The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, says the mass exodus of youths from Nigeria seeking greener pastures in more developed nations should not be cause for concern.
Speaking at the 2023 presidential inauguration lecture held in Abuja on Saturday, Kukah said the brain drain otherwise referred to as the Japa syndrome should be welcome development.
The cleric shared his insight on the backdrop of the local and international discourse around a growing interest among Nigerian youths to pursue new economic opportunities in foreign lands.
He argued that Nigerian leaders should be more concerned about making the country more conducive for emigrants to return and develop the country.
“The young Nigerians who are leaving our country, I always say to them, ‘No, I’m not worried. Really, I’m not worried. Let them go, it’s for the good of the country. The challenge for us as Africans is to think the way the Asians have thought,” Kukah said.
“That is, you go to Europe, you go to America, with a purpose, but that purpose means coming back to develop your country. But it also means that that country must create an environment in which you can feel confident to come and present the gift that God has given you.”
Addressing the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, who represented President-elect Bola Tinubu at the event, the bishop advised the leaders of the incoming administration to ensure citizens can have a sense of belonging.
“I have two young men. They are in America; they just finished from a prestigious university. I said, ‘When are you coming home?’ They said, ‘Bishop, coming home to do what?’ I said, ‘No, coming home to….’
“He said, ‘We don’t have an uncle who is a senator; we don’t have anybody in government. What are we coming home to do?’
“So, Mr Vice President-elect, the challenge for you is to make this country believable, liveable, credible, so that all of us, together, can stand in one tent and build a great nation,” the bishop said.
In the struggle with the problems of Nigeria, the cleric held that he remained “exceptionally optimistic”.
Having travelled the world, Kukah noted that people would often ask where he finds the courage to declare that Nigeria is working.
“When I say, ‘Okay, it may not be working, but this is one of the most beautiful countries in the world,’ I’m not being flippant,” he said.
Recalling his time as a student in the United States of America, the bishop spoke about the moment he was offered permanent residence after preaching at a church.
“The parish priest called me and said, ‘Listen, you speak with such eloquence. I like you; we’ll get you a green card. You can settle here in America,’” Kukah told the audience amid applause.
“And I looked at him. I said, ‘You know, this God is a wonderful God. You’re giving me a green card. My passport is actually a green passport. So, what am I doing with a green card?’”
The UK government, last Tuesday, announced a package of measures aimed at international students, including a ban on some family members, as ministers come under growing pressure to cut immigration.
Under the new proposals, only students on postgraduate courses designated as research programmes would be able to bring dependants to the UK while they study.
Overseas students will be prevented from switching “out of the student route into work routes” before their studies have been completed.
Last week, a Sun UK report had revealed that a total of 135,788 family members reportedly tagged along as students moved into Britain for study last year — nine times more than in 2019.
“Last year, 59,053 Nigerian students brought over 60,923 relatives,” the report noted.
In its updated ‘Code of practice for the international recruitment of health and social care personnel in England’, the UK placed Nigeria and the other countries on its red list which was based on the World Health Organisation Workforce Support and Safeguard List, 2023.
Reps Target Doctors
In April, moves by the House of Representatives to address the mass exit of young Nigerians from the country reached a climax when a bill seeking the amendment of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act 2004 passing second reading.
The proposed legislation seeks to mandate Nigerian-trained medical and dental practitioners to practise in the country for a minimum of five years in the country before being granted a full licence.
According to the All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmaker from Lagos who sponsored the bill, Ganiyu Johnson, the bill is to address the brain drain in the Nigerian health sector.