By Kayode Ketefe
A United States’ lawmaker – a Republican senator representing Texas, Ted Cruz, recently committed a social faux pas when in his invidious attempt to mock President Obama and his Obamacare health programme, he alluded to Nigerians as fraudsters.
Expectedly, when the heat was turned on through the barrage of condemnations from the Nigerian-American community, which was climaxed by the Nigerian government’s official demand for apology, Cruz made a volte face, described his unprovoked tirades as a joke, and, grudgingly, apologised.
The Head of the Mission, Embassy of Nigeria, Washington DC, Professor Ade Adefuye, had written a protest letter to Cruz demanding an unreserved apology for the gaffe. He wrote “We are shocked that a high profile Senator of a country which is at the forefront in building a peaceful and stable world in which nations and peoples treat each other with mutual respect could be engaged in an act which offends the sensitivities of an important component of his constituency.
“Distinguished Senator I am sure you are sufficiently familiar with the constructive contributions which Nigerians have made to economic, social and political lives of Texas especially in the Houston area. The least we can say is that Nigerians feel offended by you. They demand an apology.”
In his apology, which brims of asperity, Cruz said, “It is unfortunate that we’re living in a time where just about every joke can be misconstrued to cause offence to someone.
“I have never, nor would ever use a blanket term in a derogatory fashion against such a vibrant and integral part of our community. No offence was intended”.
But Cruz has a way of cruising into trouble; before the present incident, the New York Times in its opinion page of September 24, 2013, described Cruz as somebody in dire need of self restraint. The paper wrote “Even his (Cruz) Republican colleagues had long since stopped paying attention to his corrosive bombast, tired of his pious insults to his own party and unimpressed with his eagerness to shut down the government.” The paper went on to add that Cruz “has become the least popular man in Washington.”
Well, the senator has offered the above belated apology for the unsavoury remarks, nonetheless, the reason why negative categorisation of Nigerians has become a persistent pastime indulged in by outsiders still needs to be put in perspectives.
After all, Senator Cruz’s verbal misadventure is just a reflection of an enduring western culture of misconceptions on Nigeria. But is there any justified basis for the stereotype that sees Nigeria as a land of criminals? No doubt the nation grapples with a lot of problems like insecurity unemployment among others and some unscrupulous, minute fraction of our population, has delved into all sort of shameful practices.
Yet this should not form the basis of indiscriminate projection of all Nigerians as criminals. As a matter of fact, Nigerians are among most talented and morally conscientious people in the world – this is borne out by a number of undeniable facts.
If the truth needs to be told, in spite of all the negative contributions of a few unscrupulous Nigerians, good Nigerians in the Diaspora have made great volume of positive contributions than all the negative inputs of the unscrupulous elements that are being flaunted in our faces.
For instance, Nigerians are in most cases the most educated and skilled immigrants of the varied immigrant populations to a sizeable number of the developed countries and they contribute positively to the diverse sectors of their hosts’ economies. This is not only true of United Kingdom but also of the United States.
A segment of the country’s entertainment industry, Nollywood, which is ranked as the second most prolific film industry in the world, in spite of her limitations and challenges, is yet another example of what the country can offer to the world, through honest, productive enterprises, to the shame of those who could not see anything good in the country.
As a regional power, Nigeria is not an aggressive nation; on the contrary it has contributed to and still remains an active player both in regional and global peace efforts through direct participation in military peace keeping operations under various United Nations pacifist undertakings.
These are selfless, humanitarian endeavours to make the world a better place. We know of some nations that would not engage in any operations that offer to them no economic gains or hegemonic benefits.
Nigeria has continued to honour her international obligations as a responsible member of the global community even when her national interest is at stake. For example the nation chose to obey the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which gave her oil-rich Bakassi peninsular to the Republic of Cameroon. This was a great exercise of civilised maturity which establishes Nigeria’s place in history as a natural leader that sets good examples.
There are criminals in all countries of the world and it is absolutely irresponsible to hide under this platitude to malign Nigerians through unguarded, if not racism-inspired vituperations or ill-conceived innuendoes.
It is unfair to cast Nigeria into the stereotypical mould of a wicked and corrupt nation on accounts of a misguided few, when in fact, everything taken together, points to the contrary.
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