Is the World Shutting Out Nigeria? Will We Finally ‘Receive Sense’?, By ‘Tope Fasua
If more of our core politicians should be banned by all these countries, under one year they will fix beautiful Nigeria. Let us spend our vacations here. This here’s a wonderful country. Let us fix our education so that our children go to school here. And our health sector too. Let us develop our tourism but we have to first fix insecurity. Let us also bridge the income gap and increase productivity among every Nigerian.
I wrote the other day, an article titled “Thomas Cook Collapse: Lessons for Nigeria”, wherein I traced the origins of the Travel Agency industry in 1841, the sociopsychological benefits of global travel, how the West shut its doors on us, and how the United Arab Emirates (UAE), especially, opened another vista, even as the rest of the ‘East’ have always held us at arm’s length. The issue is worth revisiting, as Nigeria now tethers around a 100 per cent shut-out by the rest of the world. We are being shut out, so that at the end of the day, no Nigerian, irrespective of your education and status, or your pretentions to not being like ‘them’ who have spoiled the name of the country, can go anywhere apart from probably the rest of West Africa, without much stress. Who knows whether even West African nations will wake up one day, and in spite of the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS), find ways of shutting every Nigerian out? For we are now effectively creating a global nuisance. No one could be prouder than I am, but this is not the time for national pride, but a time to have a serious discussion about whether indeed, as many now think, the name ‘Nigeria’, her passport and paraphernalia, is indeed an unmitigable liability to all that is associated with it. We need to also find out whether we can sidestep similar issues, even if we break into smaller nations. It is a fact that some of what got us here is the lack of forgiveness among ourselves. Some Nigerians also exist, who see nothing wrong with soiling the name of a country which they believe did them wrong in the past.
The other day, five Nigerian boys entered Dubai with visiting visas in 2019. Two of them came in precisely on March 29. The other three had been in Dubai on a two-week visiting visa a few days earlier. On March 31, the five boys grouped up and robbed an Al Ansari Bureau de Change at Al Taawoun, Sharjah. The boys made away with 2.3 million Dirhams, which in today’s money, comes to at least N300 million. Imagine the absolute gumption of traveling into someone else’s country, and because you are misguided, greedy, uncontrollable, shallow, criminal-minded and probably ill-bred, you and your friends decide that it will be great to commit an armed robbery in this beautiful country. Luckily, these boys were way too dumb to understand the security infrastructure of the United Arab Emirates, as they were all picked up one by one within hours, in Ajman, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah. Everything in the UAE is gridded. CCTV cameras everywhere, documentation and ID cards are not taken for jokes. Even taxi drivers are CID men.
But that wasn’t the first case involving Nigerians. Neither will it be the last. On December 18, 2016, eight Nigerian men were arrested. They belonged to a gang that specialised in robbing security vehicles like bullion vans, as well as establishments around Dubai. They had started with robbing Dubai Commercial Bank, Al Nahda. They were later picked up in Sharjah and Dubai and have since been sentenced. In that same year, three Nigerian men and one Nigerian woman were apprehended, while 11 other Nigerians took it on the lam, after robbing some Pakistanis and Afghanistans of 4.8 million Saudi Riyals; 312,000 Dirhams; 45,600 Qatari Riyals; 49,799 Kuwaiti Dirhams; and 1.5 million UAE Dirhams. These amounts almost inch up to N1 billion in today’s money. In October 2014, five Nigerian men robbed Al Mustaqabal BDC in Ajman, bailing away with 257,000 Dirhams. They were all picked up within 24 hours and have since been sentenced.
In recent years and as the COVID-19 season began, the situation became worse, perhaps as Nigerians have come under increased pressure financially. The March 2019 heist made the UAE cancel three-month visas for Nigerians. But by April of that year, even though long visas had been banned for Nigerians, three Nigerian women beat up and robbed an Iraqi man of 57,000 Dirhams. In this year , a rapid succession of misdemeanours by Nigerians have occurred. In June, a Nigerian scammer, Ramoni Abass (Hushpuppi) and his friend, Lekan Ponnle (Woodberry) were busted by the American FBI for perpetrating benefit scams from Dubai, on U.S. citizens and institutions. These guys scammed as much as 1.6 billion Dirhams, according to police records, and the police caught Hushpuppi with at least 150 million Dirhams (N19.5Billion) in cash. They also seized 13 cars worth 25 million Dirhams (N3.25 billion). In August, GulfNews reported that one Lebanese, one Sudanese, one Cameroonian and five Nigerian men robbed someone of 3.6 million Dirhams. Al Arabiya News on September, 24 also reported that a Nigerian man and a Nigerian woman robbed an Arab man of $11,000, after they had tricked him into a massage parlour. The last straw was that Nigeria abandoned too many of her citizens in Dubai, and the Dubai Government reportedly had to bear the cost of sending them back home after many embarrassing days when our people grounded immigration services and decried being discriminated against and treated like beasts.
That is the UAE, in my view the last bus stop towards a glimpse of modernity for millions of Africans, especially Nigerians. Recall that thousands of young Africans, especially Nigerians, trek the treacherous Sahara desert daily, in order to swim to Europe. Recall that thousands perish either in the desert or the Mediterranean Sea. I have seen loads of Africans in Addis Ababa’s Bole Airport, heading especially to Dubai, but also to other nations. One day right before me, one African man even stripped to his underwear while trying to cross the scanner. He had never traveled by air before. But as I type this, the best expectation is that the UAE will bring out stringent rules and regulations and pass Nigerians through the wringer before we obtain their visas. Our corrupt politicians and their private sector allies will certainly still obtain visas, therefore the losers are the very small people who could make the trip in times past. Now, Nigeria will revert to pilgrimage mode, wherein most of our travelers can only go to Mecca and Jerusalem for religious purposes. Look at China. As much as the Chinese want business from us and love our cash, their visas are incredibly difficult, nay impossible to obtain, except you are a trader wishing to buy loads of their manufactures. They simply do not want us there otherwise. Even after this time out, the few Nigerians able to access the erstwhile easy UAE are likely to face discrimination, untold scrutiny, sniffer dogs and all. Were we born as lower-class human beings only fit for subhuman treatment? It’s just depressing.
I just get that sinking feeling that nothing about Nigeria my country gets better. It only gets worse. I have grown up seeing respect for my country and her citizens disappearing in clumps. I know we can do better, and that is why – out of sheer frustration and desperation – I tried to do whatever I could about the leadership in 2019. Surely, we do not hope to leave the country much worse for our children? Or do we?
Nigerians have been deported en masse from the most unlikely of places, like Gabon, Libya, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and farther afield. We have had problems with our people in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, France, Italy, Pakistan, India and many more places. Thousands of Nigerians languish in jail in many countries, and hundreds of our young men have been executed…
Dateline South Africa – September 23. There was a protest by some of their citizens to the Nigerian High Commission. The people carried placards urging Nigerians to stop human trafficking and the sales of illicit drugs on their streets. The protest was solemn, but the issues are well-known; it flares up in xenophobia from time to time. Fact is, it is almost impossible to see how the tension will disappear. In truth, as much as there are many Nigerians doing incredibly well in South Africa, working in their banks, being professors in their universities and all, we have too many people there who are up to no good. Even I will not dig it one bit if hordes of untrained foreigners dominate whole sections of my country’s cities, being unruly, noisy, and claiming to have to have come to ‘hustle’. What does that mean? All that jive about taking their women is nonsense, if all our claim to fame is about our sexual prowess or ability to spend for women. The world has a Nigerian problem apparently.
Elsewhere in Africa, we know the issues we have in Ghana. The tit-for-tat started in 1969, with Ghana booting out Nigerians. We retaliated in 1981, and 1984. Now it is back to Ghana’s turn. The mismanagement of our local economy, inequality and oppression, lack of provision of public goods, misguided liberal policies, irresponsible governance, winner-takes-all, scorched-earth politicking, mismanagement of our sociology and history, are what got us in this mess. I have seen video clips from Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, the Congo and so on, where they complain about Nigerians overrunning their country with one illegality or another. Some even complain about our brand of evangelism, with a number of Nigerian pastors having been caught out to be fraudsters. Nigerians have been deported en masse from the most unlikely of places, like Gabon, Libya, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and farther afield. We have had problems with our people in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, France, Italy, Pakistan, India and many more places. Thousands of Nigerians languish in jail in many countries, and hundreds of our young men have been executed for being drug couriers, merchants or kingpins, in countries where they state clearly the punishment for such crimes. Nigeria, rather than being the linchpin of the black race, has become an ugly caricature and misrepresentation instead.
Our respect is in negative territory almost everywhere. Granted that we do have bright people everywhere, but pitiably all of us are being judged based on the grime brought about by perennially irresponsible and clueless governments in this country, that cannot address the issues that concern people. As much as we like to ignore the problem, and oftentimes bury our heads in the sand, any reasonable person should get a sinking feeling too, because all Nigeria has done is go down, down, down. We have established a diaspora commission, developed an activist stance to the perception of Nigeria by foreign countries, but there is no way we can wash the stench caused by thieving government officials, young scammers, Nigerian armed robbers, prostitutes, conmen and so on.
We have carried our frustrations, our disunity, our indiscipline, our unruliness, rowdiness, lousiness, noisiness, vaingloriousness, listlessness, knack for excessive enjoyment, myopic lavishness, abroad. But these foreign countries are very wise. First, they take the money we flaunt, then they shut the door in our faces. That was what happened in Europe. I recall our friend, Femi Fani-Kayode, who, when he wants to criticise the government, reminds us of when he and his friends “Proud Nigerians drove the best cars in London, graced the best parties and owned the best homes in Chelsea, Hampstead, Knightsbridge” in the 70s and earlier 80s. That was when a few privileged Nigerians grabbed as much as possible and sent their children abroad to live life to the hilt, usually at the expense of this country. The next thing was that the British slammed the door on us. Countries where Nigerians used to stroll freely into with premature pride and swagger, where one could spend the Naira on the streets without converting this into Pounds, became ones where many of our people sold their father’s houses to pay for visas, or stow into the cavities of airplane landing gears to get into, while millions get defrauded by foreign embassies (it is a fraud when they collect people’s monies and give no service). Monies stolen from here and stashed in Swiss (and lately British Virgin Islands, Mauritius, Panama, Maldives etc) accounts became forgotten there when our government officials die. The entire West sniffs at us today. In many instances, they greet us upon arrival at their airports, with immigrations teams and policemen, complete with sniffer dogs, as we are now invisibly branded and seared, as were 18th Century slaves, the difference being that today we are viewed as drug pushers, thieves, robbers, prostitutes, scammers, and everything shady. The more educated, and more respectable, the straighter, more dutiful, more hardworking, more pious you are, the more painful it is for you, when you are treated as just another worthless Nigerian face based on the many sins of your brothers and sisters, your government, your leaders and your country.
Millions of Nigerians had been traumatised in many western embassies, kept waiting sometimes for days, made to pay repeatedly for services that are not delivered to them, caught out to have forged documents to prove they were going to return home, and so on. I recall an incidence in which six vice chancellors and provosts of Nigerian institutions were detained for two days in Heathrow airport because some foolish immigration officer insisted that they look like they would not return home. These were old professors! But with the advent of the UAE, thousands of Nigerians who had been almost fatally wounded in Western embassies could finally get on a plane and see the developed world. Even if the adults are past redemption, new files were written into the brains of millions of children who accompanied their parents, which should help in spanking black Africa awake from its perpetual slumber, especially if we found leadership that understands the value of things. The initial effect, in a country like Nigeria, may be an increase in the allure for flashy things like cars, fine houses, glitz and glamour, but I believe eventually, we should have young architects who will gain inspiration from the many masterpieces in Dubai, engineers who will learn from the solid structures, interior designers who will have appreciated the ambience of many of the buildings, public and private.
We need to appreciate our country more, and our leaders must lead the charge. There is nothing abroad that we need that is not here. We have some of the best topographies, so let us spend our money at home and develop our country. Let us develop, build and maintain here everything that we love to go and see in other people’s countries. The bans should be extended to children of thieving and election-rigging politicians.
A Connection With the Ban On Nigerian Politicians By Some Countries
And so recently, the United States of America announced that some of our politicians are banned from entry into the country. The United Kingdom and a few others bristled to follow suit. Nigerian politicians went into a flap, because this means they will be unable to access the properties they have abroad – properties obtained with stolen money – as well as the endless opportunities for debauched perversions. I wonder why anyone will want to enter someone else’s country by force, given the loud protest by our leaders. Some see this development as meddlesomeness by the foreign countries, but I think it is somehow a call to better leadership for Nigeria’s ruling class. Do the right thing. Clean up your act. Let your actions be transparently clear as being just to all. The policy may just save this country from the marauding class and their intellectual collaborators. Nigerian CSOs should step up and call for more of these bans. Apart from helping our democracy, it just may help focus us on tidying up our own country. See the experience of COVID-19. All our billionaires had to remain here for a while and use the facilities we have. We need to extend that experience. We need to appreciate our country more, and our leaders must lead the charge. There is nothing abroad that we need that is not here. We have some of the best topographies, so let us spend our money at home and develop our country. Let us develop, build and maintain here everything that we love to go and see in other people’s countries. The bans should be extended to children of thieving and election-rigging politicians. This will be very effective.
Our politicians are trying to have unfettered access to other people’s countries, while our own country has become hell on earth. They ignore the problems I listed above, which our young people are causing in those countries. They forget that they are the reason behind the criminality and misguidedness of Nigerian youths. They seem not to care, but they must. We cannot visit our villages again for fear of kidnappers and armed robbers, while our politicians gather all the policemen around themselves. If more of our core politicians should be banned by all these countries, under one year they will fix beautiful Nigeria. Let us spend our vacations here. This here’s a wonderful country. Let us fix our education so that our children go to school here. And our health sector too. Let us develop our tourism but we have to first fix insecurity. Let us also bridge the income gap and increase productivity among every Nigerian. Then they will not be sweating each time someone says to them STAY IN YOUR COUNTRY AND FIX YOUR SH.T! I have to write on this and call more countries to ban these usurpers.
Except we get this kind of feedback sometimes, we will keep applying band aid to our problems. A simple analogy can be found in the Abuja – Kaduna expressway. A mere 160 kilometre road cannot be secured by our government and even the one who claims to be a security expert and retired General has seen the situation get worse under his command. So, the Chinese brought trains and all our elites abandoned the roads. Now the train is being attacked and we have launched a flight to fly over the problems. The flight time cannot be up to 30 minutes, plus taxiing.
Perhaps with all this browbeating we are getting from almost every country, as we are being pushed to the wall and our politicians are being banned, maybe we will remain here and finally fix our issues. Sometimes a people need to be focused, by fire, by force.
For purpose of clarity, our issues with the world remains:
1. Lack of cultural intelligence – which we sometimes conflate with being confident;
2. Exporting of our internal conflicts to other countries;
3. Exporting of untrained people, many of whom end up on the streets as ‘hustlers’;
4. Not knowing that it is very irritating to foreigners, even when our ‘big men’ go there to spend lavishly, as the world knows that we shouldn’t afford those luxuries;
5. Having many of our young boys as scammers all over the world – and they are so stupid they display ill-gotten wealth on social media;
6. We seem to think the grass is always greener on the other side, instead of fixing our own lawns. Every nation had to struggle and sweat to get where they are.