Before now, the only thing I could vaguely recollect about Baroness Lynda Chalker was that the last time I saw her, and that was during the reign of late General Sani Abacha or so, somehow, I had thought she was slightly overweight and needed some help. I am not too sure now if I also thought she could use the services of a dietician or a visit to the gym then, but what I remember vividly was that at that time, the ebullient Baroness took extreme delight in throwing her weight about all over Africa as Britain’s Minister for Overseas Development. In fact, the way she spoke and carried herself in those days, one always had this unappetizing feeling she sometimes probably derived undue ecstasy with some delusive thought that she may have after all become some kind of colonial administrator over Africa and her peoples.
But until last February , when I stumbled on the report of the outrageous and totally scandalous statement she made at the Nigerian Investment Forum in Abuja, I had practically forgotten about this woman.
No doubt, Baroness Chalker, has since ceased to be of any real use to her country, and has probably been politely dumped in the camp of yesterday people, but you can trust my country, the Giant of Africa, to find her attractive for a very lucrative appointment. I am told that President Olusegun Obasanjo has appointed her the Chairperson of Nigeria’s International Investment Advisory Council. Her brief is to use her “powerful influence” and “wide connections” to persuade the much sought-after foreign investors to troop to Nigeria in droves. But in this job, as any person can attest, she has woefully failed just like the government that hired her. And so in order to justify her devastating failure, she has now reached into the repertoire of over-recycled phrases of the highly discredited Nigeria Image Laundering Project (NILP), dredged up the most hackneyed logic therein, beautifully plagiarized it, and slapped it on the Nigerian media and Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Hear what she reportedly said in Abuja in February 2005: “Many good things have happened in Nigeria in the last 18 months than in any other country in Africa but the outside world needs to know this to be able to take positive investment decisions on the country… But often all that we see outside Nigeria are the negative things. The media and Nigerians in the Diaspora must take the challenge of telling the world that good things are happening here. Nigeria stands a good chance of attracting foreign investors if they have adequate knowledge of the real situation rather than the perception which is often wrong”.
Beautiful. Very beautiful! I could see my good brother, Emeka Chikelu, Minister of Information, nodding his head with immense satisfaction, as this statement reverberated around Abuja. Indeed, his Image Laundering Project is surely receiving a great boost from the “right” quarters! I can equally imagine “Baba Anti-Corruption” himself, President Obasanjo, muttering under his breath: Tell them; tell these ungrateful people!
Well, Mrs. Chalker is welcome to her game, but a character in Chinua Achebe’s Anthills Of The Savannah had noted that it feels good to admire Castro and sing his praises if you know very well you won’t ever have to live in Cuba. Yes, to the Baroness, Nigeria is merely a generous casino box where she hops in from time to time to collect jumbo consultancy fees with a very long spoon, and that’s all. My good ‘nwanna’, Uche Nwora, who resides in London, observed recently in an open letter to Mrs. Chalker on this subject, that “… in Nigeria, the word ‘Baroness’ has negative connotations; it is usually associated with big time drug pushers…” But like Uche also added, I would not want to associate the Baroness with that kind of unhealthy trade, but on a second thought, it does seem to me that the trade she is currently involved in, precisely, the one that compels her to seek to discredit our legitimate bitter and excruciating experiences as a people that have found themselves in an impossible country ruled by heartless and unconscionable men, has far worse effects than drug trafficking!
Now, how can you cruelly hit an innocent child and still expect him not cry out? Why is Chalker descending on me for daring to insist that my country has no business remaining in the prehistoric age of darkness, even after my government has announced that it has plunged 2.5 billion dollars in the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), Nigeria’s official Agent of Darkness? Why should my country in the 21st century remain the biggest dumping ground for candles, hurricane lanterns, and lots of toy generators from that country of criminal prosperity called China? Why must I write this essay with the aid of candles, while my colleagues in nearby Niger, Ghana, and even Togo where my president went recently to flex his muscles, countries not up to the size of Ikeja, and which sometimes look up to Nigeria for handouts, have since forgotten what it feels like to experience a blackout? By the way, how many times has Chalker experienced a blackout in her country? Did she hear about the gory tragedy of the Ayinla family in Ibadan, where an entire family of ten was wiped out by poisonous generator fumes?
So, for fear of scaring away foreign investors, I should keep quiet and die in silence while the vulgar bazaar goes on in Abuja uninterruptedly? Would Chalker be able to keep quiet if power supply is withdrawn in Britain during the next winter when she would need to operate her heating device? Will she be able to survive it? Is Chalker aware that Nigeria does not start and end in Abuja, that there are fellow human beings with blood in the veins like her at Ilaje, Badia and Ajegunle who are forced by ungodly rulers to live in hell on earth?
Tell me Baroness, only recently, in your country, a man called David Blunket was forced to re
sign as Home Secretary just because he had hastened the visa process for the nanny of his ex-lover? But didn’t you hear the last time you came to Abuja that government officials sink billions of naira belonging to Nigerians in clearly spurious and criminal deals and expect to be applauded for that? Didn’t you hear about Pentascope, how one insufferably arrogant fellow in the Ant-Corruption government in Abuja called Mr. Nasir El-Rufai, against every good advice, engaged some gaggle of “experts” squatting in an uncompleted Church building in the Netherlands to (mis)manage NITEL, and how he had declared at the Public Hearing organized by the House of Representatives that he had no apologies for his scandalous actions even when his “experts” had horribly run down the company, and made Nigeria lose millions of dollars? Do you still remember, Baroness, that you are the Chair of the UK Chapter of Transparency International (TI)? Will the TI still retain the credibility to pass a valid verdict on Nigeria now, given your ecstatic flirtation with the government in Abuja?
Now, have you been to any Nigerian public school or government-owned hospital lately? Say the truth here, Baroness: would you send your grand-child (if you had any) or even your worst enemy to a Nigerian university or agree to be admitted in a hospital belonging to the government you said has recorded wonderful achievements in the past eighteen months? Have you plied the death-traps we call roads here? Did you hear about the last strike by doctors due to non-payment of salaries, and the thousands of human beings (not animals) that died in the process, at a time our president, reportedly brought in 160 limousines for the African Union (AU) conference?
How much, dear Baroness, are you being paid for uttering these damnable heresies on-behalf of those that have already sold their souls to the devil? Could you please list those wonderful achievements of this government in the last eighteen months which only you saw? You are trying to attract foreign investors for us, what is the fate of the indigenous ones? Have you heard of Slock Airlines now flourishing in the Gambia after several hundreds of Nigerians were rendered unemployed because it had to be frustrated out of this place because of base and primitive politics? By the way, have asked your paymasters in Abuja why Nigerians are moving their businesses to Ghana and developing those places and offering employment to the youths there instead of this place?
Did you hear about such public relation disasters like the Anambra political crises, how a sitting governor of a state was abducted and forced out of office by people who have never attempted to deny their treasonable action? Have you tried to ask your employer when the anarchists will be arrested, investigated and tried in an open court as is done in civilized countries? Did you hear that the Nigeria Police, acting on orders from “above”, watched as privileged hoodlums wreaked violence in a state, killed, maimed, and burnt down government and individual houses in broad daylight, and till now, no arrests have been made? Now, was these scary scenes created by the Nigerian media or Nigerians in the Diaspora? How many investors would like to put their hard-earned money in a country where such brazen advertisement of lawlessness, anarchy and impunity is being supervised from the highest office in the land? What are we really talking about Baroness?
Look, we are not animals but human beings. By taking sides with our oppressors to blame us, the hapless victims, for Nigeria’s woes, you have portrayed yourself as equally unfeeling and an enthusiastic collaborator in this grand design to kill Nigeria. No wonder no one could point to any form of positive development in Africa traceable to your tenure as Secretary for Overseas Development. You were probably more interested in embracing the robust bodies of the people’s tormentors than making any significant input for sustainable development in these parts. Indeed, Baroness, you must be willing to admit that the sole motivator of your recent horrifying remarks about the Nigerian media and Nigerians in Diaspora is just the juicy consultancy fees you collect from Abuja. Nothing more, nothing less.
So, by allowing yourself to throw up such an incredible faux pas, you have willingly and most clearly awarded yourself a prominent slot in the infamous list of the unambiguous enemies of the Nigerian people, and if you have any modicum of decency still remaining in you, you should hastily give up the juicy appointment that brings you to Nigeria and retire to the chilling embrace of your perennially inhospitable climate. That is the only path of honour remaining for you, Baroness.