For any Nigerian, living at home or abroad, and above sixteen years, there is little doubt that they are unaware of Nigeria’s badly tarnished image abroad, shredded in tatters, caused Nigerians untold hardships, treated with disrespect and regarded with contempt wherever they are found in the world. The tag of being a Nigeria carries a high price the moment you leave the shores of Nigeria and we wear this tag like the mark on the body of branded slaves without shame.
You need not cross the Atlantic, within the continent the name Nigeria, or the phrase ‘I am a Nigerian’ immediately makes you a branded person, a persona non grata and Nigerians are treated such with disdain, mocked and told point blank ‘to go back to your country’. Visit South Africa, Angola, Libya, Morocco, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Cameroun or to go closer home Ghana, Cote Ivories, or Liberia Nigerians are not wanted for no other reason than the exhibition of a highly criminal attitude, an attitude that has brought on us a bad name and an unimaginable disregard within the continent and the larger world.
No people are as hardworking as Nigerians; no people are as creative and skillful as Nigerians, no people so intelligent, innovative, friendly, business minded, impulsive travelers, yet this high above credentials possessed by this people have been soil by a negative bent to criminality, a disturbing fraudulent walk of life to get rich quick. Rather than channel such creative energies to positive outcomes majority of Nigerians instead choose to deploy their skills to criminal acts. Rather than employ their innovative skills to self development it is sadly poured into fraudulent practices instead. Rather than use their enterprising nature to create and seize presented opportunities they have chosen to bypass such opportunities and embrace vanities.
It is therefore, not new and never any surprise when we hear of the harsh treatment Nigerians are subjected to around the world whether at the airports or inside the mainland’s of these countries, especially, in Europe, America and Asia. We hear of the execution of Nigerians in Asian countries for drug related offences, for those serving lengthy jail terms in various European, American and Asian prisons for fraudulent schemes. Nigeria’s image is dented abroad by and not limited to money laundry, drug peddling, banking and credit card fraud, websites and financial database hacking, impersonation etc.
Just the other day on a news webpage were lined pictures of young and vibrant Nigerians executed for drug-related offenses in various Asian countries especially in Muslim nations and the writer did that intentionally to serve as a warning to intending young Nigerians dreaming of a life above their means reminding the readers about the sudden end of these young Nigerians who set out of their countries for the wrong reasons and ended badly. The pictures of such young country men of mine evoked not a small amount of sympathy from my bowels, how that they have just wasted their lives, caused their families’ unbearable grief and the nation a bad name because they must get rich by all means.
The denting of Nigeria’s image abroad did not start today neither did it start with the generation of young men now callously dragging the already muddied name further into the mud at the cost of their lives. The countries image has long been tarnished abroad long before the young men and women of today were born. The dishonest and disloyal treatment meted out to Nigeria by Nigerians was started by Nigeria’s leaders, the political class right from the moment she was declared an independent nation.
Nigeria’s political class, the elite were the first Nigerians to show dishonesty and dishonor their solemn pledge to uphold the honor and glory of the new independent nation. With their new found privilege, relinquished by the departing colonialist, these elites engaged in moral vanities, ethnic jingoism, religious fanaticism, nepotism, and an unintelligent class of corruption that has today metamorphosed into the highest class of corruption in the country. They created shortly a Nigeria of class categories, the rich from the not so rich and the very poor through unchecked corruption and theft of the national treasury, made politics a lucrative venture rather than a service rendering profession that has attracted to its fold diverse elements with characteristics that border on the sociopathic and the unintelligently visionless.
The children will always take over from their fathers and that is true, not after various Nigerian politicians have been covertly or overtly fingered in drug trafficking rings, rumoured to have been to jail and back and some fighting extraditions to answer to their accusations abroad. Today’s ugly incidents of Nigerian citizens been arrested for one criminal offence or another is a product of faulty foundations laid by Nigeria’s leaders for over five decades and we all are reaping the rotten fruits of their labor; the labor to amass personal wealth while the country they pledge to serve honestly and honorably bleed to death.
We cannot as a nation continue to live in self denial that Nigeria’s international image is damage, rotten and needs redemption. The current Nigerian President, Mohammadu Buhari, on his first trip abroad on resuming office was unequivocal in his honest admittance of the bitter truth that our image abroad is poor and nothing to write home about. Back home, vituperative anger trial the president’s comments with many accusing him of disloyalty to the country and some simply saying he is a dunce who does not understand international diplomacy and politics. But it was laughable because the president was blunt and very honest to the point it angered the vine spoilers, the fathers of drug peddlers, 419er’s, fraudsters and cybercrime generals.
Yes, it is true, whether we deny it till Christ come, this Nigeria we all call our country has a dirty stinking image abroad and this image stinks so bad that you need only to step out to Ghana or South Africa to witness the backlash, the anger, the rejection that Nigerians face daily in the black continent, inside sister nations and you will imagine what happens to Nigerians in Europe, America, India, China, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Morocco and just about any place on the globe. Nigerians are harassed right from the airports were they are separated from the rest and attended meticulously and once inside the country they are monitored even as students from their movements, relationships studies or jobs right down to their financial transactions and that is the image we have created for us speaking. Any denial of sorts is to continue to create more problems, mislead our young men and blacken the image further.
Trending the media scene currently is the episode featuring a certain Nigerian and his accomplices by name Ramon Igalode alias Hushpuppi, Olalekan Ponle alias Woodberry and ten members of his gang as the UAE police ended their jolly ride with other people’s sweat in the wealthy emirate for cybercrime spanning several years involving a large score of victims and running into millions of US Dollars. And you wouldn’t imagine that such individual with a tall ego and a flamboyant lifestyle is but a criminal whose day has come as it has come for those in jails or dead and still will come for the rest whose time has not yet come that has made the lives of innocent Nigerians miserable around the world.
Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa President Buhari’s appointed Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission was outraged like many government officials have been in the past by the unrelenting damage done to the country’s image abroad and its negative effects on the country. She was quoted as saying that the suspect Hushpuppi was all the while a criminal who flaunted his wealth without shame. In her words “committing a crime and still having the audacity to show off like Ramon Igalode did. This is really denting our image as a people. But like I always say, fraud does not represent who we are as Nigerians; hardworking, dedication and commitment is what we, as a country is known for.”
Quite true, such are Nigerians, populated with the good more than the bad eggs, but with the few bad living large, approximately holding three quarters of the wealth in the country and eating up the life of the good ones, not because they are smarter, intelligent or brighter than the rest, but because they are criminals, depraved, shameless Nigerians who drag Nigeria’s name down the gutter to line their pockets with hard currency and show off in Nigeria’s streets. You can just now think of the so-called Hushpuppi and his gang, until he was arrested in Dubai you wouldn’t know he was that vile and unintelligent. What of Obinwanne Okeke, the fraudster referred to as ‘business mogul’ associated with Invictus firm who all the while disguised as a young entrepreneur but actually a big time fraudster waiting jail term in the US. Babalola Falemi alias Sauce Kid jailed for credit card fraud and the one Margaret Oladipupo jailed for money laundry and many others rotting in various jails across the globe.
It seems that Nigerians, known for easily adapting to adverse situations have quickly taken the dented image of their country abroad in their strides and moved on. After all, they say, the image is also dented within. This attitude is shown in that despite the harsh treatment and the contempt poured on Nigerians, we endure it all and still mill at the airports, land and sea routes to make it out of the country to those very lands we are not wanted. Government officials have decried the ugly trend in the past and like the Diaspora Commission head did, but that will not change anything until and unless every Nigerian, government and citizens join hands together to build and develop our country the Hushpuppi types will continue to spring out from ourselves and Nigeria’s name will sink further in the mire of international diplomacy and so will Nigerians be treated differently from the rest of the world.
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The Nigerian name is now so bearish, it wasn’t over two months ago when the America FBI swoop down on six Nigerians for fraud related crimes and now Hushpuppi and his gang ringing up the Nigerian discredited name once again bringing up the Nigerian thing, a thing of sorrow, of indignity and sadness in the heart for well-meaning Nigerians in those climes who are hardworking, dedicated and committed to giving back to those countries for welcoming them only to hear whispers of ‘beware, he or she is a Nigerian’ in their work places or neighborhoods. No Nigerian is trusted anymore even those who by marriage are entitled to some airs are having such privileges limited and are monitored by their spouses and authorities.
What a country! Don’t forget, these are the results of yesterday’s planting, because you can only reap what your sow Nigeria is reaping what she rightly sown decades past. The unfaithfulness, lies, deceits, disloyalty, thorns and nettles sowed by her leaders and in some measure the citizens who are followers, is what she is reaping. Like the political and socioeconomic life of the country, Nigeria’s soil image can be redeemed. Nigeria can begin to undo the things that were done wrong. We can begin to have the right leadership, the right education for all, the right equal wealth distribution programme, play the right politics and begin the total integration for overall unity and progress of the country.
We can do this if we are intentional and are determine because only doing the right things can right the country’s image abroad, keep our people home when they know than get equal opportunity at home to develop themselves, enjoy some decency and a healthy environment without which more Hushpuppi’s are warming up and the country’s dipped image would never look up, only down.
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