"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: Leaving the Diaspora to Take a Gov’t Job is No “Sacrifice”

Friday, July 10, 2020

Leaving the Diaspora to Take a Gov’t Job is No “Sacrifice”

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

It has now become customary for Nigerians in the diaspora who leave their exilic locations to take government jobs at home to emotionally blackmail the nation into seeing them as irreproachable demigods whose “sacrifice” in leaving their diasporic comfort zones should inoculate them against scrutiny. Here are 6 reasons why this is boneheaded.

1. No Nigerian who benefited from the free or highly subsidized education in the country can ever fully pay back the debt he or she owes to Nigeria. Thanks to my Nigerian undergraduate degree, which I couldn’t afford if it wasn’t subsidized, I am debt-free and doing financially well in my diasporic location. 

My American colleagues aren’t that lucky. Most of them are still paying their student loans.

Obama finished paying his student loan debts just a few months before he became president. Had he not made a fortune from his well-received autobiography, he would have been paying his student loans well into his presidency.

So going back to work in Nigeria after staying in the diaspora is, properly speaking, “giving back”; it is NOT a sacrifice. Sacrifice entails an undeserved loss as a result of giving up something more valuable. 

Since most diasporans won’t even have the opportunity of their exilic comfort zones if they didn’t benefit from Nigeria’s free or subsidized education, they aren’t “sacrificing” by going back to the country that nurtured them when they were helpless.

2. Return to Nigeria after a sojourn in the diaspora often comes with the sorts of perks that people don’t usually get in their erstwhile diasporic locations.

 Being head of a government agency, a minister, a special adviser, etc. comes with humongous allowances, a retinue of aides, access to the power structure, etc.

Returnee diasporans who want you to give them credit for taking a pay cut to accept a government job in Nigeria are being intentionally deceitful. I earn more than two times what the Nigerian president officially earns, but everyone knows the president doesn’t even need his or her salary.

3. There is really little that people in the diaspora bring back to Nigeria that doesn’t already exist in superfluity in Nigeria. There are literally thousands of people who can be, and even better than, whatever any diasporan Nigerian does, but they’re passed over because they don’t have access to people who make appointments— and because they don’t have the social and symbolic capital that living abroad confers. So it’s actually a privilege, not a sacrifice, to serve.

4. Self-preservation is the first law of nature. Most people won’t leave their diasporic locations if it would exert a strain on them and their families. I am an example. Professor Attahiru Jega invited me to work with him at INEC sometime ago, but I politely declined because it wasn’t in the interest of my young children to relocate to Nigeria. I’ve also spurned many other offers since then for the same reason.

Should I decide at some point to relocate to Nigeria, it won’t be a “sacrifice.” At worst, it would be “giving back” and at best a privilege. There are thousands of people with my skillset in Nigeria.

5. A diasporan who worked as a contract staff in a country where he was neither a citizen nor even a legal permanent resident is actually enjoying an upgrade if he gets a visible, consequential position in government. 

Instead of arrogantly saying they are "sacrificing" for the country, they should be grateful for the opportunity to do a job that thousands of Nigerians at home are capable of doing.

6. If coming back to work in Nigeria after working abroad for a few years, often as a precarious contract staff, is "sacrifice," what would the returnee diasporans call working in countries they are not citizens of and that never invested in their education? Self-immolation?

11 comments:

Livingstone Dogara said...

This for me is the best piece of writing I read today. I've wondered why you see someone saying he made a sacrifice by coming back to occupy a position but yet when asked to up and go back they come up with excuse. A good number of the diasporian actually lobbied for it either through some form of initial academic and research collaborations such that they get noticed by the government of the day, or again they position themselves to be noticed. Again, we that are at home there is this complex attached with us. The feeling that because one can speak with a twist that makes one superior than us.
I got a first hand understanding of the privilege of free tertiary education when I interface and became friends with some Afro-Americans and South Africans, I came face to face with the challenge of high tuition for the tertiary education.
Thank you Prof for this talk, may your ink never get dry. Soar on high.

Martin Ekwueme said...

We've had many Nigerians leave the comfort of their diasporan abode to accept appointments in Nigeria and some of them insist that they should be paid in foreign currencies because they believe they are doing Nigeria a favour. I think such appointments are still calling attention to the fact that Nigerians prefer what is foreign to home-grown alternatives. We have many wonderful Nigerians with class and competence but such people never get the opportunity to serve. Thank you for this enlightenment.

Onlovin said...

There are several bright Nigerians with good skillsets buy who sadly lack experience for the simple reason the environment isnt conducive and the framework to develop certain skills does not exist.

Unknown said...

What a beautiful piece! Most if not all the returnees are behind their interest to engage in politics.

Afashima Moses said...

I completely agree with u Prof. I must not sympathize with someone who is been paid to head a ministry. In fact, he's been avail with political structure to leverage on after his appointment will be terminated. He's in power. And power is quite different from money. It gives a certain ego which diaspora money cannot offer.

Dr Adamu Garba Zango said...

This write up by the Prof is apt. Diasporans are first Nigerians with families, friends and relatives in Nigeria.There first calling should be Nigeria instead of one stupid mentality of making a sacrifice for the country that you came from and which made you.Thank you once more Prof for saying it as it is.

Anonymous said...

This is one of kperogi's best and snappy write ups. He addressed the issue, not the person. Though we are all in the know. I appreciate this. I also think Dr. Kperogi aught to have grown an elephant skin to tolerate people's criticisms of his articles: I mean invectives. I have not seen him doing that. I recall the veteran Dailytrust columnist, Muhammad Haruna, who was unfortunately consumed by this rudderless administration. Haruna will publish both good and ugly comments people make about him; and that doesn't in any way substract from his merit, credit and integrity as a columnist. And he will ever be remembered, by some of us, for that tolerance. I salute you Prof. for the work well done.

Unknown said...

Mr writer we hope you will come back to contribute if you believe in what you are saying

Unknown said...

Prof, l concur with you on all your submission especially that Diaspora 'home-coming' to take up a Government Job is NOT a sacrifice.
However, since you do occasionally come home to see your greater family members and feel the'pulse' of how they are coping with life in 'Naija'- being 'unpredictable, brutish and short'. If you are my friend or kinsman, l would not advise you to come down and take up a Gov't appointment even as 'Secretary to State Gov't without 'securing' whatever job you might have over there in case you got caught up in a typical Nigerian cul-de-sac.-- Jettison your integrity and cooperate or lose the Job.
That's my take, Prof.

My regards.

Unknown said...

It's okay

Mohammed Bello said...

My frustration with the diasporans serving at home is how they get immersed in corruption just like the resident Nigerians. Their international CVs only seem to facilitate the corruption more than a local CV could. And because their families are usually left behind abroad and they themselves are planning to return to their foreign bases after service, they have less to lose when things get messed up in Nigeria.