Sunday, June 11, 2006

Final thoughts about Nigeria

The taxi driver knows to pick me up at the hotel to take me to London's Heathrow Airport for the final leg of my journey home.

I decided to memorialize Nigeria by including a photograph of a gigantic cumulous cloud over Yola. The cloud symbolizes the abundant supply of water in this part of the world. And if the photo could come to life for about 30 seconds, you would be able to see the evening electrical light show the cloud offers.

The lightening reminds me of the natural energy this beautiful country possesses. If they can't harness the static electricy in the air, they could certainly turn their rich supply of crude oil into enough juice to wire up every hut in every village.

But when I see the clouds filled with water and electricty, I will think about the corruption within government in Nigeria that bleeds the nation of its resources. It's more than the inconvience of staying in a hotel that lacks water and lights. That's just fodder for amusing anecdotes. It's about the most populous and riches African country that should be the cornerstone of the continent's economy, but instead stands as a model of how not to manage its resources, its brain power and its overall potential.

Maybe you shouldn't care. The truth is that you should. You must. Nigeria's impact on the United States is enormous. Nigeria has done its part in causing the gasoline prices in the U.S. to soar. There is no shortage of highly educated people in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the country is exporting them rather than offering them jobs at home. And way too many of these educated Nigerians are involved in credit card scams, identity theft and other white collar crimes in the U.S. Some of those who cannot find their way to America have learned how to use the Internet to steal from people in the U.S. And while Nigeria is not a major source of illegal drugs, it is a source of some of the biggest brokers of the drugs that ultimately end up on the streets of our cities.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not condemning all of the Nigerians. Given their lot, they are remarkable individuals who are as cordial and as welcoming as any group of people I've encountered. There are no able-bodied Nigerians standing by the roadside with signs that say, "Homeless," or "Will work for food." To survive, most of them seek jobs. When there are no jobs, they take to the roadside and sell things. They are the supermarkes and the malls of Nigeria. And a few are so desperate that the turn to crime -- inside and outside of Nigeria.

I'll choose to remember the cordial and welcoming majority and not the criminals. But I'll also remember the clouds.

On a final note, the mystery photo I posted earlier is of a man building a roof out of a strong, blue material. It's atop a large building the British built in the 1920s. It's under reconstruction. Posted by Picasa

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