Beyond the Yellow Fever Diplomacy, the implication of South Africa’s decision

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Deported Nigerians

Deported Nigerians

Before dwelling on the implication of South Africa’s decision to deport more than one hundred Nigerian passengers who had just arrived at the country on the ground that their yellow fever vaccination certificates were not genuine, let me admit a truth, which was hardly if at all addressed despite many articles and comments written about the incident.

Frankly speaking, it is quite obvious that the vast majority Nigerian travellers holding such certificates are not actually vaccinated. The certificates are merely printed, stamped and conspicuously displayed at various airports for many Nigerian international travellers to part with some money in order to get it there and then.

However, the questions are was the issue that serious enough to actually warrant deportation especially by presumably a friendly country like South Africa? Was there no any other way to solve the problem without deporting them?

In reality, South Africa’s action reflected the level of disdain it has for Nigeria and indeed how countries around the world view Nigeria in general. In reality, notwithstanding any empty diplomatic rhetoric, individual countries around the world attract respect or disrespect according to some generally adopted yardsticks, which also determine the worthiness or otherwise of each country in the eyes of the world. Incidentally, all such yardsticks revolve around the quality of good governance internally, which inevitably and automatically attracts respect for each country externally.

Therefore, while I condemn what South Africa did and indeed condemn all other countries’ disrespect towards Nigerians, I remain realistic hence find it quite predictable anyway. After all, I am sure the so-called apology issued by the South African authorities is simply an empty diplomatic expression, which even if it solved the issue of the yellow fever certificate for the time being, it would not change the way Nigerians are viewed in South Africa or any other country for that matter.

I am also sure that, the way many countries around the world treat Nigerian officials including the President himself, even if it is not actually very crude, it is not diplomatic enough either, compared to their respective statuses. This is quite evident considering the calibre of officials who mostly welcome them at their host countries’ airports, the level of audience they are granted and even the level of media attention they draw.

As a matter of fact, there have always been incidents around the world where Nigerians and sometimes even officials amongst them for that matter have been subjected to not only undiplomatic treatments but actually crude disrespect for various silly excuses. I still remember an incident in the 90s when Chief Ernest Shonekan as Head of Nigeria’s Interim Government then was reportedly embarrassed on arrival at the United States of America after his luggage was subjected to sniffer-dog search, and he was also made to wait for a relatively long period of time before he and his entourage were cleared by the US authorities.

Nevertheless, such officials who despite holding Nigeria’s official and diplomatic passports have to go through such relatively substandard treatments, are obviously better than ordinary Nigerian citizens holding ordinary Nigerian passports, who endure different forms of discriminatory treatments at various airports and countries for simply being Nigerians.

Incidentally, this is why in order to escape at least the rudest forms of such discriminatory treatments abroad, Nigerian elites obtain (by all means) Nigerian official or diplomatic passports even if they don’t necessarily deserve it or actually need it.

However, it is unfortunately usual that whenever a particular incident of such nature attracts a huge public outcry, Nigerian rulers set out on their usual exercise in such situations, where instead of looking into the actual cause of the problem with a view to addressing it; they simply chase the shadow and leave the substance.

For instance, they simply condemn and/or warn of a retaliation; all of which will of course never make other countries respect Nigeria. After all, as I pointed out earlier, a country attracts and enjoys respect and recognition from other countries according to the extent of its leadership commitment to its own actual interests in the first place.

How I wish Nigerian rulers realized that, respect is not given on a platter of gold neither is it grabbed by force. It is instead earned over time through real patriotism and concrete achievements on the ground, not mere empty rhetoric. In other words, all what matters in today’s international relations is the extent of a country’s actual weight in influencing the interwoven and often conflicting international socio-political and economic interests, which is of course determined by the extent of its actual developmental, socio-political and economic competitiveness.

This explains why all such rhetorical and so-called image laundering campaigns undertaken by successive Nigerian governments over the decades e.g. Rebranding Nigeria etc. have always failed to change the general attitude towards the country and of course it citizens internationally.

Interesting enough, it is quite ironic that while such campaigns have proven Nigerian rulers’ belief in the indispensability of discipline and other positive attitudes in any successful drive towards national prosperity, which determines the country’s respectability in the global arena, they have hardly if at all been serious enough to follow it through anyway.

Perhaps the only exceptions in this regard were Murtala and later Buhari/Idiagbon led regimes, which within their relatively short periods of time were able to significantly affect significant improvements in public attitudes, which had begun to positively influence the attitudes of other countries towards Nigeria and Nigerians.

For instance, a veteran and famous Mecca-born Nigerian pilgrims’ handler told me how Nigerian pilgrims in Mecca, during Buhari/Idiagbon-led regime, had demonstrated a significant improvement in discipline and orderliness like their counterparts in other counties, which surprised many people in view of the general stereotyping of Nigerians at the time. And I believe that positive change of attitude had attracted appropriate reaction from the Saudi authorities at least before the regime was subsequently betrayed in order to restore the status-quo of chaos.

In any case, incidents like the yellow fever certificates issue in South Africa and other disrespectful attitudes towards Nigerians all over the world will continue to occur as long as Nigerian rulers themselves continue to compromise and expose Nigerians’ dignity to abuse by other countries. This will only stop when the Nigeria’s rulers act as leaders.

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