By NKECHI BIANZE
Money is not on the top 10 on the list of reasons why I left Nigeria. I’m 100% sure that if I were in Nigeria since 2012, I would have made more than 10 times the money I have made since 2012.
Let me tell you some of the reasons I left Nigeria.
1. Health: Each time I want to discuss this, I get extremely emotional. My father was diabetic for many years. Over the past three years until my father died in February, my family was spending an average of half a million naira monthly on my father’s hospital visits and medications; this doesn’t include the over N5million we spent on his eye surgeries to save his sight. My father’s health condition is what they call “Big man sickness”: because my dad lived with the condition post-diagnosis for about two decades. It was very expensive to manage his health. How many Nigerian households earn up to N500, 000 monthly much less spend that on the health of just one family member?
If my dad were a British or Canadian who had worked in the civil service (as he did in Nigeria) for 35 years and retired, his healthcare would have been absolutely free and sorted out by the government. He wouldn’t have had to spend his gratuities on managing his health and staying alive.
Listen! My siblings and their families are British. No matter what sickness they get afflicted with (I hope not), they will never have to resort to begging the public to raise funds for them. They are citizens and taxpayers of a country that sees healthcare as a fundamental right and provides it free of charge for the citizens and some residents.
Here in Canada, my health insurance covers me up to a maximum of five million dollars a year. By next year, I’d be fully covered by the provincial free healthcare, and will not need private health insurance anymore.
But you as a Nigerian in Nigeria is just one sickness away from becoming a social media beggar and losing your dignity trying to beg for money to save your life because your government cannot even do as little as subsidize healthcare.
Any small growth in your legs, you start a fundraiser to raise millions so that you can run to India to save your life. Not only are you short of money, you don’t even trust the facilities and your healthcare professionals to be able to save you in your country, even though you are able to successfully beg for the full amount you want. You have to go to India.
While going home for my dad’s burial, my siblings and I had to go home with our own medications because a lot of the ones you have in Nigeria are adulterated and almost as good as chalks. I had to take my own paracetamol and tylenol to Nigeria (for menstrual cramps) because the Nigerian-made paracetamol doesn’t work for me.
One of the reasons my dad’s medication was that expensive was that we had to order them from the U.K. Not because they were not available in Nigeria, but because the ones in Nigeria were not working.
If I started feeling too sick in Canada or the U.K., I could dial 911 or 999, and qualified healthcare professionals would come and attend to me. You don’t have Emergency healthcare dials and services in Nigeria. Call an ambulance and they might charge you N100, 000 or more to come. That’s if you are lucky enough to reach them.
2. Security: Coming home this period refreshed my memory on the level of insecurity in Nigeria. In my house in Canada, I seldom lock my front door or room door at night before I go to bed. I leave my front door unlocked and leave my house and come back to meet everything still intact. Sometimes I lock, but that might be just because I don’t want someone or a friend bumping into me, or maybe because I’m trying to avoid seeing someone. It’s seldom because I think someone could come and rob, rape and maybe kill me.
But we have a huge dog in my family home in Nigeria. Every night when the dog starts barking, we wake up and become scared because there might be a robbery going on somewhere close, or some people of the underworld might be roaming the streets. This is despite all the multiple iron doors we’ve locked and locked.
I couldn’t go to all the places I wanted to go to because my family members were scared for my life. The life of an average Nigerian seems worth less than the life of a fatted Nigerian cow.
If I’m in danger in Canada, I’ve got 911 and the police would come and do their best to rescue me. In Nigeria, no emergency police dial. If you even manage to get to the police, they will ask you to bribe them and fuel their cars before they will consider whether or not they can help you.
3. Education: Where do we start from on this one? Am I supposed to write another epistle trying to tell you how decayed the educational system in Nigeria is? Are we going to start from malpractice or the lack of infrastructure or some of the English teachers that can’t make a single grammatically correct sentence in English? Please, where do we start from? You lots went through the system. So, you should know this more than I do.
4. Freedom: I can exercise my fundamental rights without being harassed. No police officer will come into a club and arrest all the females there and ask them to choose between monetary bribe and rape as a bail price.
5. Having 24-hour power supply and a few other basics are “luxuries” enjoyed only by the very few rich Nigerians. Maybe just the top 5%.
6. Standard of living: Working fulltime while earning a minimum wage in the U.K. and Canada will enable you to be able to comfortably afford the basics… maybe not luxury. Basics like a decent accommodation, good food, good clothes, and ability to run a small car. In Nigeria, they recently increased your minimum wage from N18, 000 to N30, 000, which is still barely enough to make your hair and buy underwear and sanitary pads for the month.
I heard (didn’t confirm) that Nigeria was declared the poverty headquarters of the world.
You see, I could go on and on, but let me stop here.
It’s OK if you want to stay in Nigeria and remain there, but you can do that without trying too hard to come up with some daft arguments. And if you are a Nigerian earning less than N2million per month, I need you to remind yourself that you are just a sickness away from becoming a beggar! Let that sink in!
The country is currently a big mess!
It’s very OK for people to want better for themselves and seek greener pasture elsewhere. And if you don’t want to leave, stay! Let those who want to leave leave.
You people keep asking, “If we all run away who will repair the country?” You of course. You who are still there will help us repair it. Please stay there and help us fix it. We are begging you.
The irony of this whole thing is that most of these so-called patriotic Nigerians had all their children in the U.S. I once met a woman on Facebook arguing against people leaving Nigeria to seek citizenship elsewhere. When I engaged her in an argument and dug deeper, I realized that she had all her four children in the US. They are U.S. citizens. She paid millions to make sure her children are U.S. citizens, but she was on Facebook advocating that other Nigerians not go abroad for citizenship. You don’t need to know how I finished with her that day.
Another set of people are those who either can’t afford the immigration process, or those who have applied to leave the country several times but have been denied visas, and those who do not meet the requirements for immigration as skilled workers. They become patriotic after they have visited almost all the embassies in Lagos and Abuja and seen that there is no hope, and that the destinies of them and their children and children’s children are ingrained in Nigeria. More like “since I can’t have it, let me badmouth it.” My heartfelt sympathies are with these ones.
You Nigerian citizens in Nigeria have only Nigeria as an option. Nigerian citizens with other citizenships have Nigeria and other options. I can get up at almost any time and go to Nigeria or Canada. But you can’t just wake up and come to Canada. You enjoy the benefits of being Nigerians. Nigerians with dual citizenship enjoy the benefits of being Nigerians and being citizens of other countries. I know this is quite petty, but allow me to just rub this in.
Stay in Nigeria if you want. But, biko, spare us those lame arguments.
When I read all those “Will you travel abroad if you get N2million as salary?”, I laugh. Whoever told you people that it’s all about money?
The fact that most thieves and some of the politicians stealing from you and most Nigerian billionaires and richest send their children abroad should be enough to tell you that people don’t just travel abroad for money. It’s way more than that. There’s more to life than just money.
My parents sent us their children out of Nigeria because of the poor education, insecurity and poor healthcare in the country. It was not so that we would go and make money for them.
Ms Bianze lives in Canada.