May 15, 2016

‘It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to’

‘It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to’

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II speaks with British Prime Minister David Cameron (2nd R) during a reception in Buckingham Palace in London on May 10, 2016 where called Nigeria and Afghanistan “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world” as he hailed their leaders’ attendance at an anti-corruption summit in London.

By Denrele Animasaun

If you are ever in doubt of President Muhammadu Buhari’s steely determination, the world sat up and took notice of PMB and he gained millions of admirers around the world, including the British Prime minister, David Cameron who caused a major diplomatic faux pas at an event in which the British monarch was present. David Cameron had earlier being overheard that: “We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain… Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”

During the discussion, it could also be heard that the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby defending PMB’s reputation: “But this particular president is not corrupt… he’s trying very hard,”

But David Cameron was impervious to this thread of perspectives and in the meantime, the Queen looked on impassively and what I would have given anything to know what she was thinking of her Prime minister’s gaffe, we can only wonder.

Well, his gaffe was the talk of the media around the world and he definitely had the proverbial egg on his face, while his PR people tried but failed to do some damage limitation.  Labour, the opposition, party criticised Cameron and accused the Prime minister of: “hosting an anti-corruption summit that is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop” and that: “The government is refusing to take meaningful action to close Britain’s constellation of tax havens, which together constitute the largest financial secrecy network in the world,” said Shadow International Development Secretary Diane Abbott. Really, a case of the pot calling the kettle black!

This was political gold and it reminded me of a similar event that has been consigned to the history books. From Gandhi, when he was asked what he thought of Western civilization, and he replied: “I think it would be a good Idea”. The PMB moment was similar to the Gandhi response.

So we didn’t have to wait for long and PMB’s response was swift. He said that he was: “deeply shocked and embarrassed” by David Cameron’s comments and that:” the Prime Minister must have been referring to Nigeria’s past notoriety for corruption before his coming to power last year”! Similarly the Afghan embassy in London said tackling corruption was one of their President’s top priorities and “bold” action had been taken. And :”We have made important progress in fighting systematic capture in major national procurement contracts and are making progress on addressing institutional issues as well as issues related to impunity…  and therefore, calling Afghanistan in that way is unfair.”

This was truly gold and those who didn’t know PMB before know him and he definitely gained a lot of admirers, with his thoroughly composed response.

In his defence, David Cameron said that it is a known fact that Nigeria is corrupt. And let’s be honest and in fact, let’s be brutally honest. We know that Nigeria is massively corrupt and that in the last few months the Buhari administration has clamped down on corrupt politicians and doing their hardest to claw back what was said to be the largest amount of loot stolen from Nigerian coffers; a massively and unbelievable was $160 billion dollars was carted out of the country and stashed in different accounts in different part of the world! So let’s not beat about the bush some of us need to take some bitter truth pill because we feel uncomfortable with the truth and this denial is what is essentially killing Nigerians and our institutions.

The transparency International said the UK’s record was mixed and concrete action was needed on tax evasion and secrecy in the wake of the Panama Papers disclosures, stopping tainted firms from bidding for public contracts and protecting whistle-blowers who expose corruption. Nigeria was ranked 136 out of 167 countries in Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index and this ranking is not to be proud of.Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has criticised Mr Cameron’s comments, accusing the UK of being part of the problem by “providing a safe haven for corrupt assets” at home and in its overseas territories.  And PMB stressed these concerns in his address, quoting from a previous study into corruption in the country’s oil sector: “Nigerian crude oil is being stolen on an industrial scale and exported, with the proceeds laundered through world financial centres by transnational organised criminals” and that the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was simply being honest by describing Nigeria as a “fantastically corrupt country.”

Last week, Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo said that an estimated $15bn (£10bn) of government money had been stolen through corrupt arms contracts under the previous government. Another instance, in March, an official audit found that Nigeria’s state-owned oil company had failed to pay the government $25bn in a suspected fraud! So for those deniers, when faced with truth, they cannot simply handle the truth.  Imagine if this amount of money was spent on capital works in Nigeria and institutions, what a transformation that would make and imagine how many lives it would have changed for the better…

So before some of us get on our sanctimonious high horse to defend the indefensible: the money that is missing is $160 billion dollars! Yeah, $160 billion dollars.

I have read what these hoodlums said that, Buhari was wrong to have been honest to declare to the world that: Nigeria is a corrupt country. I beg to differ. He was brutally honest and I know that most Nigerians do like honesty, that they rather been given the impression that everything all right and of course, that there is no such thing as corruption in Nigeria! Well, according to them, they believe that he should not have washed our dirty linen in full view of the world. Actually, honesty is the best policy. They say that the truth, will set you free but some people do not want to be honest and they are far gone in their deceit to ever admit that corruption has been the cornerstone of Nigerian lives for decades and it is about time, to  change the mind set of Nigerians.