Faith, in despair, took her daughter to another hospital but was informed that they required doctors as their previous employees had resigned in preparation for traveling out. Sadly, before Mrs. Faith could rush her daughter to a third hospital, her daughter gave up the ghost.
In tears, Mrs. Faith narrated, “If the doctors in the first two were around, my daughter’s life would have been saved. I would still have her here with me, probably recovering from the surgery. Sadly, she died a preventable death”.
Mrs. Faith’s story is one of many sad tales borne out of the effect of the current “Japa” trend gradually crippling Nigeria in different sectors, especially health, economy, tech, and education leading to the worst case of brain drain since her independence. It is now a norm on social media platforms for people who have successfully left Nigeria for other countries to share their immigration tales with the hashtag #MyJapaStory.
Brain drain is the situation when skilled human resources migrate on a large scale to more developed countries for better opportunities, career growth, higher salaries, lifestyle, education, trade, political stability, etc. Trained and skilled professionals from poor countries or less developed areas like to migrate to higher-income countries which gives birth to the brain drain scenarios.
This leads to the list of skilled professionals, benefitting the destination countries at the expense of home countries who have invested resources in the immigrants.
According to a Pew Research Centre study conducted in 2018, Nigeria tops the chart of people who plan to move to another country within the next 5 years with 48%, among the 12 countries sampled for the survey.
“The medical field is the worst hit”
Professor Innocent Ujah, the President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) quoting the World Health Organization (WHO) at the first edition of the NMA annual lecture series in October 2022 said that Nigeria has a doctor-population ratio of 1-5000 as opposed to the recommended ratio of 1-600. He stated categorically that this is caused by the massive relocation of doctors to Western countries as no fewer than 727 medical doctors trained in Nigeria relocated to the United Kingdom alone between December 2021 and May 2022.
If not for patriotism, Folorunsho Ade, a surgeon in a government hospital in Lagos would have left his job in Nigeria to take up employment in Canada.
He narrated how his friends called him unprintable names because he refused to leave Nigeria because of bad working conditions in Canada where his job is more secure and his remuneration better.
“Health workers are in high demand in western nations, so the process for relocation and permanent residency for doctors has been made easy. Doctors all over Nigeria are making good use of this opportunity to escape the harsh working conditions which is the reality here. So, it was not surprising to have my colleagues and family quarrel bitterly with me when I forgo an opportunity to leave for Canada.
“Some called me ridiculous when they heard that my reason for not leaving the country is because I love and believe that Nigeria will be better. However, the truth is if we all run away, what will happen to those who can’t afford the means to leave? Who then would build our country?”
Ade explained that refusal to pay salaries and allowances as at when due, considering that it was usually underpayment, has caused the mass exodus of health workers more than any other professional field, thereby making the medical field the most affected of all the industries in Nigeria.
He also said rather than doing everything to ensure improvement, the government authorities have decided to turn deaf ears to the disturbing cries of health workers.
“We are in a deep mess” Other professionals react
Dr. Gbenga Abimbola, a senior lecturer at Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo State claimed that the mass immigration of skilled professionals in Nigeria is an indication that all is not well with the country.
“This is telling us that we are in a deep mess. Skilled labor, for that matter, skilled hands in the medical sector, the engineering sector, the educational sector, even artisans and students; those who are yet to be trained or those who are under training and those who have completed their training and those who are caused all times in their fields, professors, medical consultants and all the rest. They are all leaving.
“Those who have got to the peak of their career, who should be mentoring other people, those who Nigeria have invested seriously on. That is the time for Nigeria to reap from them what they have invested, and trade them in their field. They are now leaving for other countries. So, other countries are now benefiting from what Nigeria has invested in. So it’s showing that all is not well with us and it’s not good for our economy either for now and more importantly, the future” he said
Replying to the question of whether as a lecturer, he was directly affected by this sad development, Abimbola answered in the affirmative.
In his words, “Yes it has affected me because even as a teacher in the university, between last year and this year, we’ve seen some of our colleagues who have left us. So it has created some gaps that have not been easy to feel. So both in terms of quantity and quality, colleagues, teachers, and lecturers have left us, and even our students have also left. So it has affected us. If we say it has not affected us, we’ll be deceiving ourselves”
Abimbola also charged the government to look at the problems we have in specific areas —Infrastructure, bad roads, unemployment and electricity— and address them properly.
For Okeowo Oluwashola, an economist, Nigeria’s case might be like that of Venezuela if issues that increase human capital flight are not sorted out judiciously. He affirms that the creation of employment and expansion of the education sector are the solutions to the problem of brain drain in Nigeria.
He said, “One of the reasons why individuals with high technical skills migrate to other countries is to seek better jobs. If the government should create jobs and career opportunities for graduates, there won’t be a need to travel out of their country in search of greener pastures”
“Young individuals are mostly to migrate in pursuit of higher education. Expanding educational infrastructures and offering better educational qualifications to individuals will go a long way in dissuading youths from leaving their country in pursuit of education elsewhere” Okeowo added.
“It is better over here” — Immigrant
On the other hand, Nigerians who have secured a permanent residency in other countries claimed they liked it better over there and would give everything to ensure that they remained there.
For Chioma Chikezie who left Nigeria for Canada in January 2021 through the study route, it has been a blissful stay for her. She said that she has never regretted leaving her well-paying job to further her studies in Canada.
“Seeing all that was going on in Nigeria — insecurity and bad government policies especially, I just knew that I had to move. I decided to leave my good job to come and do a postgraduate programme here. When I was almost done, I got a job and applied for an extended stay which was granted. I can tell you, it has been beautiful ever since” she said during an online interview.
On why she chose Canada over Nigeria, Chioma noted that she needed to live in a saner and safer society, hence, her immigration.
In the same vein, Omobolanle Joseph who went as a dependent with his brother so he could work while he study said that the major reason people are trooping out of Nigeria is that they feel the Nation is already on its knees and would soon kiss the earth in downfall.
Joseph reiterated that he doesn’t wish to go back to residing in Nigeria because life in Canada is easier and more interesting.