Nigeria should put its house in order, writes Sonnie Ekwowusi

If Nigeria were a livable country where ordinary people especially the burgeoning unemployed young could eke out a living the number of Nigerians fleeing the country daily to be exposed to xenophobic attacks and other humiliations would have reduced. Mind you, South Africa is not the only African country where Nigerians are openly assaulted or exploited. Go to Benin Republic.

In Benin Republic there are thousands of under-age Nigerian girls forced into sexual slavery. A few years ago, one of the little girls who was forced into sex slavery in Benin Republic managed to telephone her mother in Nigeria that she had been detained in a sex camp in Benin Republic and sexually abused by all manner of men. Instead of initiating immediate action to rescue her little daughter, this mother said in thick Pidgin English: “make you dey manage am now, you no say work no dey for Nigeria”. You can see what we are talking about: a mother urging her own daughter to persevere in prostitution.

Apart from Benin Republic, young Nigerian prostitutes have successfully invaded Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Gambia, Senegal, Mauritius, Madagascar, Zambia, Zimbabwe and other countries. I visited Cote d’Ivoire at the time Mrs Ifeoma Chinwuba-Akabuogu was the Nigeria’s Ambassador to the country. And I heard her lament that there were so many young Nigerian girls trapped in the child prostitution dragnet in Cote d’Ivoire. She narrated how she had been literarily apprehending these young prostitutes on the streets and bundling them into a waiting aircraft for repatriation to Nigeria.

Not to mention Italy which has become the capital of Nigerian prostitutes (according to the United States Department of State report, of about 2,500 minors who practice international prostitution in the streets of Italy, 2,300 are minors from Albanian and Nigeria). Spain, Germany, Belgium, Austria, United Kingdom and other countries have been invaded by young Nigerian prostitutes. Apart from child prostitution, there are well documented evidence that some Nigerians in the diaspora are linked with internet fraud, drug-related offences, immigration and human trafficking. The FBI internet fraud burst implicating many Nigerians is still unravelling. Obviously this is a slur on the image of Nigeria. It also brings hatred to Nigerians living abroad. So let us not start crying foul when any of the aforesaid countries start waging xenophobic war against Nigerians in their country.

Agreed, xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa stand condemned. But we must not stop at condemnation. We must put our house in order. We must build a better Nigeria in order to make Nigeria a livable country. If Nigeria were a livable country many Nigerians would not have been risking their lives sojourning in unfriendly countries. Charity begins at home. The first thing is to fix Nigeria. If Nigeria were a country where the basic necessities of life- housing, food, shelter – were guaranteed only a small percentage of Nigerians would be fleeing the country to seek abode elsewhere.

Unfortunately, as we speak, uncountable Nigerians are doing everything possible to flee to Canada or other countries. Why? Because they are tired of living under a government of the worst citizens by the worst citizens and for the worst citizens. They are tired of living in a country that takes pride in rewarding criminals for their criminal enterprise.

We have seen how the last four years had been eaten by locust. It is not unlikely that the same fate will befall the next three years. After a protracted foot-dragging Mr. President has managed to assign portfolios to his ministers even though the quality of his ministers is not inspiring. The worst tragedy is that governance has been in abeyance. Nobody is talking to the governed. Nobody is explaining the meaning of the “Next Level”.

In my article published on this page penultimate Wednesday with the title, The Silver Lining in every Cloud, I solicited for hope, love, steadfastness and optimism amid our pain and frustration. Can you guess what I have been receiving in exchange since? Chastisement. My friends have been upbraiding me for expecting a flicker of light in the present darkness. As far as they are concerned, Nigeria is a bleak house with a bleak future: Nigeria is irredeemable.

The deduction from this attitude is that many Nigerians have lost hope and confidence in the Nigerian project. And the only way to rekindle their hope and confidence is to make Nigeria a livable country by essentially improving the Nigerian economy. The federal government has been working very hard in ensuring that stranded Nigerians in South Africa are rescued.

The government is also considering imposing some sanctions against South Africa. No sooner had the news of the xenophobic attacks broke than the federal government issued a statement condemning the attacks. Even Adams Oshiomhole, who cares no hoot about the killings of Nigerians in Nigeria, is calling for boycott of MTN (I hope he has stopped using his MTN line). And as expected, the angry hoodlums and thieves in our midst (including women and children) took advantage of the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South and went about Shoprite outlets and other South Africans investments in Nigeria.

If the federal government has deployed a similar energy in improving the Nigerian economy Nigeria would have been a better place by now. Even the looting hoodlums and thieves forget that there their real enemies are not the South African miscreants assaulting Nigerians in South Africa: they forget that their real enemies are our public office holders whose incompetence has contributed to the failure of political leadership in Nigeria. I think that instead of relishing in condemning xenophobic attacks or looting South African investments in Nigeria we should, as I earlier said, try to fix Nigeria.