Presently, various media outlets are inundated with the news of eighty Nigerians apprehended by the FBI in far away United States. Their offenses range from internet scam to money laundering. While the FBI promptly released the names of the eighty Nigerians, they have failed to release the names of those who plunged our country into an economic and political morass by their involvement in untold criminality during the last general elections. It is this kind of double standard by the US that questions their posturing as a global watchdog with genuine intentions.
Out of the eighty Nigerians, seventy-seven of them are from the Igbo ethnicity. Since their names were released, there have been reactions and counter-reactions, many of them bothering on ethnic hate and mindless vitriol against the Igbo. The ethnocentric and jaundiced among us have spared no words or emotions in analyzing how the Igbo are at the forefront of bringing Nigeria to disrepute in international circles. These people inexorably interpret everything from an ethnic prism. They insist that those Igbo boys are the reasons why Nigeria is bad news around the world. Adopting such ethnic vista to issues of morality will certainly not restore our society to its primeval saneness.
The fraudulent act of the identified Nigerians is disgraceful and should be condemned by any person of good conscience. Scam, fraud or robbery in whatever guise is anti-human and immoral. No religion, creed or culture justifies fraud, yet it pervades the Nigerian social fabric with determined consistency. Unfortunately, internet scam and money laundering have become very popular among many disoriented youths in Nigeria. These days, it is not uncommon to see young people, without any identified means of income, drive expensive cars, live in expensive houses in a posh neighbourhood and mingle with the high and mighty in our society. Sadly, our society accommodates them with disregard to the source of their wealth. It is in our habit to celebrate fraudulent people, political thieves, election riggers, and those who burgle the exchequer, stealing our commonwealth to stupor. We bestow them with chieftaincy titles, elect them into political offices and appoint them into sensitive positions in the mechanism of governance. Many of them occupy influential positions in various religious organizations, in fact, many national edifices and streets are named after established rogues in the country.
It is also in our collective nature to show interest in glitz and glamour, and in evanescent materialism as long as our interests are protected. Crime does not belong to any ethnic group, it is a general malaise sustained by our inordinate craving for lucre. Therefore, it is short-sighted, parochial, and inexcusable for anyone to point to any ethnicity for blame following the alleged fraudulent incident involving Nigerians in the US.
In Nigeria, there are many ethnic groups and each at one point or another has been involved in criminal cases of monumental dimension. I am aware of twenty-three young Nigerians from a particular ethnicity arrested in faraway Saudi Arabia for drug-related offenses. They have been sentenced to death and will be executed soon. None of them is Igbo. I am also aware of eighteen young Nigerians from a certain ethnicity arrested for multiple killings, rape, kidnapping, and robbery. These Nigerians have confessed to seeing helicopters drop weapons for their kingpin boss in the forest. None of them is Igbo. I am not making cases for the Igbo, absolutely not, but we must view these issues dispassionately to divest ourselves of ethnic prejudice. We must face the unfortunate truth that every ethnicity has its own ring of crime in various parts of the world. Therefore, let us look beyond ethnicity and examine the fundamental issues which have given rise to crime among youths in Nigeria.
These days, internet scam and heist are popular among young people in Nigeria. Social failures and parental irresponsibility, among other things, are chiefly responsible for this. Today, many homes in Nigeria are dysfunctional and dislocated, family values are lacking too, therefore they produce children without proper orientation. Young people who indulge in these acts didn’t fall from the sky, they are people’s children, they have fathers and mothers, they have uncles and aunties and they have other members of the family who failed in their little ways to play the role of moral police towards them.
Sadly, many parents place undue pressure on their children to bring money home even when these children have barely completed school with any qualification. Many Nigerian parents celebrate their children when they bring money home without demanding to know the source of the money. Some parents will sell family land or other forms of patrimony to send their children abroad to hustle. They do this because the child of a neighbour just returned from abroad and erected a mansion in the father’s compound.
Many Nigerians are all over the world engaged in despicable trades, using the proceeds to invest in their families back home and develop their communities. We are confronted with a moral dilemma of whether to accept people who steal money abroad and invest back home or accept government officials and politicians who steal money at home and transmit abroad. Whether funds are stolen abroad and returned home or stolen at home and sent abroad, stealing is condemnable therefore let no one grandstand with a superior, puritanical behaviour or risk provoking the retributive, vengeance of the gods. Amadioha and its twin accomplice, Sango cannot be trusted in their vindictive anger.
Some parents lose control of their children so early in life. They cannot talk to their children or reprimand them. They do not know when their children leave the house or when they come back. They do not know their children’s friends, who they associate with and who they visit. Gone were the days when our parents knew all the clothes in our wardrobes. God help you if your parents saw another cloth on your body which they didn’t buy.
These days, parents hardly care, some of them will testify in churches when their jobless, teenage children buy gifts and sundry items of value for them. It is a shame that many parents these days see their children as investments and a source of quick wealth. At a tender age, many young boys are expected to bring money back home. Many young girls are also expected to bring money back home even though they are still in school. It is this kind of mindless pressure that pushes our younger ones into immoral acts.
In some cases, the youths involved in financial crimes are children of the rich and many factors are responsible for this. Some of the children suffer from neglect. Some engage in crime out of the need to sustain a frivolous lifestyle which they acquired while their parents were in government or vibrant employment. Whatever be the case, it is time for Nigerian parents to take responsibility and readjust their moral codes at home. The story of Eli in the Bible is easily a reminder that the Almighty can punish parents for failing to take responsibilities for their children.
Dr. Adiele writes from Lagos via [email protected]