By Comrade Peter Esele
The recent report of five Nigerians arrested for armed robbery in Dubai and the response by the Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora to the President has brought upon me the above title.
Indeed robbery and drug trafficking are despicable acts that deserve unequivocal condemnation. Time and time again we often wonder why people would persevere with perpetrating crimes abroad knowing the ultimate price of jail terms and even death in some cases. However making haste to offer banal official statements ridden with diplomatic clichés and moral sentiments do not offer much by way of solutions. We know this does not help because the problem persists. Condemnation tempered with critical thinking that raises key questions for a productive national conversation might be the way to go. Between the presidential statement and the ethnic debate that polarised Nigerians on social media, where are the deeper questions we should be asking?
How many countries disparage their citizens the way we do here? Let us flip the coin for a second. If five foreign nationals were caught in a robbery scandal in Nigeria, it is the laxity of our security agencies and Judiciary that will frame the debate. The errant foreign citizens will be condemned by their governments in a roundabout, convoluted language that still preserves the dignity of what it means to be an American or British citizen. The denials and all out condemnations are of course reserved for dual-nationals quickly rejected.
Mrs. Abike Dabiri- Erewa the President’s aide, should have known that her primary responsibility is to defend and support Nigeria and Nigerians in foreign countries come what may. Rebuke with diplomacy.
That is the art of her office. Therefore, initiate a Consular visit to these Nigerians to ensure their rights are protected. Investigate the broader context. Did the Dubai five enter the UAE with weapons from Nigeria? If no, how were the arms procured? How easy is it to buy weapons there? Were these Nigerians contracted by locals to carry out this raid? Could it be another attempt to humiliate Nigerians? On the other hand, could there be an emerging ring of Nigerian gangs resident in the UAE making it easy for those coming to travel light? This could open up deeper issues that might lead us to understanding what is actually going on beyond “all Nigerians should be good Ambassadors abroad”. Where do such clichés leave us? Does it tell us how fair and equitable the UAE justice system is? How many Nigerians have been murdered in the past in the UAE? Was justice served? We must never forget this: Nigerians are innocent, until the court of law says so.
Mrs Dabiri-Erewa herself has in the past admitted to the shoddy treatment and possible innocence of some Nigerians caught up in alleged heinous crimes abroad.
It is the responsibility of our Government to stand by any Nigerian anywhere as it is done in other climes.
Recently a British National was accused of spying abroad. His Government fought tooth and nail to get him home while also carrying out their own investigations and vigorous diplomatic engagements on his behalf. The point is, ride or die, when one too many nationals start falling through the loop, the value of what it means to be a British citizen will be diminished abroad both for the innocent and guilty. After all, if their government does not value them, why should any other?
I am not justifying crimes. I am simply making the point that the Nigerian Government should stand for its people abroad and conduct a critical analysis of the situation. They should act in accordance with laid down processes and rule of law. When you name, shame and humiliate the so-called guilty, you make it harder for others, even the innocent to be respected and treated with dignity abroad.
The sad part is that as with everything Nigeria the D5 saga has been buried under ethnic debates in the media, particularly social media platforms. There is a bigger picture here we should be looking at and that is how it affect us all. What can be done to mitigate such incidents and equally ensure no Nigerian is maltreated anywhere in World? How do we also stop those with criminal intents from this perennial crises of national image defamation regardless of their tribe and creed?
I am neither Igbo nor Yoruba. I am Nigerian and I care what happens to us all and this is why I have decided to cry rather than laugh at the fallout from this saga.
- Comrade Peter Esele is former President of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria.