By Chris Odinaka Nwedo
Still unable to shade off the feeling of psychological injury, I became literally forced into interrogative introspection on the reason for this adverse fate for the nice, vibrant and hardworking Nigerians who have exceptionally excelled in every area they found themselves. Nigerians are perceptive, vivacious and painstaking, you can hardly win them in a fair contest, they are outstanding and proudly so, the country is about the Africa’s richest in human and material resources, but why the disparagement and stigmatization? It made sense to me to make a case out of this particular innocuous comment because it is one out of many denigrating references to Nigeria and the Nigerian. Nigerians continuously confront vilification beyond Nigerian coastlines. Nigerians in Libya, South Africa, Italy, Saudi-Arabia and Malta particularly have complained of discriminative references. In many points of entries travellers originating from Nigeria face extra scrutiny.
To enable us understand considerably the genesis of this aspersion, let us examine the context in which Nigerians are referenced to as bad people, we will speculate on the reasons why people, collectively, may be perceived as bad, we will finally seek opportunity to infirm or affirm thatNigerians are really bad people. We will endeavor to ensure that the whole object of this conversation rises and falls around the above major spheres. In order to justify fidelity to our core objective we may ask the context in which people can be collectively regarded as bad?
Is it when the people customarily practice and endorse sinful and despicable behaviours, when they have no sense of morally wrong or right actions? Is it when the people detest immorality in every ramification and have laws and traditional institutions against the vices but those who contravene the provisions are not chastised appropriately due to weak authority and corrupt institutions? Is it when the authority is effective as well as the institutions but there are no means of enforcing compliance because the delinquents are strong and powerful? Is it when the society reports everything negative about itself to the world for educational and punitive reasons? Is it when there are deliberate attempts by the disgruntled or male-content citizens to ruin the public image of their country by presenting only sordid events and disseminating damaging lies? Is it when there is credulity in a campaign of denigration by extraneous adversarial media who are over scrutinizing, amplifying and over sensationalizing issues of other people?
Nigeria is a country with a very strong sentiment for what is good or bad. The strong religious emotions often expressed by Nigerians give Nigeria an impression of a puritanical society at the veneer. There are churches and mosques at the nook and crannies, in the remote villages can be found a good number of Shrines common to traditional worshippers. The most common denominator of all religious groups in Nigeria is hypersensitivity to issues of good and bad, the sense of moral rectitude. It is often the case that positive comportments and diligence to be found acceptable before God Almighty constitute the bulk of what are preached and stressed daily in the uncountable religious houses. Before the advert of Christianity, the traditional religious laws that were out rightly sanitizing do not compromise ethical deviation. A contravention of the laws evokes strict chastisement such as banishment or death subject to the gravity.
It is therefore factual that Nigerian society does not condone laxity on issues of morality because for Nigerians immorality in any form is despicable. The existence of instruments of chastisement and pulpits for condemnation of the morally detestable conducts demonstrate that Nigerians disapprove them. In Nigeria the sources of religious laws are the scriptures as inspired by God, while the civil laws are from the civil institutions as provided by the constitution. There are three tiers of government in Nigeria. Each tier has institutions of law making and enforcement. At the Federal level are the Senate and House of Representatives, in the states we have States Houses of Assemble and the third-tier are the Councilors. To ensure harmony and subjection to the rule of law there is in our governance an absolute separation of power. The executive, legislative and judiciary equitably and uniquely share the powers of law making and implementations. The executive, legislative and judiciary are separate entities and autonomous in operation.
As a collectivity, Nigerians detest immorality in every ramification and have laws and traditional institutions against the vices but those who contravene the provisions of the laws, in some cases, are not punished appropriately as preventive stratagems due to weak authority and corrupt institutions. Corruption and subtle abuse of power by the wrong and strong have been the bane of Nigerian society. In fact, Nigeria’s qualitative developments are frustrated by intractable strains corruption and recklessness of her treacherous politicians and power brokers. Nigerians’ perspicacity and enterprise are invalidated by the encumbrances of corruption placed on the nation by the duplicitous elites. Not every Nigerian is corrupt and bad just like in every other society. Corruption is everywhere. It is a worldwide phenomenon. It is pervasive in some societies and subtle in others. In Nigeria corruption is pervasive. Today, two potent afflictions corruption and bad leadership heavily pound Nigeria.
The foothold for abuse, political imprudence, bad governance and insecurity in Nigeria is corrupt ion and the proclivity. It is unquestionable that corruption is a robust obstacle to getting things right in Nigeria whether it is in terms of infrastructure, distribution of wealth, inclusive governance or national integration. We have in the government of Buhari an administration that came to power on the mantra of killing and burying the malaise of corruption but the government has rather continued to intentionally promote corruption and motivate individuals known to be grossly corruption with the shields of the law and further complicated the predicament with reintroduction of nepotism, discrimination and repression.
The administration of Buhari has contributed so little in giving hope to Nigerians because it is populated by non-performers recruited from a corner of the country and empowered to set the stage for the ultimate ruin of the nation. Nigerians are angry, there is resentment in the air, and tongues are wagging. The support base of the government is incensed with resentment because Buhari is not performing and unapproachable, caged by the people the wife of the present blamed for derailing the positive plans of the government. Mrs. Aisha Buhari lamentedly said that two powerful personalities have constituted themselves as a cog in the wheel of speedy development of the country. And less than three months to next year’s elections, some northern leaders say they will not support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election. According to Abdullahi Ango, the “Northern Elders arrived at the decision to dump Buhari for another northern presidential candidate because of his failure to fulfil the basic conditions they handed to him in 2015 when they rejected then – President Goodluck Jonathan and elected him”.1 Ango concluded that “as things stand today, we in the NEF do not believe that Nigeria’s cause will be helped by Buhari’s re-election in 2019.2
Buhari is yet to demonstrate the much touted integrity having allowed his associates to scandalously bastardise anti corruption war. Many of his close aids and associates are allegedly on looting spree, wasting and expropriating huge national resources. The main opposition party PDP has “challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to showcase his much touted integrity by allowing an open investigation of his associates and close relatives, who were mentioned in serial looting of public resources”.3 PDP “also challenged Buhari to immediately make public the report of the investigation of the former aide of the First Lady, Mr. Baba-Inna, who was arrested in September this year, over accusations of receiving N2.5 billion as donations from politicians, businessmen and women on behalf of the First Lady, Aisha Buhari”.4 The party “dared Buhari to make public the official report allegedly indicting his Presidency on the siphoning of over N11 trillion in the petroleum sector, including the N9 trillion oil sleaze detailed in the leaked memo at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).5 Equally, Olusegun Obasanjo the former Head of the State, lamented the pervasive destruction of Nigeria by Buhari through incompetence, lack of focus and nepotism. Obasanjo said he “ believes that only a fool will sit on the fence or be neutral when his or her country is being destroyed with incompetence, corruption, lack of focus, insecurity, nepotism, brazen impunity and denial of the obvious.6
From the disclosures so far, it is undoubtedly obvious that the authority is compromising and ineffective in dealing with delinquents, these have preponderant negative impact on the institutions of governance whose constitutional roles are to maintain law and order. However, the vociferous attacks on the delinquents and the institutions of government that are compromising proved that these disorders are despicable aberration and condemnable. The government of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was changed in 2015 general election on the premise that it under-performed. All Progressive Congress (APC) that replaced PDP is today under intolerable intensity of censorship to resign or be voted out in three months. These events singularly and/or collectively provided eloquent testimonies that Nigerians are positive to demands of virtue and virtuous living in their society. They attack common criminals, they reprimand unscrupulous politicians and issue credible threat to corrupt and imprudent rulers, they are tireless in the effort to enthrone supremacy of sanity in the society and governance no matter how modest. Just like every other society, there are the good and the bad. The generalization of the negative attitudes of unprincipled compatriots has no foundation because it is without limit fallacious.
The attitudes of many defiant, ignorant and crude Nigerians abroad where they are vilified complicate the denigration. Nigerian citizens top Africa’s own chart for human trafficking. Nigeria is a country with the largest share of illegal migration to Europe from Sahara Desert through the Mediterranean Sea. The insane journey to Europe by the uninformed and desperate folks has been ruinous collectively. The loss of vibrant young Nigerians in the stupefying voyage is horrific while the injury done to the image of the country is unfathomable. In order to justify the absurdity and evoke sympathy, the surviving migrants falsify their accounts and exaggerate the troubles of Nigeria. The narratives of this nature are unconstructive.
There are also cases of Nigerian rulers who expropriate billions of dollars targeted for infrastructure. These billions are deposited in foreign banks, money meant for building and equipping hospitals, improving quality of education, infrastructure and related social services. For the fact that the health institutions are compromised the rulers spend more than needed for making national hospital efficient in treating themselves in America and Europe. Nigerians die on account of preventable ailments. The nauseating profligacy of the leaders and top politicians are observed, recorded and broadcasted all over the world as a means of naming and shaming.
The more these un-laundered images of Nigeria are spread far and wide by nationals the more the images are gulped hook and sinker and they constitute ‘valid’ premises for such notions that Nigerians are bad people. There is an axiom that if give a false statement 24 hours before countering it you labour in futility. With the support of social media Nigeria’s image nose-dived. The naming and shaming components of the narratives are substantially instrumental. They are exponentially educational and punitive.
If asked whether Nigerian nation is as bad as it is mirrored, my answer should be, not exactly. It is possible that there are deliberate attempts by the disgruntled or male-contented citizens to ruin the public image of the country by presenting only sordid events and disseminating damaging lies. The climax of some of the damaging information that has saturated the media across the globe is the unsubstantiated claimed that Buhari, the president died in London more than a year ago and was substituted by a look-like, one Jubril from Sudan. The story that Buhari is dead and cloned has gained ground with devastating impact because the government has not done enough to counteract the scorn. If Nigeria is not already a laughing stock, this story that has refused to go is invariably making her so.
The assumption is that even if there are extraneous adversarial media over scrutinizing and sensationalizing, it the citizens and the incompetent national leaders that are giving them materials to content themselves in the campaigns of destruction. For the mainstream western media, sensational stories are soft selling. The demands for the sensationalism or human-interest stories are easily assuage when media searchlight is beamed to Africa. There are abundance of such narratives with rich contents, because if the intense conversations are not about intractable wars or violence, death and displacement of citizens, they will certainly be about continental despots ravaging their states and making fun of themselves.
Nigeria like every nation state has enough of her own confrontations. The nation’s greatest susceptibility is her powerlessness in assuaging the dissatisfaction of her expressive citizens. Nigerians are vivacious, perspicacious and painstaking and they perceive collective and individual dissatisfaction as not their faults but of the governments of the day that seemed grossly unwilling to move with the pace for quality infrastructure and services. Contemporary compatriots are vigorous some unintentionally exceed the boundaries. This attitude may not be uncharacteristic of people that do not want to remain the same. Yes, few Nigerians are excessive but the majority are not. This group of delinquents does not have the majority to represent the rest of the Nigerians. Therefore, it is derogatory to say that Nigerians are bad people because you have the misfortune to meet one of the very few bad ones. This is also the reason why you cannot say Americans are bad people because one American offended you. When Dephany Caresia Caruana was brutally murdered in Malta by a criminal gang, all Maltese have not become members of the criminal gang and murderers just because the clandestine group that carried out the dastardly act are fellow Malta citizens.