(By Usulogbo Amos Uzuazomaro)
“From time to time, we are awash with cases of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, Gabon, Europe, China, America, Malaysia to name a few. Has this “thing” put a strain on Nigerian to Nigerian relationship? The answer is a straight “Yes.’’ Why is it that we take anything that is Nigerian with a pinch of salt? Do we trust ourselves? Can you comfortably vouch for a Nigerian even if he is a friend? Sizeable number of us would say “No” to these questions. Nigerians would rather prefer to deal with a foreigner to a Nigerian. How has the relationship between the Nigerian state and Nigerians fared over the years? Has it been characterised with mutual trust or mutual suspicion? Do we have faith in the government we instituted? What sin have we committed that this “thing” has refused to leave us for good?“
YEAH! There is something that is readily common among Nigerians; both old and young. That thing that the world has come to know us for and associate us with; that thing that almost distinguishes Nigerians from other citizens of the world; that thing that readily gives us out to the world even without having introduced ourselves; that thing that makes citizens of countries that are not even in parity with ours treat us with scorn whenever they play host to us. It is that thing that makes other citizens of the world not to hurriedly believe that we are good people until we prove beyond every reasonable doubt that we are; that thing that keeps other citizens of the world on their toes upon hearing: ‘I’m a Nigerian’; that thing that makes nations of the world to reluctantly give us papers to go to their countries. By now, some of my compatriots must have grasped what that thing is; others may be wondering what could be that thing.
Now, I’m putting this question directly to you: What is that typical thing about you that readily gives you to the world even without introduction? My compatriot, sir, the answer is not far-fetched; it is within reach. Have you gotten it? Okay, save yourself from that stress. I shall supply the answer to you now. But before I do that, it is awfully necessary that I attempt to open up the woes that this “thing” has inflicted on us as individuals, and as a nation.
As individuals, this thing has had far-reaching negative socio-economic effects on the lives of some of us. Promising prospective businesses have fallen through and broken over the years; friendships have been shattered; relationships have been cut short and destroyed and a host of unfortunate stuff have happened to us as a result of this “thing.” Those ones amongst us that have travelled out of the shores of our country, for me, are better positioned to tell the level of humiliation that this “thing” has caused them. One could readily predict the reaction of the officer at the airport upon the presentation of the “green passport.” The unsympathetic look from the officer that often follows the presentation of the passport would inform one that all is not well. Right from the airport, eyes are beamed on you.
Those invincible eyes of the authority that look at you everywhere you go is a testament to the fact that you are perceived as dangerous specie. A right thinking man would start to wonder what would be the chances of survival of one that has been labeled a dangerous specie right from the point of entry. If you have gone there for business, what would be your chances of succeeding in your business in an environment that is dealing with you with extreme suspicion? You wouldn’t have to wait for a shaman to tell you that your business may not have a smooth ride if you are not very careful. Doors that are supposed to be opened to you because of your intention in that country may be closed to you because you are a Nigerian. If you have gone there to seek greener pastures, then you have several fold challenges. If you find yourself in America or Europe, after you must have been discriminated against because of the colour of your skin and because you are an immigrant; you will face even stiffer discrimination the moment you announce yourself as a Nigerian. More often than not, this discrimination provokes hatred in the minds of citizens of host country that gives rise to violent attack on Nigerians.
From time to time, we are awash with cases of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, Gabon, Europe, China, America, Malaysia to name a few. Has this “thing” put a strain on Nigerian to Nigerian relationship? The answer is a straight “Yes.’’ Why is it that we take anything that is Nigerian with a pinch of salt? Do we trust ourselves? Can you comfortably vouch for a Nigerian even if he is a friend? Sizeable number of us would say “No” to these questions. Nigerians would rather prefer to deal with a foreigner to a Nigerian. How has the relationship between the Nigerian state and Nigerians fared over the years? Has it been characterised with mutual trust or mutual suspicion? Do we have faith in the government we instituted? What sin have we committed that this “thing” has refused to leave us for good?
As a nation, the extent of destruction that this “thing” has wrought on our nation is unimaginable; unfortunately still, this destruction will not come to a close until we genuinely resolve to purge ourselves of this evil that we gave birth to, cared for from infancy to adolescence and then adulthood. This “thing” was given life by us, and now it has grown so big that it no longer needs us to survive anymore. My countrymen, this evil- thing has been everywhere; it has been our ambassador over the years. It is in that country waiting for us even before we get there. Our country has been in a backwater for several numbers of years. This condition is not natural as nations that were in parity with ours in the 60s have gone past us in virtually every facet. Repeated attempts have been made by successive governments—both military and civilian- -to correct the socioeconomic anomalies that have kept us in the background in the comity of nations, yet our socio-economic story has not changed. Infrastructures are decaying in a massive scale, corruption is walking tall like a giant, the social fabric that once held us together is rapidly breaking by the day, criminality is thriving, and in fact virtually everything is on the other side of the moral line.
In spite of attempts, no significant milestone has been achieved on a grand scale. What we have, however, observed over time in their operations of our dear nation is their two-faced attitude to critical national issues, top among them is corruption. In a bid to stamp out corruption from our body polity, Code of Conduct, EFFC, and ICPC were established, still no political heavyweight has been tried, found guilty and consequently convicted for not making power to be in our homes; not making our roads to be motor able; not making our educational institutions to rank among the best in the world; and not making our hospitals to function as they ought to. Why? That evil is responsible. This thing has been responsible for the malfunction in our government.
Just as nationals of other countries have hard times dealing with us individually, so governments of other countries have hard times dealing with our government. If I’m not right, why are investors not willing to come to a society that is home to several millions of dynamic able bodied men and women; a society that has one of the largest markets in the world; a virgin society, where except oil and gas every other mineral resource remains largely untapped? The truth of the matter is that successive governments have been infested with this evil.
The time is ripe to spill the beans. That evil- thing is: DISHONESTY. I have accepted to go through the pains of deciphering this evil. In order for us to appreciate this evil, it is imperious that we travel around the word “HONESTY.” Honesty as defined by the English dictionary is ‘the state or quality of being honest. What is honest? It is that will not lie, cheat, or steal; trustworthy, truthful, showing fairness and sincerity, straightforwardness, and uprightness. The foregoing are the virtues of honesty. Now, place directly opposite honesty what you will have is “dishonesty.” That has been the specter haunting us everywhere we go; before we are there, it is waiting for us. This has been our demon since the 60s; that our government is not working, this is what is responsible; that we are prejudiced wherever we go, this is what is responsible. This evil has permeated all facets of our society and social organisations. From politics to military, from judiciary to academics and government and upsettingly religion. This has made anything that falls out of our society questionable not just only by foreigners, but by Nigerians. Compatriots, for how long are we going to live under this cloudy environment? Should we sustain this evil? Are we going to raise another generation in this kind of environment? These questions should bother our minds. It will not be fair if I continue to harp on this evil rather than giving my own opinion on how we can turn our nation, and typically ourselves around.
Before we can make a striking headway in changing ourselves, we must first of all understand the circumstances in which we have found ourselves; knowing that dishonesty has brought us unthinkable embarrassment and under-development. This consciousness is very vital in the drive towards honesty. I understand that the change will not come overnight because the virtues of honesty are totally strange to us. We have grown to believe that honesty does not pay, and this conviction has severely ruined our collective psyche. On this consciousness, we have raised generations, we have built social structures and institutions, and nevertheless, we must set ourselves on that path. According to a Chinese aphorism, which reads “a journey of a thousand mile begins with one step.” We must begin to appreciate that openness, straightforwardness, sincerity, uprightness and truthfulness pay. The realisation of this fact will surely inspire us to strive toward honesty. I’m completely aware that this culture is strange to us to that extent, it may conflict with our extant culture of dishonesty, but with sheer determination, we shall dismantle this evil- thing.
•Uzuazomaro is a social pundit from Lagos.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”