News reports emerged last week that the American President Donald Trump had allegedly called Haiti, El-Salvador and African countries “shithole countries” in a meeting with Congressional leaders about immigration policy in the White House. He allegedly went ahead to say he preferred immigrants from Norway and Asia as they help America economically. Mr Trump has however denied referring to African nations as shithole countries but said that he used tough words to describe them.

This is not the first time that Donald Trump is attacking Nigeria. In 2016, during the race to win the Republican nomination, he had accused Nigerian leaders of looting Nigeria’s money and stashing them overseas. Similarly, in June 2017 during a cabinet meeting, he allegedly said that “once Nigerians step foot in America, they would not want to return back to their huts in Africa”.

To begin with, let us look at the literal dictionary definition of the word “shithole”. Simply put, a shithole is a place of physical dirt and shabbiness. With the exception of probably Abuja and Calabar, a drive on most Nigerian roads in the major cities would reveal heaps of refuse, stinking to high heavens, lying on the roadsides unattended to alongside nylons of sachet water and other used consumables. It is no secret that Nigerians do not have a culture of properly disposing dirt and anywhere that seems convenient for them is where they dump their refuse including gutters which most times leads to flooding during the rainy season. Have we forgotten so soon that just a few years ago, most Nigerians derisively referred to Aba, a commercial city in south east Nigeria, as the “Refuse Capital of Africa”.

Before we begin to break our heads over what Donald Trump thinks or says about us, we should endeavour to ask ourselves a pertinent question. How do Nigerians perceive Nigeria? It will shock you to know that most Nigerians in their heart of hearts and despite protestations to the contrary believe that Nigeria is a shithole. Majority of Nigerians who are ranting about Trump’s statement on social media are either living overseas, have their children living overseas, have dual citizenship, have investments overseas or are seriously praying to travel overseas one day with the hope of never returning to Nigeria again. Nigerians played the American Diversity Visa Lottery for several years until they exhausted the quota numbers allotted to the country and were subsequently placed on the list of countries ineligible to apply by the US Immigration authorities. Even while it lasted, some smart Alec quickly turned it into a profitable venture by setting up business centres to aid prospective applicants file their application papers. These are the same set of people who flock churches, mosques, prayer houses, shrines e.t.c and engage in all sorts of spiritual gymnastics in order to secure an American visa. We view anything foreign as superior to anything local therefore those who have been privileged to travel outside the shores of Nigeria are seen as superior homo sapiens which makes many of them possess a superiority complex and an entitlement mentality.

A source who is a member of the political class once told me that the reason politicians stash their looted funds overseas is not because they want to keep it far away from the anti-graft agencies but because they secretly fear that Nigeria will implode someday and when it eventually happens they can have something to fall back upon. I believe this to be true because most Asian leaders who have been accused of corruption at one time or the other have most of their stolen money and investments in their home countries. This means that most Nigerian leaders secretly believe that Nigeria is a shithole which also explains why their wives and children practically live overseas while they govern us here in Nigeria.

The tales recounted by several Libya returnees on their return to Nigeria has revealed that Nigerians will do any and everything to get out of the country even if it means riding on carmels across the desert and using financial resources which could have been used to set up a profitable business back home. What are they running from in Nigeria? And you say Nigeria is not a shithole?

Critics of President Trump’s statement have listed the names of several Nigerians who are successful in America including Adebayo Ogunlesi, a billionnaire businessman who was a member of President Trump’s Economic Advisory Council and Dr Bennet Omalu, a medical genius renowned for his discovery and treatment of hitherto unknown injuries which players in the NFL suffer from. What they easily forget is that these men were nobodies when they were in Nigeria and their success can be attributed to the fact they fact they were exposed to superior facilities, superior technology and a conducive environment to practice their craft in America. They have also cited a New York Times report which listed Nigerians as the most educated immigrant group in America. Yet, despite our great love for education in this country, we are still having puerile arguments over which is more important: the life of a cattle or the life of a human being. I know from personal experience that most Nigerians who live overseas are contributors to the negative image that Nigeria has internationally as they not only look down on their home country but also give a false an often exaggerated narrative of some of the challenges that bedevil our nation to their foreign friends which sometimes acts as a disincentive to foreigners either visiting or investing in our country. Very few Nigerians who live overseas have houses or investments back home, fewer still have a retirement plan to settle in Nigeria apart from the monthly stipends that they send to their loved ones back home. Why can’t they behave like the Indians and the Chinese who invest in their home countries while living overseas and usually have no hopes of living forever in a foreign land?

Most Americans are ignorant about Africa and still believe that people in Africa live in huts and on trees. Some ridiculously believe that South Africa is the capital of Africa. I expect Donald Trump as President of America to have known better that.

Our problem is political correctness which is largely ingrained in the African culture. We know that Nigeria is indeed a shithole but we have a problem with the messenger (Trump) and not the message. After all, prominent Nigerians have used far more derogatory words to describe the country and they were not crucified. Come to think of it, what kind of words does the ordinary Nigerian use to describe their country in their everyday conversations?

Like all issues in Nigeria, the reactions of Nigerians to the Trump statement has been politicized. PDP apologists have praised Trump while APC apologists have vilified him. I hope this will serve as a wake up call to our leaders to stop the theatrics and begin the urgent task of building and developing our nation.




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