In the Diaspora, Nigerians are hated. The Chinese police, for instance, see them as destroyers who came to destroy China and single them out for the harshest treatment possible. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the narrative is not dissimilar. Nigerians are treated with suspicion as nothing is deemed beneath them.
The public auction of Nigerians as slaves in Libya, in our estimation, marked the turning point that brought us to a painful déjà vu. Only by looking at black history can we understand what is happening. This is a critical approach to the Nigerian Diaspora.
Like milk gone rancid
Turner Timinipre Isoun, BSc (Hons), D.V.M. (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) and PhD in Veterinary Medicine and Pathology, is the father of Nigerian space technology. As Minister of Science and Technology he successfully built and launched NigerSat I and NIGCOMSAT I. Cited as “widely travelled in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa, and is conversant with the physical, political, and S&T challenges of these continents;” we trust his opinion on diasporan, and non-diasporan, matters considering his argument in “Why Run Before Learning to Walk” (2013).
In a 2017 interview Professor Isoun observed that Nigeria was one of few countries that bestowed on its inhabitants complete mental wellness. As a free environment it equipped one to succeed without inhibiting his abilities. With such unfettered spirit the Nigerian was creative, daring and not easily overwhelmed. He encouraged expatriate Nigerians to return home and prosper.
If Nigeria was such a glorious country as Professor Isoun painted it to be, why the mad scramble for the door? Why do young Nigerians, who ordinarily should be celebrating their luck being born in freedom, now see their fatherland as a burden? In the North East some youths who detest Nigeria would gladly replace it with an Islamic Caliphate. In the South East a handful of youths denounced it for Biafra.
Young Ijaws appear to dispute Professor Isoun’s claims, going by the tenets of the Kaiama Declaration. Asari Dokubo, unlike moderate Felix Tuodolo who consistently bargains for equity without violence, launched his armed struggle against Nigeria. Francis Jamang, former Berom youth leader, sees this country as one impossible prison that emasculates its inmates. Why do young Nigerians see their fair country as a hellhole rather than the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey? And at what point did the Nigerian milk become rancid?
Dangers of Binary Reality
One plausible explanation for this negative mindset is cognitive pluralism, defined as how perception creates a second reality. The one is real while the other is what could be.
E-Nigeria, distinct from real Nigeria, is an actuality. The internet, satellite television and cell phone, three powerful weapons that define the information age, make that possible. The governments of Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, and Iran recently shut down their internet services to clamp down on street protests. The implications are (1) e-DRC and Iran are political actualities, and (2) there are spaces outside the control of any national government.
A youth who is social media savvy, in other words, a potential e-Nigerian youth, may not be patient with real Nigeria where things are not happening as they should. Disaffection triggers response in him, which could be political lethargy or partisan depending on his outlook. He could also respond by migrating for greener pastures.
But migration can also be a rite of passage. A conservative youth who migrated could return radicalised. For instance, some Libyan returnees openly talked about assembling gangs to hunt down their traffickers. That is bad news as the gangs could be put to other ventures. But we have full confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari’s ability to handle such security threat.
The New Negro
In “The Wretched of the Earth” Franz Fanon demonstrates how the white man is oppressed just thinking about the sexual prowess of his natural rival who is the Negro. The white man sees the Negro as a walking penis and the gate keeper of that bacchanal land of erotic delirium unlimited, “The white man is convinced that the Negro is a beast; if it is not the length of the penis, then it is the sexual potency that impresses him. Face to face with this man who is ‘different from himself’, he needs to defend himself. In otherwords, to personify The Other. The Other will become the mainstay of his preoccupations and his desire.”
The Negro’s presence inflicts mental torture on the white man who responds with draconian laws criminalising sex between the Negro and the white woman; but never between him and the black woman. His racist, or Jim Crow, laws view consensual sex between the Negro and the white woman as rape punishable with castration, penile amputation and lynching. This vicious circle of violence is known as psychology of oppression. A must-read for Fanonian scholars is Dillibe Onyeama’s explosive novel, “Sex is a Nigger’s Game.”
Dismantling French colonialism in Algeria was of immediate concern to Fanon than Arab racism; for which reason he lumped blacks and Arabs together as “natives” under the common yoke of white colonialism. But from the writings of Ibn Khaldun and other Islamic scholars we know that the Arab hated the Negro for his phallus monstrosity. That millions of black slaves left no descendents in the Arab world is because Arab slavery made black castration a condition. A Libyan returnee swore that Arabs hated black people.
The white homosexual who laments today that he is the new black, in other words, that he is persecuted for being “different,” is devious. Clearly, the Nigerian migrant is the new Negro hated worldwide for being different cerebrally and genitally. Professor Isoun was Fanonian privileging the Nigerian with negroid qualities, namely, creative, daring and can-do spirit, that stand him out. Anyone expecting the Nigerian migrant to lower his eyes when addressed would be disappointed.
Here, then, is the Nigerian entity who wilfully trafficked himself in response to latter days globalisation (Super computer inventor Dr. Philip Emeagwali thinks that the trans-Atlantic slave trade that produced the Negro was the first globalisation). His differentness earned him the ill-will and hostility of not only Arabs, whites and Asians; but also those of other blacks. Even the very manners of his death, suffocation and lynching (South Africa), hanging and execution (Libya), police brutality (China), etc, make a Negro out of him.
Strengthening Diasporan Institutions
Our diasporan problem is multi-faceted. It begins in Nigeria and blossoms overseas. This calls for a two-pronged solution, also. If the Nigerian migrant is responding to what experts call the push or centrifugal force at home by running abroad, reversing this force to a pull or centripetal one becomes the solution.
We identify bad economy as the number one reason why the Nigerian migrant leaves home. To demonstrate how bad our mono-commodity economy is, we observe that 98 percent of imported containers leave this country empty. This means that Nigerian industries are not producing and we might as well ask why.
The airports, seaports, highways and streets of Nigeria are hostile to business with their over-documentation and enforcers. For instance, an entrepreneur who takes out loan to float a bakery has taken out trouble. When the FIRS is not hounding him, the local government task force is on his neck. This is not minding the high interest loan he owes the bank. He soon closes shop and a religious sect takes over his premises. Fix the Nigerian economy and you’ve fixed migration.
The second flash point is overseas where the killings take place. Our first line of defence is fixing the Nigerian Foreign Service. In “Nigeria: Averting Paradox of Development,” Professor Lawrence Baraebibai Ekpebu advised that competent diplomats defending Nigerians abroad were as crucial as our professional army defending citizens at home.
Foreign relations were a specialist field requiring the services of career, not non-career, diplomats trained to detect and respond to hostility at the point of “aggression” rather than “reaction,” according to the erudite Professor Ekpebu, author of multi-award winning “Zaire and the African Revolution.” For instance, our embassy failed to intervene when Nigerians started selling drugs in South Africa (aggression) till things boiled over and South Africans started killing Nigerians (reaction).
Secondly, the large concentration of Nigerians overseas calls for innovation. The Federal Government must now recognise diasporan institutions like the Onyendu Ndigbo, Yoruba Community Chairman and Sarkin Hausawa. For instance, the Onyendu Ndigbo Japan will serve as guarantor for any Igbo entering Japan. Without him the Japanese government would reject the Igbo’s application for Resident Permit. The moment this Igbo commits fraud the Onyendu Ndigbo Japan’s phone lines and ATM cards are blocked till he produces the suspect. The above arrangement is already in place in Dubai.
Finally, Nigerians convicted of crimes overseas should be made to serve a second term upon deportation. This will check the excesses of those who do not want to know how their actions are harming our image. This can be accomplished if the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, maintains convict register in our airports and other points of entry.
Ajie writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Interview materials on Professors Turner Timinipre Isoun, Lawrence Baraebibai Ekpebu and Dr. Felix Tuodolo are provided by Chigachi Eke.
OSIAGOR OSINCLAIR AJIE