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Citizen Popoola as a metaphor

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WHILE attempting to stowaway through some vessels plying the country’s coastal waters, nine Nigerian citizens and a Nigerien were recently apprehended by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS). Their hope of securing the so-called “better life” in Europe was therefore dashed. According to media reports, they had been variously assisted into the vessels by some fishermen who ferried them in local boats before getting them aboard the ships which they erroneously presumed to be Europe-bound, not knowing that they were restricted to the West African coastal waters.

According to the Comptroller of the NIS in charge of Lagos Seaport and Marine Command, Modupe Anyalechi, five of the suspects were discovered inside the rudder truck of the MV MSC PAOLA by some immigration officers who rummaged the vessel at Fairway Buoy, about six nautical miles to Finger Jetty, Apapa port. The other five were arrested on board the MV MAERSK CHANNLA by some naval officers who handed them over to the NIS. One of the stowaway suspects, Orire Popoola, was however remorseless and desperate enough to vow to take any risk to leave Nigeria. There is indeed a common thread of frustration and desperation in the respective stories of the young stowaways who all see Nigeria as a cul-de-sac that they must escape from.

Although Popoola said that they all made the decision to escape from Nigeria individually and independent of one another and only met one another at the point of arrest, it is easy to see that the stowaways were all united by the common experience of frustration and desperation which the older generations, themselves having no wholesome experiences, cannot successfully wean them from. The country’s youth population is regularly making dangerous and desperate decisions to quit the country because of its inclement atmosphere and perceived dearth of opportunities. Sadly, the political leadership is too discombobulated to offer any hope to the bewildered citizenry.

Popoola said he and his fellow co-travellers thought that the vessels in which they were apprehended were Europe-bound and that it was better to live as a fugitive in Europe or any other country for that matter than to despair and die in their country which had failed to offer any hope for its teeming unemployed youths. Their desperation has apparently overtaken their sense of safety. Too poor to undertake a legitimate trip, they ironically threw away all fears of death in order to survive and perhaps prevail in extreme circumstances. And even if the steps taken by these obviously misguided youths are faulted for their lack of depth, it is uncharitable not to consider their logic. There would be no desperation to leave Nigeria if life was conducive for Nigerians.

But far too many people die in their quest to get ahead in life. It is a big problem in Africa and it always boils down to bad governance and insecurity in the continent. Nigeria has its own fair share of the blame for the preponderance of misery and despondency in the land. The official corruption and greed of the ruling elite, civilian or military, has over the years vaporised all hope of emancipation by the younger generations. It is no wonder then that Popoola could not be persuaded to abandon his quest for survival beyond country’s boundaries. The tales told by the apprehended stowaways were similar: they were all prompted to leave their country by the hostile and harsh socioeconomic environment. And dying in the process was even a welcome option.

We are saddened by this development. There should be concerted efforts from the ruling class, even in its enlightened self-interest, to create a more commodious and pro-life environment for the younger generation so that in the end, it does not end up ruling over people who are merely waiting for death. A government should consider itself unfit if its youth population is so miserable and despondent to the point of considering leaving the country for better opportunities abroad, imminent death notwithstanding. There cannot be a more valid vote of no-confidence than this. It is certain that the country’s youths cannot be persuaded to desist from their quest for better life abroad until it becomes demonstrably clear that they can also blossom here.

 

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