FEATURE ARTICLE

Temple Chima UbochiMonday, November 12, 2007
[email protected]
Bonn, Germany

ANNOUNCE THIS ARTICLE
TO YOUR FRIENDS

THESE ARE TURBULENT AND BAD TIMES BEING A NIGERIAN ABROAD:
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PLEASE HELP NIGERIANS IN THAILAND
AN APPEAL TO THE PRESIDENCY; FOREIGN MINISTRY, NIGERIA EMBASSY IN BANGKOK, THAILAND AND THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

It is only when a madman dies, that his relatives will be known. (Igbo Proverb)

What do we live for, if, not to make life less difficult for each other? (George Eliot)

There is an extent to which a dumb will be mal-treated; then he or she will talk by force. (Igbo Proverb)

No one can be caught in places he does not visit. (Danish Proverb)

The chewing sound of the bitter kolanut is not how it tastes. (Igbo Proverb)

An open enemy is better than a false friend. (Greek Proverb)

Having breast and be sucking pus is bad. (Igbo Proverb)

If you do not strike back at him who hits you, there is no way for him to find out whether you also have hands. (Russian Proverb)

When one finger touches oil, it spreads to the other four fingers. (Igbo Proverb)

o digress a bit: As I was about posting this article for publication, words came to me that many Nigerians having German Passport that planned to travel home to their loved ones this yuletide will not be able to do that afterall. That due to the new visa rules which was not made known to Nigerians early enough, the Nigerians have insufficient time frame to apply for their visas, because, the new process takes three to five weeks before a visa is issued. The new policy caught many Nigerians unawares as there was no enough publicity given to it before its implementation. Those that want to travel within three weeks time from now have no chance to get visa and as such will not travel again. That means that they will lose their air fares, their loved ones in Nigeria will be devastated and they themselves are already demoralised and angry.


advertisement

The new visa rules are as follows:

On-line application which must then be approved by Nigeria Immigration service (NIS) Abuja!

On-line payment of visa fee with only Masters or Visa cards!

On approval of the visa application by Abuja, Nigerians will then send their passport and letter of invitation to the relevant Nigeria Embassy for the visa.

This new process takes long time as against the old process that lasts few days. The old process was easy and uncomplicated that all it required was a proof of payment of visa fee through any bank, letter of invitation and that’s all. Why the change? I don’t understand why the government always makes life difficult for the citizens. Why is this government changing the old rule of the “game” so late and in this festive period? Why didn’t the government maintain the old process till after the rush of the Christmas and New Year period?

Nigerians in Germany are the worst hit, because, Germany is one of the few countries where Nigerians are not allow to keep their Nigerian passport on taking up the German citizenship (no dual citizenship). All Nigerians with German citizenship have only the German passport. If Nigerians in Germany were allowed dual citizenships like their compatriots in other European and North American countries, nobody would have been short-changed by this new visa procedures as Nigerians with dual citizenships would have reverted to their Nigerian passport at times like this. I am calling on the President, the Foreign and the Internal Affairs Ministers respectively, to temporarily revoke or halt the new visa procedures for Nigerians with German Passport till after the Christmas and New Year celebrations to allow those that have already planned to travel to see their loved ones in Nigeria do so without hassles. Then, after this season, the new policy can take effect and by then all Nigerians must have heard about it and get prepared for the requirements. There is no way a wise government can start a policy just with immediate effect without allowing people time to get prepared for what it requires. Nigerians in Germany want a waiver for now; they want to use the old process of applying for visa that was easy till after the yuletide and the New Year celebrations. That is not asking for too much, Mr. President.

Now to my core topic: Nigerians are not born crooks, only a few of them are giving the whole citizens bad names. Criminals are not peculiar only to Nigeria as every other country has good and bad citizens like Nigeria. There is no country on the face of this earth that has only “all saints” as its citizens. I don’t know why Nigerian case is being blown out of proportion. I know that many countries love to hate Nigerians because of enviousness. Why? On personal levels, Nigerians are great people, on individual levels, Nigerians are achievers. Nigerians are always conspicuous. You can always identify a Nigerian from a crowd made up of Africans. Nigerians carry themselves with dignity and grace and are flamboyant and ostentatious. Nigerians have taste and on the other side of the divide, are noisy people. For the fact that Nigerians exhume or radiate confidence and can tread where no one else can and can survive the worst conditions ever and still excel out of that, makes other countries to loathe them. Nigerians are hardworking people and those in Diaspora are contributing immensely to the economic growth of their host countries. Nigerians have a style no other people on earth have. All these are on the personal levels. The world should not out of enviousness, classify all Nigerians as born criminals. Some of the wealth display by Nigerians abroad were made through hardwork, although, a lot not so. There is nothing unique about the criminal activities of some greedy Nigerians as they are also obtainable every other place too.

Having said that, I call on Nigerians to refrain from committing crimes! The wealth that we are all after was there before we came into this world and will be there when we will move on to the great beyond. If your stock in trade is criminal activities, please for goodness sake, change your heinous ways. Those committing those crimes should know that they are put their innocent compatriots in precarious situations. Please change now so that your fellow compatriots will “drink water and hang the cup”.

I received a mail from a Nigerian (name withheld) living in Thailand, seeking my help in order to bring to the notice of those in authority positions in Nigeria and Nigerians in general, the plights of Nigerians in that country.

According to the Nigerian, the type of abuse and racial discrimination going on in Thailand against Nigerians are beyond human imagination. According to him, Nigerians have been subjected to pitiable conditions there and our Embassy in Thailand is doing nothing about the whole thing. I was told that the situation got worst when a Nigerian there took the Thai Immigration Dept. to court and won the case against them. The Immigration Dept. in Bangkok, Thailand then vowed to send Nigerians back to Nigeria, even people who legalised their stay and do have thriving businesses there are affected. The story goes that as soon as the immigration officers come to someone’s office or house, the person's Permanent Residence will be revoked automatically as long as he or she is from Nigeria. The excuse given for such act is that all Nigerians are into drug business. Many Nigerians are already in Immigration detention camps in the city and at the Airport. They are being held without any case or evidence and haven’t been charged to any court. Nigerians that travelled out of Thailand for whatever reason (s) are denied entry upon their return from outside the country, and these are people who reside legally and most of them have families there.

The question becomes: How can they catch a person peddling or pushing drug without charging the person to court? I think it's for the court to find an accused guilty or not? The report reaching me said that our Embassy there is doing nothing about it and that the Immigration Dept. is still picking up Nigerians there on a daily basis. I was informed that the crimes white people and other Asians are committing there are more than you can ever think of and nothing is been done against them. The person that wrote me was also sincere enough to tell me that not every Nigerian in Thailand is “holy” and that Thailand is a place known for their long jail sentences. It is alleged that the Immigration Dept are cooking up the stories, because, normally, it is the Narcotics Dept that is supposed to takes care of all drug related cases and not the Immigration Dept., as it is in almost all the countries of the world.

From my investigation, there are about 5,000 Thais in Nigeria doing their businesses and no one is disturbing them, but, Nigerians in Thailand are not up to 1,500 and are going through hell. The Nigerians want to be allowed to stay like other foreigners there. The Nigerian community there has taken up the case against the Immigration Dept, since no help is coming forth from the Nigeria Embassy.

Oh my God, a story like this is disturbing. In as much as I am not there and can´t voucher for all Nigerians as being of good behaviours, but, there is no time that all Nigerians in that country will be neck-deep into drug pushing or peddling or other crimes. There is no way all Nigerians can be evil at the same time. There must be clean and upright Nigerians also there and for the authorities in Thailand to give all Nigerians guilty verdict all at once has the smack of a campaign of calumny against anybody Nigerian. I have seen what greedy Nigerians can do and I know that there are still bad eggs everywhere, the best thing the Immigration authority in Thailand should have done was to isolated the bad Nigerians while allowing Nigerians with genuine sources of income to go their ways unmolested. To give a blanket guilty verdict on all Nigerians goes contrary to international law and norms. Even anybody suspected of being guilty is innocent until proven otherwise by a court of law. The Nigeria Embassy should always be there for Nigerians, but, that is not the case. Everywhere you go, you hear the same story about the dereliction of duty on the part of our embassies. One tends to wonder what they are there in the first instance for, if not to be of help to Nigerians. Nigeria Embassies and High Commissions infact don’t know why they were established. Even if a Nigerian commits a crime in a foreign country, the Nigerian foreign mission in that country should assist the person until he is proved guilty and even at that, such a person is supposed to be receiving visitors from the embassy even in jail inorder to ascertain if all is well with him or her or whether he or she is being well treated as required by the law.

Why the Embassies are lacking in their duties can be deduced from the kind of staff working in there. In cases where people that are not supposed to work in the Embassies are there, you expect to see all these kinds of attitudes being exhibited by Nigeria Embassies world wide. Where politicians are appointed Ambassadors instead of career diplomats, this is what you get. When people such as Ahmadu Ali are appointed an Ambassador, then you can forget it, if, you are expecting assistance from the Nigeria Embassy. What do people like Ali know about international relations and diplomacy to be appointed Ambassador? He will only bring shame to Nigeria and its people and can even aid the host country in dealing with Nigeria as long as his own interests are taken care of by them. He might even expose our state secrets to a foreign government, because, somebody like him that talks too much will not know when he will divulge our secrets through his careless and unguarded talks.

I am not hold forth for Nigerians in Thailand, I know that many of them are into “dirty” businesses, just like many Nigerians everywhere, but, the Embassy should make it clear to the authorities in Thailand that Nigeria will not accept blanket condemnation of all Nigerians simply because there are few bad eggs among them. Those bad ones should be isolated and made to face the music. The presidency should through the foreign ministry send a stern warning to Bangkok that nobody can treat Nigerian citizen shabbily especially where there is no proven case against him or her. The National Assembly should invite the Thai Ambassador to Nigeria to warn him of the consequences of mal-treating innocent Nigerians.

I will look at this problem of Nigerians in Thailand as a symptom and not as the main problem. I will be touching other areas I feel are inter-connected with this case.

Enough of these injustices against Nigerians the world over! Once you are a Nigerian outside Nigeria, you become guilty without even committing any offence; you are subjected to inhumane treatment because of the colour of your passport. Many Nigerians gave up their Nigerian citizenship and took foreign passport as “a paper of convenience” to avoid the ignominy holders of Nigerian passports are subjected to at Airports and inside most of the countries all over the world. Even countries that are not fit to “talk” to Nigeria because of their class are now discriminating against Nigerians.

If the government of Nigeria decides to act, which I expect them to do; they should also know that their actions will be mere remedy to the symptom of a disease. The root cause of the problem must be addressed to avoid its re-occurrence in other countries. The political class should know that they are the root cause of the problem, infact they are the problem, because they made a mess of Nigeria, that despite the huge natural and human resources at their disposal, life is so hard for the citizens, that they are leaving, even when they are not sure of where they are going and what they will be facing there. To address the problem, means that the ruling class should change 180 degrees from their lackadaisical attitudes to the plight of the people of Nigeria to that of total commitment to the wishes and aspirations of the people, or else, they should retire from the political arena. When that happens, no Nigerian will leave for greener pasture again as that will be obtainable at home. Nigerians are not leaving because they hate Nigeria, but, because Nigeria holds nothing for them. The elite care more of themselves and less of the people. Some of the so called ruling class wouldn’t mind selling Nigeria to the highest bidder, collect the money and even give change to the buyer.

Nigerians have given up on their government. They now embrace religion for solace. They are making mistake, religion being “the opium of the masses”, is being encouraged by the ruling class in order to keep the people in perpetual subjugation and poverty. I don’t think that people already in hell on earth due to the wickedness of the ruling class can be hoping for heaven as such. Heaven should start here now before thereafter.

The political class connived with some Archbishops, Bishops, Imams, pastors etc. to keep the people under spell so that they will not start demanding for their rights. Nigerians are being told to turn the other cheek when they are being slapped. I want to tell the religious and political leaders that Nigerians have run out of cheeks to turn. A time will come when the veil covering the people´s eyes will fall off and the people seeing then clear will ask for the arrears of their rights denied them all along. The political and religious leaders will one day no longer deceive the people by telling them to be suffering and smile hoping for a better life in “heaven”. Heaven is here on earth, Nigerians want their heaven to start on earth here right now, God gave us all the potentials to have a heaven on earth. Let’s have it, the religious leaders should join the people in demanding for their heaven to start now otherwise, they will be treated as accomplices to the looting and embezzlement of our wealth.

Everywhere in Nigeria are churches and mosques. Nigerians will stay in churches on Sundays from morning till about 1600 pm, if not longer than that. One wonders what they are praying about so long. White people will spend only one hour in the churches and eight hours in the laboratories, researching on things to make life easier for mankind. Upon all our ecumenical pretenses, we are no where. Church is in the heart. God loves the people that love their neighbours, than those that stay in the churches hours. If people love their neighbours, they will not steal the commonwealth, if the politicians love their neighbours, they will render selfless services to people that elected them. Mankind is there afterall to help each other: The rich to help the poor, the strong to help the weak, and the uplifted to help the downtrodden. That is what God wants from us, any other thing except these, is mere wasting of time.

The politicians will take the front pews in the churches or front rows in the mosques, pretending to be more religious than others, they will shout “God” or “praise God” or “Amen” or “Allah” or “baraka de Allah”, as the case may be, more than others, but, they will go out and embezzle the money meant for services to the people. The politicians, whenever they are cornered in a box by a problem, will easily invoke the name of God, but, after “the storm passes”, they forget God.

Nigerians can pray from now till eternity, until we set our hearts right and do the right things; our call on God will amount to nothingness. How can God come to our aid in Nigeria, when the land is being defied with diabolical and fetishist tendencies? How can God answer us, when the bloods of innocent people are shed for rituals, through hire assassins, through robberies? There must be cleansing of the land and our hearts, before God will answer us. Our sins are putting wedges between us and God.

Many Nigerians will not stay even a day longer overseas, when there is a turn around in Nigeria. When there is security to lives and properties, when the roads are in good conditions, when electricity becomes constant, when the educational and health sectors are above board, when the infrastructures are put in better conditions. Even many Nigerians will leave for a fraction of the pay they are receiving in foreign land. The ruling class don’t want to put Nigeria in a better shape because they would not like the Nigerians abroad to return home in droves as that will facilitate their political demise. They want no challenge(s) to their authority, but, let them know that they are running out of time and will soon be history, otherwise Nigeria will “die” in their hands and they will have to grapple with the implications of that. They have stolen a lot and should give way or they will one day be bulldozed into obscurity.

It seems that the government and the ruling class want all Nigerians to either leave the country or to die out so that nobody will challenge their firm grips on power, they rule and “pass” the torch over to their lazy children and the beats goes on and on. How long will we stay on the sideline watching that nonsense going on? Recently, forty Nigerians burnt to death, while several others got injured on Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. The Minister of Transport, Mrs Allison-Madueke, should know that tears alone are not enough as she did months ago while inspecting the Ore-Benin Road, overwhelmed by its deplorable conditions. Women and tears are different faces of the same coin. Sometimes, when a woman wants attention, she starts shedding tears to sell her point. Women do tears for joys or for pains or for fears. Nigerians were not moved by the honourable Minister’s tears, we need actions, she must explain why more that four months in office, this government can´t still fix or at least, rehabilitate some of the most important roads like Lagos-Ibadan-Ore-Benin Roads? We need to know why they allowed the carnages to be occurring on our roads every day. It is unacceptable for a government that pretends to be different.

Why are Nigerians leaving like that? Some Africans in general and some Nigerians in particular was forcefully taken into slavery, of course against their wills, but, nowadays, Nigerians went on their volition to be enslaved. The cause of all these was and is still the inability of the political class to transform Nigeria for the better, so that the citizens will have fulfilled lives in a country they call their own. In the seventies till the eighties, Nigeria was quiet different. Foreigners were flocking to Nigeria for better lives, because, our currency was one of the major ones in the world. I can still remember that some teachers in secondary schools and universities were Indians. There were almost all the major multi-national companies in the country then, they created jobs for Nigerians. The Nigerians abroad studying returned immediately they dropped their pens after their final exams. Their certificates, posted to them later by their schools´ authorities. Those that stayed put sent their children to Nigeria to attend schools up to university level, if possible, before returning back to America or Europe, even those that married American or European spouses were not left out in the fever to enjoy the Nigerian dream of allowing their kids do their schoolings there. Who can do that silly thing now? The worst of it all is that our kids might never go back home again, because, all they hear now about their parents´ country is corruption, rotten infrastructures, crimes, insecurity of lives and properties etc.

Come to think of it, why are Nigerians found even in countries that are worst than Nigeria? The ruling elite loot and embezzle our commonwealth, money that should have been invested in making Nigeria a better place for all. With hopelessness starring the people on the faces and living in a society that worships wealth no matter how it was acquired and seeing the provocative displays of looted and embezzled or ill-gotten wealth, many then are forced to leave thinking that overseas are bed of roses. Many Nigerians conquered dire straits to get to Europe. Many Nigerians went through untold hardship just to reach the so falsely conceived “promise lands” abroad. Some of them died in the desert trying to cross the Sahara desert into Europe or got drown trying to cross from Morocco into Europe in wooden boats that couldn’t withstand the pressures put on them by its human cargoes, the harsh conditions of the sea and the toll crossing that long stretch of the sea. The families of the dead ones still think that one of their own are somewhere in Europe, not knowing that they will not see them again or their graves. Their bloods are on the heads of those that made Nigeria an unbearable place to live.

What the political elite do is to empower their children with our commonwealth and later, hand over the political powers to their kids and the circle goes round and round. This makes the so called “silver spoon kids” not to struggle or work hard in their lives, because, they know that power and wealth will be placed on their laps with little or no efforts. The majority of Nigerians working hard to break even, are shut out of power equation making hardwork not to pay again, people then decided to take a short-cut to wealth.

The travelling and visa agencies in Nigerians are pushing Nigerians into hell; the agencies are also to be blamed for the plight of some Nigerians abroad. The agencies collect money from people, get them visa of a poor country in Eastern Europe that will issue their visas out willingly, as they have nothing to loose. The travelling agencies will deceive the Nigerians they procured visas for, by telling them that once they get to the poor Eastern European countries; they will easily cross their borders into the affluent western European countries, telling the Nigerians that it is as easy as ABCD. Fairy tale! The Nigerians, all out to leave for good, buy that “cock and bull stories”, but, on reaching the poor European countries, they got stuck, can´t go front or back, they are then forced to engage in all sorts of things to survive.

The travelling agencies in the nineties cheated so many Nigerians by giving them Russian and Ukrainian visas, telling them that Western Europe will be “waiting” for them once they get to Moscow or Kiev as it will be easy for them to cross over to better life in the west. So many Nigerians paid for that thrash, went to Russia and Ukraine and got stuck. They were in there for rough rides since they couldn’t afford to buy tickets back home and those countries have nothing to offer them as it can´t even help their own citizens not to talk of foreigners. I visited a brother in Ukraine (Kharkov) once; it wasn’t a pleasant sight for me.

Travelling agencies deceived many Nigerians also in the nineties to travel to Hong Kong as they will cross over to Taiwan from there easily, according to them. Then, Nigerians were allowed to travel to Hong Kong without visa. Nigerian flocked to Hong Kong in droves and got stuck. They couldn’t reach Taiwan as the Taiwanese consulate in Hong Kong denied all Nigerians in Hong Kong visas, and those Nigerians couldn’t go back home as they have no money left with them and couldn’t get jobs in Hong Kong because they had no working permit, some even had expired passports and couldn’t travel with them again. I travelled to Hong Kong once and saw what Nigerians are going through there. The sprawling squalor called “Chong King Mansion” (if the spellings are correct) where Nigerians share rooms (as many as 4 or 5 in a room) a little bigger than a match box. If you have been there before, you will know what I am talking about. The question becomes: Which kinds of leaders have we in Nigeria?

ThisDay Newspapers of November 4, 2007 wrote that since the advent of the President Yar´Adua administration on 29th May, 2007, Nigeria’s foreign policy has been largely characterised by a re-definition of some of the principles guiding Nigeria’s international behaviour. One possible rationale for this might be as a result of public complaints that the impact of Nigeria’s foreign policy endeavours has generally not been felt by the ordinary Nigerians. Nigeria’s foreign policy assistance to other countries also has not always been appreciated but has always been marked by hostility and mistreatment of innocent Nigerians the world over. The foreign minister should know that now is the time to match words with actions. His “citizens’ diplomacy” should start with immediate effect with Thailand. We should reciprocate the attitudes of every country towards us just the same way they treated us. Those in authority positions in Nigeria should tell that Thai authorities to isolate bad Nigerians, display the evidences against them in the full glare of the world, charge them to court or deport them, while allowing innocent ones to go about their businesses unperturbed or else we will retaliate against their own citizens in Nigeria. That is citizens’ diplomacy, period.

The same Paper writing on the principle of reciprocity, wrote that Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, has announced that he would pursue ‘citizen diplomacy’ that would also be guided by the rule of reciprocity. One main objective of the rule is to prevent the maltreatment of Nigerians abroad. Reciprocity is good if, both in its sense of retaliation and reprisal. Nigeria has the means to sustain it, and more importantly, Nigeria should be ready to meet the challenges of counter reciprocity. Reciprocity is not a one-action phenomenon only. One action begets another. The major problem here is that, it is not only the Europeans, Americans, Asia, etc, that maltreat Nigerians, the maltreatment of Nigerians by some African States such as Liberia, Gabon, South Africa etc., is more notorious.

Let’s look at what Thailand has that is attracting Nigerians: Thailand depends mainly on tourism. Nigeria can surpass them when we exploit our tourism potentials to our advantage. But, we need to put the country in order before that can happen and with this kind of political class in Nigeria, don’t even think of it. The little ex- Governor Donald Duke of Cross River State did in Obudu, Tinapa and the whole of that state is generating a lot of resources to the state and there is no shortage of tourists to those breath taking sites. Nigeria abandoned all other means of wealth and job creations. Otherwise what would a Nigerian be looking for in Thailand? Phuket, one of the major tourist cities in Thailand is a haven for HIV Virus, prostitution there is widespread. What on earth will any Nigerian be looking for in Thailand, suffering all that indignations, if, the successive Nigerian rulers were committed to utilising the enormous human and natural resources of the country to develop it for the good of all?

The problems of Nigerians abroad are not peculiar to Thailand, they are overall. The western countries are also subjecting Nigerians to indignations that are in some cases, unbearable. The worst is that they don’t even want to see Nigerians at their “doorsteps”, but, are ready to admit Nigerian money stolen or looted by corrupt politicians and government officials into their banks and estate markets. They forgot that people have the right to follow their wealth to wherever the thieves that called themselves the elite took it to. If the western world can accept the looted wealth that belongs to all Nigerians, they should be ready to admit Nigerians on the heels of the wealth stolen from them. It is logical enough.

The politicians made Nigeria unbearable for the citizens that people have to engage in all kinds of things to be like others. Imagine the women turning into drug couriers to make ends meet. The worst is that some of them had to conceal wraps of drug in their private parts, dehumanising their womanhood all in the effort to eke out a living. Such attitude(s) is unjustifiable. The place they are concealing that nonsense isn’t meant for such. God created it for other purposes and they are women, because of “it”.

In another topic, the same ThisDay Newspapers of November 4, 2007 wrote that about 155 Nigerians were deported from Libya with diverse accounts of their harrowing experience in the hands of Libyan security personnel. The paper stated that this has revealed the depth of immigration and development policy failures in both Libya and Nigeria. The Paper rightly questioned: With this Libyan foreign policy towards Nigeria and the rest of Africa, can the call for African Union Government by President Muammar Ghadafi be realised?

The Paper also noted further that the maltreatment of Nigerians betrayed the “good intention” of Ghadafi for the proposed agenda for United States of Africa. From the report, we learnt that it was like a festival of disappointment, mourning and utter rejection to the deportees on arrival in Lagos. The deportees largely comprised of young women aged between 15 and 30 were accused of infamous act of prostitution and harlotry, but, they denied being in such self-degrading job. Some of the deportees, according to the Paper, could not hold back rivers of tears rolling out of their fiery eyes given high-powered dehumanisation and humiliation they said they experienced in the hands of security personnel who detained them in different gulags in Tripoli. It was also reported that the deportees served various jail terms in Tripoli after they were convicted of offences ranging from passport falsification and illegal entry to drug trafficking. Many Nigerians scorned at the attitude of diplomats at the Nigeria Embassy in Libya for failing to wade into the matter and take appropriate steps to restore dignity of the deportees. There are suggestions that Nigerian diplomats need be trained on the need to protect the interest of Nigeria and her citizens in all countries where we have Nigerian mission in the world.

The heads of our missions abroad might not know how to protect the interest of Nigerians wherever they are serving. Nobody should be surprised. Our so called Servant-Leader, nominated sixty two persons for ambassadorial postings out of which, forty two are politicians and only twenty career diplomats. The president chose to reward his party members and cronies, even when many of them have no record of competence. The political appointees for ambassadorial postings don’t have the slightest idea about what the Vienna Convention of 1961, which deals on diplomatic relations and provides a format for handling sensitive issues between nations, is talking about.

Many Nigerians abroad are passing through tough times and need Nigeria representatives (Ambassadors) in their countries of abode that will promote our country’s interests and will be all out to protect the rights of Nigerians. Nigerians suffer indignations, assaults, maltreatments and deaths abroad and many of our foreign missions do nothing about these things. Some Nigerians abroad get no protection or support from some Nigerian missions when they are in need of it. These politicians nominated are people that will keep quiet while their fellow compatriots are being victimised upon. They will be more pre-occupied in getting personal and financial gains, business connections and deals in the foreign countries they are posted to, than attending to the needs of their fellow compatriots. There is no rationale for rewarding party members that have no idea of diplomacy with ambassadorial postings as they will only be embarrassments to Nigeria abroad.

Those politicians nominated by YarÁdua can never help improve Nigeria’s image abroad. People like Ahmadu Ali as ambassadors will be disasters, although Ali promised the senators screening him that “he will keep his big mouth shut” and will behave more maturely and diplomatically abroad. I don’t think that will be easy for garrison Ali, because, “it will be hard for the leopard to change its spots” and my people say that “it is hard to learn how to use the left hand in old age”.

Let’s look at Libya and Ghadafi since they deported 155 Nigerians recently: Ghadafi was quoted recently as saying that “Africa must unite or die”. This was a bark of a mad dog who says one thing and does another. Ghadafi believes in the inferiority of the black Africans. He insulted and provoked Nigeria so many times in words and actions. He visited Nigeria in the mid 1980s with only female security personnel numbering more than two hundred and armed to the teeth. When asked why only women security personnel? He answered that “Nigeria is a big for nothing country” as there is no need to bring his male security personnel.

During last year’s African Union Summit held in Abuja, Ghadafi came with a plane load of men and weapons as if he was going for war. When the Nigeria Customs and Immigration personnel at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja refused to allow the passage of the cache of weapons into Abuja, Ghadafi refused to leave the Airport Terminal unless his weapons go in with him. It took the intervention of the then President Obasanjo to diffuse a much tensed situation. His security personnel were intimidating in number.

There is no way we can sequester military rule from Nigerian history. It has been part of us unfortunately. We have been ruled by military men that took over power under whatever pretenses. But, the problem was that all the Nigerian military rulers have been dunces. A military ruler rules by military fiat as his decisions or opinions are already law. Nobody dares question the decision of the military head of state; there used to be no national assembly or opposition parties during military eras and the supreme military council (smc) or armed forces ruling council (afrc) are there just as rubber stamps to the decisions of the head of state. The military philosophy makes it a treasonable offence to disobey the orders of a superior, that make the ranks and files of the military to be noted for a “zombie” style of following orders without questioning. Since the military decided to foray into politics, it would have been a good opportunity for the successive heads of state to initiate and implement policies that would have put Nigeria at par, if not, above some countries like Libya. Nigerians wouldn’t have been running to Libya and be mistreated. Ghadafi has no two heads, why didn’t the Nigerian military rulers used the military fiat to develop Nigeria for the betterment of all? The answer is that none of those dunces that ruled Nigeria as military head of state was imbued with patriotic zeal and foresight. A democratic elected president might have his hands tied, as the national assembly and the opposition parties might frustrate his efforts in initiating and implementing policies that will put the country on developmental pedestal, but, that can´t be said of the military rulers.

Ghadafi is a military man. He did not promote himself a general or field marshal, although nobody would have done a whisper, had he done that. He transformed his Libya for better, he developed his country comparatively and Nigerians are running in there. Libya has only oil, but, Nigeria has almost all natural resources you can think of. Nigeria has human resources that can compare favourable with those of the western countries. Libya might not match Nigeria in terms of human resources. Please note that those things attracting Nigerians to Libya was put in place in the 1970s and sustained till date.

What did Gowon as a military leader did while in power, if not to squander the wealth and opportunities to stand Nigeria on a solid industrial footing? Paying off the debts of other countries was a foolish act. That money would have helped start an industrial revolution for Nigeria and Nigerians. What has Ghadafi that Gowon hasn’t then as a head of state? Ghadafi has foresight, nationalistic interest and commitment which Gowon and his sucessors hadn’t. It is not enough to claim these things with the words of the mouth, actions speak louder than words. Gowon can preach till high heavens, he was a total failure and lameducked.

Why didn’t Muritala/Obasanjo, as military men like Ghadafi, put Nigeria on the road to infrastructural and industrial development like those in Libya so that Nigerians would have no need to be flocking to Libya and getting maltreated as it is being done now? Ghadafi is a man like them, why did Ghadafi turn Libya around years ago and the duo of Nigeria didn’t? What the Nigerian duo did was to undertake projects that was/are meaningless to Nigeria, what good is the national theatre, the fly overs, the moving of the capital from Lagos to Abuja to the lives of the poor Nigerians? Abuja is fast decaying as Nigeria lacks maintenance culture. I hope that when Abuja rots away, that the ruling elite will not conceive another plan and move the capital to somewhere else as it would afford them a new opportunity to embezzle our wealth the more.

Babangida was a military ruler like Ghadafi. Why didn’t he develop Nigeria as Ghadafi did in Libya? What he did was to devalue the naira, kept the money made from the sales of oil during the first gulf war to himself and his family. He empowered his friends and cohorts, enthroned corruption to a new height and unleashed state sponsored terrorism on Nigerians amongst other things. Babangida wiped out the middle class in Nigeria that are supposed to be the engine of economic development as in other developed countries, he forced many educated Nigerian to “run” away from Nigeria with their heels almost touching the back of their heads. This man finished Nigeria and what he did against the country might not be corrected in our life time. Babangida jokingly said recently that the ex-rulers might form an association of their own and apply to NLC for registration so as to be relevant and to have their voices heard. Look who’s talking now? Ironically, when he was head of state, he persecuted the NLC and every other form of opposition. Now he sees nothing wrong allowing people to express their opinions, even if they are contrary to the government’s position.

Why didn’t Abacha as a general try like Ghadafi to change Nigeria so that those Nigerians flocking to Libya and suffering indignations wouldn’t have? Rather he chose to break the world record as the greatest looter of all times.

The question becomes: Why are other oil producing countries getting it better than Nigeria? All the oil producing countries especially those of the Middle East have transformed their economies into vibrant ones and have given their citizens a better life. They have diversified their economies away from only oil to other areas by investing substantial amount of money from the oil wealth into stocks. Saudi Arabia has almost bought up Wall Street. They have hands on the shares of all major companies in Europe and America. They are saving for the “rainy days” and for their future generations, because, oil will not last for ever, but, their country will. When the oil wells dry up, they will fall back on their investments in other fields. United Arab Emirate has transformed Dubai into a major commercial hub with skyscrapers dotting the landscape. Investors from all over the world are rushing to get a piece of the Dubai “pie”. Qatar is also not left out. The Kuwaitis have made their country almost like paradise on earth, not withstanding that Saddam Hussein and Iraq destroyed greater part of it during the first gulf war.

The irony is that all these mid-eastern countries have kings as head of state. They have absolute monarchy with little or no democratic attributes, they are more or less feudalistic societies, but, have the wills to make things better for themselves. Guest workers are flocking to these countries as house keepers and other menial jobs, serving the citizens as servants, while they (citizens) are enjoying good lives made possible by oil money. What of Nigerians and their oil money? Instead, Nigerians are suffering because they have oil. Oil now seems as a curse than a blessing to many Nigerians especially the people of Niger Delta and other oil producing areas, that are suffering an unimaginable environmental catastrophes caused by oil exploration and no good life from oil. Oil made Nigerians to be lazy and the society lost its moral base partly due to the impact of oil money. Nobody want to struggle harder as it is easier to be richer through engaging in politics and looting the money meant for services to the people or as a government official appropriating peoples money for personal use.

The mid-eastern countries have infrastructural developments that are second to none powered by oil money. One wonders, if the same oil they have is what Nigeria has. Why it is then that Nigeria is so backward? Libya ( thanks to Ghadafi) transformed a barren desert into arable land by drilling deep seated and deep rooted bore holes used in watering the desert, turning the dusty patches of land into green and are able to feed itself and other like the Nigerians that flocked to their country. Nigeria with nice top soils for agriculture can´t feed its citizens, because, everybody abandoned agriculture for oil money and the government relegated agriculture to the background and failed to mechanise it for maximum productivity. The rivers, lakes and seas are there for fishing, but, only few are engaged in that activity. The oil companies through oil exploration have polluted our streams, rivers and seas and that is having devastating effects on the aquatic and marine lives.

Nigeria has all human and natural resources one can think of, but, we are still poor, but, the mid-eastern countries with only oil have transformed their societies to level that can be envied by all. That informs the rush by many Nigerians to head eastward to those countries and in that process get maltreated, because, those countries can´t understand why Nigeria can´t get its act together. Norway that has oil saves about forty percent (if I am right) of the money from the sale of their oil for their future generations, who will fall back on that money when oil is no more. Oil is not renewable and will definitely finish one day. What will Nigeria do? Supposing that the rulers made Nigeria habitable, no Nigerian would have gone to Thailand or Libya to live. Can´t they see that they are the cause of the problems of Nigerians abroad. We should hold them responsible.

I read from Daily Independent Newspapers once, that when oil was discovered recently in Ghana, the President of Ghana was asked if he had immunised himself and his nation against the Nigerian disease of waste and corruption, which has turned Nigeria’s oil boom into oil doom. Anxious Ghanaians were asking their leaders what assurance have they that the whole thing would not end up as a mirage just the same way that Nigerians only heard of the enormous petrol-dollars that have accrued to their country, as there are no good schools, passable roads and functioning hospital to show for it. Kufuor dismissed such queries by suggesting that “it is only idiots and people of little or no values that would have the kind of money Nigeria has made from oil and still be poor”. Quite correctly, the Middle East and Asia countries have used the oil wealth of their countries to transform their previously wretched societies into affluence and industrialised nations. Who would go to Saudi Arabia and not see what oil money can do? Who would go to Indonesia and not see what oil money could do? The truth is that many nations with little boost of oil money have since shaken off the shackles of poverty and diseases, the type that have held us down despite that Nigeria is the fifth highest producer of the same resource on a worldwide ranking.

My take on all this is that the re-denomination of the Naira will stem the tide of Nigerians running away from home. The re-denomination of naira will stop the efflux of Nigerians away from home. Nigerians leaving the shores of their country in droves will end. As I once wrote: The gains of the whole thing will include; the re-locations of many Nigerians in Diaspora to Nigeria. Those living outside Nigeria and away from home for long will then have cause to spend a lot of time in Nigeria, because, it will then be easier for so many Nigerians to make more money in Nigeria than overseas. The relatives in Nigeria will then stop being unnecessarily over-dependent on those in Diaspora, because, some of them over there will be making more money than those overseas and that will relieve so many Nigerians in Diaspora from that burden of catering for families at home and in Diaspora simultaneously. The stresses people abroad are going through will be greatly reduced and that will prolong the lives of many. Nigerians at home tend to depend more on Nigerians in Diaspora because of the bastardised exchange rates. The rush to go overseas will be a thing of the past, because, it will pay little or nothing to be outside Nigeria unless on official duties or on business. The long queues at the European and American Embassies in Lagos and Abuja will disappear. It is always a pitiful sight seeing people spending days at Embassies looking for the opportunity to leave Nigeria for “imagined than real” greener pastures. Life overseas is not as people in Nigeria paints it, Nigerians erroneously see overseas as the end in itself. So many Nigerians will be willing to abandon the hardships of Europe and America for good. Unfortunately, the President in his budget speech to the National Assembly last week pegged the $ 1 to N117. That is rubbish. This tells you that those ruling us are dancing to foreign tunes.

Coming back to the problems Nigerians are facing overseas, the bad behaviours of some Nigerians might have brought these maltreatments to them and others. Some Nigerians are also the “architect of their own misfortune” Information reaching me from Thailand and infact from every other foreign country is that some Nigerians are being used by the security agents of their host countries to spy and do in their fellow compatriots. I don’t support people engaging in illegal activities to make money, but, it is evil for a Nigerian to be used to undo a fellow Nigeria. I want to make it clear here that some of us that decided to stay upright and clean also want more money, but, chose to go for it through hardwork and legal means to protect our good names. Anybody so greedy to throw cautions to the wind and go for money through any available means should not blame anybody for his or her predicament(s).

The information from Thailand had it that there are Nigerians working for the law enforcement agencies there like the Police and Narcotics Dept. As they are on their law enforcement agencies´ payroll, they are obliged to give informations to the law enforcement agencies against their fellow country people, even if they have to cook up one, to justify their pay. According to the information, the Nigeria Embassy in Bangkok knows about all these and they are not doing anything about it. Some of the turncoats, I was told are one Jerry Obinabo and one Barry (from Akwuzu). This duo, I learnt have been tormenting Nigerians there. Jerry, I was told went to the Embassy after so many accusations and had the gut to say, in front of Nigeria Consular, that he's working for the FBI in Thailand and the Embassy did nothing.(I am putting it as I got it). The information reaching me also had it that one guy that have a very big cargo company there has been deported back to Nigeria as he was coming back on a business trip from China and that another guy went back last Tuesday because he was refused entry as he was coming back from Nigeria. I was meant to understand that these are guys that have families and have legitimate businesses in Thailand. If these are true, then it is too bad. Nigeria Embassy Thailand in concert with the relevant authorities in Nigeria should do something immediately.

Having said that above, the attitudes of some Nigerians abroad are shameful as some of those countries have lost their patience on Nigerians! As I wrote once: Some Nigerians in Diaspora are drug peddlers, selling drugs at train stations and other places, destroying the lives of younger citizens of their host countries. Nigerians are so many in this business and so many of them are also in prisons for drug relating offences. After making their illicit and bloody money, these Nigerians will go to Nigeria and start showing off their “wealth” creating false impressions of life in Europe and North America. From this, young and old Nigerians are being tempted to look for ways of leaving Nigeria for Europe or the North America, and when they succeed in getting the visa, they are disappointed when they arrive in Europe or North America only to see that their dreams of Europe or America or Canada is only nightmares because things in reality are different. They new arrival becomes demoralised and frustrated and having promised heaven on earth to his family and friends in Nigeria before leaving, he is then being forced to enter the drug peddling business. The circle continues going round and round. Many succeeded, many went to prison (Prisons in Europe are full with Nigerians, it creates bad impression) and many came out of prison to die few days later because the Police injected them with lethal substances to ease them out once for all, since no body will ask about them.

Punch of November 3, 2007 wrote that Over 1,000 Nigerians serving jail terms in the United Kingdom may be sent to prisons in rural areas when they are deported to Nigeria. That the Nigerian Prison Service said it would send such deportees to rural areas because the penitentiaries in urban centres were already overpopulated. Those Nigerians doing every kind of illicit business be it drug peddling or credit card frauds or stealing or 419 etc use to give wrong impressions in Nigeria. Families of those doing genuine businesses in Europe, Asia and North America use to wonder whether their sons or daughters, as the case may be, are not in the same overseas with those “brandishing wealth“ whenever they come home. They don’t know what those guys are doing to get such “wealth”. The false impressions being created by those moral dwarfs back home is informing this orgy to leave for better or for worst. Please, if you are doing a bad thing to get money abroad, tell the innocent Nigerians in Nigeria the truth about how hard it is to survive in a foreign land. My people say “if you tell a poor man what it takes to become rich, he will then prefer to remain poor instead”.

Final words for the president, the foreign minister, the Nigeria ambassador to Thailand and the national assembly members: I don’t want a situation where “a powerless father always accepts that his child is guilty” even when the rights of the child are being trampled upon by others. The Nigerian officials should not, due to their inability to exert themselves on countries maltreating Nigerians, blame Nigerians for not conforming to the laws, norms, rules and regulations of their host countries. Nigerians are not all criminals. Sometimes, Nigerians are being victimised for just no reason other than that they are Nigerians. Infact the ruling elite should take all the blames for the plight of Nigerians abroad. Had they made Nigeria better for all, no Nigerian would have left our shores in search of the elusive “golden fleece”.

What I want is a situation, where “all will join hands to pursue away the hawk that wants to pick the chicken, then at home, the chicken will be blamed for wandering off too far” They can give our foreign policy any name they like, what we want is an idea and actions aimed at protecting and restoring Nigeria’s dignity and that of its citizens anywhere in the world. No more, no less.

advertisement
IMAGES IN THE NEWS