The Anti-Corruption Blow Back In London | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The Anti-Corruption Blow Back In London

Posted: May 12, 2016 at 11:57 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Magnus Onyibe

Barely 24 hours to the celebrated Anti-Corruption Summit in London, David Cameron, British prime minister, PM and convener of the event, in a moment of indiscretion, and in the presence of the Queen of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury, verbalized his true evaluation of Nigeria, in the following damning words: “We have got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain- Nigeria and Afghanistan”, he whispers conspiratorially to his audience. He then intoned further, “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”.

Being in the presence of her majesty the Queen and His Holiness, the Archbishop -perhaps in obeisance to God, symbolized by the priest and country, embodied by the crown -the PM must have let down his guards and was therefore oblivious of the omnipresence of cameras.
l became outraged, at the insolence, as l believe our no-nonsense president, Muhammadu Buhari, would have felt deeply embarrassed by such an undeserved negative characterization.

Although the affable archbishop managed to deflect a bit of the damage, by chipping in a few good words-that Buhari is not corrupt-what happened in the Buckingham palace smacks of the typical British duplicity-a smiling face when you are looking and sneering behind your back.

How could the British PM lump Nigeria, which is rated no 136 together with Afghanistan rated 166-just one step ahead of Somalia, a joint last, with North Korea, on the list of Transparency International, corruption index?

It is simply because of the ‘fantastic’ amounts of money claimed to have been stolen by the previous govt, that current rulers have been bandying around to score cheap political points, but to the detriment of Nigeria and Nigerians.

So what David Cameron simply did,  was to interchange Somalia which is at the bottom of the list ,with Nigeria, since Nigerian officials themselves, through glib talk, have been racking up muck and in the process rating their country worse than TI’s valuation.

Take former Delta State governor, James lbori, who has been serving a jail term in London for money laundering ,for instance. At first they said he laundered fifty million pounds, £50m, of which it is being alleged that DFID, a British govt Dept in charge of foreign aid and grants has agreed to share the £50m when recovered , 50/50 with Nigerian govt.

Under heavier scrutiny, the whole process and charges are falling apart as British detectives and judicial officers are being found to have had their ‘fingers in the cookie jar’. With a policy where 40% of recovered funds are retained in Britain, only a paltry portion of the funds recovered in Britain from former governor of Bayelsa state, Deprieye Alamiesegha, now late, was repatriated.

How about the funds said to have been found with former governor of Plateau state, now senator Joshua Dariye whose trial is still ongoing in the UK? There is allegation that there was quite a difference between what was seized and what has been declared.

While not gloating over the obviously embarrassing characterization of Nigeria as ” possibly the most corrupt country in the world ” , l was going to be tempted to say, it serves our govt right – because l have been harping on the need for authorities to tone down on corruption rhetoric to avoid situations like the one that just occurred-but my patriotic instincts got a better part of me, and l became incensed by the sheer cheekiness of the comment and commentator.

Times without number, I have been  pointing out that in no distant future, such negative label , that officials might have inadvertently been gleefully putting on Nigeria and Nigerians, would turn around to hurt the nation, at a time and place, it least expects.

Indeed, that moment has come and I never envisaged ,that the inevitable would happen so soon.

l had in my last article titled ‘ Analyzing The Buhari Appeal’ published on the Back page of Thisday newspaper and other online platforms on the eve of the London Anti Corruption Summit, where l mentioned that his hosts cared less about whether president Buhari was loved at home or not, but he was only invited to satisfy the selfish interests of David Cameron, who is fighting to ‘wash off’ the corruption smear that the scandalous Panama papers conferred on him.

It may be recalled that during a debate on the infamous Panama papers in British parliament, a member, Dennis Skinner, was so enraged that David Cameron has been benefiting from the nefarious activities that go on in such tax havens that, he tagged the PM “Dodgy Dave” which is awful and warranted the suspension of Mr Skinner, when he rejected a directive by the leader of parliament to withdraw the unsavoury slur that he put on the PM.

There are major fallouts from the unfortunate David Cameroon Freudian slip and there are three clear lessons-reinforced by African and conventional wisdom-to be learnt from the negative image of Nigeria being dished into publish space by Nigerian politicians playing to the gallery.

  1. Do not Wash Your Dirty Linen In Public
  2. Do Not Run Down Your Country to Gain International Accolades
  3. Do not Throw A Stone Into The Market, It Might Land On Your Mother And Hurt Her.

Whether our politicians would take the friendly admonition to heart is another kettle of fish.
If such level of cynicism is going on at the gathering of members of the highest echelon of British society-The Queen, Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and Archbishop of Canterbury- you can imagine what takes place amongst the lords and barons in those members-only-clubs in Park Lane area of London, how much more around business districts like Bond street.

Arising from the careless and often unsubstantiated utterances about horrendous levels of corruption by top Nigerian govt officials-which are obviously exaggerated , many a business partnership and transactions might have been lost internationally.

I can imagine how , a British businessman would warmly shake the hands of a potential Nigerian business partner, signalling the closing of a deal. After the departure of the Nigerian, he would tell his lawyer and accountant, “check that Nigerian guy out with a magnifying glass. Their govt said they are fantastically corrupt . We can’t afford to take any chances”.

A similar gaffe to the one about Nigeria and Afghanistan also occurred in London, when the Queen was caught on video discussing an incident that occurred during a recent visit by the Chinese premier to England. The queen’s confidential chat with a female British police commander, which was considered a snide talk and undiplomatic , has triggered a sort of row between China and the U.K, albeit on a mild level, as the Chinese govt has taken exception to the apparent breach of protocol, and put out a statement affirming her position that the Chinese visit had positive outcome .

Nigeria’s presidency too, has quickly reacted to the negative labelling with the following statement, “It is certainly not reflective of the good work the president is doing. The eyes of the world are on what is happening here. The prime minister must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria”.

Subsequently, president Buhari , himself , also responded to the diplomatic faux pax in an interview with CNN’s Christian Amanpour, where he absolved the British PM of any wrong doing.

That brings me to a recent online conversation, where someone commented thus: “l wonder If president Obama realized during his commencement speech at Howard University on May 7th, that out of 96 graduating Doctors of Pharmacy candidates,43 of them were Nigerians and out of 27 awards given, 16 went to Nigerians” He concluded the monologue by saying “They will only tell how Nigerians are scammers and cheats…”.
That was very profound.

Last Monday(9/5/2016), in trying to convince Britons not to exit the European Union, EU in an upcoming referendum, prime minister, David Cameron in an address to members of British parliament-and by extension Britons , cajoled, exalted and massaged the ego of British voters, as he reminded them of their proud heritage of conquest from India, Australia, the Americas-USA and Canada- to Africa, without talking about the barbaric medieval days when at the saying, “off with the head” by the queen, an offender’s head will be chopped off the body.

The scenario above and Cameron’s involvement in the Panama papers imply that people from all nations of the world are not perfect and leaders of nations only put forward their best foot and not advertise their bad sides.

I can imagine, how infuriated, PM David Cameron would be if, before the Anti Corruption Summit commenced, President Buhari was caught on camera discussing with Abubakar Malami, minister of justice in his entourage, how willy, the British were, when under the guise of military expedition in 1897 to avenge the killing of British soldiers(spies) killed in Bini kingdom under Oba ovaramen’s watch , attacked the historic palace and carted away precious artifacts such as the resplendent queen Idia bronze head.

Till date, most of stolen artefacts are still being held in the British museum and it is believed that early European voyagers- Lander Brothers etc who claimed to have ‘discovered’ Nigeria in the course of their voyage through the Niger River, must have informed their compatriots and allies back home about the rich cultural treasures in Benin kingdom . That might have ignited the interest of the British and their subsequent foray into the jungle of Africa, in quest of the treasures which was the trend in the medieval days.

The Cockerel/Okuku- another precious artefact looted from Nigeria has just been taken down from its location where it has been in Manchester university , hopefully to be returned to Nigeria.

Of course, such side talk won’t happen because president Buhari and indeed Nigerians are not treacherous or petulant enough to insult their hosts in that manner.
Without further ado, let me conclude by emphasizing that Nigerians don’t need a rocket scientist to enlighten them that some matters are better settled in the bedroom than on the streets.

This is because, if you allow a fight with your wife in the bedroom to spill into the streets and in a feat of anger you call her a prostitute, strangers would be at liberty to tag your wife with the same ignoble toga, which would soon become regrettable.
Unfortunately , that’s exactly what happened in London to Nigeria and our president has taken it stoically.

Magnus Onyibe, a development strategist is a former commissioner in delta state and an alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA.