IF 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! America’s President-elect, Donald Trump confirmed this when he lamented thus: “We need to get the Africans out (of USA). Not the blacks, the Africans. Especially, the Nigerians. They’re everywhere. I went for a rally in Alaska and met just one African in the entire state. Where was he from? Nigeria!” His hostile remarks about Nigerians, however, are topic for another discourse.
There are Nigerians in Iceland…sons and daughters of the soil that have come a 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!
It was with a heavy heart that I read about the execution of another Nigerian in Singapore on Friday, 18 November. Chijioke Stephen Obioha was executed early Friday morning in Singapore for drug trafficking.
According to reports, Obioha was arrested on 9 April, 2007 with more than 2.6 kilograms of cannabis, which was more than the statutory amount of 500 grams presumed as drug trafficking in Singapore.
The Singaporean government rejected last last-minute appeal by Amnesty International to spare 38-year-old Obioha from the gallows in carrying out the execution.
However, here in Nigeria, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, described the execution as heartbreaking, while reiterating calls on Nigerians to desist from criminal activities like drug peddling. “While we regret the death sentence passed on the Nigerian, we once again appeal to Nigerians to avoid crimes like drug trafficking with most countries especially in Asia declaring zero tolerance for the crime,” Dabiri-Erewa said. It feels like the umpteenth time she would be saying those words, pleading with Nigerians to shun illegalities in foreign countries.
Several countries in Asia have made it clear time and time after time that drug crimes attract death penalty. For instance, in Indonesia, when 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 that 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!
Dear countrymen in the Diaspora, the idiom goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do,” 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. News of such executions, as long as Nigerians break the stipulated drug rules, will keep filtering into our shores. Some countries, unlike what obtains in our shores, do not just make laws for formality sake, they actually keep them!