The internet has been buzzing lately with the news of Nigerian scammers and drug dealers caught by the law enforcement agents in different parts of the world. The peak of it came with the arrest of Obinwanne Okeke aka ‘Invictus Obi’, who featured in Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2016. More heat came when a few days after Obinwanne’s arrest, 80 more Nigerians were arrested by the FBI in relation to internet scam.
This development didn’t go down well with a lot of Nigerians as there were mixed reactions from different quarters. A lot of Nigerians felt that these arrests were given unnecessary air, some felt that the country was dragged to the mud by these suspects, and then there are those pointing accusing fingers at every corner they face. But the truth still remains that Nigeria and Nigerians are encountering challenges with the world out there because of the negative attitudes they receive from Non-Nigerians as a result of the illegal actions of people of this kind. As Igbos say, “Ofu aka ruta mmanu, o zuo ora onu,” meaning that when one finger gets soiled with palm oil, it stains every other thing that comes in contact with it. In other words, the illegal actions of a few Nigerians are affecting the rest of the populace.
I know that because Nigeria has been given a bad name, every black man that wants to commit an offence can readily assume the Nigerian identity. I know of this because earlier this year, one of my contacts sent me a viral video clip where a hidden camera was used to record the meeting of a Briton and a supposed Nigerian fraudster. I watched this video and immediately voiced out my objections because the black man there wasn’t a Nigeria. I could tell this because his English wasn’t Nigerian English. But as far as the world knows, he is a Nigerian.
But that notwithstanding, honest Nigerians are suffering because of the actions of a few. A lot of job opportunities are being denied us out there. Foreign immigration officials watch us with eagle and hawk eyes. Foreign investors are sceptical about us. This is just to mention but a few. Even within Nigeria we know what we are passing through. We don’t even trust ourselves here. We don’t trust our institutions anymore, not to talk of trusting fellow humans. A lot of things are going wrong with the country.
But whatever happens, we need to rebrand Nigeria. We need to take away the face of shame placed on the country by fraudsters, terrorists, kidnappers, armed robbers, corrupt officials and the likes.
But before looking at ways we can change the face of this country, let us first look at some of the causes of what we are facing today.
- A Shift in our Ideology: In a typical African society, some virtues are highly celebrated and honoured. Then, much regards were given to people who are hardworking, brave, wise, honest and have good family background. Wealth then was seen as a result of hard-work and diligence, and of course blessings from the gods. Besides, the source of everybody’s wealth was known by every member of the community.
But things began to change in Nigeria when the colonialists came and made a lot of changes to the African ideology. We don’t have to lament about their coming because we also benefited much from it. All that is needed now is to bring back the African ideology into our system.
- Change of Attitude towards Vices: I could remember when I was young, if my siblings and I do something considered unfounded by my father, he will tell us that we are lucky because if it was in the olden days, he will be negotiating with the slave traders to buy us (lol.). I never found this statement funny but it really shows that vices were not tolerated in Igbo communities in those days.
I could also remember that before you are given a title in Igbo land you must be a respectable member of the community. In fact, you must not even owe anybody a dime before you collect a title. I heard the story of one man who applied for Ozo title taking and had spent so much preparing for it. But on the D-day, he wasn’t called out because he owed one widow a stipend. That was our society in those days. So what happened now?
Our people are beginning to celebrate vices. People no longer see fraud as something bad. They even gave it a wonderful nickname, “Guy”. Today, ‘thieves’ that have no integrity, are welcomed into the most prestigious fraternity in our societies. We sure are the cause of our problems.
Our religious organisations are not left out too. Nobody questions that man that willingly gives so much how he makes his money because they don’t want to lose his patronage, or should I say ‘customership’.
- Corruption: Of course this is the grandfather of all crimes. Like my people say, “Onye nna ya ziri ori na-eji ukwu agbawa uzo” (the person that was sent by his father to steal breaks down the door with his foot). There is no way we can stop any of these vices eating deep into our society if we don’t first handle corruption. In fact, corruption is the umbrella that shields all sorts of crimes. I could remember when someone said on Facebook that the judiciary only wakes up when it sees ‘Yahoo Boys’ but remains fast asleep when corrupt political office holders pass by. Anyway, I don’t have much to say. But, if corrupt officials are not brought to book, then meting out sentences on any other type of social vices becomes injustice.
Now, let’s look at some of the ways through which we can rebrand the face of Nigeria.
- Media Houses: I know that a lot of people will debate on this but I think it’s high time our media houses helped to paint good pictures of Nigeria. I’m not saying that they should cover up crimes, there’s no way I would say that. What I’m suggesting is that they should also show the good side of the country. I mean, enough talks and shows about how bad things are. They should find ways to show how good things could be, in addition to the things that are already good. Nigeria can’t be that bad, is it? Let our media houses not just focus on what will sell, they should also build up the nation.
- Literary Artists: I remember vividly the mixed reactions I got from a paper I wrote and presented on how Nigerian literary writers are sending our youths out of the country. Yes, some of the literary works out there only paint pictures of pains and sufferings in Nigeria. We need them to also show that there is hope for us. Besides, literary works can be used to pass on morals to our young souls. They can also be used as a means of teaching ways of earning an honest living in the country. Everything about Nigeria shouldn’t be about corruption, kidnapping and other vices.
- Religious Houses: When I was in Ibadan, the church I was attending then (The Church of Ascension, Bodija) decided to collect a bio-data of all the parishioners. It sent out forms to every member and asked us to fill, individually, and submit. One of the information to be provided was our source or sources of income. Some people kicked against it, but the parish priest then insisted saying that he doesn’t want to encourage illegal dealings among his parishioners. I think every religious house should do that. If possible, let it be put as a prerequisite before the church is registered.
There is need for religious leaders to know their parishioners’ source of income. One reason for this is that Nigerians respect their religious leaders a lot. When a religious leader decides to find out how honest his fellow worshippers are, a lot of crime will be curbed because nobody will want to be tagged a ‘sinner’.
Of course I know of and have heard of some religious houses that are more interested in what the worshippers bring to the house than in how they got it. That’s a big shame on them.
- Our Community Leaders: Our community leaders used to be uncompromising leaders. I can’t say that for now because some of them have been found to have questionable characters. But I know that there are still some among them that are still incorruptible. I can only say that our community leaders should be careful with selecting the people that are given titles in their different communities. Let titles be given based on the person’s integrity and honest achievements, not because of the money he could spray around, the cars he drives and the mansions he built.
- Political Institution: This is one incorrigible part of the Nigerian society. This institution is like a cancer eating deep into the heart of the country. It is the chief host of corruption and other vices. The only way this institution can be repaired is if other social institutions – education, religion, community (family) and economy – have been worked on and fixed.
- Nigerian Immigration Service: Nigerian immigration needs to buckle up. I don’t know how one person can have different passports that bear different names and different tribes. It says a lot about our NIS. Besides, that man I saw in the video clip that claimed to be a Nigerian obviously has a Nigerian passport. Whether it is genuine or not doesn’t matter here because he has already been termed a Nigerian since he had a document that said so.
- Cyber Security: More awareness should be created on cyber security for Nigerians. The truth is that even Nigerians living within Nigerian are also victims of fraud. And a lot of fraudulent activities happen everyday. There is a need for more energy to be thrown into teaching people how to protect themselves from cybercrimes.
As for the rest of us, let us not say, “Wetin concern me? Are my going abroad?” You never can tell when it will hit and who it will hit on. You can be the next victim. That you weren’t affected by these acts today doesn’t mean it won’t be your turn tomorrow. Anybody can be a victim, directly or indirectly. Do your own bit to rebrand the face of Nigeria.