‘Tragedy Set-in in the Late 70s’ Readers Debate Nigeria’s Global Status

Earlier this year, in March, Zainab Usman wrote about the United States’ recent travel ban on Nigerians. In the article, ‘A Wake-Up Call?’, Usman argued that a severe decline in Nigeria’s global status is underway, driven by a complex ‘interplay of domestic and geopolitical factors’, including weak Nigerian diplomacy and the lack of a cohesive, organized Nigerian diaspora.

Our readers read the article and had the following responses:

Obasa O.  Abuja, Nigeria

‘Is Nigeria losing its global status? Absolutely.’

Before and even during the early years of post-independence, Nigeria was a country regarded with immense esteem. The new era was marked with remarkable hope. However, as time passed, we would come to discover that, perhaps, independence in 1960 was a premature development.

Tragedy set-in in the late 70s. The good repute built on the pedestals of prosperity, and the Nigerian pride that was held, so dear, rapidly evolved into a horrendous status that has continued to linger in the global sphere.

Ironically, it was during the Second Republic (1979-83)—explicitly, a transition from the military regime to a long-craved democratic government—that Nigeria began to experience significant decline. During the time of President Shehu Shagari, corruption was rampant, oil prices began to plummet, too. The growth rate of our GDP reduced as quickly as ever. Not only that, but the military regimes that succeeded thereafter did not make things rosy. As oil prices fell, inflation rates increased and the number of disadvantaged Nigerians equally increased.

It turned into a party of pandemonium when the World Bank, during the regime General Babangida, declared Nigeria poor enough to be eligible for aid from affiliates.

Notwithstanding, crime rates increased in Nigeria. Poverty enraged the masses—its fingers dug deep and scarred the populace. The need to find a means of income stood above all needs. Thus, most Nigerians took every option they could. Migration was one of these options, fraud was another. The link between the two manifested as what we now regard as ‘Yahoo Yahoo’. This ungodly act of prevaricating innocent victims out of their money was mostly suffered by victims based abroad, and injured our already fragile status. But what more can you expect from the masses of a poor nation?

Inasmuch as things are relatively better now—not as pretty as expected, but decent to uplift some citizens—the footprints of fraud have prevailed. In many countries, Nigerians are synonymous with fraud, corruption, and dishonesty.

So, is Nigeria losing its global status? Absolutely. It is sad that we have to come to engage in discussions that question the global status of this country. But, I would prefer to say that our global status has transformed into one defined by the vices that have killed our reputation

Ètashè Linto. Port-Harcourt, Nigeria

‘What makes people in the diaspora excel mightily? Is it the working system of a foreign nation or the individual fear of returning to the dysfunctional Nigerian system?’

Thanks for constantly dishing out such thought-provoking articles.

Having an advantage is one thing. Making good use of it is another. I really enjoyed Zainab’s opinion on these important areas that affect Nigeria’s ability to leverage on very key resources that could transform us as a nation.

Zainab’s opinion on weak diplomacy is insightful. And I believe that this (weak diplomacy) is partly an indirect result of Nigeria’s complex socio-political system. This system is deeply influenced by cultural biases and nepotistic lifestyles, which became deep-seated when Nigerians realized the unfair treatment posed on them by once-trusted leaders. It’s a system that makes the once-trodden argue against leaving a position of power and giving way for a more efficient generation.

There’s truth in stereotypes, you know. But the questions to ask are how did these disturbing cultures that fuel the stereotypes begin? Have we really acknowledged them or do we just throw these stereotypes off as a joke? Upon acknowledging them, do we settle in with stereotypes as a part of who we are, or do we take action to do better?

So, when did these cultures of gangs and 419 and illegal immigration and Co start? What were the factors that turned them into a nuisance? Have we really acknowledged these cultures? How can we address them?

With respect to the success of Nigerians in diaspora, it does seem like we’re often blinded by the illusion of collective success, forgetting that those successes only make up about 10 per cent (or less) of our population. It tells a story of how stunted our internal growth is.

What makes people in the diaspora excel mightily? Is it the working system of a foreign nation or the individual fear of returning to the dysfunctional Nigerian system? It seems we’re somehow used to treating our problems—both of internal and external origins—as one-off events.

We’re uncomfortable with taking action—and this is influenced by our history of quelled revolutionary efforts, the uncertainty of support from our fellow countrymen, and the high power-distance index between political gamers and the citizens. We lack a core sense of community and this could be, in part, as a result of a major language barrier. Unlike the Italians and Indians—who, though might have a basketful of languages, utilize a more native language as their lingual Franca—English remains our collective language. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, until you look deeper and realize that raising a foreign language above more traditional languages, as the common tongue, could have a disturbing influence on unity. But the issue here isn’t the English language. The issue is the replacement of a native lingua franca with that of a totally foreign one.

Nigeria lost its global status a long time ago. We’ve had a wake-up call since the 1960s but when one is asleep in illusive glory, you don’t really expect them to listen to that call, do you?

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