There is an undocumented fact that the African country with the highest representation of its citizens in almost every other part of the world, is Nigeria. It might stem from the fact that the country is the most populous on the continent with an estimated 191 million population and growing cases of corruption and most recently, terrorist insurgencies.
But the bigger concerns have been why there are so many Nigerians scattered around the world. What have been the factors that have moved desirous, enterprising, success-driven and hardworking young Nigerians out of their country?
In a World Bank blogs report, Nigeria is listed among half of the world’s top five countries with the poorest people. That is aside the fact that Nigeria is one of the world’s foremost oil producing countries with a 2018 report of $26bn revenue. Any or none of these might be the reasons we so seek but then, Nigerians are truly hardworking people too.
This is evident in how easily they are able to penetrate markets in countries they emigrate to, going even as far as venturing into business areas that are not ordinarily cut out for the foreigners they are.
Consider a case in Ghana for instance. Only recently, but for a short period, there seemed to be some tensions brewing between Ghanaian local business owners in Kumasi, Ghana’s second city, and their compatriot Nigerians after it emerged that the former wanted its government to get rid of foreigners (mostly Nigerians) who they say are operating without permit.
That situation was brought under control but it might not be the last of such a news since the attempts by the locals to lock out these Nigerians and stop them from engaging in the same business they were in, were thwarted by the security forces in the country.
Only yesterday, news broke on how a Nigerian student in Malaysia, Thomas Orhions Ewansiha, died in the custody of immigration officials after spending 14 days in detention. He had been arrested and detained by immigration officials while trying to flee from them during a raid on July 4.
Malaysian media reported that despite producing a valid student pass, Ewansiha’s attempt to escape led to him being detained for 14 days at the Bukit Jalil depot.
His detention was pending further investigations in order to verify the authenticity of his documents but I ask, does it take 14 days to have such a process completed?
This situation caused an outrage among the Nigerian community living in Malaysia, sparking discussions on why it seems there are several incidences of what may seem like unrelated cases in countries where Nigerians are being attacked. But fact is fact: Nigerians in other countries have been under attacks for a reason or two.
Again in Ghana, a recent viral video of a visiting Nigerian lecturer, Prof. Austin Nwagbara, at Ghana’s University of Education revealed details of how the professor was inciting his fellow Nigerians to use the Nigerian media to destroy Ghana in the eyes of the international community through negative reportage.
This obviously sparked a lot of displeasure and anger among the populace particularly because for Ghana and Nigeria, both countries have shared long years of a cordial bitter-sweet relationship, with lots of inter-marriages bonding them too.
But even more shocking is the fact that most of these countries where these attacks have occurred or are ongoing, are other African countries.
The South African case of xenophobic attacks on other Africans, including Nigerians, is a good reference point. Senator Ahmed Lawan, President of the Nigerian Senate, is reported to have condemned the continuous killings of Nigerians in South Africa, warning that further attacks on Nigerians would no longer be condoned.
Mr Lawan expressed concern that about 118 Nigerians had so far lost their lives in different attacks over the years, out of which 13 were by the South African Police. Xenophobic attacks in South Africa have lasted over a decade for various reasons mostly linked to accusations by the locals that foreigners had taken their jobs.
And while there remain many other cases of such magnitudes or lesser, there is the need to encourage peaceful co-existence among Africans. There is no doubt that Nigerians abound in many places, trying hard to make ends meet for themselves, and by so doing, might be stepping on the toes of other locals. True as this is, the way to tackle the problem is not through violence.
It is also worth noting that the individual incidences of Nigerians involved in such things does not collectively place the entire nation and its people in one basket as being ‘bad.’
With discussions far advanced on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which will allow freer movement of goods, services and people within the continent, it is hoped that leaders on the continent will address such pertinent issues before they escalate into full blown conflicts.
In the meantime, a caution should be served to our brothers and sisters from Nigeria to be law abiding and as much as possible, stay away from trouble (things that trample on the freedoms of locals in the countries they emigrate to).