10 Nigerian Undergraduates Talk About Leaving The Country

March 2, 2021

It is not uncommon to witness Nigerian graduates talk about emigrating. A good number of young Nigerians you’ll encounter are either already making tangible plans towards leaving, or giving it some (read: a lot of) consideration. However, it can be quite disheartening hearing the same from undergraduates whose short-lived exposure to the dysfunctional system has formed their resolve on the subject. It threatens that this brain drain we’ve been discussing for ages is only going see an upsurge in coming years. Who go remain for Nigeria?

During the earliest days of COVID-19, all attention was diverted towards the pandemic, away from the ASUU strike action and the cries of Nigerian undergraduates. For some, leaving the country had been always been in the mix. For others, the ten-month long pause was an awakening to their decision. I interviewed some Nigerian students and here’s what they had to say:

1. Ejiro- “I left my private university admission for greatest gba gba.”

Just yesterday, I saw a post that read, “Na mumu dey go Federal University”, and everything about it points to me. I am a mumu. I’m in my 4th year in school, but I have spent nearly six years in FUT Minna.

After secondary school, I was offered admission into two schools: ABUAD and my current school. I was insistent on attending a public university because of the perception that they have more experienced lecturers, and because “public school graduates are considered higher in the labour market”. Those are lies. My father was a staunch supporter of that idea. He’d always say private schools are too comfortable. My siblings warned me, but I wanted “greatest gba gba.”

That choice has been dealing me gbas gbos ever since. I haven’t scaled through a class successfully without ASUU interrupting. But this last strike was the last straw for me. Beyond school, jobs are hard to come by. Current situations (Buhari) are not looking bright. There is no end to it. As for me, staying in Nigeria is not an option at all. Why would it?

2. Chimdiya- “I don’t mind starting all over abroad”

Prior to 2020, I’ve never really nursed thoughts of leaving the country. And no, that didn’t come from a place of patriotism. I’m not proud of this place, not anymore.

The lockdown and afterwards have been trying times. I was so lost, confused and angry. My family’s income is tied to daily trading activities, so when the lockdown was announced, I knew we would suffer financial hits. And girl, did it happen!My mother would unravel anytime I asked for money.

I didn’t even know when I started researching scholarship opportunities abroad with Opera Mini free data. At first, I hoped to discover one that would allow me transfer seamlessly to their equivalent of 300 level. Nothing satisfactory popped up. As it stands now, I don’t mind starting all over somewhere better abroad. I’ll gladly leave UI to take it.

3. Karen- “It a gift to my children”

Leaving the country is a gift to my children. They don’t deserve to grow in this environment. See, my mother had all of my siblings in the US except me- I came too early. Again, I happen to be the only one of my siblings to attend a public university in Nigeria.

Throughout last year, I watched my friends climb up beyond my level and saw some graduate while I remained at home. This past year was depressing. It is a different kind of anguish knowing your predicament could have been averted if you had made informed decisions earlier. My SAT scores were great, but instead, I opted for Unilag.

Leaving here will release my mental health from shackles. It is now an unskippable talking stage question– right after genotype. I mentally check out when the guy starts hinting about contributing quotas to Nigeria’s growth. I have nothing to give.

4. Tunji- “Nigeria is a correctional facility”

Nigeria is a correctional facility –that’s the only way to make sense of this hellhole. I see this place as a punishment for some heinous crimes I committed in a past life. I mean, who shuts down schools for a year?

School is the only sane place I have, and I didn’t experience it for ten months. I still won’t for the next few months. I can’t be a student in peace, I can’t be gay in peace. Nah! I deserve to live in a place where all of me can flourish.

5. Luqman- “Nigeria neither cares about my education nor my life”

I’ve been a disaster since March when the strike began. I lost my father in June. Every time I struggled out of one depressive episode, I fell into another one. All those months kept going, and the government and ASUU were negotiating our future like it is ordinary ponmo.

The most hopeful I’ve felt in a while was during End SARS. Twitter was bursting with hope and support, and that buoyed my mental health slightly. I even dragged myself out to protest because I fit into every tech bro stereotype; dreadlocks, laptop, iPhone. After the Lekki incident and Buhari’s speech, I realized once again that Nigeria neither cares about my education nor my life.

6. Omeiza- “Ngige said I can go”

Chris Ngige said I can go. He said we have a surplus of medical doctors and my eventual departure won’t affect the country. If anything, it will increase foreign remittance. That means I can pay my dues from a saner clime. It is a win-win situation. Provided there are no interruptions, I should be out in three years.

7. Derin- “I need my degree to japa”

My degree has been on the line since last year because of school lockdown and the strike. My colleagues have moved onto the next phase but I’m yet to be inducted. It pains me how disconnected relevant stakeholders are from our plight. I’ve toiled six years to get here but somehow other people’s disagreement has me roped in. I’m tired of being optimistic. I need my degree to japa.

8. Kene- “I’m trying my hand on everything”

This break showed me pepper. My school finally announced that we will resume soon. Because I don’t know how soon “soon” is, I’m experimenting with new skills. I’m trying my hands at everything. In the end, I might pivot completely to one of these or blend them together.

Canada must accept me. Whether as an animator, a data analyst or a doctor. I’m adding more skills to my portfolio and in due time, they will work out in my favour in Jesus’ name.

9. Millicent-“What I don’t pay for in Naira, I pay for in time”

Omo, it was a tough decision to come to. My friends were shocked to know my stance because I would usually preach to them against travelling out. All I know is nothing can change my mind. I’m not allowing anyone to blackmail me with “Nigeria gave you free education”. It isn’t free, it comes at a very huge cost.

What I don’t pay for in Naira, I pay for in time–years wasted. I can’t regain time wasted which is worse. Frankly speaking, I don’t see myself returning in future unless situations improve

10. Praise- “They said schools should be locked up for 3-5 years”

I decided long ago to leave as soon as a dignifying means comes along. My resolve grew stronger over the break when ASUU or FG (can’t remember which party) was saying schools should be locked for 3-5 years so they can be fully developed. I was so shook.

I pray to meet that ASUU chairman some day and ask him why he was always smiling in newspaper reports because from where I stood, nothing was funny.

Names have been changed to maintain anonymity of contributors.

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