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The Worth Of A Nigerian

Owei Lakemfa

The world knows the worth of an American citizen. The United States (US) insists that its citizens be ruled by American, not international laws. The US can use African Americans and Latinos for target practice. But outside its shores, the American state can stake all it has to defend an American citizen of whatever colour.

If its citizen were to commit serious crimes outside the country, the first American reaction is likely to be that such citizen be allowed to return home to face justice. If this fails, then it provides or ensures legal services. But in many instances, such Americans especially if they are in its services, go free.

This has been the case during the Vietnam, Cambodian and Afghan wars. One of the few exceptions involved four Blackwater mercenaries who, angry that they were held up in traffic at the Nisour Square, Baghdad, Iraq, opened fire on passers-by killing seventeen including nine-year old Ali Kinani and injuring twenty.

America refused to allow the mercenaries face justice in Iraq. It was after seven years of foot dragging and eventual court process they were tried and sent to prison in America The argument here is not to justify impunity, it is simply to illustrate how much value US puts on its citizens. This is why if an American were arrested abroad, his first insistence is to talk to his embassy. In contrast, if a Nigerian were arrested, his first reaction is to beg or make a plea.

He knows even if he has access to the embassy, the officials may never show up. We can contrast the reaction of Nigeria and Australia to the recent execution of their citizens in Indonesia for drug offences. Australia made very strong   protests, even threatening future ties with Indonesia.

In contrast, Nigeria said it had in the past made a plea for clemency. Officials blamed the Nigerians for drug trafficking in a country which has capital punishment for such offence. While Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot was actively trying to stop the executions, Nigerians were asked to pray. The implication is that in future, Indonesia will think twice before executing an Australian, but it will not bat an eyelid before executing Nigerians.

We can also analyze the on-going battle between two countries that place a high value on their citizens. Canadian, Omar Khadr 28, was accused of throwing a grenade in Afghanistan in 2002 which killed an American Army Sergeant. He was 15 at the time and the Americans held him in Guantanamo Bay until 2012 when under the International Transfer of offenders Act, he was moved to a Canadian prison where he is expected to spend eight years. But a Canadian judge has ruled that Khadr be granted bail while he appeals his conviction.

The Americans are shouting blue murder, but Khadr is likely to walk out of prison. What is more, the Canadian courts are likely to upturn his conviction given the fact that he was a minor, had been held for ten years before sentencing, was detained and tried not in the country he allegedly committed the offence and was likely to have been tortured or pressured to confess. You can contrast this US-Canada struggle with how Nigeria willingly yields its citizens to foreign countries. There was even a case in which we allowed the kidnap and transfer of a Nigerian out of our country. Today, there is the issue of Senator-elect, Buruji Kashamu who has told Nigerians he fears powerful Nigerians are working to get him bundled to US for alleged drug offences. If the reverse were the case, America will not be keen to have its citizen or Senator deported to Nigeria over such allegations. We can also learn from Zambia which decided to call Multichoice/DSTV to order over arbitrary fee increases and exploitation of Zambians.

Here, where the DSTV is doing same, government does not appear to be interested in protecting the consumer. That is why the company has the impunity to disregard court rulings. Our foreign policy has not always laid primacy on the protection of Nigerians; we tend more to be moralistic. Malvinas or Falkland Islands is Argentine land populated by Britons. But when the former tried to reclaim the place, the United Kingdom went to war   Today, Britons continue to live on the islands which are 8,000 miles from Britain. Colonial France and Britain carved up Nigeria and Cameroun and put Bakassi, populated by Nigerians in Cameroun. Rather than defend the right of Nigerians, we opted to go to court, relying on the same colonial documents. We lost and evacuated the Nigerians; off- loading them in Cross Rivers State.

If our focus were the protection of Nigerians, no international community would have insisted we move such huge population out of Bakassi even if the territory were Cameroonian. Our resolve seemed weakened by claims that the Gowon regime had ceded the area to Cameroun. Good boy diplomacy will not protect Nigerians. Our founding Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, was humoured by the British as the ‘Golden Voice Of Africa’ Having listened to some of his speeches, I discovered that it is not literarily, his voice that was golden, but the pro-British message he was carrying around the world. It was only during the Murtala-Obasanjo regime (1975-79) that we had a sound foreign policy.

In contrast, the Shagari administration went to the ridiculous extent of attempting to break up the African Union and endanger African unity at the instigation of the West. The Obasanjo administration (1999-2007) played a similar role by handing over Charles Taylor, who was in exile in Nigeria, based on African agreement, to the West. The incoming Buhari administration needs to put the Nigerian and African at the centre of its foreign policy. Buhari’s promise to return American military trainers who had been kicked out of our barracks by the Jonathan administration is not a good move. If our foreign policy is like the chaff blown around by the wind, no country will take us serious, and we cannot defend the Nigerian. My submission is that if you sell your citizen for a cent, his value internationally will be a cent.

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