Opinion: Nigerians abroad must get it right

by Itunu Ajayi

IT is no longer news that Nigerians in the Diaspora are being humiliated in their host countries. From South Africa to Australia to China and now Ghana, a country people used to call Nigerian’s twin brother. People both home and in the Diaspora had reacted that the treatment of Nigerians abroad is unfair. But have we stopped to talk to ourselves?

Is someone out there listening? Everyone knows that the $300,000 minimum business capital rule in Ghana is targeted at Nigerians there. Has anyone asked what the lots of other nationals abroad are? Are they being treated the same way Nigerians are being treated? Truth must be told, Nigerians had taken along the ‘anything goes syndrome’ with them to other countries of their sojourn and I bet those ones would not fold their arms and watch, because not everything goes over there as it is here in Nigeria.

Agreed, China runs a communist state, which makes them hard as we might want to put it, but should I bring it to our notice that China had hung people in place of high authority as a result of corrupt practises; so tell me, is it foreigners they would be afraid to deal with? China’s population is mind blowing but at the same time their system works, that is what I call discipline, which many Nigerians in Diaspora lack.

Rented apartments in China are called Gardens; there are maybe six blocks of 30 storeys building in a Garden, fenced round with security operatives manning the gate. Close circuit cameras are mounted at the gate with the monitor at the nearest police station to the Garden. Now China will not give more than a month visa for business or visit, this, the security and police are aware of. So if a foreigner enters the Garden on a day B, they have his or her details. The policemen at the stations monitors the movement of the foreigner, call the Garden and ask questions about him/her, it is the duty of the operatives at the gate of the Garden to tell the police that the foreigner is X staying with YZ in block C, and then the count down to the exit of the foreigner begins, if after 30 days, he is still seen on the monitor, a hunt is declared on him. China is not like the West that they deport by putting the fellow in the next available flight, no. The offender is kept in their prisons while his friends rally round to raise money for his return ticket and fine of $800 for overstay.

Most of the time, Chinese police are aware that a group of people’s visas had expired, but they may chose to ignore them because they know their business of sending goods down to Nigeria and Chinese knows Nigeria is a ready market, so they just allow those who had overstayed and had their visas expired to continue to stay because the Chinese knows their business of sending goods down to Nigeria, so they ignore them. But what do our brothers do? They may get drunk and start a street fight; the police would have no choice but to arrest them and off they go to the dungeon to be deported after paying the fine and raising money for tickets. A guy who had stayed in China for five years and already had stay permit in China was given a month to leave the country in 2008, his offence? He evaded tax. He thought he had played a fast one on the Chinese by relocating his shop to another area, so he did not pay tax for a year, and when the time comes to renew his visa, the secret was revealed.

The saying that when you are in Rome, you behave like Roman doesn’t apply to Nigerians abroad; they want to show they are there. The same Chinese we talk ill about now were giving goods to Nigerians on credit some years back, someone may buy a container load of computer accessories and the Chinese company will give an extra container for the owner to come back and pay after sales, but trust us, we won’t go back to the same company. I am not China’s advocate, but truth must be told. A lot of Nigerians in China are using Ghanaian passport there, yes, the reason is simple, Chinese government had in the last five to six years stopped renewing Nigerian visas, so our people opted for the easy way out, Ghanaian passport. A Chinese man is more comfortable with a Ghanaian than a Nigerian. Because of what; attitude.

Chinese schools would make it clear on the Internet when they place advertisement for teachers that they only want female teachers, why? Our people not only taught there, they went as far as impregnating the girls, so they left Chinese with no choice but to stop employing them to teach.

An average Chinese is afraid of the black, there are times I would enter a bus and the Chinese next to where I sat would get up and prefer to stand, that wasn’t a problem to me. Wherein some of them who are a bit exposed would even prefer to sit next to you and chat you up. Different strokes for different folks.

Talking about Chinese flooding our country with substandard goods, well I beg to say no one can blame them. These same Chinese produce for Europe and America. They would say American standard and all that. Why can’t we have a standard. The battle the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is fighting now on substandard goods cannot be won if the searchlight of the government is not beamed at the boarders and all point of entry. Our entrepreneurial brothers go to China to tell Chinese what to produce. The only requirement a Chinese man needs from you if you want anything produced is sample.

They don’t invent anything themselves, but they are good at copying. Most times they say jokingly that the West had finished the job of inventing anything, so they don’t have to bother themselves on inventing anything. If you give them a sample of human being, they would produce it. Trust me, am exaggerating now. So as I was saying, our people go there and tell them to reduce the quality of the goods, and that’s it. Ordinarily, if one buys anything in the open market in China, you are sure to use it until you are tired of the product.

Most Nigerians engaged in menial jobs abroad cannot do the same here, a lot are stranded out there, they can’t come back home, they don’t even have the ticket fare. Singaporeans changed their law of giving residence permit to anyone who marries their citizen when they discovered that after Nigerians might have gotten the permit, they start maltreating their spouse or leave her out rightly. I met a Nigerian there some years back, he runs an African restaurant, married a Singaporean lady and they had two kids together; our brother goes to the immigration every two months to renew his visa, and they wouldn’t give him a resident permit.

A Nigerian in Philippine prison tried jail break some years back and he was shot by the police. Only God knows if the family is aware that happened or they are still under the illusion their son is abroad. Marrying a Pilipino would not deter their government from throwing the man to prison if he misbehaves. They jail husbands who are foreigners for as little excuse as a perceived cheating on their Pilipino wives (I hope a victim of such I met there is reading this, if he is still alive, because he was close to 60 when he told me his story). A Nigerian from one of the western states who had three kids by a Pilipino, he was unheard of in their prison for close to seven years because the woman whom he met in France and married threw him into the prison.

Even our brothers from other African countries look at us in awe out there. A Ghanaian friend residing in Seoul told me on one of his visits to China that the way Nigerians spend money is as if they don’t work for it. The story was told of a Nigerian running an African restaurant in Seoul and he spent $15,000 (that was five years back) on an election to become the representative of Nigerians in South Korea. Outrageous! So each time my friend sees me or we chat online, he would just say hmmmm Nigerians!

We are talking of countries where accountability is key. Now if the authority in Seoul should just get pissed off with the frivolous attitude of our dear representative and they just look for one flimsy excuse to send him packing, what account will he give?

Nigerians abroad should watch their attitude. Every country is not like Europe and America where they preach human right, Geneva Convention and all what not. Not every country can tolerate the excesses of our people out there.

* This piece was originally published in Guardian.

** Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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