Tale of two Americas

Two friends growing up as neighbors in Nigeria both left for America, one went to school, did things the right way and struggled while his friend went into a life of crime and fraud. The one who was involved in fraud sent home cars and built a house for his father, while the other one was able to send home some money from time to time. When the good boy came home one day for Xmas, his father asked him whether he did not see all the things his mate had achieved and material possessions he had accrued and said to him, My pikin, no be the same America both of una go? abi you go South America?

This tale encapsulates some of the problems we are facing today in Nigeria from Politics for personal gain, kidnapping, sex trafficking, 419 etc. As long as it is more important to display wealth and no questions are asked about the source it is unlikely that any singular solution can solve these problems.I would like to share my thoughts on the scourge of kidnapping which is a relatively new phenomenon in Nigeria. Initially it started out as part of the so called struggle in the Niger Delta and then spread as a tool for political infighting, no deaths were recorded and the governors at that time always seemed to be able to locate the expatriates after ransoms were paid even though they never seemed to prosecute the perpetrators. Somewhere along the way, it became business and now it seems it cannot be stopped.What, however, strikes me is that this kidnapping as business seems to be concentrated in the Eastern States of Nigeria and Edo State.

The question that arises in my mind is that if it is viewed and accepted as business, then it is more likely to continue.Without trying to generalize, it is well known that the most industrious Nigerians are from these areas. Igbos have had a long history of independence and business acumen, same as the Binis who also share similar traits and a conquering spirit as demonstrated by the long reign of the Bini Kingdom which was the only Kingdom in the South that fought the British the longest. As we know, the Igbos had no kings and even during the slave trade era, the slaves most likely to commit suicide instead of remaining as slaves were the Igbos. We are all aware of the Civil War and how the East was rebuilt; we all heard tales of Abiriba or Little London and the cars that you see in the East especially during Xmas. Somewhere along the way, the country as a whole began to lose its values as illustrated by the Tale of Two America’s and so wealth obtained by any means necessary was acceptable and rewarded with chieftaincy titles. This also resulted in the decline of the powers of the Traditional institutions except for the oldest ones exemplified best by the Oba of Benin. Again, these two regions i.e Edo/Old Bendel and East were also the parts of Nigeria most responsible for the biggest Kingpins in the 419 era because again it was viewed as less of a crime and business as usual.

All of this is the bad part; the good part is that the East by far of any other region in the country exemplifies being my brother’s keeper, every single town,village or hamlet in the east has an association that raises funds for different projects to uplift their various communities and from a business standpoint provides apprenticeship for their kinsfolk. The Oba of Benin has come out in the forefront against the scourge of kidnapping and armed robbery and to his credit, there was a lull for some time. Also prior to his removal as IGP, Mike Okiro also spoke to his kinsfolk as well to stop these activities since it was also bringing a bad name to the Igbos and called out to the traditional rulers that were in support of such activities.

As ANPA formulates a strategy to support NMA to raise awareness on this issue, especially as it affects our fellow physicians, I would suggest that we also try to engage traditional leaders as well as the different town associations. If criminals are shamed within their community and hard working successful people are rewarded, it is more likely that children growing up will choose the legal way to do things. Growing up, the worst thing you could do is to disgrace your family name, I am hoping that we can somehow help to turn back the hands of time. Of note, I am from Delta State (Old Bendel) and married to an Igbo woman, so no insult is intended.

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