Tuesday, 25 February 2014
The Worth Of A Nigerian Passport By Mohammad Qaddam Sidq Isa
“These are to request and require in the name of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria all those who it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford him or her every assistance and protection of which he or she may stand in need.” Adorned with such a beautifully worded presidential note, the Nigerian passport is presumably a very valuable booklet that is supposed to facilitate its holder’s movement around the world with dignity and respect.
Also, ostensibly in order to ensure that only Nigerians enjoy the privilege of obtaining it, the passport has been enhanced with advanced security mechanisms and protection features making it an e-passport in its current improved booklet design, which make it technically superior to those of many countries around the world. However, Nigeria reportedly introduced it under pressure from some western countries, which had lamented the high rate of forgery of the old passport; hence they put pressure on Nigeria to switch to an e-passport with a view to checking such practices. Anyway, though the process of issuing it is still corruption-ridden, which enables many non-Nigerians obtain it; the Nigerian passport remains the most reliable national identity document for Nigerians both inside and outside the country.
Incidentally, a passport could be simple or advanced in features yet the worth of a country is greatly determined by the extent to which its passport is respected in different countries around the world. Consequently, as a holder of a Nigerian passport, one begins to realize how much Nigeria matters in the eyes of the world and indeed how much Nigerians are worth compared to other nationals around the world. This occurs the moment he plans to embark on a journey outside the country especially to a country that imposes some requirements in advance, e.g. visa for Nigerian passport holders.
Unfortunately, it is right from that point that he would begin to realize that, despite such presidential request and all such advanced technical features in a Nigeria passport, it is hardly if at all worth the papers it is made up of. The unfortunate irony is that, the Nigerian passport actually derives its value (if any) primarily from the number of foreign countries’ visas in it and of course the value of the countries which issued the visas.
The ridiculously strict and sometimes impossible visa application requirements imposed by various countries on Nigerian passport holders, the period it takes in “visa processing”, the validity period of the visa (if granted), the discriminatory scrutiny its holder goes through at foreign airports and the amount (if any) of recognition he gets from individuals and institutions in foreign countries, say it all about the actual worth of Nigerian passport, and by implication, its holder, as they also indicate how much disdain such countries have for Nigeria and Nigerians. Needless to say, these discriminatory practices frustrate legitimate pursuits and jeopardize lawful interests of many Nigerians wishing to travel for various reasons.
Though occasionally Nigerian authorities protest over such prejudiced treatment against Nigerian passport holders abroad, especially when they (i.e. Nigerian authorities) come under sustained criticism for their typical indifferent attitude towards such unjustified treatments. They have, however, never been serious enough to get such countries to comply accordingly. Instead the whole outcry simply dies down amid empty promises coated in diplomatic press releases while the status-quo continues.
Worse still, is while this unfortunate status-quo persists, it continues to take its toll on the attitudes of many Nigerian travelers, because as they endure it, its impacts continue to gradually but consistently undermine their natural self-esteem and infect them with the sense of inferiority. Many Nigerians abroad unconsciously and spontaneously display this feeling, hence they indirectly contribute to the way they are unjustifiably suspected, harassed and even persecuted.
Meanwhile, the brazen indifference shown by Nigerian officials towards this situation could be attributed to –among other things- the fact that they hold official and diplomatic passports, which even though hardly guarantees them the maximum privilege typically given to such passport holders from other countries, they nonetheless enjoy relatively much better treatment than the standard passport holders. Incidentally, this explains why even those who don’t necessarily need such official or diplomatic passports obtain them by hook or by crook and continue to use them and indeed get them renewed over and over again even after losing their various official positions that qualified them to obtain such documents.
Admittedly however, the quite embarrassing notoriety of Nigeria as a brand all over world, which unfortunately influences the way many people around the world form their first impression of them, is particularly responsible for this virtual global disregard for them in general. Unfortunately, the persistent leadership failure in the country has left many honest and hardworking Nigerians with no other option but to look elsewhere with the hope of achieving their various academic, professional and other entrepreneurial potentials. In the meantime, some criminal elements among them make it to many foreign countries around the world where they engage in criminal activities that tarnish or rather worsen the notoriety of the country’s already awful image.
It is quite unfortunate that while geographical boarders are literally crumbling in the context of globalization to the extent that an increasing number of countries are not only abolishing the need for visas between them but are also dispensing with the need for even the passports altogether in favour of only national ID cards, the Nigerian passport continues to hold back and indeed frustrate many promising Nigerians from joining such global trends hence they face restrictions on their chances of achieving their potential.
In order to regain its lost respect, Nigeria has no alternative than to affect a radical and comprehensive reform in all aspects of its national endeavor, which should primarily focus on attitudinal reform in the first place as well as vigorous promotion of the sense of responsibility particular among the elite. Anything short of that would only prolong and indeed worsen the status quo.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters