Can anyone blame the world for this representation of the Nigerian? Nigeria is the world headquarters of internet-based crimes; it ranks high as a drug-courier and human trafficking country and does not get unmentioned in the list of nations with extreme levels of fraud.
Of Nigeria’s many faces to the world, the one that evokes an immediate sense of alert and distrust across global borders is its perceived citizens’ disdain for legality. The presentation of Nigerian passport at any border even within the ECOWAS sub-region raises red alert. Host countries expect the worst from the Nigerian community. That is what we have been reduced to!
Nigeria and Nigerians have been stereotyped. The world tends to live and see each other through simplified representation. The stereotyping of the Nigerian as someone that readily breaks laws and norms inside and outside his own country is an albatross that millions of travelling and the Nigerian diaspora have to carry. The transgressions of a few miscreants have placed an extra burden on the others to go to great lengths to prove that they are law-abiding citizens. Stereotyping is like permanent ink on a garment. The Nigerian fabric is stained with criminality in the eyes of the world.
Can anyone blame the world for this representation of the Nigerian? Nigeria is the world headquarters of internet-based crimes; it ranks high as a drug-courier and human trafficking country and does not get unmentioned in the list of nations with extreme levels of fraud. In the world of crime, those that represent Nigeria actively compete with those that represent themselves. Corruption, theft of the commonwealth, electoral fraud and mindless immorality has become tools of governance. It appears that despite its rabid religiosity, the country, as represented by its leaders has lost its moral compass. There are simply no limits to moral and legal transgressions. The crime cabal, probably less than a million individuals and representing less than one percent of our population has put the rest of us on the world’s red-alert list. They have corrupted and are decimating our existential values. They are the reason for the Nigerian stereotyping in the eyes of the world.
The government lamely waves a faded flag of anti-corruption. The rhetoric does not match the actions. The immediate past president in one of his discourses proudly told the world that stealing our commonwealth is not corruption. It is simply a case of a goat grazing where it is tethered. The goat has finally denuded the national pasture. All our money has gone into private pockets as we watched impotently. And our potential for outrage has been reduced to mere beer-parlor discussions.
If we thought we could redeem our image and change the stereotype stamped on us by the world going by the results of our last elections, we are wrong. Events in the past few weeks in the Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives have shown that the moral fabric of our nation is being shredded by a few of supposed law-makers and by extension moral guides of our society. The process of destruction of our values started under the previous administration. It was during this regime that five law-makers in a state out-voted 16 law-makers. Democracy as a practice of numbers was reinvented. Violent gangster-like minority held the majority to hostage. And nothing happened! The gangster-lawmakers got away with it.
The moral decadence among the political class reached its peak during the recent election of the senate president when deceit became the adopted tool by the senators for a simple process. How can the number three citizen of over 180 million people be elected through a process that is very similar to those described under Article 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code? Obtainment by false pretence! This is no politics. It is moral indecency. A despicable act. In our traditional societies, it is called an abomination. This is akin to putting our National stamp on the stereotype that the world has ascribed to the Nigerian as he who has no qualms about breaking any moral or legal code inside and outside his country.
Mr. Bukola Saraki may have gone beyond the limits of morally acceptable behavior. While he may be seeing himself only within the confines of the Senate chambers, riding on his high horse among his co-senators and exulting in his treachery, millions of other nationalities around the world are feeling vindicated in their conviction that the Nigerian is an irredeemable fraud. How will the world look at this senate president when he travels out? What will other world senate presidents think of him if he gets to meet them? In today’s world, respect is not a right but earned. If Mr. Saraki thinks that he will get any genuine respect as a senate president within and outside our shores, he is very wrong. The world simply doesn’t function that way anymore. The national stage is quite different from his provincial political abracadabra in Kwara where for him and his father, the end justifies the means.
If the ultimate goal of Mr. Saraki is the presidency of the Federal Republic, then he has really bungled his chance forever. Nigeria has never elected and will never elect anyone with a moral burden to the presidency.
It is not clear what options are open to Mr. Saraki now, but he has the moral responsibility to undo this quagmire he has thrown Nigeria into. Maybe he should simply pass a law to scrap the expensive senate like Senegal did. By going that way, Mr. Saraki will be making history and may still make the presidency someday.
Abimbola Lagunju is a writer and author of several books.