Last week’s article with the above title provoked a rash of raw passions among a broad swath of Nigerians. Unfortunately, for reasons of space, I am only able to share just a few of the torrents of reactions I received. Enjoy!
Since I arrived in India in January this year I have not faced any overt form of racism or discrimination. I don't know what is done or said behind my back, but my classmates, teachers and fellow students on campus have been very cordial. In fact they are overly sympathetic as if the image of their country hangs on how well they treat me in particular, and as if they are compensating with extra kindness for what they think I should be missing as a foreigner. "Are you bored?", "do you like our food?", "how do you find this place?", etc., they would ask so frequently that I felt I must have looked so weak or miserable and was being turned into an object of pity, and decided I needed to liberate myself from their "crippling" kindness by projecting an image of a happy, tough and comfortable foreigner. Most of them don't even think highly enough of their country to even contemplate looking down on others.
Some professors here wondered aloud why I did not go Europe or America for my PhD. This is clearly the attitude of an educated person who lives on a university campus and who is conscious of the place of his country as a sea of Third World with sprinklings of First World features here and there—seen in some of Indian hospitals, factories, laboratories, agricultural practices, space stations, etc. Partly because of xenophobia, ignorance and the rigid caste system in Hinduism, attitudes outside the confines of a university, in the larger society, may differ as we have seen in recent happenings in Goa. It would not be in India's interest for its citizens to treat foreigners badly because India stands to lose much more if other countries retaliate.
Living abroad is a familiar turf to Indians. Many students have asked me if they would get jobs in my country. Their country has more manpower than it needs or is capable of accommodating now. A professor here told us there would be serious crisis of unemployment if all the millions of Indians living abroad were to return home. There is a category of Indians officially identified as NRI (Non-Resident Indians)—Indians who live abroad and maintain some link with their country of origin. They are clearly better off than the average Indian, and when they come home as students they are made to pay more in school fees, perhaps because they don't pay taxes to the Indian government.
Murderers, drug peddlers and other criminals should be treated as individuals not as members of a nationality. Criminals everywhere should be defined by what they do, not who they are or what they are. This view may be simplistic when diplomacy intervenes in a tribalistic way to defend the interests of compatriots living abroad. It is instructive that the Nigerians who had rightly protested the brutal murder of their compatriot suddenly disappeared on the streets of Goa when the police turned their searchlights on illegal immigrants. And the fact that there is no police record of the involvement in drug-related offences of the murdered Nigerian is not a sufficient proof that the victim was not a member of a drug gang. Drug dealers are notorious for settling their conflicts themselves in their own ways without involving the police. Imagine a drug dealer reporting to the police that a fellow drug dealer has double-crossed him!
There are important lessons in these incidents: we Nigerians should keep our house in order, we should respect each other and generally treat each other well at home, create opportunities for our youths at home, and generally govern our country well. For example, none of the Indian universities is in the category of the top 200 in the world rankings (a few are found in the top 400), but a Nigerian must be deeply impressed with how universities are managed here especially with regard to funding of research and provision of laboratory facilities.
You would understand ASUU better when you come here. Our maltreatment is not limited to India. My colleagues in Malaysia tell me they face discrimination in public places because of the crimes of their compatriots in that country. Some of them had to buy cars to transport themselves to the campus because they could not stand the vicious snobbery and discrimination meted out to them in public buses.
Abdulrahman Muhammad, Ludhiana, Punjab, India
What about Indians in Nigeria? Are they not also involved in high-profile economic crimes in cahoots with our leaders? Even in the era of the Chagourys scandal, Nigerian did not show any xenophobic hatred towards Indians. it is a pity that our citizens are involved in survival crimes in foreign lands, which most times are small-scale, while foreigners in our shores are involved in big-time organized economic crimes, but due to the weakness of our enforcement system and the protection accorded these foreigners over here, nobody talks about their criminal activities.
Indians and Lebanese are also involved in criminal activities all over the world. If the attacks continue and our government is compelled to reciprocate they will realize how much they have also benefited from the Nigerian economy where they use our citizens as slave labourers without complying with basic safety standards. But, in all, I blame our past leaders who have failed to develop our economy for production. I believe that if we succeed in entrenching fiscal federalism Nigeria’s production capacity will be unleashed and Nigerians will no longer be treated like vermin in useless foreign countries like India!
Razaaq Musa, Abuja
I want to commend you for an excellent write-up as always (your column being one of the major reasons I buy Weekly Trust every weekend). However, when I come across such xenophobic attacks on Nigerians, I mostly blame our leaders for failing to provide a conducive environment for the majority of our people to stay within the country despite the abundant resources the God has blessed us with. It is a pity.
Yusuf Adamu (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I read your article with rapt attention and interest because it captures what I as black Nigerian pilgrim experienced in Saudi Arabia during the just concluded Hajj. I want to tell you that even the Indian Muslims are racists and bigots. It is really appalling that racial prejudices should guide our thoughts at this age.
Muhammad Abdullahi (email@example.com)