By Donu Kogbara
According to the United Nations, there are between 700,000 and a million migrants in Libya. Most are sub-Saharan Africans who went there hoping to travel to Europe in boats from Libya’s Mediterranean coast. Some are Nigerians.
But these desperate migrants who are fleeing problems in their own countries soon realise that Libya is anything but a benign temporary or permanent refuge.
Stories about beatings, kidnappings, rapes and enslavement are rife. And the Libyan authorities aren’t currently able to stop this widespread abuse of migrants.
Libya has been an alarmingly lawless basket case since Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule ended with his assassination in 2011 (who knew then that Gaddafi, a brutal dictator, would turn out to be a great leader compared to his successors?!).
The people who are barely running Libya at the moment are not even in control of the entire country; and the people who are exploiting and dehumanising migrants are taking advantage of the government’s chronic weaknesses.
CNN, the American TV station, recently screened harrowing footage of an auction at which manacled Black men were being sold as slaves by Libyan Arabs, some for as little as $400. And I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In this day and age!
Libyan officials say that they recently conducted raids in Sabratha, a littoral city, and emancipated – from several warehouses and farms – thousands of migrants who had been sold into forced labour by people traffickers.
Meanwhile, detention centres in which liberated migrants are being held are crammed full; and Mohammed Bisher, head of Libya’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Authority, is urging migrants’ home countries to take more responsibility.
Our government claims to be doing as much as it possibly can to rescue the Nigerian citizens who are trapped in this Libyan nightmare. But Jimi Fashola, a Vanguard reader, is sceptical and so distressed and disgusted by images of our compatriots being treated like animals in Libya that he has written this poem:-
Are we even a country?
Are we even a country one muses?
With Libyans treating us all like mules,
Or other beasts of burden to be abused.
As the Nigerian Govern-ment looks on defensive bemused,
“We’ve established a committee” they declared with great fanfare,
To repatriate those Nigerians trafficked and in despair.
Alas the committee comprises a host of agencies with no clue, While war torn Mali and even Cameroon quickly airlift their people from the vile Libyan gloom. Yet through it all, an FGN air ambulance can fly a VIP on a one-way medical vacation, Returning a corpse to be feted by the nation.
Meanwhile scores of Nigerians fill mass desert graves, The end of the line, born free died a slave!
Is this all the youth can expect from our dear old native land?
A future mummifying in desert wastelands.
Unknown and unconsi-dered, worthy only of committee deliberations, Makes you wonder if there was a country worthy of celebration.
Or a bloodied geographical expression long beyond its expiration.
Of dreams dashed and lives extinguished.
By greedy all-consuming roving bandits.
By the way, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has said that some of the Nigerians in Libya have refused to be repatriated; and I don’t think that Mr Onyeama is lying or understand why these migrants are being so stubborn.
I know that Nigeria has badly betrayed its disadvantaged masses. I know that most members of the Nigerian elite are predatory and dishonest and selfish.
I know that it is extremely difficult to earn enough to cover your basic living expenses – or to even get a job in the first place – if you aren’t lucky enough to come from a privileged family background or to have VIP mentors.
I know that it is a struggle to sustain self-esteem or any sense of hope if you keep getting knocked back in an unmeritocratic nation. I know that Nigeria needs to become a welfare state that provides the have-nots with safety blankets. I know that the Nigerian ruling class needs to create an enabling environment in which entrepreneurs can thrive and provide more employment opportunities.
Having said this, many of the folks who have risen to the pinnacle of our society came into this world with nothing.
Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan made an issue, during an election campaign, of the fact that he’d had no shoes as a child; and he was right to remind everyone that he had not been born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
But, let’s face it: Jonathan’s origins aren’t unusual, as in LOTS of Big Men and Big Women in Nigeria started as the offspring of penurious villagers.
In other words, Nigeria, despite its multiple dysfunctions and frustrations, is not a totally Lost Cause…and is surely safer than Libya and the perilous Mediterranean waters in which so many drown while trying to escape.
In other words, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.
Total for chairman !!!
Prince Uche Secondus – nickname “Total” – is a lonstanding family friend and seasoned politician who is pitching to become the Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP.
I am exceedingly fond of Prince – who is very genial.
In addition to being a Really Nice Guy, he is competent and being solidly backed by our Governor, Nyesom Wike; and I sincerely hope that Prince’s PDP colleagues will vote him into this highest of party positions at the PDP Convention that will take place in Abuja tomorrow!
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