Oprah’s Campaign of Calumny Against Nigeria

by Paul I. Adujie

Oprah Winfrey is a person of African descent, for whom I have publicly expressed admiration, poured encomiums in a most public way, and only recently in: “Oprah Winfrey: Powerful, Selfless & Giver of Dignity!”

Sadly and painfully, it has come to pass that our daughter, the highly achieved and accomplished Oprah Winfrey, our most famous descendant, has chosen, wittingly or unwittingly, to add her high profile voice, through her far reaching medium, to the campaign of calumny against Nigerians and invariably, Nigeria.

Oprah maligned Nigerians and Nigeria, all in the name of discussing identity theft and sundry frauds, which have become prevalent in America. These crimes and others are a public threat and as such, warrant public conversation, but why must Oprah and others focus on whether some perpetrators are Jews, Germans, Japanese, Mexicans or Nigerians?

Generalizing and stereotyping Nigerians or Nigeria, labeling and castigating Nigerians and Nigeria, has become a totem of American journalism.

What Oprah and her cohorts are doing to Nigerians and Nigeria, with these frequent stereotyping and generalizing, should be exposed for what they are! These are primordial, primitive and erratic ignorant responses or value judgments about 140 million Nigerians, of whom these journalists know nothing about! And yet, these journalists, in their happy ignorance, talk about Nigerians with some sorts of expertise, amounting only to, automatic responses without erudition analytic acumen.

There are unfortunately, some Nigerians who are forever willing to jump to justify these attacks on Nigeria; Such as when Nigeria was maligned by CNN in “How to rob a bank” or when CNN’s Jeff Koinage orchestrated and choreographed a pay-per-view strip-tease “expose” on Militants in the Niger Delta or when ABC Television’s Brian Ross’ “Black Money: The Latest Twist in the Billion Dollar Nigerian Scam Racket”

I am no longer willing to be patient with the halting Nigerian, who keeps insisting, that 100 percent of Nigerians must do right, always, for we must act just right, so that Americans and Europeans complaints and castigations of Africans may come to a stop. Non-Africans’ uncommon negative ferocity directed at Nigerians and other Africans, must be seen for what they are! Irresponsible journalistic prejudices wrapped in racism. As often as I encounter these ferocious attacks against my nation and my continent, I always wish that I have the natural, divine and even, supernatural powers to write thrillingly eloquent defense of Nigerians, continental Africans and all peoples of African descent.

This week alone, I have read public comments by a tenured Nigerian professor at the University of Maiduguri, Professor Abba Gana Shettima who was denied a visa to the Gambia, a visa that would have enabled him deliver a public lecture of continental proportions in importance. He narrated his ordeals in an article titled “Between (‘419’) fraudsters and their greedy ‘victims” Additionally, an article by Joseph Anwana who also narrated what is increasingly appearing to be concerted efforts to repudiate everything Nigerian and Nigeria, Nigerian Employers And Tokunbo Mentality.

These persistent and sustained attacks on Nigeria, have dire consequences for Nigerians and Nigeria, severally, in the short and long terms, as well as repercussions for Nigerians as individuals striving, in and outside Nigeria. And Nigeria as a corporate entity, that is continually under barrages of attacks or endless bashing.

If you happen to disagree or do not see the point here, just ask yourself, what did Professor Shettima do, to be denied a visa to Gambia to attend a seminar/workshop? Then further ask yourself who is next in line to be meted this injustice resultant from our national smears, you or me? Why is it, that we never similarly see press references to other criminals by race, ethnicity and nationality? A fraudster is a fraudster, a killer is a killer, not because he is American or Nigerian or Briton!

Oprah Winfrey is a very experienced and savvy journalist. Oprah posses a very powerful medium, her show is seen worldwide. When she mentions a book, it becomes an instant bestseller. Imagine then, the impact, the damaging impact of her singling out Nigeria, in negative portrayals! That is the power of O! I take the view that Oprah must therefore use such phenomenal power with utmost restraint and sense of responsibility.

Oprah’s singular act of choosing to join the voyeuristic, scandalous and teasingly salacious Western Press’ sour attitude toward Nigeria is a new low in American journalism.

It is the responsibility of Nigerians to inform Oprah and others in the world, that corruption, advance fee frauds and other aberrant behaviors, are not inured and infused into Nigerians’ DNA. Thieves must be called thieves and murders must be called murderers, not Americans or Nigerians. Bad behaviors are not peculiarly Nigerian!

There is no national particularity or outlook, in the methods of operations deployed by criminals born in America or Nigeria! Those who generalize about Nigerians, and Nigeria, are aware of this. They chose to gloss over these pertinent and salient points.

How could Oprah with her American experience along with other 40 million persons of African descent in the United States, afford to stereotype 140 million Nigerians? How could Oprah not know or remember the racist charges against African Americans? And how African American males were, and are still stereotyped in American press as having predispositions to violence and love for raping white women? How could Oprah forget how racists in America portrayed African American women as having predisposition to being harlots and prostitutes with lose or easy morals. All these, to enable racists white America, to demean and devalue African Americans and then, lynch them metaphorically and physically?

Nigerians are being maligned now, just as African Americans, this, in complete disregard the overwhelming evidence and facts, African Americans were, and are still disrespected in the press, and Oprah knows it! The disrespect and stereotyping of Africans Americans continues even though there are available cogent, concrete and compelling truth of African American resilience and successes against all pains and all odds.

Oprah’s joining of the bandwagon of those at CNN and ABC Television

etc is a shock to me. Those who have selectively and deliberately chosen to highlight some Nigerians with negative or criminal behaviors, as the gold-standard for measuring 140 million multitude of Nigerians on earth, are most offensive and pedestrian. Only those who are willfully undiscerning, who would choose to excuse or exonerate the mugus, those gullible and greedy persons, who often collude and connive with crooks, in their joint attempts to reap from where they have not sown. Those who connive with 419ers are criminals with criminal tendencies. Or why would they expect their cats to give birth to hens? Or expect to inherit millions of dollars from strangers, suddenly?

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Mutumu Dogo October 31, 2011 - 3:50 pm

…can you give me the name of one nigerian who has done or desisted from doing something to erase this image of nigeria? Where are you going to stand to change the corruption propensity of nigerians: some people believe the churches (all the churches) are worse, so is the judiciary, and worse are the so-called law enforcement agencies. nigeria is a right-off as far as basic honesty is concerned. the white man should come back and quickly too.

DJ Sobanjo October 14, 2008 - 7:50 am

I read this article with great interest. I have also read the responses and it all seems to be coming together for me.

I did not see the particular episode of Oprah so I can’t talk too much on that but from what I’ve read it seems that Oprah was highlighting the advanced fee fraud that most of time is from my country Nigeria.

I agree that not all Nigerians are con artists. I know I’m not and I have lots of Nigerian friends who walk with integrity. However you can not deny the fact that when it comes to advanced fee fraud Nigerians are at the forefront.

When it comes to pirated movies, it’s usually the Chines at the forefront, and when it comes to Paedophilia, it’s probably the Brits. But does that mean that every Chinese person is a dodgy DVD salesman or every Brit is a paedophile. However the perception is that every Nigerian is a con artist.

Personally, I have no sympathy for people who are conned by these con- artist as it has been said that to fall for one of these email scams(I get a lot of these emails myself), you’ve got to be either extremely stupid or extremely greedy, most of the time it’s probably both.

I would say Nigerians need to clean up their reputation and the whole world should cut Nigerians some slack.

Maybe Oprah should have been more objective on her program, or maybe Nigerians are reacting just because of Oprahs credibility and the impact the program will have on Nigeria and Nigerians.

At the end of the day, people will get to know you for who you are regardless of where you come from.

unknown, USA August 20, 2007 - 8:48 pm

At a time when Americans are committing heinous crimes against children and women, nobody has tagged all Americans as murders. So, why call all Nigerians rogues because of the sin of a few bad eggs? Oprah regularly tells her life story: how close relations sexually abused her, how she walked the street (Americans’ euphemism for prostitution), etc., but nobody has ever deemed it fit to tag all American men as incestuous because of Oprah and others’ experiences. She did drugs—just like the typical American teenager, but nobody has cast all American youths in the mould of drug abusers! So, why should an individual that is supposed to know better sentence a nation to odium for the infraction of a tiny fraction of its population? I urge Oprah and her likes to disabuse their minds about Nigerians. Be wary of requests for money from strangers, and if you fall for a scam, blame your greed and not Nigerians.

Patricia August 20, 2007 - 6:01 am

Just as the comment #1 said, are you relaying the "ENTIRE" comment made by Oprah? No, you are not! She said "not all Nigerians are scammers . . . etc".

I do not know how many fraudulent e-mails I receive from Nigerians asking me to cooperate with them in reference to large sums of money and how many Nigerian men, who do not even know me, want to marry me–who am already married to an upstanding Nigerian man and awaiting our reunion when he comes to the United States. Of course not all Nigerians are scammers, AS OPRAH WINFREY STATED, but the fact is that some Nigerians are. Some Americans are scammers, thiefs, and liars as well. But Nigerian scammers are becoming a big problem. Not one week passes without an attempt to manipulate my hardf-earned money out of my hands through lies–and I am not the only African American (or American period) that receives weekly e-mails of this nature. Unfortuntely, it is these types of behaviors that make all of Nigeria look as if the only thing they do is try to steal. It was ALSO equally hard on me when I annnounced my engagement and then flew to Lagos, Nigeria to marry my husband due to Nigeria's reputation. I am ALWAYS in defense of Nigeria, for I love my huband, love my Nigerian relatives, and love Nigeria period. I get tired of ANYONE just assuming that because someone is Nigerian that they are a thief and a liar. It is so prejudice, and I hate that type of stereotyping. What I do not like about your aritlce is that you are quoting "half truths" about what Oprah Winfrey said, who loves Africa so much in that she has donated millions of dollars and built a girl's leadership academy in South Africa to show how much Africa means to her. You are trying to butcher an innocent peson, who has invested an enormous amount of money into Africa. Why not publicize her ENTIRE STATEMENTS in order to give a realistic view of what was really said on her show. I saw the show personally, and I know she continued to emphasize, greatly, that the incidents that were being discussed on that particular episode in no way means that ALL NIGERIANS are scammers or a thief. To me, you have done yourself a "great injustice" as a writer, for misleading people, through incorrect statements, against a person who has, and still is helping Affrica. As a fellow writer, I would hate to evoke false emotion into readers built on lies. I hope this is a mistake on your part and done out of ignorance. When you actually read or listen to what she said, you should submit a retraction and an apology for what you said.

Prince Kennedy Iyoha August 18, 2007 - 10:36 am

Mr. Adujie. Thanks for ever being so patriotic, and advocate for the Nigerian state. My opinion In relation to the supposed attack of Madam Oprah Winfrey, using as an example some dubious Nigerians, engaged in criminal activities, to represent the entire people of this country. it is my humble opinion, that it is better to speak out about this wrong doing of our people, so that many Nigerians suffering stereotyping reprisal in many parts of the word, because of the criminal activities of very few idiots. You most know that many innocents Nigerians are suffering in different parts of the Europe, because of the criminal acts of their compatriot that has spoilt the place before their arrivals. I will be bold to say, that most of these bad eggs are manly from the Ibo tribe, and followed with the Edo’s, and Deltas. The proportions of the involvements of people of the already mention tribes in criminal acts, and enslavements of their own people to prostitutions, is well over the involvements of all the other tribes in Nigeria put together.

the first commentator, informed that madam oprah winfrey’s acknowledge in her arguments, that it was not all citizens of our own country that engaged in criminal activities. Her statement was, “I know that not all Nigerians are scammers or commit thefts and that there are literally millions of hardworking, honest Nigerians”. The above statements means that madam Oprah is not singling us out base on stereotyping reprisal, but informing the general public to be aware of people engaged in scams and other crime related activities. Brother Adujie I believe it is necessary to speak out about the wrong of our people and that the government of our country should send our security operatives behind them. There is an adage that says “Good name is better than riches”.

The state of Gambia is a signature to the Ecowas accords, and therefore can not issue visa to citizens of member state. Citizen of countries that formed the ecowas community, have free movements within the community. I therefore wondered why Professor Abba Gana Shettima should require a visa to visit Gambia. In my visit to Gambia last year, I was detained in the boarder of Senegal-Gambia, by the Gambian immigration police, alleging that it was because of the A.U. summit that was to take place in a week’s time. I agued informing the immigration police about the Ecowas chatter, and that hence I am holding the Nigerian passport, I do not require visa to enter the country. Finally, I have to give out one hundred Euros to the officer in charge who informed without shame, that it was in Nigeria that the learned how to take bribe. With the hounded Euro note, one of the officers escorted me to the ferry that took me across the river Gambia to Banjul. In my two weeks stay, I realized that Gambia is an extension of Nigeria.

I agree that the clients or supposed victims of the scammers are themselves guilty of the very same offense.

Anonymous August 15, 2007 - 4:43 pm

This is the kind of crap the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, should be suing Oprah for, He instead is trying to weaken EFCC.By the way Oprah is not special, she was just at the right place at the right time. I could have been any Nappy Headed African American woman that got her contract back then!

Anonymous August 15, 2007 - 1:49 pm

You said "What Oprah and her cohorts are doing to Nigerians and Nigeria, with these frequent stereotyping and generalizing, should be exposed for what they are! "

I watched that episode of The Oprah Show to which you are referring. If you had watched the entire episode, if you watched it at all…and I'm not convinced that you did, you would have heard her statment that she knows that not all Nigerians are scammers or commit thefts and that there are literally millions of hardworking, honest Nigerians. In fact, she said that the purpose of the show was to just expose some of the oldest and most pervasive scams ongoing. That piece happened to focus on Nigeria.

How said that some, not all, Nigerians refuse to hold their brotheren accountable for their crimes. Oprah did not engage in any such stereotyping. Your words make it painfully obvious that you didn't even see the show for yourself and have drawn false conclusions based on what you probably heard from someone else.

For if you did see the show, this article is truly nonsensical.


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