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How Corporate Governance can help reduce Japa Syndrome

Strong government doesn’t mean simply military power or an efficient intelligence apparatus. Instead, it should mean effective, fair administration – in other words, ‘good governance. – Raghuram Rajan

Let’s meet Mr. Andrew Elebuwa

In the mid-80s, there was a popular TV skit starring Enebeli Elebuwa. He played the role of a young man named Andrew. He packed his bags and was leaving Nigeria out of frustration. In his words: “I’m tired men, so I’m checking out. No light no water; no job…” he was accosted at the airport for losing faith in a country with a future and he changed his mind and succeeded with Nigeria.

The skit was actually government-sponsored and promoted. The government of the day incidentally led by our immediate past Present General Muhammadu Buhari retired and Brigadier General Tunde Idiagbon had a response. They promised and assured Andrew that things might be tough presently but they are working hard to improve the plight of the citizens and deliver to a reasonable extent.

In their body was written patriotism and determination to ameliorate things. Multiple sources share the impression that the present administration is showing the same character but seems unsettled by the cases questioning the election that brought Ahmed Tinubu to the Aso Rock Villa.

Japa, Sapa and the Jatan Syndrome :

According to Otunba Kayode Afekunle Ketefe a barrister, Chartered Secretary and Governance practitioner. The word Ja in Yoruba means to run for one’s life while the word Pa means to run with the intention not to return. In other words, the politicians are seen to have run the nation aground and the youths are looking down afield for pasture green. I would not call them hopeless but that is what it looks like. They are called leaders of tomorrow but the cake to ensure a better tomorrow has been stolen before it is baked.

Wikipedia says Japa is a Nigerian slang term that has gained widespread usage among Nigerian youths and in popular culture. The term is used to describe the act of escaping, fleeing, or disappearing quickly from a situation, often in a hasty and urgent manner. The term Japa is commonly used in various contexts to describe a rapid departure from a place, situation, or circumstance. It is often employed humorously and it is prevalent in discussions related to avoiding trouble, danger, or undesirable encounters. The usage of “Japa” reflects the resourcefulness and adaptability of Nigerian youth in navigating challenging situations.

Japa has become a notable element of Nigerian pop culture, frequently appearing in music lyrics, movies, and social media conversations. The term’s popularity has extended beyond Nigeria’s borders, with Nigerian diaspora communities also adopting it as part of their linguistic repertoire.

Causes of the Japa Syndrome

Nigerian youths’ desire for prosperity but the high cost of living and low standard of living, weak economy, social distress, underemployment, poverty, hunger and mounting insecurity are the causes of ‘japa’ of the Nigerian youths. Key destinations include the US, UK, Canada and Europe.

Junaid Abidemi, a socio-psychologist and director at a marketing research company in Lagos said leadership should inspire and communicate confidence. Our leaders in the past have not inspired us to believe in the country. He cited the example of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his fireside chats to Americans. He talked, toiled and delivered good economic outcomes for Americans.

Read also: Reverse Japa: Return of diaspora Nigerians happens more often than you think

Inspiring confidence the Roosevelt way

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated on March 4, 1933, the United States was entering the fourth year of the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in the nation’s history.

The stock market had fallen a staggering 75 percent from 1929 levels, and one in every four workers was unemployed. In the weeks before Roosevelt took office, things had gotten even worse. Some 4,000 banks were forced out of business, costing millions of people their life savings. As depositors panicked and rushed to withdraw their money from the remaining banks, the crisis threatened to bring down the nation’s entire financial system.

In his first address to Americans, he said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Roosevelt famously declared on that cold and cloudy Inauguration Day. But stirring words would not be enough, and Roosevelt knew it: “This nation asks for action, and action now.” Two days later, he declared a nationwide “bank holiday,” temporarily shutting down the nation’s entire banking system. Called into a special session, Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act. The bill gave the federal government the power to investigate each bank’s finances. Those that were judged to be healthy and stable enough would reopen while others remained shut. He then followed this with a massive infrastructure development programme that got America back to work and resuscitated the economy. Americans did not Japa rather they knew things would get better because they believed their leaders. Nigerians do not believe their leaders because leaders talk to the gallery most of the time without a concrete plan of action. Our leaders inflict pain and they continuously request the tightening of belts. The citizens are voting with their feet.

Traveling with a devalued passport

Meanwhile, the nation’s passport is getting bashed by bad ratings further devaluing its respect. According to Business Day Newspaper, apart from the high fares Nigerians have to pay to travel to other countries, Nigerians holding the green passports are faced with another problem of experiencing visa-on-arrival denials from several countries as a result of the ‘devaluation’ of the passports globally.

In a recently released third quarter 2023 Henley Passport Index, which is an authoritative ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa, Nigeria takes the bottom spot as a country with one of the 20 worst passports to hold in 2023 with visa-free access to only 46 countries

Nigeria’s brain drain, other countries’ brain gain:

In reaction to the problem of brain drain in the medical profession, a member of the National Assembly from Lagos Ganiyu Johnson, introduced a bill to stop the exodus of medical doctors abroad.

The legislation is titled: “A Bill for an Act to amend the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, Cap. M379, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to mandate any Nigeria-trained medical or dental practitioner to practise in Nigeria for a minimum of five years before being granted a full licence by the council to make quality health services available to Nigeria; and for related matters.”

Following the introduction of the bill, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) vowed that it would resist any attempt to enslave Nigerian medical doctors under any guise. This is obviously an attempt to reintroduce slave trade with a fanciful name hence the resistance by the doctors.

Expectations of the youths, medical professionals & other stakeholders.

Strengthen the economy and make the naira stronger through sound economic policies

The government should show leadership by governing well (Good leadership by example)

Let’s see more transparency and accountability in government.

Reinvigorate the anti graft agencies across board and encourage openness in government.

The government should commence weekly state of the nation address to let the people know what’s going on in the corridors of power in Nigeria.

Post the Supreme Court judgement, we expect rapid and quick action from government. We are tired of the disrespect from the rest of the world “leaders , please govern well”

Michael Umogun is a Chartered Marketer with interest in public policy.

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