Nigerians In Foreign Lands: What a Cloud Of Confusion (2)

The death of eleven Nigerians, along with sixteen others, in the Mediterranean speaks of the terrible malady we yet go through where the operations of some manpower bodies or their agents are concerned. In this case, the sad story of two fresh graduate who each paid N35,000 last September, (in 2008) to a consultant for multinational oil company to secure an in Lagos raises the old question of whether the authorities really have any control over the activities of the nation’s manpower exporting industry. Nigerians who died were all men trying to make their way illegally to Europe in search of employment. Why they were trying to go to a place they thought gave them promise of a better future is not hard to fathom. One will not argue with the way these men fashioned their ambitions. But what is surely questionable is the path they chose to go about it. These men, all of whom must have expended enormous sums of money in their efforts for testing the future abroad, went to Mali, from where they made their way to Morocco. Then they got lost in the Mediterranean. In the literal sense of the meaning, they were at sea, for we have been told the man who piloted their boat simply navigated in the wrong direction and so caused so much of misery for them. In simple words, it was a whole sordid story of suffering and death these fortune-seekers went through.

The time has surely arrived for this government, if it means business, to crack down on the manpower agencies. For years together the country has heard of the variety of swindling which goes on in the name of manpower export to such regions as the West Africa and Gulf of Guinea. The recent expulsion of foreigners, caught staying illegally in Malaysia, by the Kuala Lumpur authorities is but one more instance of how ineffectual the authorities in this country; Nigeria, have been about nabbing the criminals who have for long been doing their nefarious work in the guise of manpower exporters. It simply is not enough for anyone, especially the Nigeria’s interior minister that oversees expatriates welfare and that of overseas employment, to tell us that the government has always discouraged people from going abroad illegally.

One quite shares such an opinion and any citizen or organization with the good of the country at heart will always want the national image abroad not to be affected in a negative way. But what is of greater importance here is whether or not the government has been going after the manpower agents who have been behind all such suffering on the part of the poor Nigerians who from a desire for economic prosperity are regularly on the look-out for employment abroad. It is one thing to proffer advice to people who might be tempted to go abroad without knowing of the intricacies involved. It is quite another to ignore the criminality on the part of the elements whose intention in sending people abroad is guided more by the profit motive than any thoughts of social uplift. It is on this second score that this government needs to move.

One way of doing such a necessary job is to scrutinize the performance of all the manpower organizations of this country; Nigeria. At the same time, the complaints that have been made and are being made about the corruption involved in extracting money from the families of those seeking to go abroad and then having the job-seekers land in terrible difficulties once they reach their ‘promised land’ must be thoroughly investigated. On an immediate level, the agencies which sent the Nigerians perishing in the Mediterranean need to be hauled in for a proper, thorough inquiry. Our total inability to impress the international community about the just nature of our position vis-à-vis the western world has also been evident from the headline report on the news conference in Helsinki , which, inter alia , had this, ‘Asked about Finland’s ‘big diplomatic relatives’ attitude towards her ties, including Nigeria, on the issues like trade sharing and marginal disputes. Those were the bilateral and regional issues, ‘but Finland as a big democracy could play a positive role both regionally and globally.

On this theme of the Foreign Office’s rather mysterious trend of total inability to predict events happening even under their very nose has again been fully exposed by our Kuwait mission affairs. Is it believable that the steam that led to the move of hundreds of Nigerian workers to invade their own embassy, despite the well-known strictness of the Gulf countries over workers’ conduct, has been generated overnight? Are we to seriously believe that the embassy had no clue as to what had been going on outside its four walls? And if the embassy officials did know, they did not do enough to defuse the situation. Either way the post-event handling with the ambassador’s alleged unprofessional comments was, to say the least, disastrous. Can things come to such a pass when the other involved ministries and agencies having their officials in the embassy have also had no inkling as to such an outburst by our workers? This aspect of a possible failure ought to be enquired into as well.

We all know that in Nigerians outside the corridor of power had no opportunities. Poorer people but with some craft decided to leave pathetic Nigerian employers and chose to go to Gulf while there was a huge oil boom in 70s and 80s. We are talking about a million people here. Many of them came back but many still remain and most are stuck for their passports are held by employers. Arabs are extremely indecent and creepy employers. There is extreme racism and humiliation to Nigerian labour in Gulf but people still go because they also find other type of humiliation in their own cities or villages. So for them one evil or other it is same story.

Middle class Nigerians left in those times for higher education but the numbers were very limited. Till end 1990s most common Nigerians in underprivileged economic-state left for Canada and the States mainly attracted by their neighbours doing it. This was a huge migration and we are talking 3 to 5 million people that left in about 20 years period. Most of Nigerians in Canada and the United States from small towns and villages do very ordinary jobs or engaged in small businesses. Except few very enterprising most live pathetic, poor and substandard lives. Of course they do not care much for racism because they also had to perhaps fight with other type of racism in Nigeria.

Nigeria continues to be the most racist country in the world where those people outside leadership have no respect still. It is a sheer reality even though we deny it. Hence for these people any such thing is acceptable as long as they can make money because they compare that with the Nigerian money. However all these people have different objectives most left Nigeria because they did not have much prospectus there? Few of them would like to go to back to Nigeria but after 15/20 years they become rooted there and prefer to continue living their lives. Because they realize that they do not fit in Nigeria anymore.

However people migrating from 2000 onwards are mostly related to someone abroad and they migrate for marriage or some low level job as is the case of local farmers going to Canada or other African countries or workers going to Gulf. Surely considering the huge population explosion, Nigerian cities not providing good quality lives, many people will be tempted to leave if they are given any opportunity. While you are right about self esteem and racism, most of the people who leave do not consider any such thing for their only sole motive is to survive or make some money to fulfill their very basic dreams which they can not do in Nigeria. This is the drive they have. However majority of them fail in even owning a home and live on margins.

This government or system is not geared for 100 million people. It is only fit for maximum 50 million people. That our missions abroad, mostly, have become post offices, just ro

utine work performing outposts, has been so evident during my travels as it must have to many others as well. We have already seen as to how our New York mission (the largest, I recall) has become increasingly a cipher – with myriads of problems cropping up and with no visible signs of any solution to any of these issues. Our mission not only cannot arrange the long, over due meetings. It has been unable to brief the government correctly in many crucial areas, including the mega river-linking project that that country has in an advanced stage of implementation.

The world order has plunged into anarchy where a country or people holding a view or position contrary or inconvenient to the lone superpower, could be turned into a pariah, branded a ‘terrorist’ or a ‘rogue’ regime. The principle of sovereign equality governing relations between states has become irrelevant and redundant. If freedom and democracy marches forward in such an anarchic and regressive world order, starting in the Middle East and spreading beyond, the world will be decidedly better off without such an order. Autocracy masquerading under democracy is more dangerous and pernicious just as big power in the hands of little men can be.

Yet, it need not be all gloom and doom. An alternative script of an emerging new order is eminently possible, even probable. History has given America an unchallenged position of pre-eminence. Such position pushed America to intimidate and moderate its propensity by creating ‘shock and awe’ among the weaker and the poorer in wealth and power. Let me also mention the situation in the United Kingdom. We have a High Commission (a very large one at that) which somehow or the other has morphed into an agency for the Nigerian community. We must diffuse the clouds of confusion that most Nigerians have about FOREIGN lands.

There is nothing that Nigeria does not have. Nigerian economy was in bad shape till the millennial and many people migrated in 90s but most of the Nigerian emigrants are not necessarily doing great. Most do poor jobs and live substandard lives. It is all a myth and lot of nonsense in Nigeria that by going to a foreign country fortunes will change quickly. It is a total lie. I have lived around the world for 13 years and seen everything anyone can imagine. Nigeria has million more opportunities than any pathetic middle east, African or American country today. One has to open eyes and have some brains to gauge the great opportunities Nigeria has. Angola, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria have much work to do and the people in West Africa need to wake up and serve local people near them and they will be richer many times in comparison to going abroad and wasting their assets.

It reflects on the under performance of Nigerians abroad, who have hitherto preferred not to speak about this pre-historic time- warped mentality, that is being retained abroad in obvious tactics of power play and harassment, that is illogically coined as privilege. The reality is that countries abroad function through money and resources of the so called immigrants. Traveling out of Nigeria’s shore requires time and effort to read, understand, and spread awareness about these countries before en routing such destination.

Written by
L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
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  • Ask any Nigerian in the diapora; to live abroad, you have to pay your dues. You work really hard – get an education, work your way up and may, just maybe – luck will smile on you and get a middle class life. A few will probably get rich, a smaller percentage will be wealthy….but all comes from not giving up and not expecting anything to be handed to you on a platter. It is not easy. I tell this to relatives all the time. To live abroad, be ready to stand on your own two feet at the drop of a hat.