When in Rome…

I   F you ever find yourself anywhere on this planet, where there is no Nigerian, RUN! I had guffawed uncontrollably at the bold assertion my roommate made years ago but as we rocketed through time, I stopped hearing the resonance of my laughter. It was indeed a statement laden with unrivalled veracity, only I failed to recognise it as a freshman in the university. Nigerians are, like the ubiquitous and innumerable sand grains on the Lagos Bar Beach and several other beaches across the world, everywhere. I doubt that there is a continent in the universe where one won’t find a Nigerian- whether Asia, North and South America, even in the Antarctica!

There are Nigerians in Iceland…sons and daughters of the soil that have come a long long way from home in search of the proverbial greener pastures. While some, after a tenebrous odyssey, may find it, some others, most harrowingly, die trying to find it. I would painstakingly stay true to the path of today’s discourse. Though, I find myself tempted like Eve to digress onto an alternate path, questioning the exodus of Nigerians, it would not be today…some other day perhaps.

However, I would crave your indulgence to take a stroll with me down memory lane, as I retrieve, not so quaint events, but history, targeted at laying stones on the substratum I have so far created. It was my first class as a senior, the English tutor walked in and wrote briskly on the blackboard “idiomatic expressions.” Without turning around, he added a few more phrases and the first one on the list, I remember vividly, was “when in Rome…”

The tutor then turned around, with a smug expression on his face, aimed at intimidating the class of fresh seniors, growled, “Who can complete that idiom?” You could have heard a pin drop that day, the silence was deafening as we all searched the ceiling for elusive answers until a brave one, who had gained the epithet ‘efiko’ since our junior class days, belled the cat.

That day, the rest of the senior class didn’t only learn the completing part of that idiom, they learnt the meaning as well. Today, most idioms have become so cliché, but does that obliterate the weights of their meanings? I believe they are yet didactic and if we keep them at heart, we will save ourselves a myriad of problems, even death!

Indonesia has made it clear time and time after time that drug crimes attract death penalty. Whenever one is granted any Indonesian visa, it is boldly printed as one of the messages accompanying the visa conditions.

As a matter of fact, upon arrival in all Indonesian international airports, there is a boldly printed message welcoming foreigners into the country while simultaneously reiterating the penalty for any drug related crime: “Welcome to Indonesia. Here, drug crimes attract the death penalty”.

In 2010, the Nigerian government sent a high-powered delegation to plead with the Indonesian government in respect of Nigerians on the death row for drug crimes in the country but the Indonesian government insisted that there would not be any going back on the sentence. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who was at the time chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Diaspora, was part of that delegation that met a roadblock. Her words: “As the world keeps appealing to Indonesia not to kill them, we must also admonish our citizens to avoid crime and be good ambassadors wherever they find themselves.” That was half a dozen years ago. Alas, her plea fell amidst thorns and yielded no fruit!

Just a few days ago, an Indonesian man and three Nigerians were killed by firing squad shortly after midnight local time (17:00 GMT) at the Nusakambangan prison island.

Indonesia’s Deputy Attorney-General Noor Rachmad said it was “not a pleasant thing but it was to implement the law. The executions are only aimed at halting drug crimes.” So, I began to contemplate…why do Nigerians still get caught in the middle of such cross fires? It is an open secret that in Indonesia, one finds some of the world’s toughest drug laws and though the country has faced intense criticism internationally for resuming executions, there is no handling drug related crimes with kid gloves in Indonesia.

As a matter of fact,  article 59 of Indonesian Law No. 5 of the year 1997 on psychotropic drugs, states expressly that the use, production, possession or trafficking of psychotropic drugs “as an organized crime” is punishable by death. So it is appalling that after the execution of three Nigerians just a few days ago, four others are awaiting execution after receiving a temporary reprieve. In more paralyzing statistics, 21 Nigerians are among the 121 prisoners on death row in Indonesia and 30 of the prisoners will be executed before the end of 2017. This means that more of our country men will face the firing dreadful firing squad.

Picture this: death-sentenced inmates who are executed by firing squad have the choice of standing or sitting, and of whether to have their eyes covered by a blindfold or hood. Firing squads are made up of 12 people, three of whose rifles are loaded with live ammunition, while the other nine are loaded with blanks. The squad fires from a distance of between five and ten meters. If following the shooting the prisoner still shows signs of life, there is one final shot to the head. A prisoner only learns of his impending execution 72 hours in advance. What a horrible way to die!

Dear countrymen in the Diaspora, the idiom goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do definition,” this means, when visiting a foreign land, you must follow the customs of those who live in it. It also means that when you are in an unfamiliar situation, you should follow the lead of those who know the ropes. We cannot keep making a caricature of our nationality by sending our leaders to alien lands to try to bend the rules in futility. Some countries, unlike what obtains in our shores, do not just make laws for formality sake, they actually keep them!