By Ikenna Emewu 08078011807 E-mail: [email protected]
As a student of Archaeology, I was taught that there are just two options open to human beings for survival. One of them is adaptation and the other migration. That truism applies to all mankind, and Nigerians are no exception. Therefore, whenever Nigeria is no longer conducive, the Nigerian/s without the adequate adaptive radiation to keep living must try the other option – migration.
Migration remains migration. It only changes shape with time and consequences. In the early Holocene, the first man, Homo erectus, explored the low ebb that exposed the Horn of Tangiers, moved across Africa, his cradle, into the Atlas Mountain region, call that Spain and later all parts of the world. Another circumstance of migration apart from the voluntary one is forced migration. Hundreds of years ago, some people came here and forced Africans under duress to migrate to other worlds with the first batch arriving the shores of Virginia, USA in September 1619. It has not stopped and can never stop.
But the lamentation is that nation in today’s world that still forces its citizens to migrate to other lands. Nigeria is a good example of such nation. In the Bible, the eleven spies Moses sent to search out details of the land the people of Israel were heading to came back and said the place they saw is a land that eats up the inhabitants. It is possible that land the men spied was this land. The difference is that if the agents of Moses saw a land that lacked resources to cater for the citizens, thereby eating them up, Nigeria is the opposite. This land flows with milk, butter, bread, honey, and even amala, but the leaders are kakistocrats that eat up the people. Leadership has made Nigeria a place almost worthless. It spews its inhabitants and they desperately traverse the entire world in search of a place that is habitable. Then in an attempt to solve the problem, the same leaders, pricked by the trend of forced migration of desperate men, their
own creation, last week made laws to jail such migrants, especially those of them that coerce or lure others to migrate against their wish. A law to punish forced migration is like the one that punishes suicide. Only the one that failed in the attempt faces punishment. Those that succeed are never punished because they would be somewhere outside the reach of the law we talk about
I bet you that that law is an unpopular one and would be obeyed only in breach. That is the fate of all bad laws. Whether Nigerian lawmakers like it or not, the truth of human behaviour that makes him defy the pains because of the expected gains must always nudge Nigerians to migrate and to force others to migrate for profit. It is called the pain-pleasure-principle. Ask a good psychologist and you would be told better that no extent of harsh laws ever deterred a man who is chased by hunger from looking for a place to find food. Even if the nation barricades the borders with electrolyzed cables, it won’t stop a determined man from the business. It never made sense anywhere before to make laws that punish food thieves when there is no food for them. It makes better impact to forget about legislation and criminalizing theft of food and make food available to the people. Immediately they have food within their reach, they have no business stealing food.
In Egypt, I was told on good record that it is criminal offence to own a power generator. A friend, who visited the country and also told me the story, said there is no reason anybody would offence the law because there is no condition for that when there is adequate power supply.
This is our dilemma: we face unusual situations and conditions of living in Nigeria. The nation’s plight is hardly known anywhere else. The citizens do everything for themselves and even for the government. The people that migrate are those that can’t cope any more with the vagaries and endless task of swimming against the tide. They manifest in real terms the dysfunction that has eaten deep and keeps eating deeper everyday into the fabric of the society. When the bombardment on their frail structure becomes unbearable, they cave in and resort to paths of survival – migration we seek legislation in vain to suppress. These people are just but the tip of the iceberg of Nigerians and humanity depicting our collapse. Laws or threat of jail can never stop them.
There is just one thing that would stop them – jail poverty, outlaw poverty instead of these traffickers. When did trafficking in human being confront us? Did we know what is human trafficking in the years before 1985 when IBB hijacked power and wickedly crashed the economy, exposing it to all manner of voodoo machinations that he even had to admit his surprise the economy even still existed. Those days, there were chains of factories and working industries along the Oshodi-Apapa expressway in Lagos. In such days, the mills and wheels in Bompai Kano turned endlessly. Today, of over 40 such mills, maybe, you can’t have more than four still limping and on life support. Those same days, there used to be so many kicking factories on the Onitsha-Owerri Road, Atani Road and others in Onitsha. Those of us who grew up there knew so many unskilled hands that trouped out early every morning to find livelihood in those places. It was the same in Aba and also
the refineries in Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Eleme and Warri. They employed Nigerians. Today, where are they? Did we have okada riders then? No.
I keep saying this because I know it is sure fact that in about 1998, I used the National Bureau of Statistics library on Broad Street, Lagos for a research and read a book that had data that Nigeria’s economy was 12 percent industry based when IBB took over power in 1985, and by the time he left in 1993, it had dropped to 4 percent. I bet you that it must have dropped further to sub-zero today. Working hands have grown idle and rusty. They find alternatives, including forced migration of all shades. So those of you that intend to stop a fight, as my people wisely say, do please first stop the quarrel that leads to a fight. You can’t stop forced migration that manifests as human trafficking until you stop poverty and idleness.
Managers of the nation admitted that 39 million are idle and jobless, not because they don’t want to work, but because the lawgivers who want them jailed for finding survival in odd and criminal things against their wish have kept quiet about job creation to keep them busy. Do you beat a child and also deny him shedding tears? Even those citizens that created alternative jobs were frustrated by the same system in multiple taxation, non-existent power supply and other disguised criminalities of state and they go into human trafficking as a way to survive.
Dora Akunyili as minister started the slogan of re-branding Nigeria and told us to speak well of the nation and nothing more. Is it possible for a child to speak good of a father who you know is rich but refuses to send you to school or feed you or assist you create your future?
The NAPTIP chief executive once told The Sun Newspapers in an interview that the most lucrative international crime in Nigeria is human trafficking and pegged the monetary returns in billions of dollars earned every year by operators of this illegality. It is a cancer now eating deep into our system where young people who could not cope with the hardship in their nation are forced out against their wish. Many of them that leave the shores never arrive Europe alive after an endless wandering in the wilderness like in the book of Exodus. As most of them die, end in jail or take to drugs without actualizing their intention, many still brave it because what pursues them in Nigeria has not abated. What they face is a situation of choosing between two deaths – the death through hunger in Nigeria and another in bravery at least making attempt to survive.
Although the FG through the economy minister admitted some months ago that 39m Nigerians are jobless, a World Bank record of March 2009 painted a worse picture even the FG admitted then as correct. Since the body was right then, then that would mean we have about 32.77% joblessness today, or about 42m people without jobs. They are the human traffickers and the victims of trafficking. Legislation to jail them won’t be a deterrent. So, let’s rather jail poverty and all the factors made in the factory of the government that create it instead of wasting time on a law no determined trafficker is ready to obey.