The coronavirus pandemic has thrown up sundry challenges for many countries. It has also led to the suspension of flights and closure of borders. That is why many people who have gone for one business or the other outside their home countries are stranded. Some of them have run out of their means of sustenance. A lot of Nigerians currently face this problem. But the plan by the Federal Government to evacuate them is ennobling.
In China, particularly, many stranded Nigerians have gone through hell. Reports have it that Chinese authorities evicted about 100 of them from their homes and hotels in Guangzhou because of COVID-19. Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, not only condemned this maltreatment of Nigerians, but also summoned the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Zhou Pingjian, over the incident. “We saw images of Nigerians in the streets with their possessions and this was, of course, extremely distressing for us at home,” Onyeama lamented. He called for the immediate intervention of Chinese government on the issue.
We join the Federal Government to condemn this ugly incident. It would have been a different thing if those Nigerians were involved in criminal activities. But from available accounts, they were stigmatised and molested because of a disease that ironically originated from China. This is the height of insensitivity.
Nigerians are always at the receiving end of similar attacks elsewhere in the world. Last year, many Nigerians were victims of xenophobic attacks in South Africa. It took the patriotic intervention of Air Peace Airline to evacuate them free of charge from the former apartheid enclave.
This elicited great patriotism in the evacuees. Recall their spontaneous chant of the national anthem aboard the aircraft immediately they landed in Nigeria. The evacuation cost Air Peace a lot of money, but, as the Chief Executive Officer of the Airline, Mr. Allen Onyema, said, he wanted to see Nigeria respected as a nation.
This is the type of thing some Western nations do for their citizens that make them want to die for their countries. A country like Israel, for instance, can go to any length to rescue even a single citizen from any harm. Recently, the US and the United Kingdom sent aircraft to evacuate hundreds of their stranded citizens from Nigeria. This is despite the fact that COVID-19 is worse and with more devastating effect in their countries.
Good enough, the Nigerian government is also not relenting this time. Onyeama had informed the nation that our compatriots abroad who wished to return home would be evacuated. He, however, said they would pay for their flight before their evacuation to Nigeria. Already, the Nigerian Consulate in New York, the High Commission in the United Kingdom and other countries had compiled over 2,000 names of Nigerians willing to return home. The evacuees will be compulsorily quarantined when they return. Surely, they will be happy that their government remembered them in their hour of need.
This is where a good foreign policy comes in. Right from when it gained Independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria made Africa the centrepiece of its foreign policy. As the self-acclaimed giant of Africa, it intervened in most conflicts on the continent. Its role in the fight against apartheid, for instance, earned it recognition as a frontline state even though it is not a Southern African country. Then, Nigeria was happy to be called “the Big Brother” by other African countries.
Today, things have changed. Under this administration, for instance, economic, trade diplomacy is the bedrock of Nigeria’s foreign policy. It focuses more on Nigeria and the needs of the country such as building a sustainable economy and growing agricultural output for food security and export.
This is the way to go. Besides, no nation respects you if you don’t have the interest of your country at heart. It bears on the social contract. Government has its role while the citizens have theirs. Government protects the citizens while the citizens give unalloyed loyalty to the nation. Currently, many Nigerians don’t see this country as theirs.
There is undue attachment to ethnic and sectional sentiments. But, as many citizens have shown on many occasions, Nigerians are capable of loving their country if all things are equal. All they need is the right leadership, the right policies and the patriotism in them will blossom.