Adeleke Otunuga’s article of September 1, 2004 is a welcomed and opposing response to my article of August 19 2004. I am glad that Otunuga accepts that the stories revealed in my article are “sad as they are reminders of the tales of calamities that abound back home”. He however got the wrong end of the stick by his assumption that my conclusions “were as sporadic as they were hasty”.
I do not live in the United States, and even though I have visited the country countless times, I will refrain from commenting about every day life in America. In view of this, I will advise Otunuga not to examine crime and race relations in the United Kingdom from a newspaper reader or television news watcher perspective. However, I wish to respond to some of the points raised by Otunuga in his article as follows.
It is true that crime abounds in the advanced nations, and each country has its own peculiarities. The fact in the advanced nations is that there is no communal living. You may not say a single word to your neighbour for the next five years, and as such no one has a sense of responsibility for the other. It is in this kind of lax society that paedophiles abound and operate, and therefore you are unable to allow your children out of your sight for one second. On the other hand, in Nigeria especially in a small town environment where everyone knows each other, it is relatively easier to allow your children to run around freely without “too much” close watch. I say too much because we all know that children are preyed upon and kidnapped in Nigeria for various diabolical means. As such, Nigeria is not “kidnapped” free as Otunuga will want us to believe.
Damilola Taylor’s tragic death and the collapse of the prosecution reflect the intricacies of the British society and legal system. However, the truth remains that justice was sought, and the Taylors had the opportunity to pursue it regardless of the end result. Thus, in the UK, you can expect a greater probability of investigation, prosecution, conviction and justice when a crime is committed in contrast to Nigeria where money buys every thing.
Racism, and the negative image already created by a few bad eggs, is what gets you pulled over by a white cop in a white neighbourhood. In Nigeria where they share the same colour with the inhabitants who are supposed to be their countrymen, Yorubas and Igbos have to look over their shoulder whilst daily living in the Northern part. It is sheer stupidity therefore to think that you will be accepted on equal footing in a foreign land, where your colour, and years of prejudice already sets you apart and condemns you as an “inferior” human being.
Ten years ago, most Nigerians in the UK would run and scamper away when they are not in the wrong, just because they have no papers. In view of this, the “Jamos” took advantage and saw every Nigerian as a soft touch. With settlement papers came more liberty, and ability to fight for and claim one’s right. Thus, today’s Nigerian-Jamo relation in the UK is different from that of ten years ago which the writer painted in his article. I can assure him that I have run retail shops in “Jamo” occupied areas, and mutual respect took over when it was realised that this Nigerian is not to be pushed over or around. Mr Otunuga’s friend that abandoned his car at the scene of an accident in the UK “and dared not pursue the matter” must have told him a half truth as to what happened. The UK system may be institutionally racist to a large extent, but if the friend was not in the wrong, and had nothing to hide, justice would have taken its course.
As far as I am aware, the Neighbourhood Watch in the UK is not subscription based, and it is a local community based effort to keep an eye out for events within the local community such that if crime is ever committed, there will be enough information from local residents to help the law enforcement agencies in their enquiries and prosecution. In contrast, MASSOB and OPC are ethnically based organisations that have metamorphosed into unofficial security outfits. The question to the writer then is where is the like to like comparison of MASSOB and OPC with the Neighbourhood Watch?
Therefore, when we talk of absolute security, I agree it “is a mirage even in the so-called advanced nations” my “UK inclusive”. However, I am talking of relative security, a comparison of security in Nigeria with what obtains in Diaspora. And the point is that while every day, the advanced world is thinking of and devising new crime combating strategies, Nigerian leaders are busy worrying about their individual pockets and egos. This is why our senators will go on “strike”, an indication that they do not see themselves as occupying their positions by the mandate of the people. In such a circumstance, how far off the track is El Rufai?
In conclusion, and for the benefit of other readers, I wish to disabuse Otunuga’s mind from the notion that I aimed in my article to charge Nigerians in Diaspora to stay away from home. The article apart from being a satire had two main aims. Firstly, to make Nigerians who have slaved in foreign lands to become what they are, to think twice before losing all their life’s work by ignoring the reality of living and investing in Nigeria.
Secondly and more importantly, to highlight to our leaders that a lot of Nigerians are willing to come home and help to develop the country, only (and if only) government can and will provide an enabling, secured environment. It was this environment that the Malaysian and Japanese governments provided, and this is why both countries are a success story today.
Until an enabling secured environment is evident in Nigeria, I am afraid that the choice of a greater majority of Nigerians in the UK will remain “I love my country, I no go lie, but outside am, I will live and …”