JAPA: A Former Colleague Visits Nigeria

By: Deji Yesufu

A man is both body and soul. Those who argue for the tripartite nature of man (body, soul, and spirit) have their reasons, but this essay will not venture into that debate. It is sufficient to know that the soulish part of man, which is non-corporal, or which is spirit, is the part of man that inhabits his thoughts. A man’s collective thinking is that man’s philosophy. Those who know something of how I think know that I have a general aversion to the idea of leaving Nigeria. Japa is a word that occupies the lowest cadre in my vocabulary. My generation (born 1970s to 1990s) has no reason to leave this country. We enjoyed some of the dwindling fortunes of the country. We enjoyed almost free tuition in public universities, and there were still some jobs available when we graduated. So, sometimes I’m still at a loss when my mates tell me they are japaing. My thinking is: “… why … to where?”

Nonetheless, I believe a few people have legitimate reasons to leave this country, and when they do, I wish them well. One of such persons is a former colleague of mine at work. Those who remember the television program “WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE” will know that Frank Edoho will usually ask that you have an option to “phone a friend”. This colleague of mine, who left Nigeria with his family,  is that kind of friend I will readily call. Smart guy. Sound professional. Godly man, with a stable family. Yet, Nigeria has not been kind to him. Long story short, my friend leaves Nigeria, gets a sound postgraduate degree, and is today doing very well with his wife – a professional herself – in the United Kingdom. They are adding to the economy of another country, and I am very happy for them. The whole talk of non existing jobs in the UK today is not affecting them at all because my friend is smart. He has studied the UK system and is getting the best out of it.

So, my friend and family visited Nigeria for a family function, and he had the opportunity of talking with a few of us, his former colleagues, at work. My guy has been away from Nigeria for two years, yet he refused to put on weight. He explains that it was deliberate on his part. For health reasons, he simply cut down on his carbohydrates and ate more protein. The result has been general well-being, and he is looking particularly trim. Now, that is a sensible person. One of the first things Nigerians fall prey to the moment they get abroad is food. Years of deprivation lead to this, but a sensible person knows when to stop eating .

The first question that I put to my friend was this: “…how is the UK?” My friend knows that I didn’t require the trite “it is fine” answer. I wanted something deeper: something all-encompassing and his reply didn’t disappoint. He explained that at his church’s home fellowship, he had been asked the same question, and his reply was this: there is a general lack of aggression in the United Kingdom. That people you meet as you go about your business daily are not biting at you; no one is insulting your father while driving on the road; you usually do not have an overbearing boss and on few occasions when such people appear, the system deals with them. The United Kingdom may not be a country with the highest moral compass in the world, yet the people are generally kind. My friend explained that when an individual does not spend much of his waking moments and energy warding off negativity all around him, he possesses sufficient resources within himself to be productive. Positivity yielding greater productivity, and this, my friend argues, is the success story of the West. While undergoing his postgraduate degree, my friend took his time to understand the English system, and by the time he was done schooling, he fitted right in – and is today doing very well.

I am typing this essay on my phone. The reason is because despite being on some “Band A” power supply system, where IBEDC has promised us 20 hours of power each day, we have been getting an average of 20 minutes power supply a day where I live in Ibadan in the past six weeks. Sometimes the light doesn’t come in five days! I have a very important report I am supposed to write but can not because there is simply no power for my laptop. When there’s no power, industries can not work; hospitals can not operate; offices down-tool. It is a sheer miracle that this country still exists with the kind of frustration PHCN gives Nigerians. This frustration builds up negative energy, which is passed on to the wife, children, and everyone you meet. Everybody is angry, and a dog-eat-dog society results. And I am not saying PHCN is the cause of Nigeria’s troubles. I am saying, rather, that a system that is run with inherent frustration and aggression within her people will lead to negativity being passed around and a general lack of productivity, leading to arrested development.

So, why not japa? Well, yes, there are people who should leave; learn from a working system and bring back ideas to our system to make it work. The problem, also, is a general lack of teachableness. Nigerians are usually very proud people, and such people can not learn. I think that there are a few people who can learn. These individuals will imbibe the philosophy behind a working system, like we have in the West. They will replicate these principles, and they will build private and independent organizations that will work. I am very sure you understand that I have my job already cut out for me, and you may imitate me too.

The people who live abroad don’t have two heads. Oyinbo people are not wizards. They simply build on the general positivity around them, and they ensure they are productive. And a productive system will bring money. And it is in Nigeria, a developing system, that one can make this money – making it fair and square here. This is why you do not need to japa to make it. And those who japa can return with ideas that we can pick from to better our lot as a country. Working ideas are the product of positive thinking, constructive philosophies, and a general congenial spirit present in the lives of a people committed to bettering their own lives and the life of their neighbours.

Deji Yesufu pastors Providence Reformed Baptist Church Ibadan, situated at the University of Ibadan. He is the author of HUMANITY.

Posted by Deji Yesufu


  1. Atiang Jonathan April 9, 2024 at 6:06 pm

    A profoundly insightful and comforting article.


    1. Thank you ????


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