My concern is: Why can’t this behaviour exhibited within the American embassy be replicated on the home soil? Why is that not the case once we come outside and return to our comfort zones? Then we mostly exhibit the opposite behaviour. Several times I have been to the Nigerian Embassy in London and New York. Though abroad, it’s very Nigerian. The only difference is the change in weather.
All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion and desire – Aristotle.
There is something I always find quite interesting whenever I visit the United States Embassy’s visa section in Abuja, regarding applicants for the US visa. As you park before the barricaded area, it’s the typical Nigerian setting we are all used to. It’s bubbling, with tons of people all trying to offer services. From taking photographs and assistance with the filling of forms to good wishes that you get the visa. On one hand, they are simply trying to earn a living, and on the other hand, they see applicants as fortunate to even have an opportunity to ‘japa’ out of the country.
Anyway, the moment that applicants cross the heavily fortified barricade, our demeanours change. Solemnity as a mode is activated. One tends to greet every staff and co-applicant we meet on the way politely. But are we generally polite as a people? I think we are. The difference is in the humble mannerism we exhibit once within the premises of Western embassies. At the point of checking documents, surprisingly no one attempts to jump the queue, and no one flaunts their identity. Egos are not hovering or ready to kick in. Now that is un-Nigerian. Artisans, politicians, students, men, women and children join the queue with little or no rancour. The irony is that there are, at most, two unarmed security personnel giving directions. That’s all.
I’m struggling to think of any place where I have observed such orderliness when it comes to queueing and dignified humility. Definitely not in our banks, airports, petrol stations, places of worship, offices or any place I’m familiar with. Not even at the cemetery.
After confirming one’s documents, one goes to the next stage, where you sit down, waiting to be called upon for the interview – the confessional. But before we get there, one cannot miss the heightened neatness and smartness in the dressing of most applicants. You hardly notice any ‘jagaga ‘dressing, even though you want to go to the land of the free to wear anything. Or maybe some soothsayer says that good dressing is a prerequisite for obtaining the visa. Clothes are spick and span, with kids adorning nice suits. Ladies look like they are going to visit their grandparents. The bearded ones are usually clean-shaved. The sparkling shoes on the different feet are fit for the presidential parade. No one litters the environment.
While seated, no sign mandates people to keep their voices low, but somehow, no one is really talking. The decibel level rivals only that of a court room – whispers only. Inhalation and exhalation are measured. Even those with kids tell them to keep quiet. Only children are allowed to over breathe. Nothing is expected but the best behaviour from kids. When they ‘misbehave’ by trying to play, the power of sign language is deployed to keep them in check. No scorning or tongue-lashing.
You can smell the fluctuating anxiety levels, while watching those interviewed before you and when others are called. Self-importance is near zero. There is absolute civil obedience with no rule or warning.
Once the interview starts, the usually nice interviewers ask simple basic questions that don’t require much apprehension. One would marvel at the way we respond. Calm, respectful but with marbles in the mouth. You want to be sure that your answers are well communicated. Of course, most would have practised the lines the night before in their dreams. Choosing every single word carefully. All tensed up. Cognitive behavioural specialists rationalise anxiety during interviews because one does not know what to expect, but even at that, our behaviour during those sessions is legendary.
As with everything in life, some are given, while some are rejected. From the faces, you can easily tell. My concern is: Why can’t this behaviour exhibited within the American embassy be replicated on the home soil? Why is that not the case once we come outside and return to our comfort zones? Then we mostly exhibit the opposite behaviour. Several times I have been to the Nigerian Embassy in London and New York. Though abroad, it’s very Nigerian. The only difference is the change in weather.
So, what is the issue? Wherein lies the problem, if there is a problem? We need to interrogate this further. Over to the National Orientation Agency.
Umar Yakubu is with the Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch. Twitter @umaryakubu
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999