Tuesday, 5 January 2010

US discriminating against Nigerians unfairly

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.

27 comments:

bZirk said...

Concerning misconceptions about Nigeria and Africa in general, you might find this video interesting:

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/652

Anengiyefa said...

Hello bZirk, wishing you a Happy New Year. I've seen that Ted talk and even posted the video on my blog some weeks ago. In fact I expect it still appears on the front page somewhere. And yes, I did find it interesting and agree with much of what Ms Adichie said. Thanks for your comment.

bZirk said...

A Happy New Year to you too! I guess I missed that particular blog. Sorry. That's such a great video, maybe it's good to highlight it again. :D

Gone to read your comments on it. Cheers.

Sokari said...

So far 2 other Nigerians passing through the USA have been arrested simply for being Nigerian - the fall out on this is US paranoia and over reaction gone mad. How can one man out of a population of 150 million warrant such action? Ridiculous - America feeds the violence it so much wants to avoid - there is no sense of perspective just panic, Makes me sick!

Anengiyefa said...

A Happy New Year to you Sokari. Yes I agree, this US action is illogical and irrational. I suppose it just seemed 'right' that Nigeria should be included in the list, simply because of who she is, a much maligned nation, albeit very often quite undeservedly.

It defies logic that Holland, whose security systems so obviously fell short in this case, has been let off the hook, as if saying to the Dutch, "its okay, it was only a mistake". Whereas it is Nigeria whose airport security has not been proven or shown to be lacking that has been made to bear the brunt of culpability, just because the suspected terrorist carried one of her passports. I find it hard to accept that this is really happening.

By the way thanks Sokari for dropping in.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

Yes, it is unfortunate that an entire nation's people are now subject to additional scrutiny simply on account of their nationality. Particularly as this is a direct result of solitary acts that stemmed from years in England and training in Yemen.

But, the greater misfortune is that Nigerians do not have 'leaders' savvy enough to do the necessary PR to deflect the negativity descending on Nigerian citizens around the world on account of Abdulmutallab's actions. In fact, Nigeria's Senators have issued a statement but will not cut short their vacation to address issues.

One can only hope that Nigerians will experience a collective awakening and either begin to truly demand better treatment from their representatives or vote out the entire lot in upcoming elections. At this point in time, I'm not sure I'd take a wager on either options, unfortunately.

Nice post.

NIGERIAN CURIOSITY
IT WAS SO MUCH EASIER WHEN I ONLY HAD ONE...

bZirk said...

2 people of Nigeria=gone mad? I think not.

Granted, prejudice is alive and well. But to equate an entire nation to paranoia of Nigerians because two more people from that country were arrested is perpetrating the same prejudice that's talked about by Chimamanda Adichiein.

I know that I and many other Americans I know would not try and convict in our minds someone let alone make them suspects simply because they are from Nigeria.

Anengiyefa said...

Happy New Year Solomonsydelle. I agree with you, having earlier this morning read on your blog your post about the way Saudi royals and government officials in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 strived on the diplomatic scene to deflect from Saudi Arabia the fallout from that incident. I agree that similar diplomatic measures by Nigeria are essential at this time, however it is at this crucial moment that our President is lying on a sick bed in far away Saudi Arabia.

What baffles me is why we have allowed our entire country to be held to ransom by the ill-health of just one of the country's citizens, regardless that the said citizen holds the office of President. Surely, the nation is more important that the health of its president? Are there no arrangements in place for positive action and forward movement when the President is incapacitated by ill-health?

The inclusion of Nigeria in that "Terror Prone" countries list is one of the more serious consequences of failed leadership in Nigeria. And we all as Nigerians have been inadvertently complicit, since we seem to have acquiesced in the sustaining of what has proved time and again to be ineffectual and incompetent leadership.

I read what Prof Tam David West said today about this. He seems to think that our government's anger at being included in the list is misplaced, given that the record in Nigeria is of the frequent incidence of religious violence, perpetrated (or instigated) by radical Islamists. It clearly is not the case that the government in Nigeria has taken firm action against these people, since the likelihood were this to happen, is of a political backlash of a kind that none of us would like to witness.

Don Thieme said...

Insightful analyses from African bloggers such as yourself are the only bright spots in this sordid affair. Keep on blogging.

By the way, I personally believe that Nigeria was the first country to be put on this list. The rest of the list was purely arbitrary just to come up with some rationale for a kneejerk reaction. I expected far more from my president than he has delivered so far, but at least he does manage to show up for work!

Beauty said...

I was reminded of this old comment via SOLOMONSYDELLE´s blog "Maybe the next would-be-bomber will be a Mexican or a South African or Malaysian or whatever, and the list keeps growing until eventually America isolates itself". That, however, is not the issue. Damned if you do, damned if you don't is perhaps the bigger picture. The US feeds Nigeria buying 8% of its oil from our weak weak systems, now relate it to Obama´s Ghana visit and many more. Nigeria has become irrelevant and that is all.

The argument that China will fill the void is another future problem fraught with its own issues but for now, is it really unfair to be proactive in looking to stop the rot? Expect nothing from nobody but do something yourself is an excellent way forward. IMO, finding like minded Nigerians planning to put the heads of our rulers on the chopping block is the next leadership challenge. What is stopping us?

Anengiyefa said...

Happy New Year Beauty and thanks for that. I am in complete agreement about like-minded Nigerians and chopping blocks!

Just last night I was on the phone to my brother and this is exactly what I said him when he queried what I was still doing in England since I felt so passionately about Nigeria.

Like minded Nigerians, where are you all? Our country is crying out for us to rescue her from the hands of those who leading her to sure collapse and decay..

Anonymous said...

I think it is agreeable by most of us that like-minded Nigerians should take the reins of our nation's government, but the bitter truth is that this same government makes it very difficult to do so. If "like-minded" Nigerians return to the country as politicians, there would not be a place for them there. Let's face it, amongst the kidnapping and murders surrounding Nigerian politics, any capable Nigerian may not get his points across before he or she is mowed down at night by assassins posed as armed robbers.

Anengiyefa said...

@Anonymous, I'm not sure if you are advocating that we should all throw our hands up in the air and give up on our country, while accepting the reality that ours is a failed state.

The way I see it is this: It is totally impossible to overturn the status quo in Nigeria simply by becoming a politician. The system itself is already too rotten for change from within to occur. An attempt to bring about the kind of change that is needed in Nigeria through the established political system will be analogous to attempting to rouse a dead man when his corpse is already rotting.

What is required in Nigeria is change that is drastic and radical, an overhaul of a magnitude that most Nigerians, including the "like minded" ones, do not seem to have a stomach for. Perhaps to give up on Nigeria completely might just be the only viable option available to us in the end..

Beauty said...

Like minded Nigerians everywhere, many have changed the world in exile. My best example is Karl Marx and just like many Nigerians fled to the UK. However, we have an advantage, the web. We are not looking to physically loot our country. We are asking to help shape the policy of corruption that has meant the same people like Obasango as a case in point are chosen by the UN to represent us at the UN.

UNESCO and other institutions are filled with the same mad hatters that help shape world policy in our name. That, perhaps is a staring position. We can begin to hound those out before we go take on the bigger role of showing Nigerians at home that there are other ways. There is so much work to do and a starting position is always the hardest and most difficult, but doable. That is my position and there are many more.

Working in NIgeria is not an option but out of it, we can become a force for change. There are too many groups and websites using trashing the name. Those that do not see their own blogs as the force for change also miss the point. We can meet on each other´s blogs in order to continue our discussions. Just let the imagination find its own way out of the bad deal that is current Nigeria.

Free Surf said...

My views are just those of a person who doesn't like politics @ all.

Nigeria appearing on that list is a total wake up call for our useless leaders.

Life in Nigeria especially in the North is no longer secure. Every now and then all you here of are religious riots of which the international community is so aware of.

Coupled with gross unemployement and intense poverty and unending Kidnaps and Niger-Delta killings, we've (Our yeye leaders) wonderfully created a fertile land for Al Queada to thrive. The judiciary system only works on the Poor and Irrelevant of the society as the rich ALWAYS get off

In my honest opinion, Nigerians should relax abeg. It's time for us to see how REALLY USELESS our government is as I'm 200% sure they will make noise now and later go back to their corrupt ways.

NOTHING will be done to get us off that list and soon we shall be tagged REAL TERRORISTS.

It will take DIVINE INTERVENTION FROM ABOVE to heal Nigeria. In the mean time, I continue to struggle to get myself out of this sh**hole. Of course if I end up making millions here, I'll just move to Abuja and live la via loca in peace there in a 50 million condo (Just kidding ;))

Abiola Sanusi said...

We are on the list due to ineffective handling of religious unrest in the North. Also, we have an absent leader - who is running the country? Further, we have millions of disaffected young men who are not being engaged. We have an environment which breeds insecurity...this is why I believe we are on the list. Saudi Arabia deals effectively with terrorism as the terrorists wants to overthrow the rulers. This is their reason for hunting down al-Qaeda in the kingdom and USA not putting them on the list - apart from oil ( as the terrorists if they win will not sell to USA). This is achieved through the interior ministry via the following means (torture, death and even rehabilitation - which has a 80% failure rate).
What has Nigerian done post 2001 when reports stated there were Arab men in Northern Nigeria preaching? This is what we have done - Taliban ideals, no monitoring of the growth of sponsored Islamic schools preaching intolerance, increase of sponsored Islamic courses to Saudi Arabia and Egypt that preach a more narrow view of Islam that is at odds in a pluralist society - different faiths and religions.

Anengiyefa said...

Greetings Abiola, Happy New year to you. I agree with what you've said concrning the Nigerian government's failure to tackle extremist Islam in the country and that this is the more plausible reason why the US has included her in the list of "terror prone" countries.

However, contrary to what you seem to believe, Saudi Arabia is in fact on that US list of 14 countries.

Abiola Sanusi said...

Happy New Year too! Thanks for the correction. The "countries of interest" appear to share some commonalities....

Anengiyefa said...

Also Abiola, on the fact that the Nigerian government has failed so far to respond adequately to extremist Islam in the north of the country, I couldn't dare to think of what the repercussions might be even if the government garnered the courage and the will to do this..

CodLiverOil said...

One should know that this world isn't fair. You have to make the most of your chances whilst you can.

There are numerous reasons why America took action against Nigeria.

There are two very good posts that detail the reasons:

1) WHY AMERICA BLACKLISTED NIGERIA, by John Onyeaku found on

http://allafrica.com/comments/list/aans/post/post/id/201001080529.html#c|main|main|id|0AGtHZXmcc8L-fq5

2)NIGERIA PLACED ON TERROR PRONE LIST, by Nigerian Curiosity, found on:

http://www.nigeriancuriosity.com/2010/01/nigeria-placed-on-terror-prone-list.html

I've commented on both of them, and I guess you'll recognise my id(s).

Ultimately, it is up to America, how they choose to react. In this instance, Nigerian security was found wanting - that is the bottom line. The country is seen as unreliable, unstable and unwilling to confront issues ie religious extremism, so why would America, want business to be as usual? To resolve this(I said this in Nigerian Curiosity), will take sustained action on the part of the authorities over a considerable period of time, to show America, that the situation on the ground in Nigeria has changed. Simply asking to be removed, reveals the lack of seriousness or understanding of the situation by the Nigerian government and all those who support them.

By the way, I've some catching up to do, and will be writing you shortly.

Anengiyefa said...

Happy New Year CodLiverOil. I too have some catching up to do. Lol.

What you say is true, except that bit about "sustained action on the part of the authorities over a considerable period of time, to show America, that the situation on the ground in Nigeria has changed".

In my view, it isn't realistic under the present dispensation to expect the kind of change that is really needed. It is very unlikely indeed that the government in Nigeria will be able to take the kind of action against those extremist Islamists in the north that would be satisfactory to the rest of the world and particularly the US. Political power wielded by the north is too great. Also this issue of being included in a "terror" list" might raise questions concerning the continued viability of Nigeria as a nation state, a question we have been avoiding for a long time, but one which we may well be forced to consider sooner rather than later.

The present system has had its chance and it has proved to be unsuccessful. As to what will be required to turn things around, I am doubtful that there are Nigerians in sufficient numbers who possess the insight and the courage that is required. In short, save for a revolution of sorts, I remain quite pessimistic, sadly...

Free Surf said...

As this issue of terrorism is going on, Anambra politicians are training thugs, thieves and rapists in preparation for the February elections.

Rumors of Yar Adua's death has risen @ a blog claiming that he's been dead since Dec 10. If this ends up being the truth, our credibility in the international community is finished as we would be seen as UNRELIABLE BLOODY LIARS no thanks to members of Senate who claim to have spoken to Yar Adua on phone.

Anengiyefa said...

Fresurf, this is a full fledged political crisis now. Things are coming to a head, at last, some of us will say..

I too have seen that the Internet is agog with reports of his death.

bemtrell said...

Your post is well rounded and I appreciate your taking time to paint Nigeria in all the shades and colors it represents, instead of just one or two as the rest of the world does...

You could see www.blackinspire.com for other candid thoughts.

Anengiyefa said...

Greetings Bemtrell, welcome. Yes, our country does come in different shades and colours as you put it, a fact that is often not acknowledged, even by us.

Thanks for the comment and for the add, which as you can see has been reciprocated. :)

Tamaku said...

This is an outstanding post bro! Great stuff. BTW, happy new year!

Anengiyefa said...

Happy New Year Tamaku, its great to see you. In the Hausa language, I would say the greeting 'kwana biyu' (literally meaning 'two days'). This is said to a friend if one hasn't seen him for a while. I see you've been junketing b/w NBO and LHR lately, so I won't complain.

Btw, I did vote on that honey trap poll.. :)