Africa & Beyond

The Apt Censure from London!

Recently London played host to a host of countries in an elaborate well-attended Global Anti-Corruption Summit. The Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari was among the scores of Presidents, Heads of Government and anti-graft officials around the world that attended the conference. The event was a welcome initiative given the impact of corruption on the global econo-social welfare. It has three stated aims: to expose corruption, to punish its perpetrators and to drive out the culture of corruption wherever it lies. A 34-point communique was issued at the end spelling out details of how best to tackle the scourge on global scale involving co-operation among participating countries and governments. The Nigerian leader presented a paper in which he pleaded for the repatriation of the stolen funds stashed in foreign banks by our former leaders and officials.

Corruption has continued effortlessly to magnify poverty levels around the world especially in the Third World countries. It has brought wars and destruction of lives and livelihoods. It has made few privileged individuals (executive crooks) richer and majority poor poorer. It has destroyed the future of the young generation holding the hopes and aspirations of the leaders of tomorrow in abeyance and leaving the youths hopeless and helpless. Corruption kills and makes life sluggish, brutish and shorter; it erodes values and underdevelops the mind leading to stagnation in every area of human endeavour. Corruption brings out the beast in Africans in particular and humanity in general. It aids and abets criminality; destroys lives through drug trafficking and consumption. Corruption makes change in leadership in some African countries something akin to going to heaven to meet the Creator without dying first!

But days before the summit in London took place the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was in the news for good or bad reasons depending on which side of the divide one belongs. He was reported to have told the Queen, Elizabeth the second, about the objectives of the Summit briefing her Majesty on the invitations and the need for it now. Cameron, the quintessential handsome Head of British Government was reportedly ‘caught’ on camera telling the Queen of the official invitation extended to Nigeria and Afghanistan, “the fantastically corrupt countries; possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”! We were not told what the response of mother Elizabeth was (if any) but what Cameron told her must have sounded like an old music in her ears given the fact that she must have known Nigeria and her leaders better than the loquacious PM. The Queen has been very much around for close to half a century on the throne!

For some Nigerians (especially those of us in the Diaspora) Cameron committed some diplomatic gaffe in his unstatesmanly take by such wholesale profiling of a great nation whose leadership is biting the bullet by fighting corruption with every energy at her disposal. Yes what he said was not far from the truth but diplomatic decorum dictated otherwise. Perhaps his intention was to name and shame these two nations challenged by odious corruption in the system but he erred in diplomatic principle. Personally, however, I begrudge him not for coming out with such state mockery that shocked not a few especially those in the top echelon of the Nigerian power house in Aso Rock. We must not forget that Cameron was voicing his personal opinion which may not reflect the official position of the government he leads.

London remains the unofficial financial capital of the world. And Great Britain is an important stakeholder in Europe and the Western world in general. There is the impending referendum on ‘Brexit’ which is bound to send global jitters. Even Washington officially is against the British exit from the Euro zone leading to an anti-Brexit Obama intervention recently in London during a state visit. The for/against campaign is gathering momentum and the recent exposé in a London newspaper of the tacit support of the Queen for Brexit would certainly heat up the polity and set tongues wagging as to the real intention and position of the British ruling elite.  If what was written was to be true (the Queen’s pro-Brexit stance) then Cameron and his ‘in-Euro’ crowd would have to re-strategise for the battle ahead is going to be rude indeed. Whether the Brits chose to remain in the Euro-zone come next month or get out completely would have a global impact beyond London or Bruxelles or Berlin or Paris.

David Cameron’s colonial snobbery about ‘fantastically corrupt’ countries is ironic however considering the trite fact that Britain and a host of her offshore havens like the Cayman Islands provide a perfect setting for money laundering and other fiscal crimes against humanity. London is secure in its position as the tax haven capital of the world and the money laundering hub of the global drugs trade! The Nigerian international criminal human trafficking syndicate has its headquarters in London. Through the British posh capital city, smuggled girls (budding prostitutes) are distributed to other European cities where they become ‘sex slaves’ until thousands of Dollars or Euros are shelled out of their private gardens before regaining their ‘freedom’! Britain is still an imperial power though its global influence has waned over the ages.
A nation whose encaged former all-powerful National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan criminally refused to buy arms and ammunition for the national armed forces to prosecute a war against a sophisticated Boko Haram terrorist mayhem and generously distributed instead the billions of Dollars voted for that purpose for the sole purpose of the re-election bid of his fallen principal is fantastically or better still, fanatically corrupt indeed! A country challenged at all fronts by econo-social circumstances whose ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources is facing trial in London for stealing millions of Dollars of the people cannot be described differently from what Cameron said. A so-called giant of an African country whose public officials mostly strive to be in positions of authority in order to make money corruptibly other than to serve the general interest of the masses could be called a fantastically corrupt country.

The Boko Haram insurgency in the north that has killed thousands and maimed thousands more, taking thousands more prisoners and making thousands more refugees or destitutes had its roots in corruption in the system. The late Mohammed Yussuf saw the need for an armed rebellion cum jihadism against the state because corruption was thriving n the system while the ‘talakawas’ suffered. Most of the Boko Haram recruits were primitive ‘talakawas’ and ‘almajiris’. Besides, some notable politicians have been implicated in the sponsorship of the terror group. While some of them used them for political purposes leading to power grab others supported them materially and financially as a leverage over their opponents.

The post-Yussuf Boko Haram has been hijacked by the fugitive Abubakar Shekau, a dreaded drug-addicted mass abductor, rapist and arsonist, who had since pledged allegiance to ISIS or Daesh for more international attention and material and financial support. But to some extent the political machinery that was Boko Haram still remained intact until recently when the Buhari regime sought to militarily decapitate the extremist group rendering same more or less a spent force. While they are on the retreat having suffered military reverses some people are now claiming that the Boko Haram renegades are now metamorphosing into the murderous Fulani herdsmen armed with AK 47 as they lead their cows and cattle for grazing in communities other than theirs.

An oil-producing nation that is occasionally hit by the scarcity of the commodity it imports in an elaborate ‘subsidy’ scam is worthy to be called a fantastically corrupt country. The oil and gas sector in Nigeria is entangled in a corruption mess and mangled by same. That is why the recent pump price increase is warranted if only to finally ‘kill’ the subsidy regime and usher in something new, something better. Nigeria has got to a stage where hard decisions ought to be taken for real change to occur. What should be negotiated is an increment in minimum wage and not reversal of the current price of the PMS. The minimum wage in Nigeria as presently constituted remains an affront to what is decent in any civilised society! It must be addressed and hiked up to complement the increase in the pump price of fuel.

David Cameron must have embarrassed the Presidents of Nigeria and Afghanistan and their presidential entourages but he must have inadvertently awoken another spirit of anti-corruption combativeness in them. Presidents Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Muhammadu Buhari may not be corrupt but the regimes they succeeded made corruption an institutional way of life in their respective countries. The Cameron criticism could be seen as a ‘blessing’ in disguise if the controversial take of the occupant of 10 Downing Street in London turns out to be a tonic required by those agencies and agents charged with the responsibility of arresting graft and prosecuting the culprits.

Of course, it was an apt censure — one emanating from London of all places — a historic city whose past and present has many things to do with  many things (Dikko, Diezani) Nigerian. Long live our English neo-colonial masters in London and elsewhere. We bow and tremble before thee! God save the Queen!

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