Last year in grad school, I was opportune to join a group, Thinking Globally. It involved international students going to high schools to give presentations about their countries. It was a great experience; in fact, one of the best times I’ve had. It was beautiful to watch the excitement on the students’ faces as they answered every question asked – especially when it had to do with all the information the biased media portrayed. I got to answer questions like why my house has a barbed wire? Did I play with lions? Questions about Boko Haram and security threats came with the package. It was a delight to watch their facial expressions when I showed them beautiful pictures of Nigeria they had never seen before.
In one of the sessions, while I was showing them pictures of my typical day at work in KPMG Lagos, a student was like ‘wow! Is that building in Nigeria?’ Ah! So is it mud house I will be working in? A professor invited me to speak to college students and it was just great being an Ambassador – as we were called. I danced in one of the sessions as some of them were crazy about Nigerian music, so I played some music and showed them a few of our signature dance steps.
I showed them the map of Nigeria and spotted the places that have suffered from Boko Haram’s attacks. I explained to them that it is not as if we all walk on bombs and I feel very safe in Nigeria. Overall, I must have spoken to almost two hundred students and it felt good when someone stopped me on the way to say ‘I remember you, I loved your presentation on Nigeria’.
Every country has its own challenges and even through ours is of a special breed, it doesn’t mean we should go about fueling the negative hearsays and stereotypes. I used to have this course mate that we talked about Nigeria often, my ‘bobo’ skills were so great that he kept on talking about how he would love to visit someday. Fortunately, he was sent on an official assignment to Nigeria this year and he talked more on his positive experience over there. How much more we the citizens?
I am more appalled that a top government official will fly a private jet from Nigeria to ‘the abroad’ and tell them how corrupt we are further fueling all the negative perceptions. It’s sad enough that Mark Zuckaberg came to Nigeria and another top government official went online to proudly talk about how Mark said he will look into the several false accounts carrying her name on Facebook based on her request. Of all the things to ask about and then she happily tweets about it. The President told him that we are not used to seeing successful people like him jogging on the streets and how he is better than his Nigerian counterparts.
In my opinion, those were not the right impressions to make. What about asking about his Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and asking intellectual questions about them than taking those forced selfies that surfaced online? More so, the senators that left the shores of Nigeria and became involved in a messy allegation of sexual misconduct is enough for one to just give up on being good ambassadors of our great country. But really, the true change that we desire in this country may just begin without these crop of government officials.
We all are ambassadors in our own little way. How do you behave when in a foreign country? Are you the type that will jump the queue and try to act ‘smart’? Do you get to work on time as you are required to? Please, have this little consciousness that you may be the only Nigerian a foreigner may get to meet; and making a first or last good impression is the least that can be done.
Photo Credit: Carlosphotos | Dreamstime.com