Brain drain: an end in sight? (Part 1)

When this writer left his highly equipped research laboratory at Lensfield Road, Cambridge, UK in August 1981 to join the University of Ibadan as a grade II lecturer in the chemistry department, he met many expatriates, notably from the United Kingdom, India and Lebanon. as colleagues. The naira was very strong at that time, as evidenced by the fact that this writer received 3,900 N at the current Union Bank (formerly Barclays Bank) in exchange for £ 4,000, which indicates an exchange rate of 1: 1 at the time. Today, in September 2021, the same £ 4,000 is trading for 2.26 MN (1 pound is equivalent to 565 N). It is therefore timely to suggest that the very high exchange rate of the naira is one of the main reasons for the brain drain in Nigeria.

By divine providence, the country is endowed with very rich human and natural resources and Nigerians are bright and hardworking. The truth is, we have suffered from the frustration and indignity of very bad leadership and very bad governance over the past 40 years. There is no doubt that the discovery of oil wells, especially in present-day Delta and River States, drew the military foray into the nation’s political life, informing the onset of our woes and regression in as a nation. Indeed, the economic downturn during the military dictatorship of Muhammadu Buhari (December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985 31), Ibrahim Babangida (August 28, 1985 to August 26, 1993) and Sanni Abacha (November 17, 1993 to June 08, 1998) finally put the finishing touches on the “death” of the naira and the suffering of the masses which resulted from it due to very high unemployment and the drastic reduction in their purchasing power. Things got so bad in the country informing the exodus of expatriates to their home countries and the collapse of many industries including Dunlop Tires, Michelin Tires, Exide Batteries, Delta Steel Company, several car assembly plants , Nigercem, Aba Textile Mills, several glass industries, Imo Rubber Nig. Ltd and Modern Ceramics Ltd to name a few. This sad development resulted in the loss of millions of jobs for Nigerians and gave birth to all the vices we know today, including armed robberies, kidnappings, ritual killings, the destruction of human lives by the Boko Haram sect and the forced possession of agricultural land and the murder of the owners by Fulani shepherds.

All the nations of the world now know that Nigeria is no longer a safe place to stay and this is why many Nigerians are leaving the country. The brain drain has therefore remained and remains a welcome development for many families who depend on the foreign currencies of their relatives or their children abroad to survive the hardships of the country.

The recent recruitment of Nigerian doctors in Abuja by the Saudi government to Sheraton Hotels and Towers on August 24, 2021 is a slap in the face of the federal government under the watchful eye of the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), who has recently pointed out that Nigerians who are not happy to stay in the country are free to settle in other countries of the world. It is an unfortunate statement by the head of a democratic government. He was supported by Minister of Labor and Employment Chris Ngige, who on August 25, 2021 said that the doctor brain drain is a welcome development as we have an excess of it in Nigeria which requires their export. How can you have an excess of doctors when the current ratio of doctor to patient in Nigeria is 1 in 5,000 against the World Health Organization recommendation of 1 in 600? Nigeria currently has a population of 200 million while Saudi Arabia has a population of 34 million. Its 113,000 doctors before recruiting Nigerian doctors give us a ratio of 1 in 301, making it one of the countries in the world with excellent health care for its people. The Buhari regime destroyed the once enviable status of the medical profession through its very poor health sector funding, very poor pay, and horrendous working conditions. Our young people are very smart and know the damage this administration has done to the medical profession, reporting the refusal of the top ten candidates from the recently released 2021 JAMB results to apply for medicine and surgery. All of them, including the best candidate, Master Monwuba Chibuzor Chibuikem who scored 358 out of 400, opted for engineering. This is a very sad development for Nigeria and could also be partly due to the fact that the University of Ibadan, which has the best medical school in the country, canceled the 2019/2020 session due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore not participating in the current admission exercise.

The recalcitrant behavior and profound lack of vision of our leaders must be of great concern to all Nigerians. Here are, in my opinion, the reasons for the brain drain in Nigeria:

  1. Nigeria’s unemployment rate is the highest in the world today. That is why it is beyond this writer’s imagination to note the approval of the establishment of 20 private universities and four state universities in the first six months of 2021 alone, when the existing universities are seriously under- funded and understaffed. These glorified high schools were created simply for glory and financial gain. The products of these schools will have no use after graduation. There are several graduates of existing universities who have sought employment for more than five years without success and thus found themselves fraudsters, smugglers and traffickers in human beings.
  2. We have a very serious problem of insecurity in Nigeria as evidenced by the operations of armed robbers, kidnappers, ritualists, internet crooks and Fulani shepherds.
  3. There is extreme poverty in Nigeria today and many Nigerians cannot afford two meals a day. This is why we have beggars all over our streets, including children under ten. Some of these children were forced by their parents to be peddlers in order to survive. The government sees nothing wrong with this development.
  4. Nigerian workers are very sad because of the low pay and the very high cost of living. This explains why many of our young professors at existing universities teach part-time at other universities in order to make ends meet. This writer lost a very young and brilliant colleague a few years ago in a horrific car accident on his way to Ibadan from Ondo town after such part-time education. May her gentle soul continue to rest in peace.

… to be continued

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