By Chris Odinaka Nwedo
March 10, 2021
As a nation, Nigeria had prodigious reputation comparable to her vast endowments and boundless potentials. Prior to independence, Nigeria’s general perceptions as a sunlit for reemergence of Black nations were glowing and substantial. A nation of colourful people, talents and resources. However, something immediately went wrong, there were derailments from the courses of advancing the nation after independence. This development became progressively more manifest as the nation strides five decades after the self-governance in 1960. An impulsive military intervention that demobilized modest political order then pulled a potent trigger for devastating civil war and the complications. The plight-full episodes of hunger, destruction, disease and deaths the by-products of the despicable fratricides sent powerful choke waves across the globe. In the eyes of the world, the new nation with all factors for greatness has railed herself idiotically to self-hurting violent strife. The violence was as pitiable as condemnable. It set the first stage for Nigeria’s problematical reputation.
At independence, the esteem for Nigeria was boundless. She was deemed a light, and for some, a bastion for resurgence of denigrated Negro race. She was big, great and a giant of the continent of Africa. The resource of men and materials, the incontrovertible substances of a super nation, painted and ornate Nigeria’s map as a land flowing with ‘milk and honey’. The earliest nationalists were robust intellectuals, Africanists and crusaders of great and united Nigerian nation. They were philosophers of repute. They were models for African liberation champions elsewhere. They were revolutionaries with potentials comparable to the great men that laid the foundations for British, French and American nations. The war and the endless military dethronements of the structures of politics and governance provided active ingredients behind the todays national afflictions.
Besides the active roles of civil war and military insurrections in the Nigeria’s problematic image, an average Nigerian is a conundrum. Ruled by own passion, a Nigerian considers love or hatred circumstantial, caring less and intensely determined to achieve a set personal goals. He reacts to obstacles with stern displease. In the stride towards a goal he embraces the law as long as it is an enabler and runs it over if an ‘obstacle’. The law is not virtue enough when it does not facilitate quick arrival to his goal. He is governed by laws of getting on notwithstanding situation’s provisions. Even when he contravenes the law, the law enforcement agent gets tough time making him submit to applicable instruments of chastisement, he is generally irrepressible. Some of these factors provided grounds for very special treatments Nigerians receive beyond her shorelines.
Within the continent, Nigerian emits concurrently signals of love and hatred. The enterprising spirit has active pull-up effects. Thriving economic ventures across Africa are mostly owned or controlled by Nigerians. Nigerians are mostly everywhere in Africa establishing small but economically potent ventures and these self-help ventures have accidental positive effects on the host communities in the sense that they are effective inspirations. On the other side, the active entrepreneurships often plant seeds of jealousy that in some circumstances discredit them. The economic successes pit them against many who are unable to understand the speedy wealth as products of hard work. The accusations of unethical businesses are regular tools to ensure a Nigerian is incriminated, black-listed and stifled. His sense of pride, industry and the will to excel in any enterprise are in most parts misconstrued.
The stories of Nigerians as victims of unjust aggression in foreign countries are inundating. The attackers target them mostly to loot their businesses. Foreign-owned businesses, have been the focuses of endless attacks in South Africa by irate mobs. The often catastrophic attacks were caused by jealousy and hatred for successes of others. Nigerians bear the heaviest brunt of the mischievousness. The attacks in September 2019 were fierce, however, reports did not emphasis death of any Nigerian ‘but Nigerian-owned shops and businesses were believed to have been targeted by the mobs.1 In the year 2020, Nigerian businesses in Ghana experience unprecedented hostilities as the country’s government singled them out for persecution. The government was reacting to complaints by the locals that Nigerians were sterilizing their business efforts and opportunities. The locals felt threatened by the progressively growing strength of the Nigerian business enterprises over and against theirs. The strident outcry by the Ghanaians showed they do not have all it takes to compete with the strangers. Therefore, the government felt it was politically expedient to show concern by changing business rules and imposing extravagant taxes on Nigerians businesses among other tougher measures. The measures were politically correct, electoral points indeed.
The measures against Nigerians also included the Ghanaian Government’s “decision to raise the capital base of any foreign trader doing business in the country to $1million, and the subsequent locking up of many Nigerian traders’ shops2. The blockages of shops were complicated by all sorts of molestation and intimidation. The invocation of section 27 of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act 865 that offers protections to Ghanaians against competition was part of the ploy to deal with foreign owned investments. By November 2019, “the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) has been shutting down Nigerian-owned businesses and Ghanaian officials went as far as closing almost 70 businesses belonging to Nigerians. Most of the businesses were based in the capital, Accra3. In his reaction, the National President of the Nigerian Union of Traders Association in Ghana (NUTAG), Chukwuemeka Nnaji, enjoined her “members of the association to close their shops to avoid the potential destruction of their businesses and goods4.
The pretexts for the actions harming Nigerian business were founded on the decisions of the Nigerian government to close her border with Benin Republic. The Nigerian government’s officials claimed the closure of Nigerian-border with Benin was an effort at restriction of smugglers’ easy access to Nigerian markets. What is significant is that the persecutions of the Nigerian-owned businesses in Ghana were not on the allegation of anything unethical but on inter-governmental rows that needed to be handled diplomatically if there was no malice. The situations of Nigerians in Ghana became degraded to a level difficult to endure that some business owners threatened to relocate to Nigeria in protest. “The intensifying diplomatic row came to a head, with Abuja and Accra trading insults and grievances over the alleged mistreatment of Nigerian nationals in Ghana.5 South Africa and Ghana were not the only places where Nigerians and businesses were victims of unjustifiable chastisement by governments and organized groups taking laws into their hands. However, “years of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa have led to growing sentiments against South African companies doing business in Nigeria, with many Nigerians calling for their closure6.
It is however worthy of note that Nigerians expressive or flamboyant demeanors underlined the references made to them. An average Nigerian is overly ambitious and resolute. The survivalist inclinations puts him in conflicts with those with different orientations, especially, those who cannot find reasons why Nigerians cannot be ‘quiet’. The groups in reference here are failing to understand that the Nigerian is intrinsically different and he lives the difference in ‘perpetuity.’ When a Nigerian is abjectly poor, the perception of the situation as ephemeral pumps optimism in his veins, thus the regular confidence he exudes. Nothing saves him from ostensible arrogance if he is affluent. In foreign lands, a Nigerian is that guy that walks the street like the proprietor even if he is deficient in required documents. The hope of imminent change of fortune drives him and he cannot dress less nor talk less. The mannerisms are offensive to some and he is thus censored for being a Nigerian. The individual characters of Nigerians as cursorily referred above are constituting leads to deeper reasoning on the politico-national situations that are genuine grounds for the image crisis or the disparagement a Nigerian suffers off the country’s shores.
Just like every other nations and peoples, Nigeria and Nigerians need more positive references. An image that can be embraced is imperative. It is a buffer device against endless embarrassments the nation and the people contend with across the globe. “A country’s image is important. Since a country is made up of its people, its image is the collective self-image of a people. Each one of us wants to be viewed by others favourably because how one is treated is frequently determined by how one is seen. We don’t wish to be misrecognised by others. We all wish to be recognised for what we truly are and not be seen through a distorting lens7. For Rajeev Bhargava (2017), a positive self-image is crucially linked to our self-esteem. If our self-image is damaged, our self-esteem is necessarily lowered and we are bound to feel humiliated and insulted. This is equally true of our collective self-image. If our country is portrayed negatively, we feel ashamed, angry, or even outraged. There is no denying the importance of a country’s image.8
Country’s image outside her shores whether positive or negative can be actual or perceptual. Whatever the circumstance, there are grounds on which the judgments are formed. The internal politico-social narratives have enormous imports. The effectiveness of the economy has ephemeral value in this assessment. “The image of the country is greatly enhanced when its citizens speak out against any wrong committed in their name or in their land. It is even more reassuring to hear people in the highest positions of authority acknowledging public wrong with responsibility and purpose. It shows a vibrant, self-examining, introspective people. It also shows an assured democracy9. Not unlike individual, “no country is perfect. We all make mistakes, stray from the path, get misdirected, temporarily lose our way, and even reach the wrong destination, but the more intelligent and wise amongst us are self-correcting. They can tell when and where we have gone wrong. And take steps for course correction. The discriminating ability to tell right from wrong, the courage to acknowledge that a wrong has been committed, and the collective resolve to fix it — these are all crucial for the health of a nation10. It is however, true that stating it as it is becomes the reorientation and rebranding, the potent resolves to fix the blunders. The denial of the errors is shoddier than the errors themselves. “Publicly acknowledging and attending to flaws rather than ignoring them is pivotal to nurturing a healthy, positive self-image. Cosmetically engaging with them or being indifferent to the creeping malaise damages the self and its real image11. While, an obsessive concern with self-image undermines the growth of the real self; wasteful energy is spent on polishing the self-image, even as the real self is tarnished by neglect. This is as true for nations as it is for individuals.12 Nigerian national image gradually but steadily got soiled, and it seemed the people were indisposed to wake from the deleterious slumber. The people are vulnerable abroad as they are collective victims of narcissistic elites of varied colours at home.
Today, Nigerians carry stigmatizing grimes of the iniquities of bad politics, denigrating narratives of a national government that overtly tilts towards Fulani interest over and against the interest of the collective Nigerians. The nation tended to allow religious and tribal fault-lines to ruin her. Nigerians have at home front, a government that values and victimizes them according to tribe and religious faith. Nigeria is ravaged to the point that it is visibly failing in all indices of an effective state. There is, describable, pandemic insecurity, while abject poverty has effectively targeted for an abduction over 80 percent of the population. Pitiably, the government’s body language in the mist of the national calamity has been obstinate. It has carried on creating more problems and complicating the problem ‘purposefully’. The Nigerians outside the shores are harder hit by chronicles of negative stories that depreciate his worth and increased the dispositions for his disparagement. The Nigerians have indelible imprints of the worsening situations at home wherever they wander in search of respite from the condescending chaos.
The impact is grave. A grievous situation, undeniably, for ones hankering for superseding positive recognitions. Every Nigerian aspires to be the head and not the tail. No one has the temperament to deal with the humility of coming low for anyone. The rejection of the ‘tail’ has the imprimatur of get-rich-first gospels of the present day Nigeria’s ‘men of God’. Of recent, this ‘mundane’ ideology is driving rebellious attitudes of many compatriots to unethical enterprises that ended the individuals in perennial ruin. Corruption and fraudulent activities of varied qualities are functions of the inordinate ambition to supersede. There are approximately more Nigerians that are subjects of financial crime investigations across the globe than any other citizens in Africa and in developing nations. It is all about getting rich quickly to avoid the reproach of poverty and the humiliation that goes with it.
The illegal and deadly migration to Europe from Sahara Desert to Libya through Mediterranean Sea was given momentum by Nigerians who are believing that getting to Europe is the shortest means to quick wealth. The determination to get there and have it has decimated thousands of vibrant young Nigerians untimely. Some of them that made it alive became part and parcels of the Nigeria’s severe image glitches. Among these are women that decided to have nothing to do with caution as they ‘track’ money from prostitution to baby production in the obvious efforts to avoid the disparagement of poverty and relegation. As the women thrive unethically to net cash, the men are ‘impossible’. Note, Nigerians were radicalized by negative socio-political and economic order that are continuously failing to yield to the pressures of the citizens various natures of ambitions.
No Nigerian desires to entertain prospect of being let down. As Nigerians, “we frantically monitor foreign opinions and we panic at the slightest hint of a negative perception of us. Nigerians are anxious about how they are portrayed in the international media. We fret about the many uncomplimentary stories from our land making the rounds on international media circuits, more than about the actual negative circumstances that birth to those narratives. From politicians to intellectuals, from entertainers to terrorists, Nigerians have been socialised to rate themselves in the light of Western perceptions.13
Nigeria’s current disconcerting images evoke corruption, religious persecution, Boko Haram Islamic violence, and vicious destruction of Fulani Herdsmen, fraud, poverty capital of the world as against the giant of Africa, and a country with the largest concentrations of human and material resources in Africa. A country of truly resilient people. What is happening in Nigeria today can be described it as “a calculated attempt to bring Nigeria to ridicule and the hard-working Nigerians are confronting international odium and scorn.14
Nigeria’s leaders are deepening the people’s complex pains of bad image. Nigerians are distressed that the nation has become demobilized by motley crops of brainless rulers and machinating elites who are intensely deficient in good will and capacity to bring stability or development. They have caused Nigerians to be deluded of unity, peace and economic development. Imagine a country over ran by bandits and potent religious militants and while hundreds of the citizens were murdered or abducted by kidnappers daily the rulers are complacent refusing international military aids they needed urgently even when they ostensibly proved they have no capacity for self-help. No wander, conspiracy theories have argued that the pervasive insecurity in Nigerian is a multi-billion dollar enterprises of some reprehensible national elites. The pandemic insecurity has forced Nigerians into captivity that it is the bold and the daunting that risk stepping out of their homes. The worsening situations home front are knocking off the foundations of confidence Nigerians have in diaspora as the defenses of the nation’s image with whatever device prove invalid.
As a proud and diligent person, a Nigerian is image conscious and the damages of the idiotic circumstances at home are challenging destabilizations. Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani said, “the Germans can shrug it off when they are stereotyped as humourless, the Russians can dismiss it when they are described as cold. But the Nigerian just has to kick up a tornado whenever he is perceived unpalatably. He is touchy because he has no alternative image on which to base his confidence. Like many Africans in the diaspora, a number of Nigerians abroad have erected careers out of defending their people’s image. With indignant frowns and stern tones, they strut from one global stage to the other like superintendents, dismantling stereotypes and whitewashing sepulchers.16
The proposition is that Nigerians may not have chosen to launder their filthy linen in the ways that intensely harmed the pride of their great nation if the bad governance was not fatally suffocating. Nigeria’s depraved politics resonated in lack of infrastructures for both qualitative and quantitative development. The inability of the citizens to access opportunities for self-economic survival, sustainability and growth are frightening dreams. The development is catastrophe for Nigerians relative to the nature of the people. The perception that the Nigerian politico-cultural environments are challenging predicaments to her citizens infuriates and has hurry effects on the youths prepared to try elsewhere. The haste to leave and the desperate do or die involved in the departure underlined the total distrusts of the possibilities of something positive coming out of the anarchic political processes. Unemployment, poverty and deficiency of structures for self-help are compounded by intolerable plight of insecurity as hundreds are either killed, maimed or abducted daily by terrorists, bandits and Fulani herdsmen as the government looks the other way as a demonstration of incapacity.
The national government under the command of Major Gen. Buhari (rtd.) is today the worst thing that has happened to Nigeria. The incompetence, the insensitivity, the super impositions of Fulani race priorities and agenda on the nation have given no one hope that one Nigeria is not yet dead and entombed. Buhari’s government is becoming undoubtedly as an example of how to misrule. It gets it unpardonably wrong on any angle. With nothing to show as a concrete evidence of achievement, it keeps lying. Part of the scandalous lies is the Buhari’s assertion that “after five years in power he has improved the economy and improved citizens’ lives by lifting millions out of poverty.17 For many compatriots and particularly former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Buhari’s government is an intolerable embarrassment in terms of the governance of Nigeria. The “Africa’s most populous black nation is moving towards becoming a failed state. Obasanjo then openly accused the current administration of mismanaging diversity by allowing disappearing old ethnic and religious fault lines to reopen in greater fissures with drums of bitterness, separation and disintegration.18
A recurrent question is whether Nigeria will resurrect after 8 years from the current sepulcher of the premature death. The rise and elevations ethno-religious sentiments among the sub-national groups feeling the pains of injustices and flagrant nepotism appeared to be suggesting that Buhari is likely the last of Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This nightmarish proposition will do no one any good. Uche Igwe, noted that ‘five years into Buhari’s presidency, public trust in the Nigerian government appears to be in decline alongside a growing perception of lacking political inclusion. This is hardened by negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic, and a sense of undelivered political promises, which underscore the importance of collective buy-in for the country’s development aspirations.19 It is a general perception that Nigeria is gradually but progressively crumbling, the increasing pace with which poverty is capturing and abducting the citizens, the discontentment on the issues of political exclusions were made complex by “attacks across the country by bandits and criminal herdsmen, the failure is because ‘no serious and patriotic government will allow this level of killings of its citizens by terrorists and be watching aimlessly’. A prominent Islamic scholar, Sheik Murtala Sokoto, described those still praising Buhari as liars and hypocrites.20 Nigeria is pulverized, the quality of the texture is in every way comparable to that of an actively failing state.
The discontentment on the state of the nation is continuously wide spreading “even within the President Buhari’s own party, many people who worked for his victory now complain openly that the mission that brought them to power might have been willfully abandoned” also abandoned are the state’s rudimentary responsibilities to the people.21 Buhari failed to deliver on his campaign promises to tackle the country’s economic woes and improve the living conditions of the people. Unemployment has risen dramatically from 8.2 percent to 23.1 percent so are security challenges and the disillusionment are widespread. Across Nigeria, it’s virtually impossible to find anyone who has a word of praise for Buhari and his government’s policies.22
Buhari’s greatest supports came from the north in 2015. The adoring crowds of supporters are rapidly disappearing with disillusionments that followed his inabilities to deliver to even to his immediate constituencies and ardent supporters. Today, the President’s constituencies are the most insecure and poverty ravaged parts of the country. In his reaction to the worsening situations in the north and around the country Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the DG Northern Elders Forum said President Muhammadu Buhari does not appear understand the security situation of the country. This is why he has not shown any commitment to effective action. Baba-Ahmed noted that the growing level of insecurity in the country in recent time is worrisome banditry, kidnappings are getting worse. Now the kidnappings of children from schools are threatening education in the North. This unpleasant situation is complicated by ubiquitous poverty.
- BBC news ‘South Africa apologises to Nigeria over xenophobic attacks’ September 17, 2019).
- France 24 news ‘Nigerians target South African businesses in retaliation for xenophobic attacks’ Sept. 5 201)
- Rajeev Bhargava (2017) ‘The importance of a country’s self-image’ in The Hindu August 20 2017
- See Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani ‘Does Nigeria have an image problem’? in BBC.com June 26, 2014
- See Understanding Nigeria’s economic and security challenges under President Buhari” by Uche Igwe in LSE October 6, 2020
- Five years on: are Nigerians better or worse under president Buhari by Uche Igwe in LSE October 1, 2020
- Adrian Kriesch Opinion: Nigeria’s Buhari has failed to deliver in www.dw.com.