Moral Obligations Of Nigerians Abroad

by Ephraim Adinlofu

Interest can draw a film over the eyes so thick that even blindness itself can do no harm”. – William Wilberforce

There are some things that do happen around one that some times one feels like giving up on Nigeria; throw in the towel, erase the thoughts of Nigeria from one’s memory and simply move on with an “I-couldn’t-care-less-attitude.” I have tried to do that but discovered that the more I try, the greater the urge to keep meditating about my mother country. I have brothers, sisters, parents, lots of highly trusted quality friends and colleagues in that country, whose words are always their bond. This friendship runs across ethnic boundaries. I also believed strongly in the philosophical principles behind the practice of the African extended family system. I can therefore not blame myself for failure to forget about my root.

Above all however, living in Europe and observing how “systems” and institutions work complementarily has made it impossible for some of us to think less about Nigeria. My few years exposure in Europe has infused a strange spirit of nationalism that it is foolhardy to start enumerating what and which. I am marvelled at the rate of Europe’s development. Not being able to forget therefore – at least, for the sake of one’s health – has become a cross one had decided to carry until perhaps one dies or the kingdom of God comes.

Most of us are simple humanist, who are very allergic to injustice and walking lies. I am among those who are still ideologically disposed to a Socialist/Communist line of thinking and an avowed advocate of such social arrangement. At Nigeria’s level of economic development, it is not too big a thing to implement one man, one house and if need be, one car. I’d never by any shred, subscribed to capitalist arrogance and its individualistic ethos. Before colonialism came, most Nigeria’s component ethnic nationalities have had some form of communal economic arrangement. We shared. We were not selfish. There were also very effective communal social sanctions. The emphasis then was on the concept of “our own” and not “ My own” e.g. “our wife” and not “my wife”, even though in reality and culturally too, we know who actually owns the wife. Traces of those value systems are still ingrained in us no matter the impact of most Western weird values.

Those living in that funny signature called Nigeria will not be able to comprehend the magnitude of the negative image problem we face until they leave the shores of Nigeria? If God actually drove the devil out of heaven, then I think the devil must have safely landed in Africa. We are a weird people; we are cunning and wicked to one another; we are even ungrateful to our foreign host, whose hospitality is daily being abused by some of us with reckless abandon. We shout racism in the UK while tribalism flows like acute leukaemia in our bone marrow and blood stream. In most cases, we preach one thing and do another.

I cannot, up till this moment, comprehend the images of bestiality and butchery that took place in Rwanda neither can I understand the one that is presently going on in the Darfur region of Sudan. Acts of Wickedness and cruelty are easy to commit but their adverse effects are often difficult to contain let alone correct. That is why some of us try as much as we can, not to think evil, do evil or even witness it. It is not as if we cannot do any. In fact, some of us can do evil far better and more intelligently than those who have taken it up as a ‘profession’.

It is easy to fall back and eke a living through criminal acts. If you are caught, especially here in the {UK}, you go to jail, serve your prison terms, come out, and continue from where you’d stopped. You therefore become a carrier criminal because your undeleted criminal record{s} at Scotland yard has placed you in good stead. It is very easy to join and recruit people into it too. But most of us had chosen the part of honour and integrity: to live, work and get mercilessly taxed by the British system. In the process, we project and protect our Nigerian image even though most of us, have acquired British citizenship. However, the acquisition of Brit citizenship does not make one less of a Nigerian. We are still Nigerians by birth. And the thorough process of disciplined socialization, which most of us went through back home, impacted a lot of positive attributes in us. And, these attributes and dispositions are difficult to do away with just like that.

I think beautiful “Queen” Hajia Waziri Farida, the EFCC Chair person, should extend his fight against corruption to Nigerians in the Diaspora. Enough is enough! Some of us have had it up our neck and it is time for action on the part of the Federal government. Corruption and corrupt practices is not only done by Nigerians in Nigeria, those abroad are neck deep in the practice of its variant form. They have perfected sharp practices. An average English man – even though he {himself} is dodgy – is deeply afraid of Nigerians. The rate at which our people are being arrested in the UK and jailed for all manner of fraud is getting out of hand.

I have tried to defend, at least to give myself some modicum of Nigerian pride and respect, but believe it, my defence is just a face saving exercise. It is always an attempt in pointlessness; an attempt to lift my dampening spirit and “massage” my drowning “ego”. Not to be daunted by these nefarious acts, I engaged my people in moral dialogue any time I meet some of them at any event. In the UK, it is really shocking the extent to which our citizens are neck deep in criminality. It has become an ‘intitutionalised’ Nigerian network of pastimers and full-timers .

More damaging is the fact that these acts affect the majority of us who are wont to work hard and earn legitimate income. It affects us when we are applying for new jobs to move up the ladder; when we go to the banks to apply for loans or to withdraw money with cheques; when we apply for credit cards; when you want to buy a new car and when you want to make payment with a card. When you even enter some shops, you are close-marked by a security guard , as if you are Ronaldo or Ronaldinho, just because of skin colour.

There are some Nigerians you help here in the UK and you regret ever helping them. Their attitude to gratitude is zero. Nil for emphasis! How can I live in a place and I am forever suspicious of my own people or constantly looking over my shoulders? One does not know who is who any more in an environment where people live daily with false impression which they maintain daily through what sociologists called “impression management”. If you have ever fallen a victim to ’smart’ fraudsters, you will understand what I mean. I was once a victim and I knew the traumatic stages I had to go through for me to be cleared and all money refunded to me. I had an inkling of who must have done me in but since I have no evidence, I swallowed my suspicion. Since then I approach virtually every Nigerian cautiously with what psychologists call approach-avoidance. What is in our character for God’s sake? How do we now fight corruption when some Nigerians abroad are found wanting in abuse of positions of trust in HM Government public Services and in the private sector?

What moral right have we got to question our political leaders back home when some of us have not removed the specs in our eyes? Look at the performance of Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani,who was drafted by Chief Jim Nwobodo from the USA in 1999, to run and later became the governor of Enugwu state. What legacy and imprints did he live behind? It is a harvest of deaths and sorrows. Again, look at the Newswatch report of March 16, 2009 and the suspension and investigation by EFCC of Ransome O

wen, the Chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission {NERC}, with “some of his commissioners” as accomplices for sleaze running into N851,518,006.Yet, Ransome Owen, was once in the USA, where he had worked for many years as “a highly respected expert in energy policy reforms”.

The performance of these two, among others like Bankole, shows that the salvation of Nigeria does not even lie with Nigerians living abroad. What justifications do some of us have to say we want to go home and contest for elective offices? What performance are we going to put in whilst in govt? It is time this issue of criminality among some Nigerians in the UK is given a serious thought by the Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK, the Minister of External Affairs, the EFCC, and the office of the presidency. Is this an exported fallout of decades of decadence of the corrupt leadership we have had and still has in Nigeria? Like Dr.Thomas Osuji pointed out in his piece titled: “ARE NIGERIANS CROOKS?“, is there a correlation?

My take is that the hospitality offered to us by our host country should not be abused with impunity bearing in mind the ever deteriorating situation back home. We did not escape the dreaded evils of corruption in Nigeria and its devastating effects on our psyche only to be confronted in the UK, by another, more evil. How can Nigeria remain in perpetuity, a symbol of fraudulent honour in the International Community? Within the last couple of months here in the UK, Nigerians have been jailed in Hull, Woolwich, Southwark, and Snaresbrook Crown Courts. Besides, whenever a crime is committed, which involves a Nigeria, an average English man does not ask; which ethnic stock the accuse is from, no, the usual question is what country? The criminal maybe a “dual citizen” but some still probe further anyway, to establish the “original” country of the felon. This is where all of us are tarred with the same brush.

Apart from the theft of people’s identity, Nigerians are massively involved in credit card fraud, money laundering, cloning of credit cards, benefit frauds, 419 or yahoo, yahoo and, forgery and counterfeiting. From Hackney to Lewisham Boroughs and from Islington, Lambeth, Southwark to Camden Boroughs, the stories are the same: most Nigerians are generalised criminals. There is no day I will open my mail box without an e-mail purportedly emanating from Ouagadougou central bank in Burkina Faso or from Mali, soliciting for secrecy on a ‘planned’ business transaction-cum-partnership, the amount of which is always in millions of dollars. Funny and stupid enough, the pattern and style of request by these thieves is the same. God have mercy!

Sampled headlines from some of my newspaper cuttings read thus: “A female staff of Barclays bank {A Nigerian, named withheld } arrested for fiddling with customers’ accounts”. Further down the line, it continued, “and, for giving out bank details of customers to fraudsters”; and, another headline screamed thus: “Two conmen jailed over £300,000 ID fraud scam” { again, named Nigerians}; and yet another; “Jail for crooked Nigerian security guards”; “Third man {Nigerian} admits guilt in £400,000 fraud conspiracy” or, the “Last in fraud trio jailed for two years”. Etc, etc, etc, etc.

And the most recent : “Hackers’ con trick on Straw”. Here, hackers sent e-mails to 200 people in the Foreign Secretary‘s constituency of Blackburn, solicited for fund and claimed that the Foreign Secretary had lost his wallet whilst in Nigeria and was therefore stranded. How stupid people could be! So Jack Straw does not have an official of the Nigerian British High commission with him or cannot reach the Commission’s office or High Commissioner on phone? People can be funny in their game of chance! Typical Brit papers to look in for such news items are: The South London press, Metro newspaper, The Sun and News of the World. Rarely a case of fraud or identity theft is published in these dallies without a Nigerian connection. The mere mention of the name Nigeria, is enough for most Whites to scamper for safety. This has become a sword of Damocles around the neck of innocent ones. It is damn too bad!

Most of these tricks were however taught to Nigerians by the Brits.The fact is that with anything Nigeria{n}, the moment “they” learn and embrace something unique, “they” blow it out of proportion. From time immemorial, 419 or “Advance fee fraud” has been in existence on mother earth but our people took this act to the moon. In Delta state and some others, because of unfettered corruption and the unfelt impact of past rogue governments policies, which were anchored by demented personalities {sick people}, some 419ners have succeeded in transforming their communities with monies made from such ‘businesses’. And when you try to preach morality to the younger ones, who in most cases are suffering from joblessness and are wont to join the bandwagon, to resist such temptations, they gesture to you in anger with the usual swan song: “Ibori, OBJ, Nnamani, Chief Anenih, most State Governors, Senators, Reps, State Assembly members, are all 419ners”. They demonised that these heavy political thieves “stole and are still stealing us blind”. So equation balanced, ala Rtd General Musa Bamayi.

Another youth told me that “PDP is a commercial venture and not a political party”. Another, even submitted: “may be you don’t know that the annulment of June 12, 1993 election is 419 not to talk of the 2007 elections!”. What a ludicrous way to extend the theory of crime! This message and medium, which is directed to Nigerians living abroad, is meant to prick and appeal to the moral swagger and buccaneering attitude of those involved in these criminal activities to please desist. I know that old habits die hard and that changing people’s behaviour can be a complex and time consuming process but most of these ‘sharp’ guys can take succour in the fact that the much craved “enabling environment”, which is absent in Nigeria, is now here with us in Europe. They should please, wake up, go out and look for proper jobs. May the blood of Jesus continue to cover me in these trying times. Amen, Ese, A’shei ! I rest my case!

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6 comments May 11, 2009 - 5:38 pm

Thanks Chika, just forwarded my contact details to your e-mail. Hope it gets to you.

Felica Chika Harrison May 10, 2009 - 3:58 pm

Ephraim I really need to get in touch with you. I worked with University of Jos Nigeria from 1982 to 2003, I also studied Law from UNIJOS. I currently live in Raleigh North Carolina, USA. I had to misgrate with my family after the September 2001 and February 2002 riots.

Nonetheless, your artiles are excellent and informative. It always refreshes my memory about Nigeria and Jos in particular. Keep it up and keep in touch. Chika

Reply March 21, 2009 - 4:55 pm

Michael, thanks for the compliment on my piece and regards!

Reply March 21, 2009 - 4:54 pm

Thanks Rosie for your comments. I will continue to strive to balance my write up to satisfy readers, but where a topic does not require balancing, I just take an objective position based on the evidence before me. Regards!

Michael March 18, 2009 - 2:18 pm

You said it all.

Rosie March 18, 2009 - 1:11 pm

I really liked this well thought out piece. We have come to accept criminal activities as a way of life, a way to survive. We don’t think of long term effects of getting involved in criminal activities. I don’t blame the unemployed for getting desperate and participating in 419. But after the first fraud, why continue? Why not use your ill-gotten wealth and start a real business that will employ dozens of your fellow man? And for those in the diaspora that squander opportunities by going into crime, it is just plain wrong. I know of a guy who after getting fired from his sales job started his own credit card fraud business. Why he did not look for another job befuddles me. At this rate, Nigerians will be bared from almost every nation on earth.


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