OUR EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON IS AN EXPORTED CHAOS


By Akin Ojumu

It was a chaotic scene at the Nigerian Embassy, Washington DC, this morning where I went to renew my expired Nigerian passport. A large crowd amassed at the embassy gates with their cars parked helter-skelter blocking entrances to the other nearby embassies and at spots clearly marked "No Parking," or "Embassy Parking Permit Only."

There are 4 embassies in this particular cul-de-sac of International Court, Washington, DC. They are the Embassies of Brunei, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Nigeria respectively. Of those 4, it's only at the Nigerian embassy where you’d find this chaotic scene. The other embassies are so quiet and look so serene, you'd think they are empty buildings with no activities going on inside.

As the clearly agitated crowd milled around at the entrance to the Nigerian embassy, visitors to the other embassies couldn't help but indulge themselves in a bit of rubbernecking; they gaped, in disbelief, at the pandemonium. When the staff of the adjacent Pakistani embassy arrived at work, you could see the disgust on their faces because the crowd in front of the Nigerian embassy had spilled over to block the entrance to their own embassy.

Police squad vehicles that patrol the area drove by a few times. All they did was to take a look and turn around. Those police officers who have been on this particular beat for any length of time quickly get accustomed to the disorderliness that has come to characterize the Nigerian Embassy. The police would intervene only if the melee turned violent or they received a complaint from the neighboring embassies.

The chaos I witnessed this morning reminded me of what Donald Trump said about Mexico back on June 16, 2015, when he launched his presidential campaign:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

With a few tweaks and a few substitution of words here and there, the sentiments conveyed in that statement can be adapted to describe Nigeria and what we export to foreign lands:

“When Nigeria sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending the most qualified. They’re not sending the most knowledgeable. They’re sending unqualified people with godfathers in the highest places, and they’re bringing their incompetence with them. They’re bringing clumsiness. They’re bringing ineptness. They’re disorderly. And some, we can assume, are good people.”

Standing out there this morning outside of the embassy gate, amidst the noise and ruckus, I have never felt more embarrassed as a Nigerian. Our prominent exports seem to be our topsy-turviness and what we show of ourselves to people in foreign lands is our bedlam. While other nations put their best foot forward, Nigeria tends to put forward its worst. As a nation, we seem to drag along with us everywhere we go, our baggage of chaos and portmanteau of confusion. 

This morning’s incidence in front of the Nigerian Embassy can be likened to the debacle that characterized the team representing Nigeria at the Tokyo Olympics. Lots of chaos and full of morass. It’s just so sad.

This is painful because I know we are better than this and can do better than this. 

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