The call has continued to go out for Nigerians in the Diaspora to return home to Nigeria and share or contribute with the growth of the country. Many are really answering the call while some of us are still arming ourselves with the necessary tools that we require to effect such positive change in a country dogged with Political, religious, and social upheavals. There are still others who have relegated Nigeria to the background as a secondary society that may not even be returned to or even visited again. The latter category includes critics and believers in the barrage of negative criticism leveled against Nigeria and Nigerians. It is supposed to be a free world and each individual is entitled to decide the priority of his own national, political, or societal allegiance. Yet, it must be maintained that there is quite a substantial good side to the story of Nigeria and Nigerians, notwithstanding the barrage of incidents that continue to smear the prestige and integrity of that great country.
For one, I know that Nigerian names overwhelmingly dominate the list of New York State and New York City professional and graduate employees of non-American origin. Check this out for yourself. Just type in a Nigerian last name (Yoruba, Ibo, etc,) into the city employees mailing or e-mail address book and you will be amazed by the dominance of Nigerians listed in the directory. Not only in New York, but in London, Europe, and other parts of the world, Nigerians in Diaspora continue to excel in their various fields of endeavor whether it is academics, business, administration, arts, or otherwise. Yet, some choose to remember Nigerians only by the occasional negative news that hit the Television or Radio transmitters.
It is therefore understandable perhaps, why many Nigerians in Diaspora are reluctant to say that they are from Nigeria when asked where they come from. Some of us believe we could lose an interview, lose our honor, or perhaps get treated unfairly differently, if we identify with being a Nigerian. Obviously, many Nigerians the world over have been identified with various sorts of fraud and crime. Unfortunately, negative news travels faster than good news, and it definitely leaves a stigma even after the news seemed to have passed. Regardless, the fact remains that those Nigerians who go around tarnishing the image of Nigeria and Nigerians are always in the minority. The majority of Nigerians are very good people. They are very hardworking, respectful, resourceful, ambitious, and serious minded individuals. I am not just saying this, it is fact and this can be seen with top foreign firms and international organizations that continue to engage Nigerians despite the negative rap we get from all corners.
Incidentally, those in Nigeria who believe that they are more devoted than others in their tribal and/or religious beliefs have not helped matters by their continual commitment to riot and kill fellow Nigerians at the slightest provocation. But must some of us continue to dig graves that are so wide and deep as to take everyone along with them? Some of our leaders back home in Nigeria continue to take actions that inevitably attract worldwide condemnation, and further degradation of the entity known as Nigeria. It seems that for some reason, some Nigerians seem to enjoy the propagation of negativism about Nigeria. I will recount no further, but the question will not go away. What is the cause of this seeming joy of bathing in the aura of negative impressionism? Is it out of a selfish desire to survive at all cost, or as a result of biased influence and orientation? The question continues to linger, but it has to be answered, if we really intend to make progress.
Having been exposed to a different way of doing things in the Diaspora, some of us actually return to Nigeria to help improve things while others simply go back and get sucked in and influenced by the pending disrepute alleged by critics of Nigeria and Nigerians. Many of us who return to Nigeria go ahead to jettison whatever little enlightenment we have obtained, and we carelessly dash the hopes of those Nigerians at home who have hoped that we could make a difference. We refuse to let our light shine. The present political dispensation in Nigeria includes various returnee Nigerians. How do we rate the contribution of these returnee Nigerians? Whether it has been positive, passive, or negative, is a topic that requires the devotion of another write-up.
While the call for the return of Nigerians in the Diaspora continues to ring, Nigerians in Diaspora could do a lot to help matters even if they are not ready to return to Nigeria at the moment. Being proud of Nigeria and being a good ambassador of Nigeria anywhere the Nigerian finds himself in the world could go a long way to help. This does not have to involve a mammoth task. It could be as simple as not being ashamed of owning up to being a Nigerian, or simply proving the critics wrong when they expect some negative behavior from the Nigerian. This is not a call for a moral revolution (although that would be interesting). It is rather a simple restatement of our civic duty to promote the goodwill of our fatherland.
To those who have done a lot and have remained in the forefront of promoting the positive attributes of Nigeria and Nigerians, the comment would be for them to keep up the good work. I am not a crusader and I have nothing to say to those who continue to pull the name of the country down for reasons best known to them. They will decide for themselves at the right time. However, to those who are not sure of Nigeria or Nigerians, I would make an appeal for them to please give Nigeria and Nigerians a chance devoid of prejudicial assessment A simple request to be treated with an open heart, not with a preconceived impression. But what chance do we Nigerians give ourselves? How do we respect our honor and integrity when tested by situations that tell the kind of stuff that we are made of? If a Nigerian is not proud enough to stand up for one single fellow Nigerian out there whether at home or abroad, how could he contribute to the betterment of the nation as a larger entity?
With these questions raised, I would like to conclude this piece with the following poem (“Fatherland”). However, for a recent experience I had that seems to be on all fours with the points raised above, please read PART TWO of this piece.
FatherlandThough in hardship we many suffer,
We assure tomorrow by steadfast work,
As a breed of people never subdued.
Though our country’s name is tarnished,
By few of us in unpopular ventures,
We remain achievers across the world,
For most of us are true good men,
Revered by those who really know us.
Though in tribe and tongue we may differ,
And though in the past, we fought a war,
We stand stronger in pending freedom,
Cherishing the labor of our heroes past,
In loving strength and faith united,
To uphold that honor and that glory,
Of a people diverse but industrious,
And yes we’re called the Nigerians.
This fatherland and native country
Of plentiful rain and moderate climate
Endowed with nature’s own blessings,
Allowing production of diverse food,
Oil and gas and major minerals,
Blended with a populous citizenry,
This is my own dear native land,
And with God in it we proudly stand.
Oliver Mbamara, Esq. © 2003
Oliver Mbamara, Esq., is an Administrative Law Judge with the State of New York. Web Sites: www.Expressionsofsoul.com, www.PoemsofSoul.com, www.AfricanTheaterUSA.com, www.AfricanEvents.com