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Japa: Voter apathy, other effects on Nigerian politics

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The ‘Japa syndrome’ is a term that describes the massive movement of Nigerians out of the country by whatever means possible, in search of better opportunities and living conditions abroad.


The term, which means “to run, flee or escape” in Yoruba, became popular after the 2023 presidential election, which many Nigerians saw as a disappointment and a sign of the country’s worsening governance and security situation.


According to the Pew Research Center, 45% of Nigerians want to leave the country. The number of Nigerians who obtained sponsored study or student visas from the UK rose from 6,798 in 2019 to 59,053 in 2022, a 768.7% increase.


Many Nigerians, especially the youth, are also migrating to other countries such as Canada, the United States, Germany, and Australia, where they hope to find better education, employment, and quality of life.


The ‘Japa syndrome’ has significant implications for Nigeria’s politics, both at the national and subnational levels.


On the one hand, it reflects the loss of confidence and trust in the political system and the leadership, as well as the dissatisfaction and frustration with the socio-economic conditions and the security challenges facing the country.


On the other hand, it also affects the political participation and representation of Nigerians, especially the young and educated ones, who are leaving behind a huge gap in the electorate, the civil society, and the public service.


Some of the possible effects of the ‘Japa syndrome’ on Nigerian politics are:


– Voter apathy: The ‘Japa syndrome’ may contribute to lower voter turnout and civic engagement in future elections, as many Nigerians who are eligible to vote may not be able to do so due to their absence from the country or their lack of interest in the political process.


This may undermine the legitimacy and credibility of the electoral outcomes and the democratic institutions, as well as the accountability and responsiveness of the elected officials.


– Brain drain and talent gap: The ‘Japa syndrome’ may also result in a brain drain and a talent gap in the country, as many skilled and educated Nigerians are leaving the country for greener pastures.


This may affect the quality and capacity of the public service, the private sector, and the civil society, as well as the innovation and development potential of the country. It may also create a shortage of human resources in critical sectors such as health, education, and technology, which are essential for the country’s growth and well-being.


– Diaspora influence and remittances: The ‘Japa syndrome’ may also increase the influence and role of the Nigerian diaspora in the country’s politics, as many Nigerians abroad may seek to maintain their ties and interests in their homeland.


The diaspora may provide financial, technical, and moral support to various political actors and causes, such as political parties, candidates, movements, and Non-governmental Organizations. They may also lobby and advocate for the interests and rights of Nigerians at home and abroad, as well as for the improvement of the bilateral and multilateral relations between Nigeria and their host countries.


The diaspora may also contribute to the country’s economy through remittances, which are estimated to be over $20 billion annually.


The ‘Japa syndrome’ is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that poses both challenges and opportunities for Nigeria’s politics.


It requires a comprehensive and holistic response from the government, the political parties, the civil society, and the international community, to address the root causes and the consequences of the migration trend, and to harness the potential and the contributions of the Nigerians at home and abroad.

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