On JAPA and friendship

On JAPA and friendship - elsieisy blog

Sometime in December 2022, my friend and I were driving through Ajiran road in the Lekki area of Lagos state, when she pointed at a street where she spent her Christmas.  She told me about a yearly Christmas party she and her family members would host and how much fun they would have.

In excitement, I asked her when the next party would be, I wanted to get an invitation. With a little hint of sadness in her eyes, she told me “the party has ended.” People make parties, when people leave, parties end. According to her, most of her family members have relocated to the United Kingdom, Canada, United States of America, etc., — they have JAPAed.

JAPA, which has become a household name among young Nigerians is a slang derived from the Yoruba language which means to run, flee, or escape. In this case ‘an escape from Nigeria.’ It has become common for Nigerians to seek presumably better livelihoods overseas. Many are of the school of thought that joining the JAPA trend is the only way to a better life. This school of thought is so prevalent that people who do not have an active plan with regards to how they would migrate from Nigeria are sometimes seen as unserious or settling for the current standard of living in the country.

Guardian reports that the most popular migration route from Nigeria is education. According to the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency, there were over 600,000 Nigerian students studying in the UK in the 2020/2021 academic session. According to figures from the United States Census Bureau, out of all African countries, Nigeria is responsible for the most migrants to the US at 374,711.  JAPA has become a strong part of the lives of GenZs and Millennials.

Image source – Business Day

JAPA effect on friendship

I conducted a survey among my network of friends and colleagues, collecting 100 responses from persons between the ages of 18 and 45. The goal of the survey was to understand the possible impact of JAPA on our social lives.  The result shown by the survey included the following;

  1. 64 percent of respondents says JAPA has affected family functions.
  2. For the unmarried, JAPA plans have become an important topic as they look to choose a partner.
  3. General standard of living ranked number one as a major reason people might want to JAPA if given the opportunity.
  4. Less than 40 percent do not feel pressured to JAPA.
  5. 47 percent are still in touch with their JAPAed friends.

Personally, some of my closest people have made the move. As much as I shrug it off on the excuse that adulting in Lagos makes it almost impossible for us to see regularly anyway, there is that shift which comes with knowing that your ‘guy’ isn’t a drive or a bus away. A cold chill runs down your spine anytime you silently question your decision to remain in Nigeria — “Am I the insane one?” I know my lifestyle is not regular as there are people who make deliberate efforts toward planning fun activities with their friends. These sets of people are more likely to feel the effect of a migrating friend than somebody like me. But one way or the other, we all feel it.

So here are few ways to deal with migrating friends:

Validate your emotions

It is okay to feel alone or left out. Think about what you are feeling and acknowledge it. Talk to someone who would not invalidate your feelings. Express your worry and fears. Express your emotions; tell your friend how much you will miss them. Write them a letter. Recall the good times shared. Just feel.

Recap your plans

It is okay to question your decision to live in Nigeria. Lay out your plans again. Answer all the throbbing questions like you are at a job interview. Ensure they are realistic and logical. Remind yourself of the reasons you decided to live in Nigeria for now or forever. Be sure you are making the right decision and hold on to it. You don’t want to be that person who questions themselves every time. Our journeys as individuals differ. It just needs to be beautiful and only you can make it so. 

Don’t feel left out

Perhaps you really want to leave the country and things are not going as planned, don’t feel left out. Not everyone who applies to JAPA succeeds. If it’s about money, enjoy the process and save. If you are not being granted a visa, take out time to talk to people who have gone the same path that you have chosen and see what you can do better. But all in all, enjoy the process. Each time lost cannot be gotten back. Don’t feel so left out that you live a miserable life in hopes for a future you are not certain of. The future is now, live it.

Boost your self confidence

I know you have heard that you must learn to accept and love yourself. But this cannot be complete if you don’t accept your journey and the process to success. Learn to be in the present as you let go of what ifs. Have a positive mindset about who you are and where you are — your country, Nigeria. Nigeria is not the worst place to live in.

Create new friendships

Making new friends can be a bit difficult but you have to. Being open minded while looking out for genuine people is something you have to do. Reach out to coworkers, neighbors, or church members. Invite them for lunch or an event. Send them a meme as a conversation starter and see how it goes. Connecting with new people can be fun and there is a lot to know about each other, gradually.

A lot of parties are ending because a lot of people are leaving. It is the way of life, parties start, and they end. But the beauty of life is that we can try out new parties. That we can fall in love with new music. That we can learn new steps.

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  1. Very timely. The japa thing is a pandemic. Many of us might not see our loved ones again until death. Some might not set eyes on their parents and siblings ever again.

  2. Another beautiful well thought-out and written piece. If I have my way, I will JAPA oh ? If for nothing else, the value of our currency and the experience of living abroad. People earb more outside the country for same same they will do here and be earning peanut. On friendship, social media has been very helpful in keeping up with a lot of my friends that have JAPA, making it feel like they are still here with me. Though we can’t compare physical connection to social media connection, connection on social media has filled the void that would have been there. Until our country grow to the extent that at least 1 Naira will be of same value as $1, I don’t think anybody Japaing would be a bad idea.

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