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What a ‘fantastically corrupt’ country!


British Prime Minister David Cameron . / AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS

British Prime Minister David Cameron . / AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS

Is Nigeria a fantastically corrupt country? The answer has to be an unequivocal yes, however, you look at it. This is why I am so happy that President Muhammadu Buhari did not ask British Prime Minister David Cameron for apology. Instead, he asked Mr. Cameron to cooperate so that Nigerian assets stashed away in the UK by corrupt Nigerians can be repatriated to Nigeria. Is the UK corrupt? Of course it is: corruption is human. Many will argue it is not as corrupt as Nigeria and I will be one of those. Simply because you can navigate many aspects of life here without pressure from the system to extort money from you or to use influence. This is my experience. I have spent roughly half of my life in each of these countries and I can tell the difference.

Having listened to this report in various media, my conclusion is to agree with a commentator on Sky News. This was a deliberate comment by Cameron; it is not a gaffe. It has taken me over 24 hours to put my finger on my discomfort with Cameron’s comments. So, are Nigerians justified to be angry about Cameron’s comments? Without any doubt, they are. Cameron is having a laugh at the expense of the Nigerian people, who are the true victims of a corrupt system. This is really annoying. Corruption is not a laughing matter, an after-dinner crummy and cheesy exchange. It throws into doubt Cameron’s real agenda for convening such a conference.

I think Nigerian leaders need to be held responsible for allowing corruption to reach such a level that it now prevents the country from functioning normally. It is governance failure that allows corruption to reach intolerable level. Corruption is at the level it is in UK because governance keeps it at bay. We just read about the head of an academy stepping down in Birmingham. He has been under investigation for financial impropriety. Four years ago he shared a platform with Cameron at the Conservative party conference. We have read a great deal about a current minister and his escapades, somehow he survives in a conservative government, regardless of uncomfortable inference about why the media appeared to ignore the escapades. If we go back in history, we can recall the brown envelopes involving Al Fayed and some conservative MPs, the so-called cash-for-question episode. And of course the panorama expose on a couple of past senior cabinet members of both Labour and Conservative parties (of course, nothing was proven against either of them but it raised issues of monetary influence on law makers). Moreover, we all know the reasons why there was a need for Leveson Enquiry. Last but not the least I will just mention one word: Hillsborough.

Can we also take a poll about ex-cabinet and prime ministers? How many of them leave office and straightaway go to work for a big corporation? One left office and straightaway joined the board of an investment bank, without any work experience in the sector. Our imagination can come up with various permutations about why ex- government officials are offered such opportunities. A former prime minister created a foundation afterwards and now pays millions in salary to his employees; we even read this year business is so good that a significant pay rise was awarded to staff!

What does history tell us? That the UK government has not typically sided with fight against corruption in Nigeria. When the second republic ended in the early 80s, most of the corrupt politicians ran to the UK and made it their home. They were welcomed with open arms (of course by the government because of the ill gotten cash they brought). In the last decade, a corrupt politician was apprehended by the MET, inexplicably, he was able to escape justice by running back to Nigeria, disguised as a woman! How did that happen?

The UK government will always act in its own interest. That is what most nations do. Nothing is really wrong in that. Buhari and Nigerian leaders should realise this. Our destiny is in our hands. Don’t bother to come to these conferences because there is no real conviction underpinning them. Our government in the UK makes a lot of noise about human right, but if it jeopardises our financial interest we quickly back off. Our dealings with corrupt government in the Middle East will bear this out.
Nigerian leaders should just stay at home and address the problems. UK and the remaining nations in the West would always protect their own interests because this is what nations do.

• Oyebode contributed article from the UK.

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