Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim
On many occasions, Nigerians stand out among their fellow Africans. “Giant of Africa” is the enviable, debatable title of
Nigeria due to its biggest population
and economy on the continent, inter alia. It also used to have the mightiest
military, for their numerous accomplished peacekeeping missions in other
African counties like Liberia,
Sudan, and Serra Leon. The Nigeria’s
military is no longer, however, regarded as such, as they have yet to combat and
contain the insurgence of the Islamists called Boko Haram within the country
since 2009 and for the violation of civilian rights in other instances.
As many Nigerians do these days, my brother’s confidant is hospitalized in
His debit card unfortunately got blocked. Kerala is very far from our state ( Kerala, India Punjab), and I was tasked to send him money via one
doctor at the hospital. There is a guideline that restricts a third party transaction
of above Rs. 25,000 in 24hours. The rule is however circumvented by using different
branches (of the bank), and so did I, for the money was urgently needed. I was
unexpectedly summoned to the presence of the manager of one branch I frequented
for crossing one Lac (i.e. Rs. 100,000) transaction within a few days. He asked
of my identity and the source of my income. He visibly became more alarmed the
moment I said I was from Nigeria
and showed him my staff ID. He distrustfully nodded and added that I might be
traced by some security personnel. I said I was ready and left.
While at the University, I narrated the story to my lecturer cum guide. She said that
India had to introduce the regulation
to curtail the activities of terrorists, and didn’t elaborate. I afterwards met
an elderly friend and told him of the terrific experience. He blatantly said to
my face that being Nigerian alone made me a suspect of many misdeeds such as
terrorism (with reference to Boko Haram), fraud, drug and child trafficking, money
laundering and, on a lighter mood, as he seemed to believe, closed the list
with mentioning of Ebola!
That encounter reminded me of the days I used to go to the Internet café for an overnight browsing. It was around 2002-2003; Facebook and Twitter were then not popular, thus the most active chatting system was Yahoo! Messenger. Out of 10 ‘friends’ you would meet, only 2 or 3 would agree to continue chatting with you the moment you identify yourself as a Nigerian. Yahoo! Boys, a popular moniker given to the then highly dubious, mostly Lagos-based Internet nerds that numerously duped many foreigners millions of dollars, were very infamous. Therefore, many people were, some still are, awfully skeptical to do anything with any Nigerian online.
It’s nothing newsworthy nowadays to report a Nigerian being sentenced to death or for life in foreign countries, often
due to drug trafficking. It’s again no longer news to hear about a high-ranking
public servant or a particular politician being arrested for money laundering
or related crime in the U.S, Europe or Dubai.
News from the country on Boko Haram attacks, kidnapping, corruption, etc is
commonplace. But, truthfully speaking, Nigerians are not all just like that. In
fact the people who subscribe to these transgressions are far less than
minority. It’s again in the humans’ psyche to pay more attention to something
bad than to good; something negative than to positive. People tend to remember
Nigeria when the likes of Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab, Michael Adebolajo, Alamieyeseigha,
James Ibori etc are
mentioned, but fail to notice that Aliko Dangote, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe,
Jelani Aliyu, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, among others, are also Nigerians. It’s
reliably said that in every four Africans one is a Nigerian. Therefore, the
significant impact Nigerians have made onto the world can only be a topic on its
own. It can’t be constrained here.
Thus, I couldn’t let that elder Indian friend go unchallenged, for it would have seemed agreeing with his belief in many stories. Millions of Nigerians within and outside the country by the same token condemn any wrongdoings perpetrated by their fellow countrymen as unreservedly as does anyone else. I then unhesitatingly, though lightly, retorted that all Indians are, or at least potential, rapists, and many others are prone to behave violently at a slightest religious provocation. He said “NO” with a glaring grimace. If this is not true, then his comment on Nigerians is equally not. He responded that yes he trusted me, but many others are not trustworthy. I called it a day.
With all due respect, it’s a shallow-mindedness and sheer ignorance to stereotype a people, not only Nigerians, as the same. For instance, torrential rain sometimes results to flooding that eventually causes destruction, displacement and even death. The same rain contributes hugely to farming that produces food for humans’ consumption. If we believe in the former story about rain, we will surely conclude that it is a curse. But it is not; rain is a blessing. No matter, therefore, what you heard about a people, don’t generalize them. After all, we are individuals. Don’t simply think we (Nigerians) all do the same things. Don’t just believe in the many stories you have heard, for it’s dangerous.