By Adeola Aderounmu
Mr. John Campbell in faraway America is probably feeling the pain, frustration and disappointment that several thousands of Nigerians face monthly in Nigeria and elsewhere.
He was denied an entry visa to Nigeria because his application did not meet the stipulated requirements and he did not appear keen to fulfill the questions raised about his planned trip to Nigeria.
I am aware that Mr. Campbell wrote a book that did not go down well with the Nigerian Authority. He had predicted the fall of Nigeria latest 2015. I have no grouse with Mr. Campbell’s prediction. There would have been no Nigeria today if Mr. Lugard and his co-travelers did not loosely weld the different nations together in 1914.
It is therefore a matter of historical calculation that one day things will either fall apart or to their rightful places. It will take men and women whom the gods want to destroy to continue to deny the way Nigeria is heading. The outcomes of the recent elections in Nigeria are too remarkable to ignore.
The story of biological evolution taught us that remarkable changes can be extremely slow, but they do take place. This is my take on Nigeria today.
As I was saying, Mr. Campbell should learn to follow the right procedures and he should not in any way think that he is special. It doesn’t matter that he was a former US envoy to Nigeria. He is human like the rest. The US embassy in Abuja and the US State Department are looking into the matter and they have protested the visa denial.
The question now is: how many protest letters shall the Nigerian Foreign Ministry or the Nigerian Embassies around the world write on behalf of the thousands of Nigerians who have been mistreated and denied entry visas to several countries around the world?
Let me begin with my own story. In 2002/2003 I was a UNESCO scholar trying to find solutions to the malaria problems in the world. I was living in Stockholm and had spent my summer holiday in London that year.
As the autumn gave way I had 2 important assignments to fulfill. One was to present a paper in Lagos, a sort of update on my research. The second was to attend the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) meeting and make a poster presentation for one of my research papers.
To cut the story short the option of travelling to the US was truncated because I was denied a US visa at the American Embassy in Stockholm. The reasons are the same old jargons; I am single and have no ties bla- bla-bla rubbish.
I have no State Department to turn to, so I wrote a strongly worded letter to the American Embassy in Stockholm. I expressed my dismay about their shocking decision to ground a UNESCO student on the Scandinavian Island based on such flimsy excuses. If the US Embassy in Stockholm cares to know, they can check my update at the Swedish tax office-it still states clearly-S-I-N-G-L-E.
When I write about my wife in my essays, it’s for the sake of simplicity. No long thing. The US embassy and other embassies around the world should learn how to respect people’s marital statuses and separate that from the purpose of visa applications.
Apart from family ties and employment, one of the several silly reasons for denying Nigerians entry or travel visas is predicated on the overblown drama surrounding some mischievous Nigerians. The truth is that Nigerians who engaged in swindling, forgery and other sorts of misdemeanors are quite negligible compared to the total population of Nigerians.
In a more realistic comparison Nigerians are contributing to the economic development of several communities and countries around the world. Such contributions are not appreciated because the Western Press dominate the airwaves and chose what to propagate. But we are not deterred; we continue to help the world through our commitments and dedication.
It pains when honest and innocent Nigerians applying for visas are lump both as economic migrants and fraudulent minds simply because they sought visa to the US, the UK and other places. Every application should be treated on its own merits. There should be clear distinctions between the roles of the embassies in foreign countries and the immigration officers on home soil.
Mr. Campbell became a victim of what I have always argued about. There are rules for visa applications which have relegated the use of common sense and discretion. Almost all the embassies in the world continue to live by the rules and that is where Campbell’s application fell flat.
It is very easy to argue also that he was denied a visa to Nigeria because of his negative comments about Nigeria.
On discretion and common sense, Mr. Campbell, in his capacity as the former US envoy to Nigeria, would probably still have been granted a visa with 6 days’ notice instead of the prescribed seven days. Unfortunately rules remain the standard for all embassy staff and visa officers. They live by it.
I wrote a story here about the French embassy denying an entry visa to someone who has probably travelled around the world, is on his way to Switzerland and only needed a Schengen visa to get to Sweden to visit family members. The rule says he must go to the Swedish embassy.
There are scores of provoking responses to my blog post on this issue and sometimes I just needed to cool off and accept that people see things from different perspectives and it is going to be impossible to impose common sense and discretion on people’s minds. People will never come to see things the same way.
Every concerned person will live with his or her own frustrations on this matter.
But as long as Nigeria last, Nigerians must begin to tell their own stories. I have written a lot about my disappointments in the Nigerian government. It is a failed government that has given rooms for so many opportunities for the promotion of negativity including maltreatment of Nigerians in embassies in Nigeria. In the midst of rife corruption and collective citizenry nonchalance, the situation persists.
Even as I try to write about other things, it is very hard to ignore the states of things in Nigeria- the primary source of our collective embarrassment.
In all I have tried to stay clear of praise worshipping because I know the interpretations that come with such. But those whose jobs it is should start promoting the likes of Fashola of Lagos. The rest of us-while appreciating the work done and contributing our quota-should never fail to let them know that there is still more work to be done. The goals are to lift our standard of living and both the value and dignity of our lives on all fronts.
To close, Mr. Campbell must be feeling the same kind of disappointment that I felt 9 years ago. Sometimes you feel that you should get something because of who you are, but you don’t. That is life, you can’t have it all. By protesting the American Embassy in Nigeria and the US State Department is protecting and looking after one of its own. Those who rule Nigeria, while it last, need to start taking care of Nigerians. That care may be an antidote to Nigeria dancing on the brink by John Campbell