By Babajide Alabi
I know this may sound strange, but every time I see the United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron on television lately I wish he was a Nigerian. This is against the backdrop of condemnations arising from the revelations in the Panama Papers that his late father set up an offshore trust fund in which the PM benefitted from. As I watch Cameron struggle to ward off these criticisms, my sympathies go to him.
At this time, there are many advantages for Cameron to be a Nigerian. Do not be surprised at my “wish” for this gentleman whom I now have huge respect for. I was not a fan of Cameron as a coalition Prime Minister, but for inexplainable reasons, my ranking of him as a leader has increased in recent times. His energy and drive for a better Britain is enviable and a lesson for some leaders in the third world.
It is this admiration that keeps me awake at night thinking that this young man can be a Nigerian at this trying times. Lately, Cameron has been under intense pressure from the opposition Labour Party and a few members of civil society groups. To me, a worthy leader and gentleman of Cameron’s stature should under no circumstances be subjected to harsh words as heaped on him in past weeks.
Unfortunately, though, for Cameron, this is the penalty he has to pay for being born in a descent, organised and morally upright society. Being born British means he grew with the values of transparency, honesty, dedication, and openness. He is aware of what the society expects of him, first as a citizen, and secondly as the leader of Great Britain. Like many British leaders, Cameron gave up his right to private life when he got on the political podium.
Now let us situate Cameron as a Nigerian. Born with the “famed” Nigerian blood under very thick skin that keep citizens running against all odds. Imagine Cameron born and bred in the largest African country, with or without silver spoon.
Imagine Cameron grew up in Nigeria, a country where an individual with no sustainable business venture is elected the chairman of his local government and becomes “super rich” over night. If only Cameron was born in Nigeria, he would have been taught that using public funds to build houses, or buy flashy cars are part of services to the people.
You can see the misfortune of Mr Cameron being a British. The revelations from the Panama papers have caused ripples all over the world. It has consumed some high political figures in the western world. Last week saw Cameron fighting tooth and nail to remain in his seat for a “sin” that was allegedly “committed” by his father.
Because Cameron lives in a descent society where leaders’ affairs or dealings are scrutinised with fine tooth comb to ensure nothing shady is done, he was put to task on the Panama papers. Because he lives in a society where leaders are expected to be above board, even In their private lives, he owes his people proper explanation.
Meanwhile, Cameron is not accused of any misappropriation or malpractice. The opposition Labour Party and other pressure groups are only on his case because they think he did not declare what he benefited from the offshore business. It is not unusual for opposition parties or even members of same political party in this clime to cry blue murder on issues they think lack transparency.
Now I continue in my imagination (wish) of Cameron as a Nigerian. Instead for him running from pillar to post, or releasing his tax returns and earnings, or sweating under the collar unnecessarily, the Nigerian Cameron would not belabour himself explaining the legality of why his late father set up an offshore trust.
Imagine Cameron is a Nigerian politician. All he would have done was get his political friends together and pronto the law is changed as deemed suitable for his sake. As a Nigerian politician, even if he had been caught with his hands in the cookie jar, he needed not panic, because he would have definitely been “protected” by the law. He would have immunity against prosecution, and if otherwise, he would “pursue injunction” against his trial in any available court of law.
Let us put aside these Panama papers. What about the hundreds of Nigerian politicians who are feeding fat on the citizenry? What happens to the hard core ones who “stole (and still stealing) their states, ministries, agencies” dry? What do we do to them? Our society celebrates them, confers on them chieftaincy titles, universities “dash” them with honorary doctorate degrees while they oppress the electorates that voted them in. In Nigeria, the moral standard is different from what the rest of the world understands.
In the Nigeria world, it is an abomination to ask for the resignation of indicted serving corrupt public officers. This is the beauty of being a politician in a Third World country, such as Nigeria.
THE MANY TROUBLES OF DAVID
Looking at Cameron last week, I could not but notice his vulnerability, his fears and the enormity of the responsibility on the shoulders of this young man.
His vulnerability as a human being was exposed by his initial reaction to the Panama Papers. Instinctually, he came out fighting, and angry, according to him, “about the way my father’s memory was being traduced.” He was later to raise up his hands and accept he made a mistake in the way and manner he handled the issue.
His fears were visible in the parliament on Monday when he had to painfully sit and listened to critics taking turns to “throw stones” at him. How much I love to know his thoughts as Labour MP Dennis Skinner, repeatedly dotted his speech with “dodgy Dave”. He did try to hide his reaction, but when the news camera zoomed in on him, we noticed the slight discomfort (or is it fear?) on his face. And as Skinner was walked out of the chambers, the PM shook his head in disbelief at the anger of the old man.
Ever since the PM negotiated a “near” good deal for UK in the EU earlier, he seem to have been hopping in and out of one “hot” issue or the other.
Last week the Leave EU team accused his government of spending £9.3 million of tax payers’ money to print pamphlets of facts on why UK should remain in the union. Although, the PM defended this strongly, the impression of “desperation to remain” in the EU was successfully created by the Leave EU team
It was a season of gloating on the part of the Labour Party when the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne also made a few cock ups after his March 16 Budget presentations. In an apparent display of poorly thought through budget cuts, the chancellor, and indeed the government made a humiliating “u-turn” on the disabled Personal Independence Payments (PIPs). The embarrassing aftermath was the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith, the Works and Pensions Secretary. Coincidentally, Smith is one of the key backers of the Leave EU campaign.
These and many more are the troubles of Cameron. These have brought more pressures on him, but I can safely predict he definitely is going nowhere till the end of his term as the youngest Prime Minister in recent history of the United Kingdom.