Monday, January 18, 2010

The Airport shuttle…I mean, shuffle

Have you taken a trip to the States (or any country) lately? Were you harassed at the airport? Well, Nigerians are usually harassed at airports...But was there anything “extra-ordinary” about the latest standard of harassment you received?

Mohammed Ahmed- Shaibu, the coordinator of Youth Leadership Network (YOLEN); an initiative that focuses on Moral Values, Leadership, Integrity and Community Development through education and youth participation had what anyone will call “an awful experience” when he flew in through Amsterdam to Detriot International Airport on the 3rd of January.

As usual, on arrival, everyone went through immigration for their entry to be documented. Mohammed was asked by the immigration officer why he was visiting the States, which he responded to. The officer requested to take his thumb prints and proceeded to enter his passport data for the record. However, when he saw Mohammed’s Nigerian passport, he called for backup.

Mohammed was taken aside for further interrogation. “I was led into one of their rooms and for the next 45 minutes, I was asked series of questions by Five US immigration officers. Unfortunately, they were not satisfied with my response and asked if I had any luggage. While searching my laptop bag, they almost read all the notes in my notepad and even asked questions relating to them.”

Afterward, they requested to search his luggage and he led them to the luggage cart. “You'll not believe that my clothes were scanned one after the other. They saw my LEAP Africa certificate, and asked what LEAP Africa was about. I also told them about my community initiative in Lagos, as well as serving as a camp leader during summer camp (showed documents to prove it).”

They asked if he heard about the Nigerian who attempted to blow up the Delta Airline airplane at that same airport, and Mohammed replied in affirmative. They asked how Nigerians back home felt about it--that was the opportunity to sell Nigeria’s good image. “Nigerians are loving and affectionate people. Even in hard times, we will never want to take someone else's life--it can never get to that extent.”

But is Mohammed on the run from the Nigeria he speaks so fondly about? He replied “If I wanted to stay abroad, I’d have done that many years ago. I know that Nigeria is more blessed than any of these countries. We only need to get it right and that'll be all. If you think you can get a better life in another country, think twice! It is not always rosy on the flip side of the coin. Even though everyone has a reason why they are out of the country, staying back and not returning to Nigeria when your stay expires is criminal! I see a new dawn for Nigeria and Nigerians because there is light at the end of every dark tunnel.”

culled from the Nation Newspaper, Sunday Edition- Jan 24th 2010.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Really? It was announced in the news that Nigerians abroad are being discriminated against? I am oblivious of this discrimination. Yes, I still wear my green-white-green lapel pin publicly. I hear people traveling from Nigeria into the States are going through a more intense security search. The US Transportation Security Administration has directed airlines to give full-body, pat-down searches to U.S.-bound travelers from Nigeria, and 12 other countries of course. No, I have not met the 23year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who allegedly tried to set off an explosive device aboard the Northwest Airline flight in Detroit. He is now in Federal custody, perhaps helping them connect the dots to bring down the infamous al-Qaida group behind all these suicide bombings. He said he received training from Yemen, but obviously he was unripe for the inhuman task. Or is his failure to have denoted the explosive device part of the extremist’s script?

Yes, a great harm has been done to the image of our great Nation. To reverse this, we need more than the “Nigeria, good people, great Nation” rebranding slogan. Here is how Mr. Kanu Junior of Solving Africa expresses his view in his Palm Oil Terrorism article. “There’s an Igbo proverb that says, “If one finger touches palm oil, it spreads to all the other fingers.” This is indicative of how Nigerians the world over felt when they heard the news of a young man who attempted to detonate a bomb on U.S. soil in the name of Al Qaeda. Many of us worried that the actions of this one finger would spread to cover the entire 150 million of us…

And then the next day, the news surfaced that the young man’s father had sent word months earlier to security forces saying he was worried that his son had become radicalized and might even be a threat. In an instant, I was again proud to be Nigerian. I was relieved that the shame that would have hung over my country’s reputation by adding terrorism to the list of already popular vices was abated. Yet somehow, the newsflash on CNN did not reflect this development as fervently as I’d hoped. Instead, there was a special on CNBC about whether or not Nigeria could be a new place to watch in the war on terror.

If all British citizens don’t have to carry the stigma of the shoe bomber, if all Oklahomans, don’t have to bear the shame of the Oklahoma bombings, then let the world be mindful of the invidious conclusions it so easily makes when someone from a poorer nation commits similar crimes. And if this is too much to ask, then let the oil of his father’s noble and highly sacrificial actions spread to cover those worried 150 million fingers.”

Monday, January 04, 2010

When Praises Go Up!

What would happen by now if Nigeria was not a religious country? What if this generation clung to trees and stones or any other form of idol worshiping like our forefathers indulged back in the days? There is no argument about it, whichever way, Nigerians are religious- thus the antidote that explains our resilience.

However, isn’t this one of the best things that has happened to Nigeria before this democracy-cum-government-burden came to be? Whenever there is any form of emergency in the country, there is always an urgent call for Nigerians both home and abroad to pray. A 23 years old Nigerian dude almost bombed an air-plane in Detroit last year and we were called to pray—(for all youths not to become Talibanized?). Our President has been missing in action and we are called to pray—(for his well being?).
What will happen if for a moment we all stop praying for a change? For a minute, imagine how powerful the forces of light and our faith, be it as small as a mustard seed, will be if we all stopped praying or cursing and start directing that energy towards praising God All-powerful.

Praise God for the “Panadol extra” our corrupt government leaders is making us ingest for the headache they have inflicted on every young Nigerian through their poor governance, for our troubled waters, and for the lost glory of our great Nation. Praise Him with harps and Instruments. With clapping and singing, in tears and in laughter. Praise Him on blogosphere, Facebook and other online communities where we vent our frustrations these days. Can you hear the walls of Jericho falling down already? The shackle that holds this Giant of Africa captive is falling apart.

If you look around and the faces staring back at you tell you otherwise, shut out the glare and lift up your praises to God. I do not mean the usual hypocritical scream that urges you to bring in your fat material offering to the supposedly gathering of saints. Humble and heartfelt shouts of Praise from young people God will receive, because it is not for the glory of any man.

We must get our praises up this New Year. When Praises go up, Blessings come down and deliverance for Nigeria cannot be held back. Yes, we are a Religious Nation. But beyond the religion, let the fear of God grip the heart of every government leader and fellow Nigerians. May our New Year resolution include Praising God for everything just as they are because His thoughts towards us are thoughts of good and not of evil, to bring us a future and a hope. Praise brings liberation and restoration. There is hope for Nigeria- do not give up yet. Happy New Year!