Nigeria will benefit from japa, says Peter Obi

The Labour Party presidential candidate during the February 25 presidential election, Peter Obi, has said Nigeria stands to benefit from the rising exodus of Nigerians to other countries.

There has been a rise in the number of Nigerians leaving the country in droves in search of greener pastures.

The phenomenon is popularly known as ‘Japa,’ a Yoruba slang that simply means to flee from a problem or trouble.

The House of Representatives unanimously voted against a motion seeking to make the Federal Government address the issues causing Nigerian professionals to migrate to other countries en masse.

But corroborating Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist, Bill Gates, on Thursday, the former Anambra State governor said the japa syndrome is healthy for Nigeria.

Gates had on Wednesday during an interactive session with innovators on ‘Advancing Africa: Unleashing the Power of Youth in Science and Innovation’ in Lagos State, said the japa syndrome was good and healthy for Nigeria.

“In a sense, people leaving is a good thing; if you up the amount of training you’re doing. So you say, Okay, some of our doctors can go get a very high salary in the UK, the US; some of them will pay to their families broadly; and some of them will return.

“So having a big diaspora that includes people coming back into business, into government—that’s a very healthy thing. There are some cases, like medical education, that were subsidised by the government, you almost wish that a little bit of that resource you get overseas would help the government increase training; because otherwise and we see today a significant shortage in some of those skills,’’ Gates said.

He added, “But I’m not someone who believes that no one should go away or that blocking that completely is a healthy thing.’’

“But certainly India and China and I’ll say Nigeria is third on this list, this idea that people go away and do great work but then they come back, if you get that balance and figure out the education funding piece of that, that is a super healthy thing in computer science, in health, in business and other areas.’’

Obi, who shared Gates’ optimism, said “our brain drain today will be our brain gain tomorrow”.

In a series of tweets on his Twitter handle on Thursday, Obi wrote, “I read and agree with Bill Gates’s recent comment on the “japa” syndrome, where, according to reports, he stated that the recent surge of Nigerian professionals leaving the country for greener pastures is good and healthy for our country.

“I have always preached and maintained this same position on the “japa wave”. For years now, and throughout my campaign in the last Presidential election, especially during my tours from Canada, the USA, Germany, the UK, and other countries, I maintained that “Our brain drain today will be our brain gain tomorrow.”

“Nigerians leaving the country may look like a loss today, but when we start doing the right things and taking the governance of our nation more seriously, the knowledge and resources from them will be critical in the building of the New Nigeria, as it happened in China, India, Ireland and other developing countries.

“Today, India prides itself as one of the countries with the biggest tech talents in the world, having produced some of the world’s top engineers and computer scientists. Many top global tech companies are headed by CEOs of Indian origin.

“So India’s success in the tech industry can partly be attributed to its ability to harness the knowledge and resources of Indians in the diaspora for their national growth.

“Nigeria will grow and develop on all fronts when we build the New Nigeria that prioritises investment in education, health, and support for small businesses, guarantees respect for the rule of law, security of lives and properties, and unity of the nation.

“Then our diasporan Nigerians around the world will return home with their global training, skills and resources, to immeasurably contribute to building a New and better Nigeria. We will not give up on our dreams for the New Nigeria.”

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