By Niran Adedokun
Nigeria lost its voice for what looked like an eternity this last week. Following the United States of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigations’ astounding revelation of the number of Nigerians allegedly busted for Internet fraud related crimes, not much of a coherent official response defending the integrity of Nigeria and its people emanated from the government until several days later.
The chair of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, truly issued a statement the day after the revelation. But that statement advising the 77 Nigerians listed amongst the 80 suspects to turn themselves in was lame and unhelpful. It is of course trite that in law an accused is presumed innocent until proved guilty as Dabiri-Erewa preached. But the lady forgets that the FBI is not one of those Nigerian prosecutorial agencies that make a show of the complicity of suspects, arrest and lock them up in jail before opening investigations in a lot of cases. In the case at hand, the FBI, apparently alongside other agencies across the globe (including Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) had done its homework and arrived at a total conviction that these people had various levels of involvement in the alleged crime. For that reason, Dabiri-Erewa’s moral suasion would have no impact on the accused or on the image of the country.
What one would expect, after a bit of reflection on the situation at hand, was for the Nigerian government to condemn the alleged complicity of so many Nigerians, assure the US Government of its readiness to do anything within its power to bring these people to justice and then insist that Nigeria is a country of spectacularly industrious and decent people who only have a sprinkle of the bad, just like any other country of the world, including the US itself!
In fact, some statistics recently shared on the Instagram page of former Presidential Candidate and Publisher of Ovation magazine, Dele Momodu, indicated that Nigerian fraudsters may contribute less than one per cent of the global scam burden!
Of course, that is not to justify the activities of the few Nigerians who thrive on the misfortune of others, but it goes to tell that Nigerians are not the worst set of human beings around the world and that a responsible government does not just throw its people under the bus at will, which is the tendency of Nigeria’s self-righteous leadership. The statistics Momodu shared indicated that Nigeria is not even amongst the first 50 criminal cartels in the world. It also showed that countries like China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, the USA, Japan, Mexico and India are lords of global cybercrime. Yet, none of these countries, even though, they have strict laws on these crimes allows a few criminals define their countries.
What is worse than the silence of Nigeria in this situation however, is how much the political elite has contributed to the shameful situation Nigeria has now found itself. Shameful, not because of the crooked ways of a few compatriots but for the measure of reactions that follow the infractions of this negligible number.
One of the most disheartening of these is the tendency to reduce such an issue to tribal ones. So, nearly all the 77 people on the list recently released by the FBI are of the South-East extraction and that gingered up ethnic jingoists to quickly label the Igbo as posters for cybercrimes and the related. You bet it was not going to take long for defenders of the Igbo cause to dig up the felonious tendencies of their accusers and throw the scum right back in their faces. So, before the end of Saturday, we had such hastags like #Igboyahooboys, #Yorubadrugdealers and #Fulaniherdsmen reigning on the blogsphere. This unfortunate attempt to get back at each other exposed Nigeria’s underbelly as a house set against itself and consumed in widespread conflicts between the state and youths from across the country. Yet, not even the apparent exposition that no part of Nigeria is free of loads of perpetrators of heinous crimes was enough to rouse hate-filled partisans to the reality that there is a greater enemy than the man from the other ethnic group, which is the very unconscionable place that the political elite would rather have the Nigerian citizenry.
Even though Nigerians realise that the evils of poverty, disease and insecurity that have become their near eternal companions do not discriminate in any ways, they continue to allow themselves taken by the divisive narratives sold by selfish political leaders who profiteer therefrom. And when they are at it, they are unable to collectively tackle their challenges and take decisions that would liberate the country. Sentiments of tribes and religion that ruled the airwaves in the past couple of days are the same that dictate the decision of who to elect into political offices in the country. It is the reason why mediocrity has become a way of life in our shores!
And when a society is like that, it is impossible to challenge the political elite whose ineptitude has impoverished the people and stripped them of their dignity.
Nigeria is the country where public education is in the worst possible state and public health is unable to service anyone. It is a country where millions of children who should become leaders of the country in the future are roaming the streets without ambition or hope. Now, these untutored, largely unparented children have uncontrolled access to all sorts of psychotropic and even hard drugs. The Yoruba say that a child you fail to “build” (train) would certainly sell off the house that you build. That is the parable that is lost to its own realities- the abandonment of its responsibility to its youths as well as the irresponsible failure to consider gauging its population. Nigeria is a country that is rapidly but steadily throwing its future to the dogs without even taking cognisance of the misadventure.
Were Nigerians, both leader and the led, a bit more introspective, they would realise that rather than the reductionism that followed last week’s alleged complicity of close to a hundred Nigerians in various nefarious activities across the world, it is the time that everyone should come around to ponder on the future of the country.
In Nigeria, all agents of socialisation are in a parlous state. The family unit is lost in compromises in pursuit of survival; schools, where they are present, are ruined and unable to impart knowledge; religious institutions have been mostly swallowed up by the same evil they were set up to eliminate, while the media has become complicit in the destruction and subjugation of the people.
What is not clear to those who are fighting ethnic wars is that Nigeria is just currently at the tip of the precipice. A nation that does not train its children even while it flaunts wealth at them like Nigeria, cannot qualify the number of brigands, instruments in the hand of insurgents and expert scammers. It is curious that a country walking on its head like Nigeria would hope for anything better than the misnomers that now shadow it up. When you sow the wind, expect to reap the whirlwind. That is the path that Nigeria is currently travelling on and unless something changes, it is all bound to lead to no good.
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