By OBINNA EZUGWU
If you are looking for the global headquarters of unbridled hypocrisy, look no more, Nigeria is your destination. It’s a country where people call black white and white black and swear in God’s name that they are right. A country where tribalism and religious bigotry have been elevated to official government policy; where citizens display such unrestrained hate for fellow citizens of other ethnic groups living in their midst that they have no qualms denying them such basic right as the right to vote in an election. Yet, it is the same Nigerians that are accusing US president, Donald Trump of “racism” over his visa restriction policy.
Mr. Trump’s decision to effect visa restrictions on Nigeria, among other nations, has continued to generate condemnations in the country. Commentators are relentless in their criticism of the American president. How dare he implement such deigning policy against the ‘giant of Africa and the hope of the black man?’ They have also found convenient partners among the belief-in-nothing American liberals whose ultimate agenda, it would seem, is to ensure that their own country becomes the incubating abode of terrorists, extremists and criminals of all kinds. They too have been relentless. Again it fits into a certain narrative that Trump is a racist targeting black and brown people.
Yesterday, I watched a patronising report by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in which he praised Nigerians to high heavens as the most educated immigrant population in the US. 59 percent Nigerians in the US aged 25 and above, he said, have at least bachelor’s degree according immigration institute, which is nearly double the proportion of Americans born in the US (33 percent). All those are true about my countrymen, no doubt. However, that’s just one side of the Nigerian story. It is also important to note that the migrant population are some of the best brains Nigeria has, chocked out of the country by a terrible system.
But Zakaria may do well to remember, too, that Nigeria houses two of the world’s most deadly terrorist groups and accounts for a significant percentage of perpetrators of fraud in the US.
Yet, that’s not the worst tragedy of Nigeria. The worst is that these terrorists are for the most part, pampered by a government that doesn’t hesitate to use lethal force against mere flag-carrying protesters.
If Zakaria had paid sufficient attention to happenings in Nigeria, he would have known that the country houses the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists and affiliate Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), who between them have accounted for not less than 40,000 deaths and millions of displaced people in the country within the last ten years. This is of course, a modest estimate.
About three years ago, the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) branded Boko Haram the most deadly terrorist group in the world by the number of people killed. It took the accolade at the time ahead of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), even when that group that held the world spellbound with its gruesome murders was still in its prime.
Strangely, when some of the suspected members of the terrorist group are arrested by the gallant military men and women laying down their lives daily in defense of their fatherland, they are rehabilitated and released back into the society as “repentant Boko Haram members.” The excuse we continue to hear is that these are the ones forced to join the group. Really?
The irony of a government ever willing to rehabilitate and free arrested terror suspects as “repentant”, but too eager to brand mere political activists as terrorists who cannot be released even with court orders, is stark
The story of repentant Boko Haram is no less disheartening than that of those identified as Fulani herdsmen who are wreaking havoc across the country, brandishing sophisticated weapons and killing hapless villagers in their numbers at will. Again, in 2015, the GTI labelled the “Fulani herdsmen” as the fourth most deadly terrorist group globally. Ironically, the label was ‘rejected’ by the government which, by the way, hastily labelled an unarmed separatist group, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) terrorists. The reason, of course, is not far-fetched. The herdsmen happen to be of the same ethnic group with those in power, the IPOB agitators are mostly the Igbo of Southeast Nigeria. While several members of the IPOB who survived massacres have been charged to court and many still languishing in prisons for doing nothing more than holding flags and protesting in the streets, the herdsmen are walking around freely, immune from prosecution and apparently above the law.
Since then, another deadly frontier of terror has emerged in the form of bandits in the Northwest region. They are daily unleashing terror – kidnapping, beheading and maiming innocent citizens. And again, the authorities appear out of touch.
The question then is, which leader that takes the safety of his people seriously, would open his country’s doors wide for citizens of another country where suspected terrorists are free citizens to walk in? Of course, a rehabilitated Boko Haram, or a herdsman who has, after killing villagers, dropped his assault rifle in the bush is free, as a normal citizen, to walk into an embassy to apply for visa. The uncomfortable truth is that Nigeria, at the moment, stands on the precipice and poses threat to its people and other countries.
Zakaria pointed out, too, that no terror attack in the US has been traced to a Nigerian. This is largely true, but not entirely accurate. A certain Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who attempted to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 en route to Detroit from Amsterdam in 2009 is a Nigerian. Elsewhere in the UK one or two terror attacks have been traced to people of Nigerian descent.
Notwithstanding, the idea that Trump should not take such a decision because Nigerians have not committed terror attacks in the US is not a valid argument. The job of leaders is to identify potential threats and take preemptive actions. There was a time in history when terrorists as we know them today didn’t exist. Nothing is cast in stone in this respect.
It would be foolhardy for anyone of us in Nigeria to think that the world is not watching. The issue, for me, is not that there are terrorists in Nigeria, it is that there seems to be an unwillingness by those in authority to bring terrorists to justice. And a lack of political will to evolve systems and policies that would open up the country for economic growth and reduce the mass illiteracy and poverty that breed terrorism. Instructively, even within Nigeria, states are adopting measures to limit, as much as possible, influx of other Nigerians who are thought to pose threats to the peace and stability of those states.
Again, there is a question begging for answer. Why is it that Nigerians, when they go to other better organised countries, excel even more than the indigenous people? Whereas their home country is one of the worst governed spaces on earth? If this proves anything, it is that Nigerians are brilliant people who, given the right environment and with the right mindset, will thrive. But then, why do the citizens keep electing the worst to lead the best, and why is it difficult to evolve workable systems, the likes that have helped these countries that Nigerians now run to succeed? It is simple: extreme tribalism, hypocrisy and dishonesty.
These days, many Nigerians embark on fasting and prayer sessions to secure visas to Canada, US and elsewhere. The lure of these countries is apparently that they offer hopes of better life and a more secure future for their children. Yet, these same Nigerians, when it comes to making decisions about who will govern and which systems will work best for all and in the interest of the country, throw reason and rationality overboard and resort to petty ethnic and religious sentiments.
People who used their hands to destroy their own country should not complain when others who chose to build theirs refuse them free passage. Instead of blaming Trump for his visa restrictions which doesn’t even go far enough, Nigerians should see this as a coded message to return to their senses and build their own country. It’s a shame that the hopeless situation in Nigeria, brought about by successive horrible leadership, has made Nigerians beggars who continue to beg, pray and hope to be accepted into other countries.
Nigerians are treated like lepers across the globe, even in Africa where they are supposed to be the giants. Holding Nigerian passport is like being afflicted by a plague. It was not always like this. The point is that Nigeria has called itself trash and others are willing to put its citizens into the trash can. Nobody will respect citizens of a beggar nation like Nigeria. The problem is not Trump, it is Nigeria and Nigerians. Had Nigeria made itself relevant, Trump could never have contemplated such restrictions.
Admittedly, ordinary Nigerians who are themselves victims of the terror attacks, and are at the receiving end of the unmitigated failures of governments, could have grounds to justify their anger over the ban. Again, like I pointed out earlier, those affected mostly by the restrictions are middle class, educated Nigerians who don’t pose any threat. But when the whole picture is looked at, one may see some reasons. Trump knows Nigeria as Nigeria, and every Nigerian, both the terrorists and the terrorised as Nigerians. It is not his job to tell individuals apart. It is the job of the Nigerian government. And the Nigerian government should do that by ensuring that the bad guys are in jail and the good guys are free. But if the government, on the contrary, mixes up both the good guys and the bad guys deliberately, Trump is justified to say, No, you are all bad guys, don’t come to my country to live for now.
I did not set out to validate Trump. A lot of people accuse him of being racist, including Nigerians whose tribalism and religious bigotry stink like the fart of a man who over ate decayed beans. He may be or he may not be. That’s not the point here. Even if he is, restricting visa to Nigeria, one of the over 50 countries in Africa, cannot be attributed to racism. Why hasn’t he banned all other African countries if that is the case? Fellow Nigerians, please let’s look inwards and build our country.
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