The Sun News

Distressed at home, disdained abroad

By Itaobong Offiong Etim

This is the sad tale of most Nigerians who fled from the stark realities at home for an envisaged greener pastures in foreign climes. Some of them even sold their belongings, including their houses and cars, just to finance their trips. Others embarked on the hazardous adventure across the Sahara and the Mediterranean in a brash move to secure a foothold in Europe.

This craze to flee one’s fatherland, even to a fellow African country could be considered a potential better prospect than staying back;  hence, the sojourn of not a few of our citizens across the length and breadth of the continent is an irresistible lure to many, even at the peril of their very lives.

Nigerians in South Africa, for instance, have continued to be at the mercies of their hosts’ vagaries of temperamental disposition for some time now. At the slightest provocation, Nigerians easily become prey to the unprovoked gods of the xenophobic denizens of this  one-time apartheid regime.      

Over the years, they have lost both lives and livelihoods during such frays. For a country whose slogan is, inspiring new ways, adopted to improve its tourism drive, one could not but wonder if phobia for foreigners is not a negative reaction to this effort?

Nigeria will tolerate few attacks on her citizens in other countries with a philosophical rationalization but certainly not South Africa, whom she did so much for when it mattered most in the fight against that racial segregation of those dark years. Today, it is a travesty of a time-honoured universal axiom that one good turn deserves another as hatred of varying proportions is daily meted to Nigerian residents by the same people who benefitted from the magnanimity of African brotherliness Nigerians lavishly displayed towards them.

As Nigerians continue to suffer various indignities in the hands of their South African hosts, one only hopes that the newly inaugurated executive of the Nigerian Union in South Africa led by Mr. Adeola Olubajo would use that platform to bring to the fore the many injustices Nigerians have continued to suffer in that land to the appropriate quarters even beyond the shores of the two governments. South Africa is a signatory to International Human Rights Treaties and has also signed more than 40 bilateral investment treaties with other countries, including Nigeria.

The Nigerian embassy in South Africa should continue to drum into the hearing of their belligerent hosts the role played by Nigeria in liberating them from the nearly five decades of repressive regimes of apartheid. They should also be reminded that no country has monopoly of violence as many South African businesses and nationals thrive un-molested in Nigeria.

Outside the shores of Africa, Nigerians are not spared unimaginable degradations and sundry assaults. For instance, early in the year, BBC reportedly announced vicious multiple attacks on students of Nigerian extraction in India.

Also, the Daily Sun newspaper reported last May that up to 535 Nigerians in China are serving various prison terms for drug-related offences, but the truth is that not all of them are culpable, some are punished because they did not have legal representation during trial.

The story is not different in Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Turkey, Dubai and Bangladesh. In Germany, for instance, a Nigerian was reportedly thrown out of a moving train when he allegedly could not afford his fare.

While the list is inexhaustible, the most disturbing trend is the continuous deportation of Nigerians all over the world since the beginning of this year, from countries such as Cameroon, Libya, UK, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Spain, to mention a few .

The plight of Nigerians abroad would continue to fester as our foreign missions are said to have bad records of not being concerned about the welfare of their fellow citizens in Diaspora. They neither speak up nor rise in their defence. Could this be a case of complacency or timidity?

Government should rise to the occasion and address our distressing national economic under-development. A viable economy will make traveling abroad for greener pastures a less attractive venture. This, to say the least, presents a more compelling national imperative to save our eroding national pride. Finally, seasoned, qualified and competent people should be engaged in the foreign service to actualize the purpose of establishing these missions abroad.                           


Etim writes from Calabra



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