Saturday, 6 February 2010

‘Terror watch list not our headache, but…’

The unfortunate consequence of the averted attempt by 23-year-old Nigerian, Farouk Abdul Mutallab, to bomb an American airliner traveling from Holland to Detroit in the United States of America on Christmas day, has landed Nigeria on the terror watch list of the United States of America.
Just as expected, many Nigerians expressed outrage at that precipitated decision, including the Nigerian Senate that gave the US government a one-week ultimatum to rescind the decision, and yet turned back later to withdraw it; reasons best known to the ‘distinguished’ men.
There were widespread criticisms from concerned Nigerians, home and abroad. Analysts, human rights activists, opinion leaders and others, through their commentaries in the media, tried to pull off the toga of ‘terrorist’, which the US kitted 150 million Nigerians at home and thousands scattered all over the world, for the sin of one man. Pity!
Besides, many have argued that Americans themselves have attacked their own country in the past like Timothy MacVie, currently serving jail term for bombing the World Trade Center in Detroit just before the 9/11 disaster and the recent shooting by a U.S army major of 13 people in a military base. These have been dredged up to show the random and equal-opportunity nature of global terror acts by victims of the anti-US ideology nimbly spread by the likes of Al Qaeda and other terror organisations that wish America ill.
To make matter worse, Nigeria’s ailing president, who has been away in a Saudi Arabian hospital for God know how many days now, could not wade into the matter as expected; at least, engage Obama in a sort of presidential debate. In fact, Yar’Adua’s absence caused the country that ‘show of shame’ which his Foreign Affairs Minister, Ojo Mmaduekwe displayed recently on CNN–– proud and arrogant! However, it has been rumoured that the US government might retrace its steps by delisting Nigeria from the terror watch list. We are waiting.
Meanwhile, to assess the impact of the US decision on Nigerians abroad, The Guardian Life Magazine sampled opinions of some Nigerian students studying abroad. From the reaction of those, who had time to comment, ‘terror watch list’ seems not to be a big deal, but that does not mean all is well with wearing that toga abroad:

Kola Olatubosun
Department of Foreign Languages, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, USA
The inclusion of Nigeria on the list is a hasty and unhelpful decision, but you can’t blame America when Nigeria does not have an Ambassador in the United States at the moment and no sitting president! It leaves a much diplomatic gap that should have made things easier. What I’m most worried about however is not the Nigerian inclusion per se, but the fact that the airport securities around the world are playing catch-up to terrorists. We’ve removed our shoes for years before this recent attack, and it never changed anything. Even if we go into the plane nude from now on, those who seek to cause havoc will only think of more ways to beat the system. Personally, the decision has not affected my academic or social life, but it has increased the number of conversations per week that I have on the issue of Nigeria. All of a sudden, everyone seems to want to know what I think of the “Underwear Bomber” who came from my country.

Onche Odeh
Knight Science Journalism Fellowship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, USA.
Inclusion of Nigeria in the list of terrorist nations by U.S. has had little or no consequence on my stay in Boston and the United states at large. I had made deliberate efforts to sample what people think and even Americans think it was not justified for Nigeria to be considered a terrorist nation just because a certain kid tried some unfortunate act. Some even think America has been home to more terrorists than most countries. My American and other foreign friends here still relate with me just as normal; though some have even gotten closer. Nationals of countries such as Pakistan, schooling here in Boston, Massachusetts and around now see Nigerians as friends as they are not so happy that they are also in the same category of terrorist nations. At least it has provided an additional topic of conversation for foreigners and Americans, who want to get closer as friends.

Tola Sunmonu
Department of Economics and Civil Engineering, Stanford University, USA.
Well, it’s an issue we currently joke about, but there’s a serious undertone. People say I should change the name on my passport because it’s a Moslem name; I know they are joking but the sad part is they actually have a point. I can understand the United States’ decision; after all they have to think about the safety of their constituents. Our image as a nation is not their uttermost concern, and quite frankly it shouldn’t be. At the same time, the entire country should not be punished for one boy’s mistakes. But in these days of so-called ‘terror’ as the Americans like to put it, did the government really have a choice? As for how it affects me as an individual, I would like to think that people are not so ignorant to assume that because I’m Nigerian, then I’m a suicide bomber. Going through immigration is going to be a whole new ordeal that I’m not looking forward to. In all, I think it tarnishes our image as a people. But come to think of it, we’ve always had the best image; those 419 spam emails made sure of that. As an individual however, I don’t think it will make a huge influence on my academic or social life except of course when it comes to traveling; but immigration has always been a hassle anyway, so, a few extra minutes in queue won’t hurt too much.

Tunde Oseni
PhD Candidate and Teaching Assistant, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom.
The inclusion of Nigeria in the so-called ‘terror watch list’ is a matter of American foreign policy; every country pursues its national interest. Our president could have possibly persuaded President Obama on phone, if President Yar’Adua had not been ill and unable to communicate diplomatic relations. I see the American action as a reaction to the attempted bombing of its airline. However, the fact that a young Nigerian was involved was not a fertile reason for such a stigma since he was not trained in Nigeria. Fortunately, for many of us, life has just been normal as usual.

Bunmi Tokede
Public Health Department, Harvard University, United States
The decision has only made me more conscious (in a negative sense) of my nationality. Now, I’m so defensive- bordering on paranoid- when I have to ‘own up’ that I’m Nigerian!

Kitan Okelola
Economics Department, Howard University, United States.
To be sincere, it’s sad. No matter your status, you can’t hold your head high anymore, especially as a young Nigerian. On Facebook, everybody is saying this is another thing we have to deal with. Apart from being labeled fraudsters and womanizers, being branded a potential terrorist is the height of banditry.
We have a lot of Nigerians in Howard. Even my phonebook is full of Nigerians. I only have about 10 American friends. Howard is basically an international school, with mostly Nigerians, Africans, Caribbean, Haitians, and South American students, but as I said, most of our friends are Nigerians and it doesn’t make sense for a Nigerian to call another Nigerian a terrorist.But still, we have to deal with other Americans, who have come to know some of us as hardworking and honest people. Overall, most of the best students in the university are Nigerians and from Africa. They can’t afford to stereotype us too much. Of course, they will, since the school is based in Washington, but not to a large extent.

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