Whenever I hear of someone who has japa, I think, “we’ve lost another one.” And until I stumbled across this tweet about the different categories of people who japa, I didn’t realise some people only left for a better passport. So I reached out to Lanre, the 24-year-old, to tell me about his reason for moving. 

Image source: Unsplash

As told to Memi

When I got admission to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Minna, I didn’t have any plans to leave Nigeria. Things were going fine. We had one strike, but it only lasted two months, so I thought I could manage. 

And even when things started deteriorating— fuel prices rising, insecurity increasing, economy going down — I still had no plans to leave because I expected things to get better. But my dad called me one day in 2018 and told me I had to travel, to save myself and my future kids and provide them with better options. 

I started working towards the new goal in the two years that followed. I worked harder at school to push my grades over the 3.0-grade point average I needed to qualify for a Masters in the United States. After graduation, I got my transcript and recommendation letters. By 2019, I had started applying to schools abroad. From the three I applied to, I got admission to one in Cleveland. But it wasn’t until September 2021 that I got my visa and left in December. 

I think I was the only Nigerian on my flight, and because it was a layover flight, we stopped at Qatar, and I’m sure they didn’t have to scrutinise my passport the way they did others. Even when we got to the US border, they grouped us into two lines; citizens/residents and visitors. Trust our queue to move slower and for me to be bombarded with questions about where I’d stay, why I was there and all that stuff. 

Things like this make you realise people see the Nigerian passport and start doubting you. So even though I still can’t stand the cold — I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it — I miss my friends, and I’m miles away from home, I’m here until I get a more respectable passport. 

Ultimately, I plan to travel the world. I also have plans for a developmental project in Nigeria, preferably in the education technology industry. Maybe it’d be for profit or not, I can’t say yet. But I’ll go back to Nigeria if things improve in a few years.

With all the news I’ve been hearing and the number of people leaving daily, I hope the country still exists by then. Between January to May 2021 after I left, every call from my family and friends in Nigeria was saddening. When the national grid wasn’t falling, they were kidnapping people on the road. And it’s continued to go downhill since then.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to travel, but that would mean things were working and the country provided opportunities to build great futures, but that’s not the case. I pray Nigerians do the right thing this election, but since people already voted Buhari twice, I’m not so confident. 

*This interview has been edited for structure and clarity.

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