By Muyiwa Kayode
￼When we were growing up, you dared not go out and commit an offense. If you did and you got punished, your parents would add to the punishment when you returned home. Your father might ask you “how many lashes of the cane did you receive?” If you said “four”, he might add another four to it. The reason was simple and quite understood by us all. You were not allowed to go out and tarnish the family name. If you did, you would not go unpunished. If you were in boarding school, and word got to your father that you were involved in some untoward activity. Your father would go to the school and ask the Principal to double your punishment. If you were leaving home for boarding school or university, your parents would tell you “remember the child of whom you are”. This meant you should always be of good behavior and not bring shame or embarrassment to the family.
So, what happened to all those family values? Today, a child gets punished in school and the parents threaten to call the police! Don’t even try it in all these so called over hyped schools where you find the children of our “money miss road” elites. The kids are not to be touched. The days of “spare the rod and spoil the kid” are long gone. Today, the rods are spared and the kids are spoilt. We have relinquished our traditional values and embraced the negative elements of Western Culture. In our “follow follow” colonial mentality, (to borrow Fela’s words), we have stupidly abandoned the positive elements of our own culture and blindly embraced the foreign practices that can only destroy our identity as a people.
Today, a man goes abroad, contravenes their laws and brings shame to the image of our country. He gets chained and deported. We protest and fight, claiming that he should be treated with dignity. We forget that for every Nigerian who goes abroad and stays illegally and contravenes their laws, the rest of us pay the price. We forget that because of people like him, when the innocent ones amongst us are traveling, we are treated with indignity. We are insulted and disgraced. Nigerians travel a lot and foreign airlines make a lot of money from us. Yet we are daily disrespected by the immigration officers in these countries because of people like this stupid guy that got himself chained.
Such people tarnish the image of our country and bring shame to the rest of us. If you go to a foreign country and break their laws, you deserve to be chained. Our people have a saying that “a child who refuses to be disciplined at home will be disciplined abroad”. We must tell ourselves the bitter truth. You have no business staying in another man’s country illegally or breaking the law in another man’s land. If you do so, then whatever punishment is visited on you is well deserved. By the same token we should deal squarely with foreigners who come here and break our laws.
In most of these foreign countries we find Nigerians in their jails, but how many foreigners do we have in our jails here? Does it mean they don’t commit crimes here? Of course they do! But we have failed to clean up our system and enforce our laws. That’s why many people believe they can get away with anything here. Most Nigerians are law abiding abroad, yet lawless at home. We undermine our own systems and blame everything on government and politicians. We fight for our rights abroad but in our country we leave everything to God, forgetting that God has given us the right to live and the power to choose. We must therefore exercise our power to choose the way we want our country to be run.
Those who make our country unpleasant to live in should be dealt with. Because they are the ones who make our youths run abroad in search of an illusory better life. We must realize that the better life we are chasing in those countries didn’t happen by accident. Their people worked very hard to make it possible. We must therefore fix our country and make it a better place. Instead of running abroad, let us stay here and make life impossible for those who steal our commonwealth and those who get into public office without any tangible contribution to make to national development. If a senator from your constituency is a non-performer, he deserves to be in chains. If your governor has stolen money meant for fixing the roads and providing healthcare, he deserves to be in chains. We have the power to make our country better and we must exercise that power.
These days we are daily fed with news of recovered loot. Yet we go about like there’s nothing happening. We are not asking for people to be executed or jailed. Why is it difficult for us to see the link between these stolen monies and our bad roads, deplorable hospitals, poorly equipped schools and power cuts? Ever so frequently, our doctors go on strike and people die like cockroaches, yet we don’t complain. We don’t rise up on the side of the doctors to demand better healthcare for our people and better working conditions for the doctors.
Somebody has stolen billions of our money and is exposed, yet we don’t scream and demand justice. But one poor guy gets deported in chains and we are all screaming. Is it not in this same Nigeria that a presidential order was given in 1983, ordering all illegal immigrants to leave? Most of them were Ghanaians and that’s how “Ghana Must Go” came to be. President Shehu Shagari was quoted at the time “If they don’t leave, they should be arrested and tried, and sent back to their homes. Illegal immigrants under normal circumstances, should not be given any notice whatsoever. If you break a law, then you have to pay for it”.
Apparently, Ghanaians have since put their house in order while we have not cleaned up ours. As the Senior Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora, I wonder what Abike Dabiri-Erewa is telling the President. I also do not know what she is telling Nigerians who live abroad illegally. But what I know is that the conduct of Nigerians abroad goes a long way in determining how the rest of us are perceived as well as the image of our nation. Abike Dabiri-Erewa should tell Nigerians living abroad illegally to come back home. The more disgruntled people we have in this country the better, because then the pressure on government will be more intense and we can all fight to get looters and non-performers out of governance. If we don’t fight to make our country better, we should expect more of our siblings to be chained and shipped back home.
Muyiwa Kayode is the CEO at USP Brand Management and Author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding