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A Review of Olusegun Adeniyi’s  “From Frying Pan to Fire: How African Migrants Risk Everything in Their Futile Search for a Better Life in Europe” 

By Ikhide R. Ikheloa


Friday, June 12, 2020.

There are many reasons why you should read Olusegun Adeniyi’s new book, From Frying Pan to Fire: It is a well-researched book on a crisis; the references alone are worth the price of the book.The chapter on the exodus of young men and women from Edo State is the most comprehensive and thoughtful treatise I have read since I have been studying the catastrophe. Scholars would be pleased by how Adeniyi meticulously compiled sources for his study. Impressive. Adeniyi is on to something. Nigeria is proxy for the ongoing massive gentrification of much of sub Saharan Africa as her citizens, young and old, rich and poor scheme ways of escaping the hell that her rulers age enabling intellectuals have built after colonialism.

The thesis is quite simple and perversely elegant: The middle and upper class flee in airplanes and the poor escape through mean deserts and seas to Europe and North America. It is a humanitarian crisis of overwhelming proportions. It needs to be addressed in words and actions.Indeed there was a time when it was unspeakable to leave Nigeria’s shores for anything other than recreation. You left only to get an education, you know you were returning home to a warm welcome and a place in the sun.  Chinua Achebe’s books chronicled the sojourn evocatively.

Today, Nigeria is in a sad place. There is no reason why Nigerian youths should be in Libya or Italy enduring horrendous conditions just to make it to economic nirvana. Nigeria was a rich country, but her wealth has been systematically looted by rulers and civil servants. It is estimated that of $600 billion generated by oil revenue, at least $400 billion has been looted by an army of thug-rulers, civil servants and conniving intellectuals and writers who pen the talking points justifying the mayhem that is Nigeria.

Since 1999, democracy has been a farce with rulers and intellectuals engaged in a looting spree to rob Nigerians of their future. Most institutions (education, health, safety and security) are broken relics from the colonial era that have trapped the poor in squalor and despair. Corruption, incompetence, and a broken education system have combined to make life hell for the average Nigerian who is not connected to the halls of power and influence. Graduates from mostly decrepit universities roam the streets in search of work. They see utopia elsewhere.

It is in this context that the book perhaps needs a sequel. It is interesting that the conversations in the book are among the middle class, in a few cases, some of the contributors are arguably complicit in the hellish situation that has forced young Nigerians to flee to Europe.The book fails in that regard, the question should be: Why are things the way they are? The book seems almost unwilling to plumb the depths of the issues.

It is not a perfect book. There are two parts to it; the first part is heavily research-based and thoughtful. The second part is a narrative of Adeniyi’s brother’s harrowing journeys to North Africa sand Europe in the nineties. It comes across as mere reportage, and poorly done. The editing is not top-notch but that is to be expected from Nigerian publishing. Would I read it again? Absolutely. I would like a digital copy with hot links to all the references. That would be awesome. But then it wouldn’t be a book anymore, would it?

So, what do I really think of the emptying of Nigeria by those who are strong or wealthy enough to leave? I say, go for it. You don’t have to brave mean seas and deserts to leave Nigeria. Even Ghana next door is a better alternative than today’s Nigeria. I have lived in the Diaspora for almost four decades. Many times, I think, I should never have come to America; exile is a kind of death. However, I am glad my kids were born here. If you have kids, it makes sense to give them an education that today’s Nigeria will surely deny them. That kind of death is worth it.

Let me tell you what Adeniyi’s book will not tell you. Nigeria is not worth dying for. If you can afford it, and you are still young and full of energy, leave, just leave, in the name of your children. Please don’t argue with me, take an inventory of all your over-paid and overrated politicians, professors, intellectuals and writers, do a survey of where their spouses and children are, they are all here with me. Your leaders agree with Donald Trump through their own actions that Nigeria is not good enough for anyone, they are only there for the money.

Ikhide R. Ikheloa is a social critic, writer and book lover. He blogs at xOkigbo.com

From Africa’s Frying Pan to Europe’s Fire

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