Saturday, 11 August 2007
Oprah: Campaign of Calumny Against Nigeria
Written by Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
Oprah Winfrey is a person of African descent, for whom I have publicly expressed admiration, poured encomiums in a most public way, and only recently in: "Oprah Winfrey: Powerful, Selfless & Giver of Dignity!"
Sadly and painfully, it has come to pass that our daughter, the highly achieved and accomplished Oprah Winfrey, our most famous descendant, has chosen, wittingly or unwittingly, to add her high profile voice, through her far reaching medium, to the campaign of calumny against Nigerians and invariably, Nigeria.
Oprah maligned Nigerians and Nigeria, all in the name of discussing identity theft and sundry frauds which have become prevalent in America. These crimes and others, are a public threat and as such warrant public conversations, but why must Oprah and others focus on whether some perpetrators are Jews, Germans, Japanese, Mexicans or Nigerians?
Generalizing and stereotyping Nigerians or Nigeria, labeling and castigating Nigerians and Nigeria, has become a totem of American journalism.
What Oprah and her cohorts are doing to Nigerians and Nigeria, with these frequent stereotyping and generalizing, should be exposed for what they are! These are primordial, primitive and erratic ignorant responses or value judgments about 140 million Nigerians, of whom these journalists know nothing about! And yet, these journalists, in their happy ignorance, talk about Nigerians with some sorts of expertise, amounting only to, automatic responses without erudition analytic acumen.
There are unfortunately, some Nigerians who are forever willing to jump to justify these attacks on Nigeria; Such as when Nigeria was maligned by CNN in "How to rob a bank" or when CNN’s Jeff Koinage orchestrated and choreographed a pay-per-view strip-tease "expose" on Militants in the Niger Delta or when ABC Television’s Brian Ross’ "Black Money: The Latest Twist in the Billion Dollar Nigerian Scam Racket"
I am no longer willing to be patient with the halting Nigerian, who keeps insisting, that 100 percent of Nigerians must do right, always, for we must act just right, so that Americans and Europeans complaints and castigations of Africans may come to a stop. Non-Africans’ uncommon negative ferocity directed at Nigerians and other Africans, must be seen for what they are! Irresponsible journalistic prejudices wrapped in racism. As often as I encounter these ferocious attacks against my nation and my continent, I always wish that I have the natural, divine and even, supernatural powers to write thrillingly eloquent defense of Nigerians, continental Africans and all peoples of African descent.
This week alone, I have read public comments by a tenured Nigerian professor at the University of Maiduguri, Professor Abba Gana Shettima who was denied a visa to the Gambia, a visa that would have enabled him deliver a public lecture of continental proportions in importance. He narrated his ordeals in an article titled "Between (‘419’) fraudsters and their greedy ’victims" Additionally, an article by Joseph Anwana who also narrated what is increasingly appearing to be concerted efforts to repudiate everything Nigerian and Nigeria, Nigerian Employers And Tokunbo Mentality
These persistent and sustained attacks on Nigeria, have dire consequences for Nigerians and Nigeria, severally, in the short and long terms, as well as repercussions for Nigerians as individuals striving, in and outside Nigeria. And Nigeria as a corporate entity, that is continually under barrages of attacks or endless bashing.
If you happen to disagree or do not see the point here, just ask yourself, what did Professor Shettima do, to be denied a visa to Gambia to attend a seminar/workshop? Then further ask yourself who is next in line to be meted this injustice resultant from our national smears, you or me? Why is it, that we never similarly see press references to other criminals by race, ethnicity and nationality? A fraudster is a fraudster, a killer is a killer, not because he is American or Nigerian or Briton!
Oprah Winfrey is a very experienced and savvy journalist. Oprah posses a very powerful medium, her show is seen worldwide. When she mentions a book, it becomes an instant bestseller. Imagine then, the impact, the damaging impact of her singling out Nigeria, in negative portrayals! That is the power of O! I take the view that Oprah must therefore use such phenomenal power with utmost restraint and sense of responsibility.
Oprah’s singular act of choosing to join the voyeuristic, scandalous and teasingly salacious Western Press’ sour attitude toward Nigeria, is a new low in American journalism.
It is the responsibility of Nigerians to inform Oprah and others in the world, that corruption, advance fee frauds and other aberrant behaviors, are not inured and infused into Nigerians’ DNA. Thieves must be called thieves and murders must be called murderers, not Americans or Nigerians. Bad behaviors are not peculiarly Nigerian!
There is no national particularity or outlook, in the methods of operations deployed by criminals born in America or Nigeria! Those who generalize about Nigerians, and Nigeria, are aware of this. They chose to gloss over these pertinent and salient points.
How could Oprah with her American experience along with other 40 million persons of African descent in the United States, afford to stereotype 140 million Nigerians? How could Oprah not know or remember the racist charges against African Americans? And how African American males were, and are still stereotyped in American press as having predispositions to violence and love for raping white women? How could Oprah forget how racists in America portrayed African American women as having predisposition to being harlots and prostitutes with lose or easy morals. All these, to enable racists white America, to demean and devalue African Americans and then, lynch them metaphorically and physically?
Nigerians are being maligned now, just as African Americans, this, in complete disregard the overwhelming evidence and facts, African Americans were, and are still disrespected in the press, and Oprah knows it! The disrespect and stereotyping of Africans Americans continues even though there are available cogent, concrete and compelling truth of African American resilience and successes against all pains and all odds.
Oprah’s joining of the bandwagon of those at CNN and ABC Television etc is a shock to me. Those who have selectively and deliberately chosen to highlight some Nigerians with negative or criminal behaviors, as the gold-standard for measuring 140 million multitude of Nigerians on earth, are most offensive and pedestrian. Only those who are willfully undiscerning, who would choose to excuse or exonerate the mugus, those gullible and greedy persons, who often collude and connive with crooks, in their joint attempts to reap from where they have not sown. Those who connive with 419ers are criminals with criminal tendencies. Or why would they expect their cats to give birth to hens? Or expect to inherit millions of dollars from strangers, suddenly?
Oprah by this act, plays into the hands of those who have accused her of offering meticulous orchestrated and equally carefully choreographed shows to please her audience an audience, said to be overwhelmingly and predominantly White/ Caucasian.
Why can’t discussions or conversations about identity thefts and frauds in America, be in proper big picture perspectives and done in contextual manner? Why blame it on the Nigerians? And why for instance, did Oprah not refer to the mugus on her show, solely, as American mugus? So that it will be the Americans versus Nigerians, on her show? Truth be told, the persons on that episode of her show, comprised, the crooks and the gullible
Oprah’s attack and onslaught on Nigerians, is an ironically sad throwback, it is reminiscent of the mindless stereotypes and sweeping generalizations against peoples of African descent in Minstrel shows in America of yore.
What a sad irony? A person of African descent, as knowledgeable and media savvy as Oprah, would condescendingly generalize and stereotype her own Nigerian Kit and kin in Nigeria, Africa?
Oprah should be told not to hit anyone who is already down. Oprah should be told to be quiet if she has nothing good to say about Nigerians, her African relatives!
Nigerians, continental Africans and all peoples of African descent are minutely inundated with scathing and scorching negative world press. Without the rare luxury of presentations in positive lights. I assume Oprah is clearly and keenly aware of this luck of the draw for our peoples.
Our peoples, all through history, have not had the favor of dignified and respectful presentations of our culture and way of life, of our birth, death or marriage etc.
Some including myself had expected, imagined and assumed that, our peoples have common fate and have a common cause. Consequently, the first amongst us to have a high pedestal, such as Oprah Winfrey has created for herself, would inevitably, aspire to portray our peoples in the best of lights.
As oppose to, and instead of, joining the bandwagon and taking the easy and low road to the perdition of negative sweeping generalizations and stereotyping of our peoples.
How be it, that Oprah did not opt for the high road? How be it that Oprah did not engage in the more difficult and arduous tasks of using her worldwide platform to drum up business investments and tourism for Nigeria and all Africa?
Why did Oprah have to ply the low road? Why did she choose the route of maladroitly recycled garbage, recycling old news of the lowest negatives, and aberrant behaviors of a few Nigerians. Is it about television ratings, the Nielsen? Is it to whet the appetites of those in these parts, with unquenchable appetite for lurid dinner jokes at our expense? Or is it for the voyeuristic consumption of her worldwide audience?
Crimes and criminals are repulsive and are deemed repugnant and reprehensible by majority Nigerians just as the majority of their American counterparts do.
A majority of Nigerians at home and abroad, are law abiding, hardworking decent human beings, just like their American counterparts.
A majority of Nigerians are virtuous and decent.
It is our belief that virtues and vices are universal, as universal as the addresses of junk-mail senders and as universal as the addresses of spammers - who frequently invade the privacy of our e-mail, addresses, soliciting, and making legal and illegal propositions!
Oprah and others, must ask themselves what percentage of their received junk-mails spam-mails are generated by Nigerians? Which will enable them to extrapolate and by extension, assert the castigations and labeling of 140 million as irredeemably corrupt or corruptible.
Clearly and certainly, therefore, its one thing to hold lectures, seminars and television shows on the evils imbued and encased in identity theft, advanced fee frauds, the perpetrators and the persons involved, are persons, who are for the most parts, comprised of crooks, the greedy-gullible sorts, who seek to take unfair advantage of us all.
It is however, quite another thing to hold television shows as CNN has done as ABC television done, as they engage in sordid campaigns, of which Oprah has now joined, and to describe in false pretense, in manners - as if junk-mails, Spam-mails and identity theft or even corruption are things peculiar Nigerians! In fact, I have been a victim of identity theft, and I am red-hot, fully blooded Nigerian!
What is worse? Oprah and others, have most ignominiously use these awful phenomena of junk-mails, spam-mails, identity - theft and corruption to label Nigerians and Nigeria for behavior that are not particular and peculiar to Nigeria.
Oprah and others like her, have extrapolated in their strenuous efforts to label and castigate Nigerians, and by extension, Nigeria as a nation of, 140 million as if, a nation of irredeemably corrupt and corruptible persons?
As a Nigerian, I worry about Nigeria’s image in particular, the image of all Africans and all peoples of African descent in general. I often worry about our peoples image and how to transcend these negative images thrust upon our peoples. Negative images coupled with our peoples checkered history, has caused immeasurable pain and enduring damage, to our sense of self and self worth. These are indeed, un-quantifiable losses, to our peoples.
As Nigerians, Africans and peoples of African descent it is our responsibility and in fact our sacred duty to repel and throw off the negative and false images that have been thrust upon Africans and peoples of African descent.
Often, I write or aspire to write positively, deliberately positively, about our peoples, because, knowing as I do, from experience, that our peoples do not as yet posses the medium to broadcast our images positively as CNN and the BBC do for the US and UK respectively and Oprah and others most probably, already knows about this dearth of positive images of our peoples in the American and European or so-called Western Press.
I am charitable and objective enough, not to assume or even think that Americans own, hold trademarks, copyrights or patents and exclusive preserves to criminalities - whether of murder, frauds etc. Nigerians hold no such trademarks, patents, copyrights and exclusive preserves in advance fee frauds or 419 and other crimes. Americans and America are not perfect. Nigerians and Nigeria are not perfect. There are virtues and vices in America; and let us be clear and fair about it, just as we have them in Nigeria.
Nigerians worldwide must reject the unfair labeling and castigations by Oprah and her cohorts. Nigerians worldwide, do in fact reject these negative characterizations and the gratuitous insults that emanate from such. Nigerians and Nigeria, will surmount these evil campaigns! Nigerians must not be willing to lay down and die or just roll over, as these castigations and unfair labeling are being stacked and piled upon us. Arise Nigerians, Nigeria!