I watched, like every American, and the rest of the world, the unnecessary spectacle that led to the US Government shutdown for 16 days. While Americans are breathing some sigh of relief that their Government has finally re-opened, after losing so much, including a loss of “at least $200 million a day,” Senator Ted Cruz, in the most bizarre, absurd manner, tried to show his harbored animus toward Nigeria and Nigerians by exploiting some correctable computer “glitches” that customarily affect big companies that are first working with a very large volume of data. For the record, here is what Ted Cruz said (October 22, 2013):
"You may have noticed that all the Nigerian email scammers have become a lot less active lately… They all have been hired to run the Obamacare website." [For details, visit http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-nigerian-americans-outraged-over-sen-ted-cruz-nigeria-scammers-joke-107407/ ]
What Ted Cruz said with such reckless abandon was to condemn Nigeria, Nigerian Government, and Nigerians ALL over the world. To him, Nigerians are scammers, unprofessional, and “of no good.”
Now, let us first explore what Ted Cruz’s statement means, and finally answer the ultimate question, “why did he say that?”
Let us assume, for the moment, that all the Engineers hired by the US Government to run the Affordable Healthcare website are all Nigerians. Now, what does that really say of Nigerians in the US? It clearly and unequivocally says that some Nigerians have actually attained such lofty professional heights in the US and the world, writ large. Put differently, there is no way Americans, especially American Government officials, will hire any African or foreigner, at the job level we are talking about, with less than first-class, superior resume or curriculum vitae. In other words, those Nigerian Engineers, hired to build and maintain the Affordable Healthcare website, are not only well qualified, and are at the top of their professional game, they have proven records with enviable professional computing, engineering gravitas. In fact, I am quite convinced that they were deeply vetted, and peer-reviewed. Above all, they carry the stamps of approval – appropriate degrees from reputable institutions and certifications. Here is the bottom line: Ted Cruz appears to have some personal disdain for Nigerians, and it is apparent in his statement.
One must also notice that in every society, including the United States of America, there are natural, native born “scammers.” No society is immune to fraudulent people of some sort. Consider this: Grace Commission was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to look into how Pentagon (the US Defense Headquarter) spends money appropriated by the US Congress. This Commission was created, following some whistleblower report. Here is one of the mind-boggling, startling findings by Grace Commission (1984):
Pentagon was spending $91 on a 3-cent screw.
It does not take Solomon’s wisdom for one to figure out that there are some American contractors - red-white-blue American contractors - scamming the US Government. Hence, Pentagon was paying $91 on a screw one can simply buy 3 cents from ordinary hardware store.
Now, does this finding by Grace Commission make all Americans scammers, unprofessional, and “of no good”? Common sense says NO!
So, instead of Ted Cruz allowing the engineers to do what engineers do in such normal circumstances of “glitches” - i.e., take a breather, clear some cobwebs, take a second look, and try to find the source(s) of the glitches - he found it compelling to juxtapose such glitches with what he considers “Nigerian scammers”. This is absurd, to say the least. To publicly malign Nigeria, Nigerian Government, and Nigerian people in this manner is totally uncalled for, mean-spirited, and highly disrespectful of his office as a Senator.
It must be stated, rather boldly and poignantly, that there are good, law-abiding Nigerians in the continent of Africa, in the US, and all over the world obeying the laws of the land, discharging their professional duties with honesty, decency, and professional decorum. Further, there are so many Nigerians fulfilling their civic responsibilities in the US, and participating in the US electoral process – some of them, I am sure, voted for Ted Cruz in Texas. Therefore, to use the usual glitch, which engineers encounter all the time in say Microsoft, Apple, AT&T, General Motors, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, and other big companies that handle huge volume of data, to condemn Nigeria and Nigerians is totally out of line.
Senator Ted Cruz should educate himself on substantive accomplishments of so many Nigerians in the United State, at least. Accordingly, he owes Nigeria and Nigerians an elaborate, unqualified apology, and I hope his fellow Republicans should urge him to do so, ASAP.
Now, one must ask the ULTIMATE question: Why did Senator Ted Cruz make such absurd and disparaging comments about Nigerians? In a broader perspective, why is it that Ted Cruz and likes of him, (e.g., Judge Milian, http://www.umez.com/to-judge-milian.html), can say this sort of thing and get away with it?
Seriously, the answer is not buried in rocket science; the answer is rather very simple. Ted Cruz and his likes know, for instance, that they will NEVER leave American banks to bank in Nigerian banks – NEVER! They know they will never leave their schools to collapse only to send their children to Nigerian schools to study. They know they will never leave their own hospitals to collapse only to fly themselves and their family members to Nigeria for medical checkup and treatment. They know that no matter what they do or say about Nigeria, so many Nigerian leaders will always do what they do best, namely, abandon Nigerian banks to bank abroad; abandon Nigerian schools to send their children to study abroad; abandon Nigerian hospitals to fly abroad for medical checkup and treatment; abandon Nigerian people only to feed Swiss people and their cohorts with Nigerian oil money. In other words, they know that there will be no meaningful, substantive response(s) from Nigerian Government – NONE! ZERO!! Indeed, Ted Cruz and his likes understand that lots of Nigerian leaders have yet to understand the meaning of true patriotism – i.e., the love of a country. If they did, the N10 Billion (Ten Billion Naira) squandered on Independence Day dance celebration this month in Nigeria, for instance, could have been invested in Nigerian roads, schools, science, research, hospitals, and other infrastructures to command respect for Nigeria around the world.
So, Nigerian leaders must wakeup and bear this in mind at all time: leadership is action and not a position, and that leadership is parenthood. Just as parents take care of their own people, leaders must take care of their own people. If leaders abandon their own people, their people will become a laughing stock of the whole world. It is as simple as that. Nigerian leaders must learn a big lesson from such ugly, disrespectful statements by Senator Ted Cruz and his likes, and do everything in their power to build up Nigeria (with Nigerian oil money while oil still remains a source of huge revenue in the world today) so that the likes of Ted Cruz and the world will start respecting Nigeria and her people.
Knowledge/wisdom is power. Hence King Solomon asked for wisdom, instead of asking for the best luxurious car of the year. Why? Because Solomon knows that a man who has wisdom and put that wisdom to better use, will have something much better and bigger than the best luxurious car of the year. A wise leader will bring development, honor and respect to his country. Respect is earned – period!
In sum, like some people have said, Cruz owes Nigerians an apology. But it does not and should not stop there. Nigerian leaders must work hard to make the world respect Nigeria. How? Again, by investing Nigerian oil money in Nigeria, as Ted Cruz and his cohorts are investing the US resources in the US, or as other oil countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, etc., are also doing in their countries. Indeed, Ted Cruz would not make this kind of remark about Nigeria when Nigeria was “the Giant of Africa” - late 70s to early as 1981, when 75 kobo or less was equivalent to $1. Again, respect is earned!
Because good, quality leadership means doing what is right when no one is looking, we continue to ask God to bless us with good, quality leadership – the kind of leadership that will actually understand this world we live in and act and react accordingly!
Bedford Nwabueze Umez, Ph.D.