Sample for Nigerians

From Capter. 1:3

The Open Wounds of Global Capitalism …

… A Nigerian on the run and an employee from Shell to the rescue

Cash crops are naturally of less value if a country has mineral resources, especially, at the moment, crude oil. In Nigeria, Shell began searching for such resources in 1938. Production started in 1958. The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria was the first of six companies currently working in the area of mineral oil in Nigeria. That is 80 percent of Nigeria’s internal income and 90 percent of its export revenue. When Nigeria gained independence in 1960 (formerly a British colony), it had a functional economy of 70 percent export revenue from agricultural produce, mainly through a structure of small farms (peanuts and cocoa). The country survived many political crises, of which the most well known is the Biafra crisis in the 1960s.
As a result of the industrialization of crude oil, the diverse economy was severely diminished and, consequently, more and more people from the poorer north streamed to the south. Now Nigeria has to import food, but has managed to build itself a space station with the “National Space Research and Development Agency”.
Bright, a friend of our family grew up in Nigeria, and I must admit that I am reporting his story on these pages for personal reasons. However, it also serves as an example of the fate of many people today, and many more to come.

When Bright was young, he had to live with his grandmother. His father went with the rest of his family to a southern province in order to feed his family. Perhaps he had hoped to get an opportunity to work in the now booming region of the Nigerian Delta. Instead, he hung around the fishermen and eked out a living in the Mangrove Swamps of the Delta. Bright stayed with his grandmother because his father and brothers had planned to support him somehow so he could go to school. His grandmother still had work on a farm. But they could not always earn enough money for school and so he had to give up the idea of going to university when his grandmother died. Bright now had to go to the south and probably become a fisherman like his father. But even the opportunity of this modest existence was soon to be taken from him.
Through decades of oil extraction and refining and the burning of large volumes of natural gas, the fishermen of the Delta experienced a massive ecological reduction in their living and working conditions. As their catch became more and more meagre and they became poorer, the flourishing cities of Lagos, Calabar, Warri and Port Harcourt demonstrated a wealth and prosperity that was only within the reach of a small minority from which the fishermen of the Nigerian Delta were excluded. Guerrilla groups formed, mostly of young men, who were prepared to fight.
One of the leaders of these groups was Dokubo Asari. He had converted from Christianity to Islam and founded the “Niger Delta People‘s Volunteer Force”, a militant operation which tried to force the oil giants back by using sabotage. There were several armed conflicts from 2003 to 2005. Hundreds were killed and many villages destroyed. These facts were presented in the press. But how did Bright experience the situation he found himself in as a 24-year-old young man?

He was still trying to adjust to the climate of the Delta. He was not used to mosquito swarms, so in the evenings he left the swamps and stayed at the home of a friend. In the mornings he would go back to the river. But one morning he had just returned to the village when a group from the Asrai organization gathered. A speech was made while an armed band encircled the village. Afterwards, the militants went from house to house and took all the young men they could find. Bright was one of them. There was no chance for questions; the Asari fought for the defence of the village people, so they had to make their young men available to the Asari. That the group was forced and there were no volunteers is evident in the fact that they were shackled.

They were taken via HGV into the bush to a training camp. However, before the training began, they were initiated using a blood-based Voodoo ritual; a form of occult psychology used to unite the group. Each was forced to drink a mix of blood taken from the wounds of the occult symbol (see picture) that had been cut into their abdomen with a knife. The rest of the blood was poured over a kind of idol. After some brief training in the use of the old weapons they had been given, they marched immediately to the next town. The men were traumatised and were suffering from lack of sleep, so they obeyed with blind submission. They were to pass the gates of the Shell station, where a large demonstration was to take place. But they did not get that far. The group was caught by the police at the edge of the town. The situation escalated immediately. Demonstrators began firing and the police used teargas. The men were arrested and the injured taken to hospital where they were treated under guard. Bright was one of the injured. In actual fact, there was not much wrong with him, but after firing one or two shots, he fell unconscious, probably because of the teargas. Whether he had aimed, hit a target or simply fired into the air, Bright could no longer remember – as he regained consciousness, the last 24 hours seemed like a nightmare.
A doctor treated him and wanted to know what made him take part in such a thing. He realized very quickly that Bright was not a real terrorist, but a victim of forced recruitment. As he questioned Bright, the doctor also realized he was very suicidal. Bright wanted to retreat from the world. The police thought he was a terrorist and the terrorists would consider him a traitor if he did not continue with them, which he did not want to do. In any case, his life was over.
The doctor decided then and there to help Bright. That night, he returned with a white man. It was later discovered that this man worked for Shell. He took Bright to a hotel in another town without hindrance. After getting a false passport and plane tickets, they both flew to Paris. From there they took a train to Austria, final station: Salzburg. The Shell employee dropped him off there and Bright has never heard from him since. He sought political asylum from the Austrian authorities. It took five years. Within a short period of time, he was denied asylum twice and extradited back to Nigeria.
Bright visited our family often and got to know us. His polite and helpful demeanor meant he was quickly liked. He found his way into our independent church and was well on the way to integration. His story shows he should have been eligible for asylum. But the granting of asylum in Austria seems to be more about fulfilling political quotas. At least, that is what we experienced in 2010. Bright still lives in a town in Nigeria, but he has to be very careful not to be conspicuous or get arrested. He still has the betraying marks of the Voodoo tattoo on his body and cannot be seen without a shirt. He still has not found any work, and if we did not occasionally send him money, he would not be alive today. We are doing this with the help of God and other believers who support us.

Bright stands for a dilemma that needs to be discussed openly. Even if we assumed that the majority of refugees today are seeking economic asylum, we still need to ask what this means. Bright was a political refugee; the terrorist organization had turned him into one, even if the Federal Courts for Asylum Seekers disagreed. He was, firstly, not believed, and, secondly, told there was no war in his country. For the judge, he was just another economic refugee.
But we know he was not, although he could well have been like many others who decide to come to Europe to find work; he and his family were in a difficult economic situation. He promised us that it had not even crossed his mind, which seemed plausible since he was not the kind of person to do such a thing and probably could not have made enough money to pay a people-runner anyway.
Even if he had fled due to the economic situation, then what of it? Isn’t Nigeria just one of many countries plagued by a subversive economic war called globalization? How cynical is it then, in the light of such reports of which there are countless numbers, to distinguish between political persecution and economic refugee? If an Indian farmer loses his livelihood, or a Brazilian loses his because he is forced into the economic wasteland of his country by a multinational concern and can no longer feed his family. If such a man does not resign himself to a hopeless situation, , but rather, gives up everything to find a better country for his family, then he earns respect and esteem and not the stigma of the label “economic refugee”. The Geneva Convention for Refugees deals with such situations much too inadequately.

I know that in European countries disinformation has propagated the impression that these people are only here because they saw our luxurious lifestyle on television and want it too. They turn every foreigner into adventure seekers and treasure hunters, and these people were always under suspicion. It is possible that there are people who come for this reason. But it is certainly not the majority. Demagogues, who have enough information to know better, consciously twist the facts to get votes.
Emigration is a very difficult issue, independent of motive. Only a few people leave their country willingly and gladly. Usually, issues of inhumanity are related. One of these issues is perhaps new to history, but not less brutal: Emigration as a result of globalization. Economic refugees, who are actually refugees of war because they are caught between the two fronts of an economic war, should at least earn our respect. One last current example should make that clear.