Nigeria and the Community Goat Mentality
By Sylvester Asoya
With each passing day, Nigerians are reminded of their realities and follies. At the moment, and with all the challenges, the average Nigerian at home or abroad, wears the despairing image of the proverbial community goat, owned by everyone but actually the property of none. This goat, uncared for by its numerous owners, daily faces immeasurable challenges to survive because of lack of attention.
Anyone could easily predict the fate of this miserable goat if nothing changes.
Those in denial, who insist that all is well with Nigeria know that we do not have solutions yet to many of our problems which include but not limited to regular violent clashes between communities, banditry, ostracism, kidnapping, religious particularity and extremism, unemployment, avoidable accidents and deaths, impunity, favoritism and inefficiency, among others. Critics of the current administration even claim that there is absence of governance in Nigeria and that some countries are already beginning to take advantage of that. More than three months after our country’s general elections, ministerial and other critical appointments still remain a talking point.
But despite the pretense in official quarters, Ghana, our neighbor and others in our region think we are unserious and overrated. That is why Ghanaians can boldly take on our law-abiding citizens in their country and damn the consequences.
This recent attack on Nigerians in Ghana is pointless, and shameful too. In 1999, during Nigeria’s general elections, I met a Ghanaian who was not only a voter but an agent of a political party, the defunct Alliance for Democracy, AD in Lagos.
Aside from the appalling conduct of some characters fighting and killing in God’s name, Nigerians generally are friendly and peaceful, and our hospitality is second to none. I agree, Nigerians are sometimes unnecessarily aggressive and domineering but that should ordinarily not inspire fear and persecution. The Lebanese, Chinese, Indians and other nationals who have cornered our commerce and retail businesses are moving around, doing their business, unimpeded.
That is the Nigerian spirit and Ghanaians can learn valuable lessons from our liberal disposition. I can therefore say with pride, that Nigerians are too liberal and classy to notice, much less of harass Ghanaians and other Africans hustling in our major cities and towns.
The tragic part however, is that Nigerians are now scapegoats and victims everywhere: in South Africa, Europe, the United States, Asia and more recently, Ghana. Nigerians are murdered everywhere and at home too, where insecurity has assumed a very frightening dimension. The amusing part is that any time a Nigerian is killed outside the country, those in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and allied agencies make a political capital out of such serious issue. They would invite journalists, especially those from electronic media and issue threats in front of cameras. Sometimes, they disagree and quarrel openly in their desperation for relevance. But after one week or two, the matter dies a natural death and the chapter closes.
The oddity today is that some of our teenagers would rather attend illegal universities in Ghana because they already know the rot in our education sector.
Apart from Ghana’s thriving tourism industry which attracts heavy traffic from Nigeria, many Nigerians live and do business in Ghana. Among university teachers and other categories of scholars in Nigeria, Ghana is also a preferred destination for sabbatical leave and research. But Ghanaians are beginning to kick, and they are kicking very hard. Last week, a certain university in Ghana sacked a Nigerian professor on sabbatical leave for expressing a view. Nigerians and their businesses also suffered a major xenophobic attack in the former Gold Coast last week. Nobody knows exactly how many Nigerians died but many businesses were hurt.
There is a belief in some countries that the Nigerian life does not matter. In Libya and other parts of North Africa for instance, young Nigerians fleeing poverty and strife are auctioned like commodities publicly and at ridiculous sums on a daily basis. Sadly, we are confronted every day with horrifying images and tales on international media of how Arabs buy and sell Nigerians.
A few people have accused some of our leaders of reinforcing this false notion of insignificance with their reckless utterances and actions. They believe such perception keeps Nigerians abroad at a disadvantage and naturally places lives and businesses at risk. This is so because citizens of host countries know that there are no consequences for any unlawful act against Nigerians. Nonetheless, this latest assault by Ghanaians is serious, an affront and as citizens, we must learn all the necessary lessons. If our leaders are too timid to defend us outside our shores, then the onus is on the people to remind those ruffians and their sponsors, particularly in South Africa and Ghana, that they owe us.
However, as Nigerians, we must give Ghana credit for producing better educated and more effective leaders for many years now. This development, certainly accounts for that country’s comparative progress and stability.
I still remember how a certain Nigerian leader, during a visit to Switzerland many years ago, called on Western powers to deport all undocumented Nigerians in their countries. He had argued that no Nigerian had any reason to seek greener pastures abroad, given the country’s phenomenal progress.
During the same period which actually witnessed serious abuse and harassment of African economic migrants in Europe, Jerry Rawlings, Ghana’s former amiable president pleaded with European countries to treat citizens of Ghana with utmost civility, no matter their status. For emphasis, he warned that Ghana would resist any form of highhandedness and dehumanization of her citizens anywhere in the world.
It is unfortunate that Ghanaians are exhibiting this disgusting level of superiority complex nowadays because of their country’s focused leadership and good fortune. But Nigeria, despite her failings, deserves respect. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the great Zik of Africa and one of Nigeria’s founding fathers was a mentor to Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s most outstanding leader who led the West African country to independence as her first prime minister in 1957.
In 1935, Nkrumah had visited Azikiwe, the vibrant editor-in-chief of African Morning Post, one of Ghana’s best and pioneer newspapers for advice on how to further his education in the United States where Zik had already obtained a PhD. At that time, a doctorate degree was a rare feat. Azikiwe recommended Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania to Nkrumah, a trained teacher from Achimota College. The former Nigerian president later followed up with a letter of recommendation to Professor Walter Livingston Wright, Dean of the college at Lincoln who eventually admitted the former Ghanaian prime minister.
Leadership is critical in every country because politics is superior to economics. Those violent and boastful Ghanaians are swaggering because of great leaders like Edward Akufo-Addo, Jerry Rawlings, John Kufuor, John Atta Mills, John Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo; charismatic leaders who restored Ghana’s dignity. Draw up a similar list of Nigerian leaders from 1970 and see why we are still stumbling and floundering. Anyone who attempts an evaluation or analysis of our leaders and their Ghanaian counterparts will definitely be ill at ease. Now you know why after 20 years and billions of dollars, simple challenges like power generation and distribution remain a mirage. The same problems and failure characterize other public utilities across the country which are now like wastelands.
There is nothing mystical or esoteric about running the affairs of men. Nations fail because important decisions and ideas are left unattended to by those with responsibilities. A country like Nigeria, where leaders are elected on the basis of emotion and other narrow considerations will continue to give excuses for failure.
Until we look for the right persons and put them to work for the good of everyone, Nigeria will continue to struggle. But if Nigerians cannot enjoy good life like their Ghanaian counterparts and citizens of other forward-looking countries in Africa, their right to life and dignity here and abroad, should at least, be guaranteed. That, I think, should be the starting point.