In this encounter with RALIAT AHMED-YUSUF who was in New York, the envoy advised Nigerians to avoid patronising touts in their to quest to obtain US visas, even as he explained that the recent embargo placed on Nigeria for the US visa lottery was not as a result of a diplomatic row between the two countries. Excerpts:
What can you say about the recent exclusion of Nigeria from participating in the US visa lottery?
It is the United State government’s decision. Their ambassador and their country in Nigeria have spoken. The quota is allocated based on data and the number of people and what the government made us to understand is that the Nigerian quota had been exhausted. The American government has continued to acknowledge that the Nigerian immigrant population is the most enlightened and the most educated and so it is not that they are not looking for Nigerians but since the quota for Nigeria is already filled they felt that other countries that have not benefitted before should be given a chance. Because there were 50,000 opening and Nigeria alone can fill that quota. I don’t think it is anything that has to do with punishment or any problem between the two countries.
How are Nigerians in the US faring generally? Do you have any issues with them?
Nigerians are doing very well. We have categories of Nigerians from top to bottom. You have some of them that are doing extremely well professionally. You also have some that are not doing well but the issue is education. In this country once you don’t have the required knowledge you cannot be anything. We have the problem of half baked educated people. I will give you an example. A Nigerian will call the consulate asking how to process his passport and you tell him to go on line but what he will do is to sit in front of a computer and expect you to spoon feed him on the process. We have a lot of such people in America who are here but America has not passed through them. They are basically living in the village in their mind. They have not updated themselves yet.
How do you manage the illegal influx of Nigerians into the US who would do anything to gain access to the country because of the belief that the land is greener here?
I have always told such people and those Nigerians living here that this is not home. I always give them an example that anybody with whom you graduated and you left him in Nigeria and after 10 years he is better off than you in every way then you should know that it is better to be in Nigeria. Here you may have beautiful cars, houses and what have you but the reality is that you live in debt. This is because once you get your salary, it goes into payment for the car, the house, medical insurance and at the end of the day they end up with 200- 300 or 400 dollars with which to feed .So it is like living from hand t o mouth. But for a Nigerian graduate that has been struggling, you find out that after 5-10 years he may be living in his own house, own his own car and even if he is paying rent he has a means of paying it.
Here, life is difficult so anybody that wants to come should come, read and go back home to give back to the society.
What can you say about the present insecurity in Nigeria which has continued to portray the country in a bad light?
Yes we have security and infrastructural challenges but in spite of all that there is no company that has invested in Nigeria that has not come out smiling. For example there was this company that went to Adamawa state. Already they have heard a report about insecurity generally in some Northern parts of the country but they insisted on going.
They invested 45 million dollars and after 5 years they got back their 45 million and their investment is still there. So it is a win -win situation however you look at it. Yes we have challenges but this government is doing all within its power to solve the we are doing our own part too to support the government.
Do you see Nigeria overcoming this challenge soon?
The challenge is almost overcome. Now mostly it’s just the negative aspect of it. The main strength of bokoharam has been broken.
Government has almost virtually completed the destruction of bokoharam.
What are you doing to change the mindset of people here because most of them have a very bad impression about Nigeria?
I think one problem we have is the tone of the reportage of news by the Nigerian media contributes more than anything to the negative perception about Nigeria. Nigerian media practitioners should start looking at things much more objectively by refining their way of reporting news. On our own part we have been talking and I’m pushing for the idea that we have gone beyond all that you listen and hear in the newspaper. Unfortunately the bloggers have created another tier in reporting which is completely uncontrollable. This is another problem.
They sit in the comfort of their home and post all sorts things online. The bloggers also have to learn that they have to be objective. Lastly, regionalism and religious politics also contributes to the negative write up.I just want to caution all of us that we should be more objective in whatever we do because ultimately this is the only country we have and we all all work together to make it better.
Why has it been so difficult to eliminate touting in US visa application? What do you think can be done?
My advice is that Nigerians should change their attitudes and stop patronizing touts. Applying for American visa is not difficult if you follow the rules. If you go on line and fill the form, then you get your appointment date for the interview. Whether they give you the visa or not is a different ball game. If there is no demand, you won’t have somebody selling. So, if Nigerians do not demand to cut corners there will be nobody doing this touting .Let Nigerians stop the touting and do the right thing by following due process.