By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Nigerians can do and say the most bizarre things just to live abroad. This includes telling willfully unabashed, off-the-wall lies that make you go “really?” For instance, on August 19 this year, an illegal immigrant Nigerian woman in Italy by the name of Kate Omoregbe made headlines in the Italian news media when she claimed that she would be stoned to death if she was deported to Nigeria.
She said when she lived in Nigeria, she resisted attempts to convert her to Islam and to railroad her into a forced marriage. The punishment for her resistance, she told an Italian court, is death by stoning or acid bath in Nigeria’s Sharia courts! Incredible, right? Well, wait for more.
She has made a sufficiently “convincing” case that the Italian Parliament—yes, the Italian Parliament!—has taken up her case. In all likelihood, the parliament would grant her amnesty if only to save her from the “impending torment” that awaits her should she be deported to Nigeria. Isn’t it so profitable to lie in the name of Sharia in Europe?
OK, here is Omoregbe’s full story. She not only went to Italy illegally, she also took large quantities of marijuana to sell in the country. Luck ran against her and she was nabbed by Italian law enforcement agents. She was subsequently tried and jailed for four years. Her four-year jail term will expire this month. Under Italian law, she is supposed to be deported to Nigeria this month.
But Omoregbe will rather die in Italy than live in Nigeria. “Please don't send me back to Nigeria,” she wrote in an Italian Catholic newspaper called Avvenire. “I only ask to be allowed to stay in Italy, to resume my studies and get my degree. I want to start a family, defend my freedom of choice and my Catholic faith.”
She wrote that were it not for her strong Catholic faith, she would have committed suicide. "Many times I hoped I would die,” she wrote. “Only my Catholic faith kept me going. Now all I ask is to be saved from a horrible fate.” The “horrible fate,” of course, is that she would stoned to death or bathed in acid in Nigeria because she refused to convert to Islam and accede to a forced marriage.
The story provoked mixed emotions in me. The first time I read it I laughed out so hysterically that I almost fell off my chair. I am not making this up, trust me. I thought Omoregbe’s lie was so conspicuously bizarre that no averagely intelligent person would believe it. First, no one has ever been stoned to death in Nigeria for anything, much less for refusing to convert to Islam. Nigeria’s constitution upholds every citizen’s right to practice the religion of their choice, including changing their religion.
Second, there is no punishment in Islam for refusal to convert to the religion, and acid bath has never been a form of punishment for any offense at any time in Islam’s history. Third, Omoregbe sounds like a Benin name and, the last time I checked, Edo State isn’t one of the 12 “Sharia states” in Nigeria. Plus, Nigeria is a famously multi-religious society, and the country’s current president is, in fact, a Christian. So there is not even the remotest chance that anyone can be stoned to death or bathed in acid for refusing to convert to any religion in Nigeria.
That was why I laughed. But I became sober when I read that Italy’s highest law-making body is taking up Omoregbe’s appeal. (There are, in fact, many Italian Internet support groups championing her lies!) Are you freaking kidding me? Why would anyone take seriously this noticeably infantile and rib-tickling lie by a criminal? I thought only an irredeemably stupid person would even think twice about dismissing Omoregbe’s plea as a load of comical, incompetent taradiddle. But Italian judges and parliamentarians aren’t a bunch of nescient idiots. So why would they not spot the evident mendacity and outlandishness in this criminal’s pleas?
Well, I have two theories. First, it appears that Italians are so ethnocentric and so insular that they are prepared to believe the very worst of any nation, especially if that nation is in Africa. Aren’t black Africans, after all, supposed to be naked, cave-dwelling, cannibalistic savages that were lucky to be touched by only faint sprinkles of European modernity? So why investigate any eccentric claims of inhuman cruelty in Africa?
Second, the growing Islamophobia in Europe has predisposed people to believe the worst of Islam and Muslims. When you combine racist condescension toward Africa with the irrational hatred and fear of Islam you get an emotionally combustible mixture that can blind even the most clear-sighted bigot to the most obvious lie.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. On this blog on September 8, 2007, I wrote about another Nigerian economic refugee identified as Felix Eugenne who told an equally brazen lie to immigration officers in Italy. He said he had impregnated a Muslim girl by the name of Fatimah in Niger State and that, in accordance with Sharia law, he was billed to be stoned to death when he mysteriously bolted from the prison! And some Italians believed him.
But that’s not even the most shocking lie. When did this incident allegedly happen? Wait for it—in 1994! Yes, it isn’t a typo. It’s 1994—when General Sani Abacha held sway as the military head of state and when Sharia had not been introduced in any part of Nigeria because there was no democracy!
One can only imagine how many more Nigerians are lying in the name of Sharia to get refugee status in European countries. Their cases appear to have been helped by the high-profile international media coverage that the Safiya Hussaini and Amina Lawal trials attracted. Anybody who says he or she has been condemned to death by stoning by a Nigerian Sharia court is now believed—or so it seems.
I think this is another sophisticated mutation of 419 scams. I wager that the next issue Nigerians seeking asylum in European countries will exploit is homosexuality. They will claim to be homosexuals who are being persecuted and threatened with death because of their “sexual orientation.” That will appeal to the sentiments of Westerners to no end. Homosexuality is now a “human rights” issue in the West, and the “plight” of African homosexuals is top on the agenda of the powerful Western gay lobby.