A Critique of Richard Branson's Views on Nigeria's Elite

by Collins Clarke


Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, English business mogul and owner of Virgin Atlantic recently in a statement castigated Nigeria political leaders for under developing the growth of business and impoverishing the economy.

Below is an extract from Mr Branson’s statement:

“….We have virgin’s ill-fated footsteps by setting up a new airline in Africa in conjunction with Nigerian government….the details of the Nigerian market in the 2000s is better imagined….we put together a very good airline…the first airline in West Africa that was ever IOSA/IATA operational safety audit accredited but unfortunately it got tied down to the politics of the country….we led the airlines for 11 years…

“We fought daily battles against government agents who wanted to daily make fortune from us, politicians who saw the government 49% as a meal to seek for all kinds of favour….watchdogs (regulatory body) that didn’t know what to do and persistently asking for bribes at any point….Nigeria people are generally nice but the politicians are very insane…..that may be irony because the people make up the politicians…

“But those politicians are selfish….we did make N3 billion for the Federal Government of Nigeria during the joint venture….realising that the government didn’t bring nothing to the table/partnership except dubious debts by previous carrier, Nigeria Airways….The joint venture should have been the biggest Africa carrier by now if the partnership was allowed to grow, but politicians killed it….Nigeria is a country we shall never consider to doing business again…”

The saying that behind every wealth there is a crime has never stopped hitting my mind ever since I heard of it. I strongly believe that the word CRIME is relative, relative in the sense that what is crime to A might not be for B, likewise C and D. Some people sees business men/women as criminals, maximizing profits at the expense of the commoners, while others sees politicians as criminals reaping where they did not sow. The story on the comparative nature and relativeness of crime and criminality acts goes on and on but never the less crime is crime and every developed society has laws that punishes offenders based on the society definition of crime.

The Nigeria law is channelled towards the British and America system; most offences that are criminal in nature in Nigeria are the same offences that are criminal in the United States and Britain. The method of punishment might differ but the act is considered to be the same by the three countries. Let us look at the crux of this rejoinder which is bribery, bribery is a crime in Nigeria, United States and Britain. The one that gives, the one that takes have both committed an offence on the case of bribery. My view on bribery is to persuade someone in position by cash or other means to do something that he/she is not supposed to do for the benefit of the one that is bribing. The question of why do people bribe and why do people take bribe does not hold water because people will continue to want something and people will also continue to give something that is not supposed to be given. This cut across all kinds of societies, from the so called civilized and developed, to the developing and underdeveloped societies of the world.

Nigeria, the most populated black nation in the world, with a population running to more than 130 million people, a population twice more than that of United Kingdom is seeking for investors to invest in various areas, from oil to communication, from health to education, from agriculture to transportation, etc. Today we have a lot of both private and international investors jostling for juicy contracts and jobs in various fields. Some succeeded and others failed both national and international business personnel’s. The good thing about success is that everybody around you are happy including you, while failure, everyone around you are sad including you, that is life, success and failure. The population of Nigeria knowingly and unknowingly has placed Nigeria in an advantageous position in terms of business, there are more people to buy your products, use it, subscribe to it and deliver it. Giving the right advantage every business man will love to invest in Nigeria but the bottle neck attached to both indigenous and foreign investors coming to Nigeria has become serious concern to leaders and Nigerians. From security to electricity power failures, from bad roads to crime at all levels, etc. Well, this rejoinder is about Richard Branson statement and we have to deal with it so.

In the United States of America and Britain the politicians are still corrupt, the average American or Briton does not like the politicians because they feel politicians are liars, making promises they cannot keep. Corruption in the U.S amongst the Congress and British Parliament to this day is still there but people like Mr Branson still do business there because it is favourable to him. I do not think it is right to castigate Nigeria law makers as corrupt because I know and believe there are law makers in Nigeria that are not corrupt but mean well for the nation. What most people do not know about the Nigeria National Assembly is that the National Assembly consist of various law makers from various zones, regions, ethnic groups, religious groups, institutions and beliefs, because of these it is very difficult to have your way most times. In the National Assembly we have political godfathers, leaders, stooges, etc. No amount of money can really sail you through unless it is beneficial to all regions and ethnic group that make up the Nation called Nigeria. It is a pity that Mr Branson had to pass through the rigours involved in Nigeria politics, but a man of Mr Branson calibre should have done his research very well before coming to invest in Nigeria or maybe those that invited him did not inform him on the rigours in doing business in Nigeria.

I recently stumbled into list of corrupt U.S Congress men/women and British MP’s, I was dumb founded, confused and in a state of bewilderedness because I thought by now corruption would have become history and going by Mr Branson speech it does not exist in these places. In my state of bewilderedness I found succour in my beloved country Nigeria that a country like U.S and Britain with long democratic records and being classified as developed countries are still ravaged by political corrupt leaders what is then left for underdeveloped Nigeria that depends and lookup to them? As I write this piece, I am still in a confused state, confused because of the endless American Congress and British MP corruption list, with governors, senators and members of parliament involved in one corruption scandal or the other. Listing names and offences of America’s corrupt Congress and British MP officials will make a mess to this piece of work because that is another long piece of work itself. Does that mean corruption in high places cannot be fought or eradicated? Democracy has to do with trust, the electorate trusting the elected to solve their problems and corruption in government in a democratic setting is betrayal of that trust. So therefore, it was wrong for Mr Branson to totally castigate Nigeria law makers but would have been better if he mentioned the names of the law makers or people he dealt with during his business sojourn in Nigeria, this in the long run will help Nigeria and Nigerians to identify the bad eggs in the basket.

At this point I will want to thank Mr Branson for speaking his mind in public but also want to ask that his decision not to do business in Nigeria again should be revisited. Nigeria and Africa is the world growing economy and going by Nigeria’s population which gives her the comparative advantage in any investment for investors.

We still have very good and honest members of parliament in Nigeria, parliamentarians that are not corrupt. It is very unfortunate that Mr Branson fell into the wrong hands and going by his words “…Nigeria people are generally nice” still holds sway, because what this means is that he has seen more good than bad people in Nigeria. The Nigeria government is doing everything possible to fight corruption and we all know the menace called corruption cannot be eradicated overnight especially in a growing democracy like ours.

Conclusively therefore, I will want to call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to take what Mr Branson have said seriously and also to intensify the already established corruption fighting mechanisms because the hydra headed and dreaded cankerworm called corruption although cannot be eradicated so soon but can be minimized drastically. This is not to say that it is a truism in all Mr Branson said about members of Nigeria law makers, because it is a universal problem that cuts across both the developed countries like where Mr Branson comes from and Nigeria where he intended doing business.

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