Sunday, January 28, 2007

I have spent the last few nights unable to sleep wondering if there is some conspiracy to completely destroy the reputation of Nigeria as a country and Nigerians as a people. I will admit upfront that I blame Nigeria and Nigerians for the bad press we constantly receive (and will explain why later in the post). However, I believe that a small minority of criminals cannot and should not be considered representative of an entire nation. After all, one cannot look at the likes of Rush Limbaugh and/or Michael Richards and assume that all Americans are just like them.

So, as I mentioned in a previous post (ABC's "Investigative Report" on 419 Scams), when Nigeria is mentioned in the news, I tend to brace for impact. Well, I did a whole lot of bracing Saturday evening because I was exposed to more Nigeria bashing! CNN aired a repeat of its program "How to Rob a Bank" which originally aired in May 2006 (transcript available here). The program discussed the impact of stolen identities on American victims and American banks. It featured at least 6 scam artists operating in the United States. Four of these men were Nigerian.

Now, I don't want to waste precious time and space giving you a summary of this program, particularly as the transcript is available for free, online. Let it be said that I do not condone the acts of criminals regardless of whether they are Nigerian or not. Despite this, the program suggested that Nigerians are the kings of identity theft in this country and scamming in general. Of course, we all know that cannot be the case because criminals come in all shapes, sizes and nationalities. Yet, I fear that Billy Bob in Ozark, Alabama, who knows no Nigerians, will watch the program and assume that every Nigerian, and maybe African, is a criminal.

So, why is Nigeria getting such negative press? I can't come up with a specific and definitive response. Like everything in life, there is no straightforward, black or white answer. The reasons for our situation are various, but of clear significance is the Nigerian. By this, I mean the individual and the collective. We as Nigerians know that some of our people are corrupt and participate in criminal enterprise. Yet, we honor them with chieftancy titles and we encourage them with special treatment and sometimes reverence. I know not everyone does this and I know that such behavior is not unique to Nigerian society, but I must highlight it as being part of our problem. When we exalt people who have gained their wealth unscrupulously, we sanction their behavior to our detriment and allow those who know nothing about us as a people to characterize our culture as one that appreciates and encourages corruption. This is therefore a clear example of how we are destroying ourselves from within.

Another source of our 'bad press' predicament is that as a people we do not control our image. A country with a significant amount of human and natural resources like Nigeria should be able, to some extent, to manipulate and control how the rest of the world sees us. Nigeria is a country of nobel laureates, incredible doctors and physicians, world renowned artists, musicians and actors and of course, wonderful people. Nonetheless, that is never the portrayal of Nigeria that the world receives. Our government has to get it's act together and hire some good P.R. I said it in ABC's "Investigative Report" on 419 Scams, and I'll say it again - If we don't have a P.R. agent, I hereby volunteer to take on the task for a minimal fee. There is a lot of work to be done, and I hope that our new government will consider this issue a challenge worth addressing directly.

I will concede that many Nigerians are working hard to find ways, outside government channels, to remedy the situation discussed above. I congratulate these people and encourage them to keep up the good work. But, it remains clear to me that my country is under attack. This attack is from within and without. I can't help but feel sometimes that we are fighting a lost battle.

Mark my words, if we don't get a handle on it now, it will be too late to do effective and efficient damage control in the future.

0 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Post a Comment

Get curious...share your thoughts, long and short. But, do remain civil.