Jumoke said that she is now a liberated woman who has smelled the coffee of Japa. She pointed out the connection between pound sterling and naira. Initially, I found it hard to yield to her persuasion. But she kept on crunching the mathematical rate of exchange and the current free fall of the naira against British pound. I was alarmed. A thousand pounds, she said, is close to a one million naira. She said that to Japa to London and earn pound sterling is the safest for her future. She said that naira ti lule patapata!!! There was no lying language in her survivalist mindset. What I discovered was the ongoing patriotic struggle to resolve the dichotomy between survival and the resilience to carry on with the Nigerian dream – a dream that had been shattered by our politicians.
Jumoke said that she embarked on her epic forced Japa displacement for altruistic reasons. She has dependent parents, four siblings and a large extended family. She is the first child, and everybody sees her as a role model who must excel, be prosperous and provide for the family. Cultural mutual dependency is what is driving her ambition to Japa by all means necessary. Her argument is that money is the glue that holds families together. She reasoned that without money, family itself will scatter.
Jumoke in her moral sermon even said that to slave in Europe is better than offering her body as bounty to lecherous Nigerian men. That, it is better to slave with dignity in a foreign Western capital than beg friends and neighbours for N2,000. She reasoned that there is no dignity left in Nigeria. She said that our politicians have destroyed the remnant of dignity we have left. Jumoke said that the Nigerian who collects N5,000 to vote against his conscience and the poor market woman who sells her birth right for one congo of rice are all in the rat race to survive.
Japa obsessed Nigerians once made Ceuta, the Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast trended for the wrong reason. There, Nigerians were held captives by Moroccan border control officers who kept them in inhumane detention centres after torturous journey to reach Europe. These were the lucky ones. The bones of the unlucky ones remained unclaimed and unsung under the forbidden bed of the Mediterranean seas.
They died mostly from disease and thirst in the vast Moroccan deserts. The millennium-day migrants, the opportunity-seekers and risk takers, whatever their reasons need more than a wing and a prayer. They required enterprise, ambition, determination, and stubborn desperation to pull off from their roots, severe the past and face a new life in a new clime.
What is visible is the new paradigm shift. People like Jumoke Johnson are embracing the allure and moral radiance of Japa. To the Japa generation, the moral rightness and certitude of their chosen path is unquestionable. Japatomaniacs are coming to the UK not to acquire education but to gather pound sterling. I call the shift, the ‘pound offensive’. This is true of average Nigerian instinct to Japa to London and New York and work to gather enough money for a better life back home. And money being a universal magnet does not respect race, age, educational achievement, and gender is driving the Japa craze. Today, London is home to experience university lecturers who have abandoned the classrooms to take on security jobs and Uber driving because of pound sterling.
Pastors are leaving behind bewildered congregation to become delivery drivers in London. Strange still, the ‘mama’ Afusa and Ramonu of this world are abandoning their market stalls at Balogun and Dugbe markets to clean hospital toilets in London. These new tribes of migrants are the direct beneficiaries of our world becoming a global village. Within 36 hrs of arrival in London, it is possible for a JJC to start a new life as a porter in a 5-star hotel. Though on a slave wage, the porter has proved the truism that it is easier to succeed in London than in Lagos or Abuja. It is now a myth that black Africans endless tribal wars form the decisive cause of Japa to Europe and North America.
New arrivals are neither fleeing from tribal warlords nor oppressive regimes. The emerging pattern is that majorities of sub-Saharan Africans are economic migrants. Unedifying as it is, they fall under the dreaded category of illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants are the stubborn enemy on Britain’s doorposts. They are invisible enemies with no postcodes. They are the shadowy enemies fuelling so much hysteria and bellyaching among the British voting public. They are the detestable sub-human species causing anxieties, and thus, leading to xenophobia and racism among British people.
There is social tension following the ever-growing illegal immigration, especially from black Africa. Poor and jobless lower-class whites blame the influx of illegal immigrants as the source of their misfortune. Homeless whites blame illegal black migrants as the source of their sleeping rough on the streets. Old, conservative white folk shake their arthritis-damaged fist at the poor underclass blacks as the cause of rising crime waves in their neighbourhoods. Illegal immigration is now leading to the notion of difference. The ‘us and them’ syndrome is the new racist currency.
Black African culture and way of life are backward, so they say. We are still apes somersaulting from trees to trees. Also, the tabloid campaigns demonise the blackman and fuel resentment. Citizens from the Dark Continent are still being seen as ethnic beasts with prehistoric savagery in their blood veins. Our hygiene and moral values are detestable to the white model.
To quell public anxiety and placate the pampered ‘middle England’, British government is on the horns of a liberal dilemma. A gloss is being applied over the ugly canvass of racialised view of illegal immigration. The British government now stresses the cultural and economic dynamism that come with relatively high levels of immigration. However, Britain like the rest of EU is rolling out draconian immigration legislations to discourage the tired, the poor and the huddled masses of economic migrants especially from black Africa.
Mainland Europe, from the coastal enclave of Ceuta along the Moroccan shore to the rolling fjord of Norway have all barricaded themselves behind a double exclusion fence, surrounded by razor wire, electronic sensors, and closed-circuit television. The subtext is clear: We don’t welcome black Africans anymore; the house is full!!! The Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis, Somalians have all discovered a new route. They use dinghies to cross the English Channels into the UK!!!
The hated black African barbarians have shifted their travel narrative away from the perilous desert routes and are now coming over to start life anew as a legal carer. Like Jumoke Johnson, new Nigerian Japa migrants are spending millions of naira to earn the badge of indentured slaves to fill the dearth of workers in this low paid, strenuous, humiliating and emergency career as carers for geriatric patients suffering from arthritis to incontinence.
Do you blame Jumoke Johnson? Do we have the moral right to question her choice to embrace that restless instinct to Japa? Are Black Africans not the people reduced to penury and living on less than £1 a day? Can Nigerians who have the resources to pay their way to Europe be persuaded to persevere and hope for a better tomorrow? The tomorrow that had already being squandered by lechers and looters we called Nigerian political class. Would Jumoke Johnson or any desperate Nigerian not pay N6miilion naira all over again to escape the penury of living under N2,000 a day in a nation that is designed to weaken the poor and strengthens the rich? Japa is here…smell the coffee my readers.
Psychiatric Case of the Week
The detention of Mr Aminu Adamu Mohammed, the second-year student of Federal University, Dutse by Aisha Buhari, the wife of the President. Aminu was detained using abuse of power, thoughtlessness, arrogance, and impunity. Aisha’s attempt to muzzle Aminu’s free speech amounted to censorship and illegality. Adamu’s offence was to have posted a tweet in June 8,2022 in Hausa that “Mama is feeding fat on poor people’s money”.
It is public knowledge that Aisha lives an opulent life in her hideout in Dubai. She had been spotted many times in expensive designer wrist watches and bags. Is she not feeding fat on public money? The husband is known to be a cattle breeder in Daura who could not even afford his presidential nomination form in 2015. Arresting and maltreating the poor Aminu is sheer madness. Adamu regained his freedom after two weeks in detention.
Click to read Japa Part 1