Nige­rian Global Cit­i­zens

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - The Fixes From The Managing Editor -

Once US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed his first ex­ec­u­tive or­der on im­mi­gra­tion in Jan­uary, my posts on Face­book started to garner fewer “likes”, as I con­tin­ued my de­nun­ci­a­tion of Mr. Trump. A “friend”, whom I be­lieve was gen­uinely con­cerned about me, posted a ques­tion that sug­gested he was baf­fled by my lack of self­con­sid­er­a­tion. “Don’t you want to be able to get a visa to travel to Yan­kee again?”

I have been vis­it­ing the United States since 2007. When Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria hosted the an­nual Nige­ria Devel­op­ment and Fi­nance Fo­rum con­fer­ence in New York in 2014, ho­tel and cater­ing costs alone amounted to $147,000.00. The US econ­omy has al­ways been the net fi­nan­cial ben­e­fi­ciary of my trips, tak­ing into ac­count ex­penses on ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion, shop­ping and US tax on flight tick­ets.

My coun­try is not more for­tu­nate in deal­ing with the Western world. Nige­ria re­mains lit­tle-de­vel­oped af­ter four cen­turies of trade re­la­tions with the West. Pres­i­dent Trump’s “Amer­ica First”, and Brexit, are new facets of the long­stand­ing prac­tices in which the pow­er­ful Western coun­tries ba­si­cally use in­ter­na­tional trade as in­stru­men­tal­ity for main­tain­ing eco­nomic dom­i­nance.

Lib­eral visa and im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies of Western coun­tries tend to le­git­imise glob­al­i­sa­tion. Some of us eas­ily ob­tain travel visas. Oth­ers have per­ma­nent res­i­den­tial sta­tus or cit­i­zen­ship of other coun­tries. With these, we get the idea we are global cit­i­zens. We can have break­fast in Lagos and din­ner in New York. Af­ter our ini­tial state-sub­sidised ed­u­ca­tion, we can travel abroad for fur­ther stud­ies and sub­se­quently fol­low a track that leads to per­ma­nent res­i­dency and dual cit­i­zen­ship.

But last October, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, mocked the idea of global cit­i­zen­ship. She said: “If you be­lieve you’re a cit­i­zen of the world, you’re a cit­i­zen of nowhere.” The state­ment at­tracted con­dem­na­tion to her. In one scathing crit­i­cism, she was held to be re­pu­di­at­ing En­light­en­ment.

The anti-im­mi­gra­tion stances of the cur­rent Bri­tish and US gov­ern­ments surely run counter to en­light­ened self-in­ter­ests of their coun­tries. Amer­ica’s is an im­mi­gra­tion her­itage. This es­sen­tially de­fines the great­ness of the coun­try. Sim­i­larly, Lon­don’s cos­mopoli­tanism is the spine of the Bri­tish econ­omy. Lon­don that dis­con­tin­ues the welcome to im­mi­grants will lose the tal­ent pool that un­der­lines its at­trac­tive­ness as a fi­nan­cial and in­no­va­tion hub.

It is odd that two of the coun­tries that benefit from glob­al­i­sa­tion the most are push­ing back on global cit­i­zen­ship. But they of­fer re­al­ity checks to those of us who get car­ried away by our visas, green cards, and pass­ports of coun­tries we are not na­tives of. These doc­u­ments can be eas­ily can­celled or the poli­cies that un­der­pinned their is­suance rolled back overnight.

While be­ing raised singly by my mother, in ru­ral Idoani, I knew de­pri­va­tion. But the train­ing she gave me was that our more for­tu­nate neigh­bours must not be the prove­nance of the things I wanted. While she worked hard to pro­vide the best she could af­ford to take care of me, she im­pressed it on me that I also must work hard to be able to re­alise my de­sires when I be­come in­de­pen­dent. The use­ful­ness of this les­son is in the con­trast that I can eas­ily draw to­day be­tween me and some of my friends, who in those years were, with­out dis­re­spect, bona fide floaters – look­ing for im­me­di­ate gratification.

Nige­ria is the vin­tage coun­try of these my friends. The an­swer to our di­lap­i­dated health­care sys­tem is ac­cess to for­eign med­i­cal care. Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari meets his health­care needs in the UK, Col­lec­tively, the coun­try spends $3 bil­lion an­nu­ally in med­i­cal tourism. Since our ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem has be­come in­ad­e­quate for our mid­dle- and up­per-class fam­i­lies, for­eign in­sti­tu­tions must be the way out.

We may ask: “Un­til our health­care and ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems are fixed, what are we sup­posed to do when we fall sick or have to pro­vide good ed­u­ca­tion for our chil­dren?” There is no easy an­swer. But un­less the lo­cal sys­tems are fixed, life ex­pectancy will re­main low in Nige­ria. Even a pro­por­tion of those who ac­cess qual­ity health­care abroad will do so rather late, lim­it­ing ef­fec­tive treat­ment. And un­less stan­dards sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove in our schools, the hope of eco­nomic devel­op­ment will con­tinue to fade in our coun­try.

Cer­tain con­ver­sa­tions about mi­gra­tion hype mi­grant rev­enue re­mit­tances to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. But while MRR in­creases cap­i­tal stock in the re­cip­i­ent coun­tries, mi­gra­tion re­duces pro­duc­tiv­ity in these economies by shrink­ing the sizes of the labour pool and lo­cal ex­per­tise. Nige­ria re­ceived $21 bil­lion in MRR in 2015. This would have un­likely ex­ceeded 1% of the labour pro­duc­tiv­ity of the Nige­rian mi­grant work­ers. Re­mit­tances rep­re­sent but a small frac­tion of the fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tions for mi­grants’ labour sup­ply – given high tax de­duc­tions, mort­gage cost, and liv­ing ex­penses that must be taken care of. Also, labour pro­duc­tiv­ity nec­es­sar­ily exceeds fi­nan­cial re­ward for it.

In the mid-90s, Mustapha Danesi re­ceived a lu­cra­tive em­ploy­ment as a physi­cian­neu­rol­o­gist in the United States, with the of­fer of a green card to boot. But he later dis­cov­ered there was one neu­rol­o­gist to 17,000 peo­ple in Amer­ica. In Nige­ria, it was one neu­rol­o­gist to 16.7 mil­lion peo­ple. This aroused his pa­tri­o­tism. In­stead of con­tin­u­ing his ca­reer in the United States, he re­turned to Nige­ria to help de­velop neu­rol­ogy in the coun­try. From seven prac­tic­ing neu­rol­o­gists in the coun­try in 1998 at his re­turn, Prof Danesi has catal­ysed the train­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of dozens of neu­rol­o­gists yearly, to­day.

There is no vi­able al­ter­na­tive to build­ing our coun­try, and do­ing so with our bright­est peo­ple and col­lec­tive best ef­forts. Prime Min­is­ter May just re­minded us of the an­ti­Semitic “root­less Jew,” the rhetoric in the 19th cen­tury which cul­mi­nated in the geno­cide against Jews dur­ing World War II; and the “root­less cos­mopoli­tans” that Joseph Stalin used to purge Jewish in­tel­lec­tu­als later in the 1940s. To­day, the cyn­i­cism is di­rected at some Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity na­tions. Nige­ria can eas­ily be tar­geted in the fu­ture when we be­come a na­tion of over 400 mil­lion hus­tlers pres­sur­ing global mi­gra­tion. In­deed, Nige­rian mi­grants have con­tin­u­ously been tar­geted in xeno­pho­bic at­tacks in South Africa.

This is not a back­ing for im­mi­gra­tion dooms­day. It is an awak­en­ing: global cit­i­zen­ship can eas­ily be­come il­lu­sory. It is hol­low for us as Nige­ri­ans to rely on ac­cess to good fa­cil­i­ties and sys­tems of other coun­tries as the al­ter­na­tive to de­vel­op­ing such lo­cally, es­pe­cially given our im­mense na­tional po­ten­tials.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.