The Stinking Ambience Of The British High Commission, Lagos

by Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

I have been told that, in diplomatic circles, the reputation of Nigeria as a most treasured goldmine for ambassadorial posting has risen to unimaginable heights indeed. The rush is incredibly great. In fact, the situation is such that in divers countries now, several ambassadorial hopefuls fall over themselves in the mad lobby to secure the highly competitive chance of a posting to Nigeria. So pleasant, and so richly rewarding our Nigeria has become, that those who happen to make it to Nigeria eventually are most unhappy when the time to leave comes.

I do not know whether the deliberate action of this government, (no doubt, goaded by ‘Big Brothers’ IMF and World Bank.note the connection), that sent the naira crashing helplessly on the ground was part of the grand design to help ‘Their Excellencies’ get an improved harvest. Nigeria’s peculiar attraction is greatly enhanced by the harsh economic condition in the country occasioned by irresponsible leadership, the worst of which we have seen in the horribly corrupt and incompetent government of General Obasanjo. And when you hear this posh speaking envoys saying that Obasanjo is the best thing to happen to Nigeria, try and understand where they are coming from. The unimaginable hardship this ungodly regime(and its predecessors) has unleashed on us has, most wickedly, forced down the moral guards of several Nigerians, and planted in others the desperation to desert their country in droves. And to some embassies and high commissions in Nigeria, this is indeed great business!

I excuse no one. Much as we applaud the many Nigerians whose integrity has remained in tact despite these punishing times, we must admit that the horrible hunger in the land has made some otherwise decent Nigerians willing conscripts to sharp practices, especially given the absence of any edifying paradigm from the top.

One would have thought that given the affected moral air the foreigners in our midst flaunt before us, they would have found ways of complementing the concern of many us for a moral rebirth in our country, instead of helping to worsen the situation in order to rake in some dirty gains. Taking advantage of the harsh times, they weaken the wills of Nigerians in their employ and make them malleable to their corrupting influence. Those Nigerian victims now act as intermediaries who collect ‘diplomatic dividends’ on behalf of their ‘righteous’ employers.

It then becomes unbearably annoying when this set of people are seen mounting the high moral horse to rain down fierce condemnations and insults on the very people that had staked their personhood and dignity to bloat their wallets. It takes really some special white courage to denounce the very iniquitous system from which one has benefited so well. Yes, it is so unfair to assign dirty tasks under the cover of darkness and emerge with dubious moral air in the daytime to blackmail one’s partners in dishonour just because they are incapable of articulating a coherent counter-view.

Well, I do not blame them. Any family with an irresponsible father is always prone to the contempt and disdain of even not well endowed neighbour. Just the other day, the President of Botswana, a country, probably not up to the size of Ikeja, was lecturing Nigeria on how to combat corruption. Yes, the man heads a country with the ‘fastest growing economy’ this side of the Atlantic! Can you beat that? Indeed, the situation in Nigeria today is so bad that, in the absence of any clear sign of hope from the rapine mob in Aso Rock, Nigerians are being compelled to leave the country in droves. And their desperation is such that they have willingly placed their heads on the slaughter slab of visa merchants, whose operations cannot achieve its current resounding success without the active connivance of the foreign officials of the Embassies and High Commissions in Nigeria. Lured into a delusion of grandeur by their employers, and decorated with badges of slavery in the form of blue or black uniforms, many Nigerian staff at these embassies have become ‘very important’ people due to their ability to deliver, both to visa seekers and to white ‘ogas’ at the top. With their palms dully greased, you can secure a visa appointment or a most vital document (usually hoarded) the next minute.

At the vanguard of this most ugly game is the British High Commission in Lagos. But last week, instead focusing the searchlight on himself, the British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Mr. Philip Thomas, went all out to cast mud on Nigerians for what has until now been a most lucrative business set up by his office and operated right under his very nose. Hear him: “I do not applaud the fact that a mafia seems intent on taking over all our very well organized systems for helping Nigerians have a smooth visa system.I know there are problems in the street, it is one of the talents of Nigerians. They find ways of infiltrating all our systems”

What an insufferable insult! In a country headed by a responsible government, whose legitimacy derives from its citizens, and not from some dishonest schoolboys at Downing Street and White House, Mr. Thomas, would already be in his country by now, at the demand of the Nigerian government, battling with this terrible and dreaded winter, and not anywhere near the warm, pleasant ambience of Lagos. We know our problems as Nigerians, and we do not try to paper over them. But I certainly take strong exception to the gratuitous insult of this Briton who now wants to blame Nigerians for a lucrative business that has before now flourished in his office. It is now “one of the talents of Nigerians” and not that of Britons who put a rule that visa appointments at their High Commission must be secured by telephone, but virtually no one gets through with those numbers they supplied until such a one goes there to ‘see’ one of their Nigerian uniformed victims. I insist that there is no way this racket can flourish without the full consent of Thomas and his fellow Britons. But if he now denies being part of it, then his gross incompetence has thus been widely advertised. He is not fit to continue to occupy that office. How large is the British High Commission, and how can a mafia, except the one constituted and backed by Thomas, be able to overrun his visa section so effortlessly? Who are the faceless members of this mafia? When will the High Commissioner quit his wonky generalization and name them?

We cannot allow Mr. Thomas to get away with this. I demand an UNREVERSED APOLOGY from him. It has become clear that he neither has any respect for Nigeria nor wish her well. The patronizing nature of his attack makes it all the more unpardonable. His outburst falls far below the basic acceptable codes of diplomatic expression. Indeed, he certainly is not a friend of Nigeria, and this country cannot anymore accommodate his High Commissionership. He just must leave Nigeria. And that, this winter!

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Damola Adekunle July 15, 2008 - 6:49 pm

The truth is that, Nigerians shld learn to be honest and people would respect us more. In as much as Mr Thomas wasn’t diplomatic but he was right to the point

Bola Towolawi August 4, 2007 - 7:48 pm

Well written.. well articulated ariticle. I suport every dot in this article. we often criticise ourselves unfairly because it's easyand cheap( especially when one's mind is dormant ), but this one is different. Indeed, with you Nigeria is alive and kicking with pride. Well done !

Anonymous February 27, 2007 - 11:34 am

Yes, a pretty cheap article. So many genuine scandals and global inequalities and he chooses this to write about. Rather sad.

Omo Abeokuta February 25, 2006 - 7:05 am

I am a Nigerian who has lived in United Kingdom for 22 years I still visit my country and see what my country and her people has been turn into. The statement of the diplomat shows the respect we have in world we live in today and this was brought on by the fact that we are unable to manage our affairs. Personally gainning respect is about how we carry ourself ie managing prudent economic cycle, give few examples of countries both in africa and asia pacifics countries such as indonesia, taiwan botswana, malaysia, ghana to name few.

Our problem is our government policy to the ignore simple basic human needs, the country natural resources are more than enough to cater for all nigerians and much more, additionally i'm sick and tired of hearing about corruption as the main problem with nigeria economy, inorder to tackle this so call problem, the government need to put foward a radical and strategic infastructural program the country has ever seen, therefore creating jobs in construction, sevices, and maintenance industries all around the country long term prosperity, the corruption is mainly minority of nigerians, it's the hopelessness that turn many of my country men and wowen into criminals,not making excuse for these people but our enviroment ie sense of belonging can dictate how we turn out in society. We should cease to lay blame with the british or anybody else, they are only looking after the best interest of their coutry and people, until we start to put our people's well being as a priority we will never prosper simply because human resources is the one most important thing a can have. We must begin to invest in Education to furnish future generation with ability to compete, Health to make sure the working population are taking care of since they are the talent that create wealth, Housing, Transportation, and other infrastructural such as invest in new technology for generating electricity, esploreour natural gas, running water and sewage system to reduce diseases among young children.

Once we start to implement these programs embeded in our constitution of which by law written in stone for the country to prosper as it is in case of USA, no government shall not change the concreate fragment of the constitution. The corruption culture will slowly dies without actuallu concentrate all resources or media attention on it as we do now, people of the country will beginning see a feelgood factor by being able to work, children goes to proper school where teacher gets paid. these might seem like an unrealistic dream to many nigerian it is simply because we are use to misery and hopelessness. Lastly I honestly believe our government should embrased economy based on technology, reseatch and development and not get too involve in religion. I'm not for one minute adfocating for non-religious country, but one which cater for it's people by doing what is necessary to survive within reason. Nigeria is greate country with briliant and hard working people and hope in my lifetime we can begin to do the right things.

Anonymous February 17, 2006 - 4:40 am

the debacle that faces Nigeria today is not just the handwork of Nigerians only, it is with the backing of the so called first world countries who only think about their pocket, their own countrys welfare(irrespective of the consequence on the victim nation)and what to do to keep their victim under in the name of loans(e.g. IMF) knowing the consequense on the "third world country" without any kind of check,to ensure that the borrowing goverment actually carry out the purpose for which the loan is secured. After all the righteous declaration "helping the third world countires" are just as well ready for the money to be banked in their country for safe keeping by the same people in government who borrowed the money, only this time the safe keeping is not for the country, but for individuals in placs of authority in the borrowing nation, and with the individual "first world country".

although i have not responded to any article before, i detest the statement of the british high commisioner, and if the people in the appropriate offices are anything close to responsible people trusted with the affairs of the country, such a foreign commisioner should be brought to book.

Our government ned to understand that if they want to be respected outside of their office doors (not even outside the country)this is an opportunity to do it. and the more we stand up for our pride, the more respect we, as individuals and as a country, will get.

on this note i sign out

O Oduntan

Anonymous February 12, 2006 - 10:21 am

grow up you guys. I am nigerian and proud to be so but one of the many problems of nigerian and nigerian is their refusal to acknowledge how corrupt our country is. The british left nigeria in 1960 so stop blaming them for our kleptomanic national trait. India Malasia Barbados and a host of others were all colonised by the brits yet they have managed to develop and prosper. We have church leaders with private jets, rtd Generals who are billionares and acedemics who have sex with their student and pass them. I love Nigeria but even Soddom wasnt this bad. maybe the High Commissioner wasn't very 'diplomatic' but what he said was true.

Anonymous November 10, 2005 - 8:17 am

The author succintly captured what is easily becoming the biggest syndicated rip off of all time.May be this will finally move the British Government to take some actions to combat this ugly situation and give decent Nigeria an opportunity to show that now all Nigerians can be bought with the scarest of pennies!!!!!!!!!

J.C Nwankwo

Anonymous August 1, 2005 - 9:13 am

critism is cheap. You probabably would perform worse than those being critized if he were in trhe same position.

Anonymous July 25, 2005 - 5:01 am

my reason is that the british have always and always will continue to oppress Nigeria and Nigerians. They are the root cause of the pervasive corruption in the Nigerian society due to the fact that the basis of colonisation was to pit countryman against contryman for their own benefit. If we go back to the root of it all Nigeria shouldn't even be 1 country if the british hadn't lumped together people who have no business being co nationals.

While many britons earn their daily bread in one way or the other through their work in Nigeria or through Nigeria's oil sector or through sales of visas (if this is true) they still dare to take that air of moral superiority over the locals. There are many foreign nationals who would weep and beg if they were asked to go bach home.

Moral- don't scorn the finger that feeds you !

Anonymous June 23, 2005 - 8:54 am

he was blunt and to the point, something very rare in essays or reports of events in Nigeria.

Anonymous May 5, 2005 - 2:25 pm

The writer is point-blank


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