By now, most people are aware of the horrible earthquake that happened in Haiti on January 12th. It registered as the strongest earthquake on that island nation in 200 years and the death toll will likely be very high. Many individuals around the world have contributed in one way or another, as have large organizations and countries to the recovery effort, trying to rescue and assist as many as possible. Currently, the African governments of Gabon, Ghana, Benin, Liberia Morocco, Rwanda and South Africa have pledged/donated money ranging from $50,000 to $1 million. Senegal's government has gone a step further of offering free land parcels and/or accommodation to Haitians who opt to repatriate and settle there. As more African countries will undoubtedly join in the global chorus to assist the Haitian people, the Nigerian government must use this opportunity to show kindness to Haiti.
A HISTORY OF HELPING THE DIASPORA
Today, Nigeria is unfortunately known for its corrupt government, international organizations like Siemens which have gone down for bribing Nigerian officials, online scammers and most recently Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's suicide bomb attempt. However, Nigeria also has a historical reputation for using its weight to assist fellow Africans and those of African-heritage that might be in need. Nigeria once helped out Guyana's civil service to make its payroll. Nigeria contributed a gift via Ike Nwachukwu to Howard University - a prestigious, predominantly black institution in Washington, DC. Nigeria even committed $1 million in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster that destroyed New Orleans. Nigeria has consistently and continuously committed military assistance to war torn parts of the continent from Sierra Leone to Darfur. Nigeria housed many Liberians who sought refuge during that nation's civil war. And, Nigeria played an integral part in gaining autonomy for black Zimbabweans and South Africans, whose ANC party received donations from Nigerian workers for many years in an effort to get that country to where it is today. Furthermore, Nigeria's Technical Assistance Corps has been and continues to be a means by which the nation sends medical staff to the diaspora such as the Commonwealth of Dominica. Nigeria has and continues to have a long history of interceding when necessary to help those in the African diaspora.
WHY THE DELAYED RESPONSE TO HAITI?
Nigeria is burdened with the confusion of a sick and absent president, a Vice President incapable of taking executive actions but relegated to hosting winners of reality shows and legislators that continue to say that their "hands are tied" on various sensitive matters. And, currently, many continue to question whether the President is actually alive or dead. Clearly, Nigeria and its people are at a point of bewildering political disorder. Nigeria's President Yar'Adua is also the chairman of the West African organization - ECOWAS, which is also yet to respond to the devastation in Haiti.
Nevertheless, there is still time for the Nigerian government to illustrate the leadership Nigeria has previously shown and help Haiti. So, while Nigeria's government is yet to issue an official response and/or commit either financial or human assistance, given its previous leadership on issues concerning the Diaspora, one hopes that a response is forthcoming.
WHY NIGERIA MUST HELP HAITI
It is no secret that Nigeria's influence and impact within the West African region has diminished over the last few years. While the previous administration was able to diplomatically squash a military coup in neighboring Sao Tome & Principe, the current administration experienced a compromising embarrassment with regard to the military junta in Guinea. President Yar'Adua's envoy, former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida, was sent to convey that the coup was unacceptable, but returned with nothing but praises for the Guinean military junta. And, now, with the placement of Nigeria on a list of "Terror Prone" countries, it seems that Nigeria's government and in fact the nation's relevance and power, despite its oil and historical influence is being challenged.
Many will read this and immediately note that the Nigerian government is yet to do right by its own people considering the fact that many Nigerians live on less than $2 a day,the failure to achieve a promise of higher power generation rates and much more. While all that might be true, being charitable is not for the very rich alone, as evidenced by the many in Nigeria and around the world who sacrifice what little they have for others. Besides, Nigerians have always been able to do incredible things with little. If nothing more, the Nigerian government should consider that assisting Haiti would go a long way in rebuilding Nigeria's image especially given the fallout from Abdulmutallab's suicide bomb attempt. And, considering that Nigeria is allegedly pursuing rebranding its image, such an act would provide exponential benefits. But, most importantly, such an act, no matter how small, would be helpful to Haiti - an act that will likely never be forgotten. Let it not be forgotten that Haiti defeated the French and became the first black nation to achieve independence. And, in this year, when Nigeria will celebrate 50 years of independence, such generosity and leadership could be an essential part of setting the tone for the next 50 years for Nigerians and the Nigerian government - helping a nation that shed blood to set the path of independence for all Africans everywhere.
Regardless of where you are from, please take the time to say a prayer for Haiti. Survivors are still being found but that nation has experienced a devastating catastrophe that requires assistance, as well. So, if you are in a position to give money, please do so by contacting a reputable organization. Or, you can donate food, clothing and other items at the Haitian embassy where you live (if one is available). Also, you can click on the Bloggers Unite image for more information.
UPDATE: There are Nigerian organizations at home and abroad that are making it easier for Nigerians and others to support relief efforts in Haiti. The Nigeria Global Diaspora Committee is not affiliated with the Nigerian government and is apparently legitimate. It is actually among a list of many groups doing what they can to make a difference. Hattip to Omotade at Tade's Joint.
UPDATE (01/20): Lagos State, in conjunction with Nigerian Eagle, are working to raise funds for the Haitian relief effort. Lagos State government has donated $1 million on behalf of the citizens of that State.
UPDATE (01/21): The Nigerian Senate observed a minute of silence in respect for all Haitians who lost their lives in the earthquake. Nigeria's government donated $1 million to the Haitian effort with each of the antion's 36 Senators giving an additional $20,000.