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Nigerians abroad in 2020: The good, the bad and the ugly

diaspora nigerians e1570786383631716a9d86d8b7c044e10092422dd2084eFor Nigerians generally, this year began abroad. A virus was sighted overseas and everyone kept their eyes on the news. Shortly, we were talking of closing borders and evacuating citizens abroad, as conspiracy theories swirled all over the place. But in the midst of all that, life was unfolding, sometimes on its own terms, other times on our own. Thus, many Nigerians in the diaspora prospered—the good. Some were engulfed in adversity that was no fault of theirs—the bad; others, the ugly, were swallowed by nemesis.

Nigeria Abroad, opened in the heat of the crisis—late March—was observing the world and reporting the fate of our people in it. From the prosperous Nigerian stock-fish seller in Norway to Ikem Chude, the Nollywood actor cutting a new path in New York, we kept a global tab. While Jarome Iginla thrived in Canada playing hockey, Soouizz Okeke was looming large as a plus-size model for Gucci and ASOS.

More Nigerian sportsmen found limelight: Chuks Okoroafor ruled American football, Ranti Martins, Indian soccer. Closer home in Morocco, 17-year-old Oyinlomo Quadre practised and grew as Nigeria’s hope for tennis glory. Just yesterday, we stood in cheer for Victor Osimhen, Africa’s highest paid footballer who had bounced from Lagos slums into superstardom.

Tens of Nigerians smashed academic records in schools abroad. In fact, a Nigerian was named vice chancellor of UK’s Leeds Trinity University and, in Canada, another became chief justice. In US general elections, up to 10 Nigerians ran for office and at least three won. One of our proudest diaspora moments in 2020 was about a Nigerian doctor in the United States Onyema Ogbuagu leading the Pfizer team that developed a coronavirus vaccine. Two Nigerian women were among 12 named to have changed the world in 2020.

Nigerians abroad also marched on the streets wherever they lived to #EndSARS—and in this, they are all heroes. Overall,  hundreds of Nigerians abroad brought glory in different walks of life this year.

But some of our compatriots were unlucky. In Ghana, our traders suffered harsh fates amid the pandemic as their shops remain on lockdown till date. In India where two IPOB members were locked up, racism also took a Nigerian life, as it did in Libya; in Mozambique, one was arrested and stays missing till date. Xenophobia in South Africa targeting Nigerians worsened albeit without casualties and, in Malta, a Nigerian faced severe workplace exploitation. Up to 30 Nigerians were at a point locked up in Bangladesh and Nigeria Abroad mainstreamed their story. In many parts of the world, Nigerians were subjected to inhuman situations—from Japan to OmanUnited StatesEgyptKenya, and Ukraine.

But we are not totally innocent. Ugly Nigerians, at least by accusation, rained on our parade too. Hushpuppi, for instance, and Invictus Obi—both were big fraud catches that shook, if not entertained the world this year: in this year was witnessed what some have termed a great  Nigerian fraud pandemicCountless numbers continue to be jailed in the United States. When it was not drug offences in India, it would be fraud in, again, Bangladesh, then Uganda and innumerable European countries.

A Nigeria Abroad report on Nigerian men populating foreign prisons is forthcoming. Global contempt for Nigerians seemed to have, this year, grown at par with the respect that equally rose with our successes.

There were crimes of love: a Nigerian was jailed for stalking his pastor’s daughter in the UK; another murdered his son to spite his ex-girlfriend in the US; another lured a lover to his home in Canada and bludgeoned her to death; yet another flung his lover’s son out of the window in Malaysia. Some committed passport frauds and were deported, others, stowaways, are being arraigned for “hijacking” a ship en route to the UK.

These records, of virtue and vice, reflect a deeper story: the fact of Nigeria’s surge in migration. The numbers here are insignificant compared to the volume of our citizens abroad—over 17 million people, according to the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NiDCOM. There are just too many of us out in the world, such that we have a family in virtually every department of human unraveling.

But no ugly citizens this 2021, guys. Like seriously, let even more good guys own the narrative. Let the government step up on behalf of distressed citizens abroad. Let’s continue to build Nigeria’s diaspora nation and, who knows, we may one day get to elect our own darn president.

Nigerian Abroad.

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