America's Nigerian-American tea party faction got a little bit smaller this week after Sen. Ted Cruz made an ill-advised Nigerian email scam joke during a speech on the Healthcare.gov rollout. Now Nigeria's ambassador is demanding an apology.
Earlier this week, while speaking to a group of supporters in Texas, Cruz thought it'd be funny to compare Healthcare.gov, the scourge of uninsured internet users everywhere, to another internet menace. "You may have noticed that all the Nigerian email scammers have become a lot less active lately," he said, according to The Houston Chronicle. "They all have been hired to run the Obamacare website." Surprisingly, all the Nigerians in the country, most of whom have probably never heard a Nigerian email scam joke before, didn't burst into laughter.
"The comment was totally uncalled for,” Professor Ade Adefuye, Nigeria's ambassador to the U.S., told the New York Daily News. “Nigerians feel insulted by that sort of comment,” he added, probably understating the backlash. Nigerian residents in America have been calling the embassy, reportedly "appalled by the perceived cultural insensitivity." He emailed Cruz's office, but hasn't heard back yet. Earlier this week, Reverend Felix Awotula, pastor at Redeemed Christian Church of God, said that he has also received several calls from those upset by the comments. "I'm not too sure of the motive behind that. But anyway, the statement has been made, and it has a devastating effect in the mind of Nigerians because we don't want to identify the country with anything negative," Awotula told KTRK.
Beside perpetuating a negative stereotype (all Nigerians are email scam artists), and possibly being an allusion to the rumors that Obama was born in Kenya (as Rep. Matt Cartwright suggested on MSNBC on Tuesday), it was also just a played-out joke. As the Google Trends graph to the right shows, "Nigerian email scams" peaked in 2005. Obviously Cruz isn't up-to-date on his Naija (a slang term for Nigerians) culture. A much more current joke might have been:
You may have noticed that things have been a little tense between Obamacare and Americans trying to log onto the site, kind of like when Adenike and Ayodele in the new Nigerian American movie Mother of George couldn't conceive. Talk about a rocky relationship!
Those different software components of the Obamacare site sure aren't getting along. Kind of like how Nigerian rappers Wizkid and Davido are beefing. Some things just don't mesh well, amiright?
Can we talk about how how bad that Obamacare site is? According to Fox News, 60 percent of Americans think the Obamacare rollout was a joke. Even Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah has a 4.2 rating on Goodreads, but everyone liked Half of a Yellow Sun better.
Really, this was just a lost opportunity for Cruz to show off how much he knows about Naija culture.