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An African Christian Response to the Jápa Phenomenon

A Yoruba adage says, “À ń pé gbọ́n ni, a kìí péé gọ̀” which roughly translates to, “When we come together or seek counsel, it should inspire wisdom rather than foolishness.” The adage is more or less a cultural paraphrase of Proverbs 11:14 which reads, “Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (NRSV). So, in this essay’s context, à ń pé gbón ni, a kìí péé gò highlights the criticality of consultations, evaluation, and counsel before considering Jápa (another trending Yoruba concept or word applied either as a noun or verb to describe the act of leaving Nigeria usually for a Western country).

A Jápa story often resembles that of Solape (pseudonym), my wife’s friend, who was determined to relocate to the UK. She had reached out to my wife a few months ago for guidance about moving to the country, even if it meant migrating as a student, despite being gainfully employed along with her husband in Nigeria. However, she was not too pleased with my wife’s candidness about the realities of the UK, including the constraints associated with being a student in the country, relocation and schooling costs, maintenance fees, and other implications of abandoning her desirable employment in Nigeria. Several months after her migration, she is now grateful to my wife and confessed in her first phone call that she had not stayed in touch because of their initial discussion. To her, my wife was only attempting to discourage her from also enjoying the heaven-on-earth life that she imagined about the UK. Today, she wonders if she made the right move, as she cannot live the kind of luxurious life she had fantasised about.

Again, the above experience is not peculiar to Solape. There is a new wave of young people emigrating from non-Western countries to the UK and the rest of the West. This migration trend, which has attracted the appellation jápa in Nigeria, has manifested in a continuous, massive exodus of young professionals and students from the country, in response to several push-and-pull factors (including economic and career prospects), through the most viable routes—often as students. The people movement is, of course, usually regardless of the relocation cost, and sufficient and accurate information, for an imaginary picture of a glorified West. I wonder if jápa is actually beneficial to all non-Western youths. Moreover, what possible considerations might be meaningful and relatable to an African Christian before making the jápa move that will not end in regrets? These musings inform the thought line of this article.

Engaging the Axiom

For the jápa train, here are some possible dimensions of the application of the instructive proverb under consideration:

1. Consulting with the Divine

Africans are spiritually conscious people, and to them, the spiritual and material world form a continuum that is not necessarily separatable. So, there is the understanding that the spiritual constantly interacts with the physical world. In fact, the material world is a product of the intangible, for “… what is seen was made from things that are not visible” (Hebrews 11:3 NRSV). By implication, the physical is at the mercy of the spiritual. In other words, “… the Most High [the Divine] is ruler over the realm of mankind” (Daniel 4:17 NASB). It is, therefore, wisdom on our part, as humans, to consult with God before taking any action, more so, a major one as relocating to an unknown land. We must seek God’s guidance, and prayer is one way of doing this, as we also ensure our alertness to other channels of hearing His voice. Of course, remembering that God is omniscient (all-knowing) is helpful. He specialises in “declaring the outcome [of any move] from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My purpose shall stand, and I will fulfill my intention”” (Isaiah 46:10 NRSV).

2. Interacting with Relevant Resources

Before jápa, seeking counsel from God is crucial, but so is interacting with resourceful persons, materials, and other genuine information-sourcing platforms. It is important to verify the ideas, assumptions, and other information one holds for authenticity, accuracy, and recentness. No one knows it all, and what we claim to know often needs refinement. Hence, the Yoruba adage that says, ìpàkó onípàkó làárí, enieléni nií bá ni rí ti’ni, (which roughly translates as, “one only sees the back of another’s head, it takes the other to see a person’s own.”) We all have blind spots and weaknesses. Our emotional attachments may becloud our judgments. Hence, those intending to jápa must learn to seek objective perspectives about their plans and ideas. They must seek out and be entirely open to those who care for them enough to sincerely evaluate their ambitions. The truth may be hard to bear, especially when it tends to contradict an idea that we are already emotionally sympathetic towards. Yet, looking for those who will only affirm us, even when our assumptions are misguided or inaccurate, is setting ourselves up for frustration. This is the way to avoid jápa regrets.

Jápa is not necessarily a bad phenomenon. Migration has always been intrinsic to human nature. Even the biblical patriarchs were characterised by people movement. However, their non-regrettable migrations only came at God’s behest, having sought his counsel. We will undoubtedly save ourselves a lot of frustration when we learn to consult with God and make informed decisions from interactions with resourceful materials and persons. In essence, here is the admonition: Jápa or no jápa, learn to consult before taking any leap!

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