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!