Tuesday 11 November 2008

Nigeria: Image allows immigration humiliation

Get out for protest
Naturally, as a person with Nigerian heritage I should be incensed when dignitaries from my country are humiliated by the immigration officers of other countries.
I should be waving placards in front of their embassies, launching campaigns in every forum I can find, burning flags of the outrageous countries and setting alight the effigies of the leaders of those countries.
After all that, even a grovelling apology might not suffice, we would get all our allies to embargo their goods and services and send them all to Coventry – but which time all their diplomatic corps would be persona non grata and our diplomatic ties would be at the lowest ebb as you look for a theatre for war.
Indeed, there might have been a time in the history of Nigeria when such righteous indignation might have been justified and fair.
Give them hell and more
But as I read yesterday that a former High Commissioner to South Africa and his entourage of two serving senators from Nigeria were humiliated by an immigration officer [1] in South Africa, I felt no sympathy for the Nigerians.
Nothing should warrant getting that kind of treatment from any immigration officer where it appears the lady clearly voiced her prejudice, disdain and disgust of Nigerians – especially for a country that is about to host the World Cup in 2010.
However, to think that the problem is with the immigration service in South Africa rather than with the poor international image of Nigeria and Nigerians is to entirely miss the point completely.
Now, they know
I am glad that the ex-High Commissioner and senators were roughed up and humiliated, it goes to show first all the kinds of problems ordinary Nigerians go through without the epithet of being some important dignitary whilst hurdling and running the gauntlet of immigration services all around the world.
Such first-hand knowledge can only be useful in another worthy cause, the improvement of Nigeria’s image at home and abroad – these people are in positions where they probably can begin to influence issues about Nigeria and how she is presented to the world.
If we did do good
Now, if Nigerians had really hopped on the bandwagon of dealing with corruption and nefarious activities that include fraud and other dishonest activity, I doubt the immigration officer would have said, “I do not care whether they are high profile personalities. These Nigerians need to be taught a lesson when they come here.
This seems to be after the intervention of the Nigerian Consul-General in Johannesburg and that is because a majority of our so-called high profile personalities are people who appear to be wealthy and hedonistic to boot, but for all their wealth and clout cannot subject their fortunes to internationally acceptable audit scrutiny.
Meanwhile, people in Nigeria ignore their sources of questionable wealth and confer an aura of respectability and dignity on the self-same bandits as they roam around the world as very important Nigerians but are seen by foreigners as hardened crooks.
Connections counted for nothing
It is no wonder that with a diplomatic passport and high office a lowly immigration officer in South Africa cannot seem to trust the documents presented and all the name-dropping just incenses those immigration officers the more.
It is sad that these people could not see themselves through on their own self-recognisance that even after exhausting their connections as many self-important Nigerians do, they were still humiliated.
Our image needs some work
The job of sorting out how we are perceived abroad must be dealt with from home, the anti-graft agencies should be able to do what that they have been licensed to do, every whiff of corruption should be investigated and properly pursued to the just conclusion – people in positions of power implicated in any suspect activity should and must be relieved of their offices until proven innocent.
People who exhibit a desperation to attach themselves to political office or gain pecuniary advantages beyond what is their lawful entitlement should be exposed and denied access to their goals.
The press should be free to explore, investigate, ascertain and publish all public interest matters without fear or favour and those who feel they have been slighted should seek redress in an appropriate manner.
The little things that matter
Our armed forces should be leagues of gentlemen answerable and accountable to our political leaders, they should be of exemplary conduct and be the examples of discipline, order and professionalism that other nations of the world seek to emulate.
Our electoral processes should be informed, free, fair, just and available to every competently assessed Nigerian who pledges not to abuse the system for their own ends such that when the results are declared as a fair assessment of the unadulterated will of the people, winners can assume their offices and losers can gracefully concede.
Those who besmirch the good name of Nigeria at home and abroad should be exposed, disgraced and made to pay some restitution in rehabilitating themselves and undoing the damage they have done to Nigeria – this includes all those well-connected ruling party politicians, ex heads-of-state, corrupt business men and state governors whose names heap disgrace on our country.
Project Nigeria
In other words, there is a Project Nigeria that has been impeded, assailed, corrupted, abused and made ineffective, yielding the results of roughed-up dignitaries in foreign airports and lands.
We might well see a time when our president suffers such an indignity and it can only be because we have not honestly committed ourselves to the activities that would make others trust, respect, honour and favour Nigerians whilst holding us all up as examples of good virtue and conduct.
Next time, I expect some minister or Very Important Prick to suffer a cavity intrusion search, maybe then we might have enough people to embark on a serious mission of getting Nigeria a better name through our actions at home and abroad.
So far, I am not ready to sympathise with the senators or the high commissioner, you reap what you sow.

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