"Checking Out": Migration, Popular Culture and the articulation and formation of class identity
An enquiry into the causes of migrations out of Nigeria should begin by rejecting the assumption that every migrant was escaping from poverty, squalor, deprivation and want. Another widely held assumption that should be discountenanced is that the focus of such migrations out of the country is Europe, North America, and other advanced countries of the world. Such popular assumptions have neglected an important aspect of migration out of Nigeria – the social parameters that determine emigration. This work concentrates on a little-studied aspect of what engendered migration out of Nigeria. This is the gap between social need and social reality and the tension engendered between the middle-class ideology of consumption and the reality of social upward mobility. There developed a new level of interest and a lively counterculture on the heels of social needs, social acceptance and upward social mobility. This became the phenomenon of ‘Checking out’. This was euphemism for leaving the country not as a result of indigence but as a matter of or in search of prestige and, or, comfort. As a result of this, a whole new generation of youths from 1989 or thereabout, out of personal and social considerations became ‘embassy crawlers’’ and “visa hunters”- these in themselves became forms of social status. Since then it is roughly estimated that two of every five University undergraduates and College students became interested not in seeking gainful employment after graduation, but in leaving Nigeria. Similarly, gainfully employed young men and women preferred to leave their jobs in search of glamour and excitement abroad. Salaries and wages became visa application fees rather than money deployed in search of material comfort.