At 39, Nigerians still face dishoneststereotypes such as
Buckley's, and other self-inflicted wounds
October 1, 1999: Today marks the 39 anniversary of Nigeria's political "independence" from Britain. Most Nigerians, rich and poor, professionals and the artisans, in different parts of the world will tell you that one of the major problems they face is their image, and how it is presented in the international media.
Without a doubt, there are cases where Nigerians are their own worst ambassadors in dishonor; in most cases, Nigerians work real hard, seek mainstream routes to their goals, show remarkable and creative channels for their talents. Nigerians have since 39 years of political independence, literally, continued to emerge like fresh colonies of mushrooms on a tropical sunrise across the four corners of the world as the very best in most endeavors they pursue.
On this event of the anniversary, I wish to recall in 1998, while Nigerians were dealing with an unfortunate, individual case, we all witnessed the misleading and crassly stereotypical news reports on Houston's broadcast media who claimed the Nigerian who is alleged to have killed his daughter did so (and wondered if it) was part of an African "cultural practice." Those reports, initially , suggested the first-born had to be sacrificed to some hideous "gods" for some material success, the nationally-syndicated columnist William F. Buckley joined the mudslinging troop, leaping, head first, into the gutter of shameless lies and outright concoctions against Nigerians, and Blacks.
Buckley's column appeared, among other newspapers, in The Houston Chronicle (Tuesday September 8, 1998) 'Blacks and Whites wearing different glasses.' In it, he made an unsubstantiated reference to "the bizarre reaction of a Nigerian audience to" an unnamed "French movie based on slave trade" which played in another unnamed "local theater" to create the portrait of Nigerians and Blacks as self-hating zombies.
Hence, the "local theater" which Buckley claimed showed "Nigerians" cheering and celebrating as "the white captain and crew" the pushed enslaved mutineers of Blacks (really other Nigerians) into shark-infested waters while they were bound for slavery, exists in his prejudiced imagination. His claim that such an "event" reflected "the reigning tradition in that part of the world" really marks a new, shameless low in Buckley's crisis of consciousness.
The other issue for Nigerians as they celebrate the 39th anniversary is stereotyping of Nigerians as 'Drug Dealers.' of course, again, it is wrong to throw a blanket and misleading stereotype against a community. Nigerians have never, as agroup or government, contrary to some media reports, set up "schools and acdemies" where they train scam artists and drug dealers. No! Of course, the pain and badge of dishonor these drug traffickers inflict on all Nigerians cannot be glossed over as if the community (here in Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, and other cities) share in their lifestyle and activities. Our folks do not. And, never did. These human conveyor belts for hard drugs and destructive substances, as a matter of fact, constitute a very minor part of our community. A few minutes ago, I was looking through my records and I saw the U.S Attorney General, Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced on Friday October 11, 1996 that a certain Jumoke 'Kafi' Majekodunmi and her heroine trafficking gang of women and some men had been bagged by law enforcement agencies. Although our newspaper cover and inside sections were ready, we altered the edition to run the stories.
In making that decision, I also know there exists some self-defeating arguments by some Nigerians that African newspaper houses should avoid reporting and analyzing such negative events.
They are wrong.
First, such a view, naively , rests on the fatal assumption that if we all pretended and avoided reporting and exposing our community's artful con artists and merchants of mayhem, the impact will simply blow away.
Second, it is the responsibility of USAfrica The Newspaper and USAfricaonline.com (and more recently the digital home for Nigerians which I established almost 5 months ago at NigeriaCentral.com) to celebrate the best among our people and report, factually what we know, criminal or commendable, news events that hold consequence for our community. The problem of Nigerians are not made easier when the folks with financial clout and professional profiles of consequence avoid their community and its events as if they are running away from some kind of plague.
Also, there are some business people and so-called professionals, for instance, tell our advertisement executives, "I generally do not advertise in African newspapers because Asians and Whites give me my business." Absolute nonsense! But whenever something goes wrong, or they wish to showcase their social interests and stuff, they'll look for the same African newspapers. Such social masquerades who "do not advertise in African newspapers" are the same spineless characters who deny they are Nigerians in some private quarters. When they run foul of the law, they say it's because they are "Black...Nigerian... immigrants" and other watery apologia.
They all forget, too soon, that media houses and policy organizations such as USAfrica perform community service that require, I repeat requires the primary advertising support of our professionals and businesses to better capture the pulse and promise of our people, defend our kids' future against their being stereotyped as potential drug traffickers. USAfrica team and writers, according to reviews from reasonable quarters and our community's activists in the U.S., coast to coast, have presented in every edition, an unmatched spread of news coverage, avoiding unweildy, useless detail while publishing all that's relevant, carrying on as The Newspaper with professional decorum and responsibility as opposed to gutter and sensational "tabloids" that occasionally emerge in the African and other American communities.
It's not too much to suggest that whenever Nigerians become serious with themselves, tackle the agents of dishonor among us, demand zero tolerance for dishonorable conduct, then the world will take them more seriously. Nigerians, if truth must be told, are not the only individuals involved in drug trafficking.
This is not an excuse but merely a statement of fact.
Fourth, the problems Nigeria and Nigerians face are not only found on the corridors of the drug dealers.
Fifth, the world must know that an overwhelming majority of Nigerians, as Americans, abhor drug trafficking. A word, they say, is enough for the wise. But are Nigerians wise? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind....
-Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of the Houston-based USAfricaonline.com, USAfrica The Newspaper, The Black Business Journal, BBJonline.com, and NigeriaCentral.com, is the recipient of the Journalism Excellence Award, HABJ 1997. He is writing a book on the experiences of recent African immigrants in the U.S.