Home Archive U.S Senator Cruz faces vocal cannon for stereotyping Nigerians as scammers

U.S Senator Cruz faces vocal cannon for stereotyping Nigerians as scammers


On October 21st, 2013, the flat-earth ideologue, when U.S Texas Republican Senator Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz Nigeria and Nigerians via a stereotype into his fumbled partisan fight over Obama Care. He told a rally of his fellow Tea Party activists in the city of Houston that “You may have noticed that all the Nigerian email scammers have become a lot less active lately. They all have been hired to run the Obamacare website.” For context and clarity, Cruz was speaking to a group with some members who believe President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., but Kenya.

Outside the awkwardness and intentional goal of insulting Nigerians, Cruz’s is a crude joke, an overly simplistic and reckless twist of the actions of only a handful of criminals (as they exist in all societies) to describe and characterize a country of 255 million people.

As a student of history and political science, I know that communities, ethnicities and groups have been decimated on the furnace of the assorted bigotries arising from stereotypes. “No one likes to be typecast or stereotyped…” wrote Susan Marg, the author of Hollywood or Bust. But Cruz, a young lawyer, does not understand those wise words; if he did, he has refused to profit from its historical value by stereotyping Nigerians.

The fact is Nigerians contribute more to the U.S. then they take away. Nigerian students count among the top tier for ALL sectors of scholastic excellence in the U.S. At another level of group politics and respect, the other issue which is very troubling is that U.S Senator Cruz operates from the greater Houston area which has the largest concentration of upwardly mobile, actively voting and business-owning community of Nigerians in the U.S. He has quite some chutzpah to stereotype the group. He can, in part, because the Nigerian Foundation and such other organizations masquerading as speaking for and organizing for Nigerians struggle over smaller, wasteful, inconsequential matters. Truth be told, were Nigerians better organized and effective as a group, Mr. Cruz would have focused his comments on important matters.

The problem of Nigerians are not made easier when the folks with financial clout and professional profiles of consequence avoid their community and its events as if they are running away from some kind of plague. When they run foul of the law, they say it’s because they are “Black…Nigerian… immigrants” and other watery apologia.

Without a doubt, there are cases where Nigerians are their own worst ambassadors in dishonor; yet in most cases, Nigerians work real hard, seek mainstream routes to their goals, show remarkable and creative channels for their talents. Nigerians have, literally, continued to emerge like fresh colonies of mushrooms on a tropical sunrise across the four corners of the world as the very best in most endeavors they pursue.

Hence, I have put in, in part, 20 years my multimedia, news and public policy works in the U.S to telling the stories of the African and American (USAfrica) lives, challenges, reporting the good and the bad while honoring annually, during the first weekend of May in Houston, those high-achievers and outstanding men, women and younger ones who I categorized as the “USAfrica Best of Africa” honorees. They are mainly Nigerians, Africans, African-Americans and other Americans and have included the greatest novelist and writer of African descent, late Chinua Achebe; the Nigerian-born founder of the largest Black-owned corporation in the U.S., Kase Lawal (CAMAC), headquartered in Houston, employing several hundreds of persons of diverse origins and bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into the Texas economy. Cruz and his Texas constituents benefit from those millions!

Despite the distractions of those who see Nigeria and Nigerians through the lenses of “Nigerian scammers”, we will continue to celebrate and honor at the “USAfrica Best of Africa” events the fact that the world class Houston medical center and allied healthcare institutions profit from the special skills of thousands of Nigerian nurses, pharmacists, radiologists, researchers and medical doctors. One of those doctors is Dr. Patricia Dike-Odimgbe, a pediatrician who has handled more than 5,000 kids, and seen 3 generations of some Houston families!

It is equally important to know that the USAfrica Data Index show that more than any other recent immigrants, Nigerian-born healthcare employees in the greater Houston/Harris County and Fort Bend areas bring a higher number and level of skills set.

We are a forward-looking community with an outstanding youth leaders who earn, daily, the highest accomplishments in education. In 2012, then 22 years old Nigerian, Emmanuel Ohuabunwa, Jnr (from Arochukwu), made history at the John Hopkins University, here in the U.S., adjudged as having the highest honors during the 2012 graduation by recording a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.98 out of 4, also becoming the first African-American to make such history in the school; and bagged a degree in Neurosciences.

Emmanuel made time to visit me at the editorial headquarters of USAfrica in Houston on August 8, 2012 where we chatted about his scholastic record, future and outstanding personal qualities. He’s on a scholarship to Yale University where he is pursuing a degree in medicine. Emmanuel is first class! Deservedly, inducted into Phi Beta Kappa Society, a prestigious honors group that has membership of 17 US Presidents, 37 US Supreme Court Justices, and 140 Nobel Prize winners. On Saturday May 10, 2014, Emmanuel Ohuabunwa will be honored at the “USAfrica Best of Africa” awards in Houston. I will invite Senator Cruz to present the USAfrica award to Emmanuel.

Evidently, Senator Cruz does not know Nigerians well.
“Sometimes stereotyping happens not because of any nefarious reasons but rather because people don’t know who you are or where you come from, so they go for the broad strokes about you, your culture, your faith, all that”, wrote the Pakistani-American actor Faran Tahir.

Only a month ago, about 200 of the top pharmacists, research scientists and scholars of pharmacology gathered for their convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to promote the business and research interests of Nigerians and Americans. Hence, I led a four-person USAfrica multimedia team to feature NAPPSA’s valuable 3-day event of September 2013.

Such important, professionals’ events, somehow, do not attract the attention of the likes of Cruz & Co! Only the salacious, scandalous and stereotypical items about Nigeria draw their interest. Sad but true.

Ordinarily, the same Rafael Cruz who dances, giddily, to the heady drums of partisan rumba, ought to know better — especially for his being the first Hispanic to be elected U.S. Senator from Texas; and serving since 2013. He ought to know better — especially being mindful of the decades old stereotypes against his fellow Hispanics.

Increasingly, in his almost 10-month old public life in Washington DC as U.S Senator, Cruz has become a walking poster of poor judgment on the business interests of our great city of Houston, of the demographic outlook of our great state of Texas and an excited merchant of the xenophobia and assorted extremisms of the radical right-wing groups known as the Tea Party. Consequently, with such hideous agenda, misguided zealotry and peculiar recklessness, Cruz made a dog’s breakfast of his conservative Republican “strategy” of defunding of Obama care by inflicting an unpopular “government shutdown.”

Singularly, Mr. Cruz’s face and name have since become the twin emblems of the neo-anarchism demand for the outright breakdown of government and suspension of America’s financial obligations by a radical, rookie senator….

The other issue for Nigerians is stereotyping of Nigerians as ‘Drug Dealers.’ Again, it is wrong to throw a blanket and misleading stereotype against a community. Nigerians have never, as a group or government, contrary to some media reports, set up “schools and academies” where they “train” scam artists and drug dealers. No! Of course, the pain and badge of dishonor these drug traffickers inflict on all Nigerians cannot be glossed over as if the community (here in Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, and other cities) share in their lifestyle and activities. Our folks do not. And, never did.

A few minutes ago, I was looking through my records and I saw the U.S Attorney General, Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announcement of Friday, October 11, 1996 that a certain Jumoke ‘Kafi’ Majekodunmi and her heroine trafficking gang of women and some men had been bagged by law enforcement agencies. These human conveyor belts for hard drugs and destructive substances, as a matter of fact, constitute a very minor, criminal part of our community.

Most Nigerians, rich and poor, professionals and the artisans, in different parts of the world will tell you that one of the major problems they face is their image, and how they are presented in the international media and public policy circles.

It’s not too much to suggest that whenever Nigerians become serious with themselves, tackle the agents of dishonor among us, demand zero tolerance for dishonorable conduct, then the world will take them more seriously.

Will the Nigerian government, the embassy of Nigeria in Washington DC, or its well-paid lobbyists do as much as “condemn” the words of Cruz?

Do Nigerians know how to leverage group power politics in America? Or will the 1am to 6am same-routine ‘owambe’ parties remain our priority and highest budget item when those who came after we got here are elected to and appointed to fruitful positions of influence and empowerment?

Will Cruz’s comments awaken Nigerians to productive action?

In the same vein, Dr. Patricia Obiefule (Opuruiche Nwanyi) has reported that CANAN have reached out to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to make a formal correction, retracting his distasteful and disparaging remarks made about Nigerians recently in Houston.  

According to Houston Chronicle while taking a political swipe at the computer problems of the Affordable Care Act, Senator Cruz was reported as saying “You may have noticed that all the Nigerian email scammers have become a lot less active lately… They all have been hired to run the Obamacare website.” He has maligned all hardworking, decent and outstanding Nigerian-Americans who add value and bring goodwill to their different communities, especially in Texas, with the largest concentration of Nigerian-Americans in this country.

Although his office did confirm this, explaining that it was just a joke. Speaking on behalf of the association, Laolu Akande {Executive Director, CANAN}, Dr. Christy Ogbeide {Houston Chapter Coordinator} & Pastor Banjo Olaniyan {Houston Chapter Secretary} said they considered it an insult that a Senator who should be representing the people of his state could turn against some of his very own constituents in what is clearly a reckless and offensive remark.

They said, “there is only one decent option open to Senator Cruz: an unconditional and full apology. CANAN finds it appalling that the good name and reputation of Nigerian-Americans is what the Senator can joke with whimsically. Which is completely unacceptable