By Frank James

Nigeria just can't seem to shake the negative place it occupies in minds around the world.

Colin Powell in the 1990s famously called it "nation of scammers." And that was before the so called "419" e-mail scams really took off, a species of Internet chicanery that made the nation the butt of many jokes.

Now, it's the recently released South African movie District 9 in which Nigerians are depicted as cannibals, among other things.

An excerpt from an Associated Press story:

One of the summer's biggest blockbusters -- a sci-fi morality tale about aliens and apartheid -- is not welcome in Nigeria because of its portrayal of Nigerians as gangsters and cannibals, Nigeria's information minister said Saturday.
Information Minister Dora Akunyili has asked movie houses in the capital of Abuja to stop screening "District 9" because the South Africa-based sci-fi movie about aliens and discrimination makes Nigerians look bad.
"We have directed that they should stop public screening of the film," she said. "We are not happy about it because it portrays Nigeria in bad light."
Akunyili said she has asked Sony for an apology and wants them to edit out references to Nigeria and to the name of the main Nigerian gangster Obesandjo, whose name closely resembles that of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

A Reuters story has the following quote from the same information minister:

"There is no country that does not have prostitutes and criminals but definitely most countries don't have cannibals, and we don't have cannibals in this country. We don't eat human flesh, it is definitely unacceptable," she said.

Well, all right then. That's settled.

Still, Nigeria's image problem obviously won't be fixed by banning a movie. The reason President Barack Obama didn't visit Nigeria, the African continent's most populous nation and one of its wealthiest because of oil had nothing to do with District 9.

Rather, it was the nation's reputation for official corruption that put it out of the running as a destination for Obama's first trip to Africa as president in July. He visited Ghana instead.

Changing that culture of corruption would go a long way to improving the African nation's reputation. But that's so much more difficult than merely banning a movie.

categories: Foreign News

1:48 - September 23, 2009