The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese,Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, says the mass exodus of youths from Nigeria in search of greener pastures in more developed nations should not be a cause for worry.
Speaking at the 2023 Presidential Inauguration Lecture held in Abuja on Saturday, Kukah said the brain drain, otherwise referred to as the “Japa syndrome,” should be a welcome development.
The cleric shared his insight in the backdrop of the local and international discourse around a growing interest among Nigerian youths to pursue new economic opportunities in foreign lands, Channels News reports.
He argued that Nigerian leaders should endeavor to make the country more conducive for Diaspora Nigerians to return to and develop.
“The young Nigerians who are leaving our country, I always say to them, ‘No, I’m not worried. Really, I’m not worried. Let them go, it’s for the good of the country. The challenge for us as Africans is to think the way the Asians have thought,” Kukah said.
“That is, you go to Europe, you go to America, with a purpose, but that purpose means coming back to develop your country. But it also means that that country must create an environment in which you can feel confident to come and present the gift that God has given you.”
Addressing the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, who represented President-elect Bola Tinubu at the event, the Kukah advised the leaders of the incoming administration to ensure that citizens have a sense of belonging.
“I have two young men. They are in America; they just finished from a prestigious university. I said, ‘When are you coming home?’ They said, ‘Bishop, coming home to do what?’ I said, ‘No, coming home to….’
“He said, ‘We don’t have an uncle who is a Senator; we don’t have anybody in government. What are we coming home to do?’
“So, Mr Vice President-elect, the challenge for you is to make this country believable, livable, credible, so that all of us, together can stand in one tent and build a great nation.”
On the struggle with the problems of Nigeria, Kukah held that he remained “exceptionally optimistic”.
Having travelled the world, Kukah noted that people would often ask where he finds the courage to declare that Nigeria is working.
“When I say, ‘Okay, it may not be working, but this is one of the most beautiful countries in the world,’ I’m not being flippant,” he said.
Recalling his time as a student in the United States of America, the bishop spoke about the moment he was offered permanent residence after preaching at a church.
“The parish priest called me and said, ‘Listen, you speak with such eloquence. I like you; we’ll get you a green card. You can settle here in America,’” Kukah told the audience amid applause.
“And I looked at him. I said, ‘You know, this God is a wonderful God. You’re giving me a green card. My passport is actually a green passport. So, what am I doing with a green card?’”