I cannot but be proud that my roots are in Nigeria, a country of about 150 million people. Of course in modern times there are those aspects of Nigerian society that leave much to be desired. Many people of Nigerian origin, especially those of us who live outside the country, have to carry around with us a mostly undeserved reputation for fraudulent activity and even the Internet is replete with 'warnings' about Nigerians and their 'fraud'. The country's misguided leaders have over the years since independence, demonstrated a disturbing lack of insight and foresight. What natural wealth the country is blessed with has been mismanaged to the point where some like me, believe that the chance that the country was given to achieve real development has been squandered and irretrievably lost.
The standard of living and the quality of life for most citizens of Nigeria have not improved appreciably for decades. Indeed life expectancy at birth for the citizens of the country has seen a steady decline since 2003. Estimates for life expectancy at birth explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to HIV/AIDS. This can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected. Life expectancy at birth is also a measure of overall quality of life in a country and summarises the mortality at all ages. But there are other things to be said about Nigeria and Nigerians and not all of it is negative.
On the whole Nigerians have for centuries lived harmoniously and at peace with each other and with their neighbours. And while I do not intend to blame colonialism for Nigeria's troubles, there can be no disputing the fact that interference in African affairs by the powers of Europe caused upheaval in Africa so substantial that even half a century after Europe's withdrawal, Africans continue to suffer from the consequences of this interference. There has always been a multiplicity of cultures and religions among Nigerian societies and this will always be. And all along these different peoples have found ways to co-exist in harmony, the only exception being the bloody and tragic war of secession of the late 1960s, sometimes referred to as the 'civil war' or the Biafran war.
Despite all of this and quite apart from it, Nigerians tend to be the more industrious, personable, confident, self-assured, hardworking, peace loving, hospitable, enterprising, generous Africans to be found anywhere. I would have added 'honest' and 'sincere' to that list, but you wouldn't believe me anyway. This is not surprising since as I stated earlier, all of us Nigerians have been tainted with those rumours being bandied around about fraud and dishonesty, whereas in actuality only a minority of Nigerians are responsible for the acts that have given rise to this unpleasant reputation. Moreover fraudsters come in all shapes, colours and nationalities. And so do paedophiles! But we never hear that all British people are branded as child abusers, despite what we know about predatory child-sex tourism in south Asia and East Africa. Nigerian fraudsters are not different from fraudsters of other nations, including the United States itself. But instead, and rather unfortunately, there seems to be a zealousness to criticise, malign and even blame Nigerians as a whole for any crime committed by a person of Nigerian origin.
Recently the holder of a Nigerian passport was apprehended before he could successfully detonate an explosive device said to be strapped to his body while aboard an aeroplane that was about to land at an airport in Michigan, USA. Of course this story is not news, neither is it news that the US government acting in what seems like a knee-jerk reaction, has declared that special checks must now be conducted on passengers arriving at US airports from any of the following countries - Nigeria, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. To include Nigeria in this list of countries is not only unfair, it is also misleading.
Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are countries that the US believes to be state sponsors of terrorism. The other countries in this list (with the exception of Nigeria) are known to harbour terrorists of varying political hues, but for all of whom the underlying objectives are the same as Al Qaeda's. Why is Nigeria on this list, you may ask. Well, apparently one of the country's citizens was recruited by Al Qaeda elements in Yemen and having been trained and indoctrinated by them, he has travelled from Yemen through Ghana, Nigeria and The Netherlands before arriving in the US with incendiary explosive material concealed in his underwear. He was apprehended while trying to set off these explosives with the intent of blowing himself up, along with the hundreds of innocent fellow passengers on the aeroplane. This person has over the last several years been outside Nigeria for longer than he has been in the country. Reports suggest that he became radicalised not in Nigeria, but while abroad. I suppose it was not at all relevant to the US authorities, or indeed to anyone, that the father of this suspected terrorist had alerted the authorities well in advance about the threat that his son posed and that this terrorist's father is a Nigerian too.
Richard Reid the Boston "shoe bomber" is a British citizen who converted to Islam. He too was apprehended in the US in similar circumstances, but I have not heard that British people or air travellers to the US from Britain have as a result been subjected to more rigorous body searches since that incident occured years ago. It was in Amsterdam that the Nigerian terrorist suspect boarded the US bound flight that he attempted to blow up, supposedly evading the security systems at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Yet travellers from The Netherlands are not subjected to the 'special checks' that have been imposed on Nigerians, when in fact Nigeria is a country with no past record of involvement in international terrorism activity of any kind. The US government should hang its head in shame at this announcement. Blaming an entire country's population for the act of just one of the country's citizens and then proceeding to impose sanctions on the entire travelling public from that country, is unbecoming of the intelligent leadership that we thought the world had gained when the result of the last US election was announced. This is a disappointment to me and I am pleased to hear that Nigeria has officially criticised the decision.