"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 07/10/20

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?