by Tolu Ogunlesi
So China gets into the news, and it’s for Amy Chua and Wendi Deng. Tiger Mom and Tiger Wife respectively. Chua is the Yale Law School professor whose January 2011 memoir, ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’, about “the rewards – and the costs – of raising her children the strict ‘Chinese’ way” earned her a Time Magazine cover story.
Wendi Deng needs no introduction. It used to be that behind every successful man, was a woman. Deng, Rupert Murdoch’s wife cum bodyguard, has upturned that nonsense. Beside the successful mogul, lurks an up-jumping, pie-catching, slap-issuing woman.
The Chinese should be proud. So now, not only does the United States owe them tonnes of money, the Amy Chuas and Wendi Dengs are there to remind the world that no one messes with China.
Nigeria, on the other hand, has had two women in the international news – admittedly not on the same level as the Chinese women, thankfully – in recent weeks. First up is Bimbo Ayelabola, who went (on a visitor’s visa) and had quintuplets in London, costing the Brits an estimated £200,000. (She reportedly overdosed on fertility drug Clomid, most likely acquired over-the-counter in Lagos, became pregnant, and then travelled to the UK, ostensibly to visit relatives). Understandably, the British are angry. In an age of cuts and squeezes, an immigrant comes in from Africa and gives birth to not one, not two, but five babies, without paying a cent.
Second Nigerian woman I shall be summoning is Pamela Izevbekhai, who was deported from Ireland last week, after fighting unsuccessfully for years to claim asylum. She claimed her two daughters would be forcefully circumcised in Nigeria, if they returned. Okay, let’s face it, circumcision, or female genital mutilation, is a serious problem in many parts of Nigeria. But how much of a problem is it when you’re comfortably middle-class (as the European Court of Human Rights discovered regarding the Izevbekhais)? This lady actually claimed that she’d lost her first daughter to female genital mutilation in Lagos, in 1994, only for the court to discover that all the documents she presented as evidence were fake/forged, and that her story would have been more at home in a bestselling novel. So, they have sent her home. But think of the irrevocable damage done to Nigeria’s reputation, with all her lying.
Okay, maybe it’s neither fair nor sensible for me to juxtapose Ayelabola and Izevbekhai with Chua and Deng. The Chinese must definitely have their own disgraceful versions, just as Nigeria has its high-achieving, no-nonsense women doing us proud abroad. But I am angry, and when I am angry I reserve the right to resort to a melodramatic juxtaposition of situations and events.
Now, the question: How much longer shall we continue to tolerate Nigerians Misbehaving Abroad (NMA)?
Now, you and I know that Nigerians like, no, love, to misbehave. Before you accuse me of generalising, I think I should say that human beings generally will tend to misbehave. It is in the human nature to test boundaries, and seek to discover the limits of acceptable or permissible behaviour. Laws exist, or are supposed to, to counter this tendency. You push yourself against them, they respond, firmly.
But we belong to a country where lawlessness is encouraged. It will get you ahead faster. It will not stand in the way of your progress. And after some time one gets used to it. We misbehave, therefore we are. We turn law-breaking into a national culture. We clone ghost workers with scientific aplomb; forge and alter birth and educational certificates as a rite of passage. It is who we are. The laws that should deter broke down long ago. We live in a jungle.
And we have grown accustomed to it. I’m tempted to say I have no problems with that, since it seems it’s the path we have willfully chosen as a nation. What I however do not appreciate, and will not tolerate, is this: trying to export these bad habits. So used to our lawlessness are we that we forget that things are different in many other countries. The laws there may not stop you from misbehaving, but if – more like when – you are caught, you will, as the Yoruba saying goes, eat your pounded yam raw.
It is an ordeal to fly internationally with Nigerians, with our penchant for airport/airplane cabin unruliness – deliberately exceeding luggage limits, speaking rudely to cabin crew, ordering economy class wine with the entitlement mentality of first class passengers. Then Olwaseun Noibi comes along and ups the ante, jetting around the United States on expired boarding passes, none of which belong to him.
Let’s not even mention 419 and Nigerian letters. We all know that what annoys the rest of the world the most is probably the fact that Nigeria as a country almost never takes any drastic steps to deter its citizens from criminality. Ask yourself this: compared to the number of culprits, how many people have ever been convicted and jailed for 419 in Nigeria?
To worsen matters, foreigners have realised that they can do in Nigeria stuff they won’t dream of doing in their home countries. In April, just outside the Murtala Mohammed Domestic Airport, I watched a white man step out of the front passenger seat of the car behind me (it was about 9pm, and there was a bad traffic jam), stride over to the median, and begin to piss.
My advice is this: let us continue to celebrate the criminals amongst us. Let’s shower them with chieftaincy titles, encourage them to pay their tithes, support their ascension to public office. We’re Nigerians, after all. But in the name of God, the Almighty God in whose honour we block roads and dress gaily and cause noise pollution, let us refrain from taking our bad habits abroad.
There should be a constitutional amendment automatically withdrawing Nigerian citizenship from anyone caught misbehaving abroad. The Ayelabolas and Izevbekhais and Noibis of Nigeria should henceforth be encouraged to restrict their scheming ways to their motherland. Henceforth, wrongdoing by Nigerians should be tolerated only within the borders of Nigeria.
National Assembly, over to you!
This article was first published on www.234next.com on 27 July, 2011