Leadership: A major determinant influencing the decision by youths to migrate out of Nigeria.

Inemi Stephen
7 min readFeb 22, 2022
A leader without followers is just a man taking a stroll.

Why do we need government in a country?

The need for government intervention in an economy can be grouped under several objectives, such as: income and wealth redistribution, provision of public goods, ensuring fair competition, securing and spurring the domestic economy, security of lives and property, preserving the environment etc. Welfare economists often argue that without active government intervention in these areas, individuals and organizations will engage in practices that will certainly jeopardize the long-term sustainability of the economy for their own selfish interests. As such, responsible governments always take the collective welfare of their citizens as the highest priority. Unfortunately, this appears to be the reverse for the collective administrations that have ruled Nigeria.

An inquiry into cities in Nigeria such as Port Harcourt, Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Benin, Asaba, Abuja, and many more will expose the alarming neglect of the successive governments that have ruled and still rule Nigeria. While the inadequacies of government is not shocking news to anyone, sampling opinion from various social media posts and chat groups in Nigeria has revealed some disturbing facts. Let us look at some of the issues briefly that have only gotten worse in the last 25 years in Nigeria.

Water: Most Nigerian cities have not been provided public potable water in the last 25 years. Water production in the country is mainly from privately installed boreholes and wells.

Electricity: History will be made in Nigeria if the power company provides 24-hours uninterrupted power supply for a day nationwide. Virtually every household & business owns a generator or backup inverter in Nigeria to mitigate suffer the consequences of public power failure.

Postal & Telecommunications: The state of the Nation’s Postal & telecoms industry is comatose. If not for privately owned telecoms providers, Nigeria will be in the dark ages telecommunication-wise.

Police Force / Fire Service: The average response time for security operatives or fire services in Nigeria is unknown. There is no harmonized emergency phone number. If one wants to be safe in Nigeria, then provide your own security. Citizens do not only live in walled and gated compounds, but have now resorted to building gates across public roads and street entrances to secure their neighbourhoods.

Military & Defence: Kidnapping, banditry, terrorism and other violent acts keep rising. The most celebrated government response on security is to grant amnesty, pardon to criminals and put them on govt. payroll and their victims are kept in refugee camps. Recently, the Nation’s Military Defence Academy was attacked and some officers kidnapped. What could be more humiliating for a nation’s defence?

Medical: The nation’s healthcare and medical infrastructure is so comatose that its leaders cannot risk their lives receiving treatment in public hospitals.

Aviation: All the airlines operating in the country presently are privately owned. In the last 20 years, there has been no National carrier in the skies, and Nigeria is on record of having one of the largest number of privately owned jets within a single country which costs the owners about N30 billion on maintenance annually.

Railway: It is so sad that since independence some states have never seen a railroad and those that have railroads rarely see trains.

Education: Needless to say, if you want quality education for your kids, avoid public primary and post-primary schools at all cost in Nigeria. Graciously, the public tertiary institutions are better. Private schools are the only option to quality and an uninterrupted academic career in Nigeria.

Employment: The government was once a major player in determining unemployment rates in the country. Today, even those employed by government appear to be unemployed as salaries are delayed for months, employee morale is at an all-time low and work benefits are few and far between.

Pension: The pension scheme once used to be the major attraction to the public civil service as it guarantees sustenance after retirement Now, the government pension scheme is fraught with riddles, jokes, scams, lies and everything else apart from pension payment.

We can keep going on and on to cover almost every sector of the Nigerian economy and in each sector, we find that private organizations are providing the required services for Nigerians who can afford it.

Recently, the government of Nigeria imported PMS (premium motor spirit) popularly called fuel that was found to be toxic. It has damaged a lot of cars and is polluting the environment. No one has been held responsible and no damages have been paid, rather the same toxic fuel is still being circulated at even a higher cost as motorists have no choice but to buy due to the unavailability of PMS from any other source.

From the above let us reflect: “do we still need government intervention in Nigeria to better the lives of its citizens?” Maybe, maybe not.

1. If successive Nigerian governments have failed to solve these seemingly simple issues. As Nigerians, what would convince us to have hope in future governments?

2. If our government can import toxic fuel albeit “unknowingly” that has caused harm to Nigerians, how can we be confident that the Covid-19 vaccine our government imported would also not be toxic as no tests were carried out by our agencies before we started administering it.

Japa Mentality

The private sector is succeeding in providing electricity, education, health facilities, security, utility, etc. services that the government once provided efficiently Many Nigerians have resigned to the fact that the government has failed the country. However, those in power seem to be the only ones arguing that the government is working. Other Nigerians with the potential and the resources are fleeing the country in droves. And those left behind seem to have one only aspiration: to leave Nigeria for somewhere better.

The Nigerian dream is to “Japa” (pronounced jakpa) which is a Yoruba word synonymous to migrate. Nigerians with the japa mentality will do anything to leave, but only a few appear to be willing to do something to make the country better for all of us to stay.

Johnson, a 25 year old Nigerian male shared on social media…

I have already lived all of my life in hardship & bleak hope, I need the remaining part of my life to be something I can remember even in death. I cannot make Nigeria better because even Nigerians don’t want it to become better. That is why year after year no difference. My best option is to leave Nigeria”

Most young people today share similar views, but is that the only view the leaders are making them to have?

Origins of Migration

We are not arguing against migration. It is understood that migration is initiated either when one seeks a greener pasture or when one is expelled from a place as a result of deviant behavior. As a Christian, it is my firm belief that God is the author of migration. The Holy Bible is filled with accounts of migration. Adam & Eve migrated from the Garden of Eden, Cain migrated away from his parents, Abraham migrated to the land God showed him, Jacob migrated to Egypt with his family and the Israelites migrated back to Canaan, and many other recorded migration stories.

As Nigerians, We have a purpose

But there has to be a greater reason why God put us here as Nigerians. Even as the Israelites had to migrate to Egypt during the famine period, they eventually came back home, to the land flowing with milk and honey. It is sad to see the resources of Nigeria so poorly managed that, the only hope the average young Nigerian has, is to leave the country. For those who left, it is comforting to also know that, they excel in their undertakings abroad. But can we have faith that they would do better at home? How can we be certain if they are not given the opportunity to try?

We have also seen that our leaders’ misuse of resources over the years has created a japa mentality amongst our youth. That japa mentality is even more damaging than the looting of public funds because it creates a dreary feeling among the youths so much that they are not willing to give Nigeria a chance.

Why Leadership?

Leadership is the ability of an individual or a group of individuals to influence and guide followers or other members of an organization. If we agree with this definition, then obviously, our leaders are the ones influencing our decisions to flee from Nigeria. However, the general theory is that great leaders possess the ability to make strategic and visionary decisions and convince others to follow those decisions. What is now apparent is that Nigerian leaders are not great, they are just leaders. The consensus is that great leaders create a vision and can successfully get others to work toward achieving that goal. They do this by setting direction and inspiring others to want to succeed in achieving the end result. In other words, great leaders know how to both inspire people and get followers to complete the tasks that achieve the leader’s goal. This is clearly missing as while our “leaders” are leading the country, our youths are jumping ship at any given opportunity.

How can we get it right?

We have seen that private entities (individual & corporate) in Nigeria appears to be disproving economic theory by successfully providing the functions government ought to provide, although at a higher cost. The same can be applied to leadership.

As a leader or potential leader in your family, organization, or whatsoever undertaking you set your mind upon, take it as a responsibility to inspire young Nigerians by downplaying the need to japa and reinforcing possibilities to make them believe in Nigeria. Your singular action will go a long way in shaping their decisions to stay and build a better nation for our future generation.



Inemi Stephen

A behavioral economist, researcher and project consultant in the Nigerian Oil & Gas Industry with interest in leadership, sustainability, & project management