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Do you know foreigners are begging to be citizens of Nigeria? By Fredrick Nwabufo

To ‘japa’ or not to ‘japa’, that is not the question. The question is; if not Naija, where else? If it is not Naija, e no go fit be like Naija. The song by Korede Bello, ‘I love Naija’, plays in my head. ‘’I love my country, I love Naija; I no go run cause I believe e go better, Naija will be sweeter; we can make it together, cause now and forever Naija is my home.’’ Riddim…!!!

Have you caught the ‘japa’ bug? If you have, all well and good. Godspeed to you in your sojourn. Naija will always welcome you with open arms. ‘’No matter where you go, make you no forget area o; mother land eyeh o’’ — God rest Sound Sultan’s soul. Seriously, emigration is only natural. People will always go hither or thither. Absolutely normal. But what is contemptible is dragging Nigeria through the tarmac on the voyage abroad.  

Some Nigerians while exiting the country – at the airport – will post derisive comments with gleeful photos in tow on social media as a parting shot to the country — ‘’Nigeria you have done enough; you’re a destiny killer, goodbye forever’’. But soon enough, they find out living in any country comes with its own peculiar challenges and complexities – and that Nigeria, regardless of its flaws, will remain home.

As I shared on Twitter, our first contact with the world outside our native sphere is as Nigerians; and we will always be seen and judged as Nigerians. Ridiculing Nigeria to make a point is self-ridicule. We are eternally connected to Nigeria and whatever image we project of our country; we make of ourselves.

A foreigner running a successful business in Nigeria told me: ‘’Only Nigerians don’t see the opportunities in their country’’. Sadly so. The Lebanese have been thriving in the retail, construction and hospitality sectors in Nigeria for decades. The Indians are dominating the pharmaceutical, power and transmission sectors in Nigeria. The Turks are gradually taking over the furniture, education and manufacturing sectors in Nigeria. Only Nigerians do not see the opportunities in Nigeria.

In 2017, the federal government granted citizenship to 335 foreigners out of 500 who applied to become Nigerians. I understand the path to be becoming a citizen of Nigeria is fraught with thistles and thorns. It is not an easy picking. It could take many years for an application for citizenship to be approved by the Nigerian authorities. Yet many foreign nationals apply. I learnt some foreign nationals lobby to be granted citizenship – but Nigerian citizenship processes are thorough.

On Wednesday, Rauf Aregbesola, minister of interior, announced that the federal government had granted citizenship to 286 foreign nationals out of 600 who applied. Among those granted the very prestigious Nigerian citizenship were Americans, Europeans and Asians.

Lai Mohammed, minister of information, aptly described the approval as groundbreaking. He said: “It’s a groundbreaking memo as it will tell you, because just as some people think Nigeria is not a fit and proper place to live, we have thousands of people who are applying daily all over the world from virtually every continent to be citizens of Nigeria. I think that is very instructive.”

Nigeria is not an El Dorado but it is a country with immense opportunities that only the self-attuned can divine. Opportunities lurk everywhere in the country even in the heap of confusion. It is a country where anyone can become successful in whatever craft by sheer industry and determination. There is no pot of gold anywhere in the world, and nothing can substitute hard work and resilience. Nigeria has never been arid of opportunities.

Some say the country is unsafe and uninhabitable considering the threat by bandits and insurgents. Yes, there is insecurity in the land, pestilence and human vultures ravaging parts of the country, but the security agencies have been dutiful in countering this threat. As of January 2022, over 200 bandits have been killed while 1,081 Boko Haram fighters have surrendered to the army – as of December 2021. So far, over 17,000 Boko Harm insurgents have surrendered and over 3,000 bandits have been killed – according to official sources.

We cannot obviate or make light of the security challenges, but it is reassuring to know that the country’s security forces are tackling this problem. The spasmodic incidents of kidnapping in the south-west and in the south-east have been relatively contained, and though parts of the north-west and the north-central remain afflicted by these vermin, there is the prospect of peace returning to the area.

Insecurity is a quotidian problem. Every country faces it in different mutations. But what matters is how the government of the country responds to this snag. According to the World Population Review, out of the estimated 250,227 gun-related deaths worldwide in 2019, 65.9 percent occurred in just six countries — Brazil, the United States, Venezuela, Mexico, India, and Colombia. The much-vaunted ‘God’s own country’, the US, has the second-highest gun-related deaths globally.

Nigeria will surmount these current teething troubles. It will always win – even through the deadliest tempest.

By Fredrick Nwabufo; Nwabufo aka Mr OneNigeria is a writer and journalist.

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