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The Message from Europe – By Olusegun Adeniyi

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olusegun adeniyiAnybody who has been following the refugee crisis in Europe would not but feel sad about the misery that is pushing hundreds of thousands of people from their

homes to distant lands. Even though many of these people fleeing Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, etc. may be running away from violence and war, the bottom-line essentially is economic. What majority of them seek is no more than something as basic as being able to feed and secure themselves and their families. In pursuit of that simple ambition, they do not mind being subjected to degrading and inhuman conditions and we are talking only about survivors, because not everybody that leaves his/her country makes it to Europe.

[Image: The author]

As one would imagine, there is always a Nigerian angle to every story. Among the hundreds of thousands of migrants that have now become a source of burden for Germany and other European countries, there are 12,000 documented Nigerians said to be running away from Boko Haram. Yet I am almost certain that if a proper profile were done of those our compatriots, majority of them would likely be from parts of the country where there is no threat of Boko Haram insurgency which then means that they are just seeking “greener pastures” abroad, having lost all hope at home.

In a way it is poetic justice that Germany, where our continent was divided among the European powers in the 19th century is now host to the distribution of refugees but this is a tragedy that calls for leadership, especially in our continent. Unfortunately, African leaders are not even paying attention. Even though majority of the desperate immigrants in Europe are from theatres of violence, there is also a never-ending stream from our continent that is being ignored.

In fact, this year alone, thousands of young men and women from our continent have perished in the Mediterranean Sea in the futile bid to cross to Europe in search of better lives that most often ends in misery and death for a great majority of them. But what the whole tragedy teaches is that we should begin to put our house in order.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), one in every 122 people in the world is currently either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum in a country not his/her, many of them undertaking perilous journeys. Ranked by citizenship, most of these migrants and refugees, according to Eurostat, are from Kosovo, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraqi, Serbia, Pakistan, Ukraine and Nigeria. That our country ranks among the leading ten countries in the world from where nationals are emigrating should be worrying yet if we will be honest with ourselves, these our nationals are running away, not from insurgency but rather from hunger, deprivation and hopelessness. 

What that suggests is that we all have a responsibility to help and the first issue has to do with rebuilding our economy to provide employment opportunities for our young population of school leavers. That would require serious thinking away from providing bubble government jobs that are tied to the ever-dwindling monthly oil revenue in Abuja. It is not something that government alone can do but government would have to take the lead and provide the environment by which the people can maximize their potentials and thrive. And when I say government, I am not only referring to Abuja but also the 36 states where the governors must begin to act responsibly.

Indeed, that majority of our people are under serious economic and social pressure is well captured in the latest World Bank report on “The State of Safety Nets 2015”, which states that most countries in sub-Sahara Africa “have the lowest (safety nets) coverage levels of poor people in their societies, and the least ability to direct resources to those most in need.” But what is more alarming, especially in the case of Nigeria, is the demographics of the millions of people being left uncared for—the young of our society; even though the situation is not better in most other African countries.

Therefore, in calling on African leaders to work towards eliminating conflict, abject poverty and create employment opportunities for their citizens, President Olusegun Obasanjo admonishes that Europe as well as leaders within the continent should begin “to take a good look at the factors responsible for the death and destruction by illegal migration of youths from Africa and address the causes in an honest, responsible, humane and holistic manner rather than the current futile attempt to half-heartedly deal with the symptoms rather than the cause.”

I completely agree with him.

The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi:  olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

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