The benefits of Nigerian citizenship? by By Eugene Enahoro


In the past whenever a Nigerian displayed his or her photograph taken solo with a Certificate, it was because they had achieved some sort of academic milestone. Nowadays things are different. The social media is replete with pictures of Nigerians in celebratory mood displaying a Certificate which bestows upon them citizenship of a developed nation. Nigerians are queuing up at foreign Embassies in droves to become citizens of western nations and many of them are doing so, not as young people but rather in their old age.

This exodus is understandable and should come as no surprise because as former Minister Femi Fani-Kayode wrote on the back page of Sundays’ Tribune Newspaper “From a great nation that was once blessed with so much potential, hope and promise we are now nothing but a blood soaked and demon infested enclave..” Regrettably Nigerians are becoming immune to the almost daily slaughter in the North-East. To make matters worse the Nigerian government has adopted a policy under which unarmed peaceful protestors are tear-gassed and killed, while those who choose to take up arms and become terrorists or militants are “settled” with Billions!

Fortunately for the nation, despite celebrating their status as citizens of foreign countries, Nigerians in Diaspora maintain strong ties with their families and friends back home. It would be folly for government to scorn them as unpatriotic for running away from the mess in Nigeria, because with an estimated inflow of $25 Billion from their remittances in 2018, Nigerians in Diaspora are the country’s second most profitable export after oil! It’s on record that Nigeria has the highest figure of overseas remittances in sub-Saharan Africa and is currently in the top five in global remittances.

Estimates of the ever increasing size of Nigerians in Diaspora range from 5 – 15 million and this emigration has been at an immeasurable cost to the nation as some of the best and brightest brains have left. Those who decide to remain are quite naturally irked by the fact that government continues to headhunt Nigerians in Diaspora for top positions. Immediately such appointees leave office, they don’t remain in Nigeria, but quickly return back from whence they came.

Their overseas citizenship doesn’t change the color of their skin or indemnify them from the overt racism in those countries which is growing rather than reducing. Neither does it guarantee them a good job or prosperity. Admittedly their chances of success will be enhanced, but there is still no guarantee.

Poverty is not the exclusive reserve of the underdeveloped nations, it’s not only relative, but it’s also a worldwide phenomenon when defined in terms of homelessness, insufficient income, and inability to surpass Maslow’s lowest level in the Hierarchy of Needs. One of the countries currently bestowing mass citizenship upon Nigerians emigrants is Canada. Perhaps because geography is no longer a compulsory subject is school, many Nigerian immigrants to Canada have been caught unawares by exactly how cold the place is.

With all due respect to the Canadians who mean well, it’s simply a reflection of the extent to which Nigeria has fallen that makes its citizens want to live in a place where the almost never-ending cold is inimical to the African man’s physiology! The question then arises – if residing in a non-conducive climate doesn’t guarantee financial or career success, then what is so special about citizenship of these countries? The answer in a nutshell is that citizenship of developed countries guarantees to a large extent personal safety, civil liberties and the rule of law.

In addition it presumes a right to live in a decent pristine environment devoid of squalor, and grants access to “social safety-net” government services which recognize the right of every citizen to be supported by government to ensure that they don’t fall below a defined poverty level.

The nature of government support to citizens varies and ranges from free or subsidized Medical Services, Housing, and Education to Unemployment Benefits and/or State Pensions. There is no reason why citizens of underdeveloped nations in general and Nigerian in particular should not be queuing up to gain access to these benefits. It’s their entitlement in as much as every human being on this planet is entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

It’s supposed to be the irreducible minimum responsibility of those in governance. In Nigeria there is a tendency for government officials to get carried away by protocol and ignore the fundamental and underlying reason for the existence of the portfolios they hold in government which is to guarantee peace and security, enhance citizen’s lives by creating an enabling environment for personal and business progress, and provide health benefits and other social services.

These are supposed to take priority over all other types of government expenditure. In Nigeria the economy is in ruins, political jesters rule the stage, there are little or no social services, violent criminals are imposing the rule of the jungle on the nation, and government seems to lie prostrate before a marauding army of murderous kidnappers, killer herdsmen, bandits, armed robbers, insurgents, ritual killers, cultists and sundry renegades. It simply begs the question: what exactly defines Nigerian citizenship, and what are its benefits?

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