While the shakiness of the African brotherhood at government level comes as no surprise, the online eye rolling and the sense of; “Oh, those Nigerians again.” is worth a closer look.
You know a fun game to play online? Try: What perceptions does the world have of people like me? Say, you’re a black woman with too much time on her hands…Google “Black women are known to be *” and among the top unique results are:
Black women are known to be…
• …naturally curvaceous. (Yessss. Go us!)
• … generally heavier than white women. (We’re darker too.)
• … bullies and bossy around their white mates. (Define “fact”.)
Now try similar searches with the word “Nigerians”. Brace yourself first, if you come from there. What I found surprising was that virtually all of the most critical (…the most down right derogatory…in fact, the most toe-curling racist remarks – read the comments section here for some pretty salty anti-Nigerian smackdowns) came from websites run by fellow Africans, from all over the continent.
So, when on March 1, South Africa deported over 120 Nigerians for “failure to provide genuine yellow fever vaccination documentation”, this was an affront the West African giant could not leave unpunished. Nigeria swiftly reciprocated with its own bout of get-out-of-townism, deporting dozens of South Africans for the identical offence of fake medical documentation. At the time of publishing, the playground pettiness is on course to spiral into a full-blown farce.
While the shakiness of the African brotherhood at government level comes as no surprise (I’m sure someone did something thoroughly unforgivable to someone else some time, long ago), the online eye rolling and the sense of; “Oh, those Nigerians again.” is worth a closer look. Within the confines of this tiny space, I thought I’d draw up three points of view for what I think is going on.
Point of View #1: Nigeria’s reputation as ‘Africa’s corruption capital’ is unshakeable. What’s there to love in that?
At the end of 2011, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranked Nigeria 143th of 183 countries. Not the worst of the African nations by any stretch. But hardly a reputation-enhancing position either. Do we make too much of the sleaze? Virtually every government and economy has dishonest people who try to shortcut the system. Why does Nigeria get such a hard time?
Point of View #2: Citizens of other African countries are simply jealous of Nigeria’s power and profile on the global stage.
The first post in this thread, for example, from a couple of years ago, on Ghanaweb, is thoroughly delicious in its apoplexy of paranoid jingoism:
“We (Ghanaians) watch their (Nigerians’) movies and they don’t watch ours, we listen to their musicians and yet they only know VIP… We have a lot over them no doubt, we are not corrupt, we are decent and we are richer in general. But we must keep track of all … so as to counter them.”
Does this poster, and others like him, speak for Africa?
Point of View #3: What Nigerophobia? We love Nigeria!
This one I added for balance. I looked (honest, I did) but could not find the pro-Nigeria love-in from other countries’ citizens that would have evened out the perspectives presented here. Instead, I offer you, Lady E and a charming account of her love affair with the country. Fashion, food and fatties buxom women make her very readable list. Check it out.
Which of these scenarios rings true for you?
I’d like to end by saying that I’ve chosen to make this place my home, at least for a while. That means I obviously have a great affinity for Nigeria and for the people here. The last week on social media has taught me a couple of things:
1. Tempers run very high, very fast where matters of the Motherland are concerned.
2. Long-term resident or not, your metaphorical “Naija-pass” will quickly be revoked if you are even perceived to be criticizing Nigeria.
3. Forums and social networks are brilliant for generating feisty, real-time debate. And congregating idiots.
Over to you…