By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Though it colonized Nigeria and can boast of decency and superior infrastructure in terms of social development to the extent of vilifying the country before the international community, Britain may have just been humbled by the candour and diplomatic finesse of a black leader over its provocative, uncultured, hard stance on Nigeria.
Call it an elitist chat, joke or informal meeting, you would only be glorying a sorry situation. To many informed minds, it was nothing less than a gossip. Unfortunately, that was the gutter level the supposedly father of the English world reduced both himself and his utopian community last week.
His case gives credence and aptly amplifies a popular African saying that “everyday is for the thief but one day is for the owner of the house”. Perhaps, he had the penchant of tattling on irrelevancies in secret but, on that day, he completely became oblivious of a fate that was looming..
Out from a cabinet meeting, the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, decided to report Nigeria to Queen Elizabeth II. The report: That two “fantastically corrupt” nations, Nigeria and Afghanistan would be attending the World Anti-Corruption Summit which held between Wednesday and Thursday in London and hosted by Cameron himself.
In the video that went viral and showed Cameron standing with the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, one could see Cameron as he made a caricature of Nigeria.
But Cameron’s “chi” failed him on that fateful day. Like in the other whittle-tattles he got away from, on this day, television cameras were on him and he got so carried away that he didn’t notice them.
The same could be said of Bercow who ridiculously asked if the two nations were attending the summit at their own expense. The question is: What point were these officials trying to score?
But thank goodness for Welby, who gave President Muhammadu Buhari a clean bill of health, affirming his anti-corruption stance even though his interjection made no appreciable impact as the other men turned deaf ears to the remark.
Indeed, any country bashed in the manner Nigeria and Afghanistan were, no one would blame its leaders for either shying or staying away from a summit organized by their bashers.
But trust Buhari. He remained unperturbed. Even when anger boiled over at home, tongues wagged on and calls almost reached a crescendo for him to make a u-turn and forget the meeting, the President was calm and calculated. He had some other way to reply Cameron.
Then came the media who inquired from him in the course of the the summit whether he would demand an apology from Cameron. Buhari said it was unnecessary.
To him, what was so important was the repatriation of the stolen wealth stashed away in London and elsewhere outside the shores of Nigeria.
He said: “I am not going to demand an apology from anybody. What I am demanding is a return of assets … This is what I am asking for. What would I do with an apology? I need something tangible.”
But the President was to shock Nigerians the more when he admitted to journalists that Nigeria was “fantastically corrupt”, thus corroborating Cameron’s position.
He spoke to Sky News’ Diplomatic Editor, Dominic Waghorn, in London, in a 29 seconds chat.
Sky news: Will you like an apology from the prime minister?
Buhari: No, no not at all.
Sky news: Are you embarrassed by what he said?
Buhari: No I’m not.
Sky news: Is Nigeria fantastically corrupt?
To many, Buhari’s admittance was the height of betrayal. They had expected him to return Cameron’s insult on Nigeria even with a harsher measure. But the president was more intelligent. He was smarter. How? By demanding the return of the looted funds kept in UK’s banks, Buhari only laughed at the ignorance of the white man who would gladly accept looted assets without qualms.
In Nigeria and perhaps, elsewhere in the white lands, there is a law that sees both the bribe giver and taker guilty of the same offense. For one, “accomplice” is an English vocabulary, yet, Cameron forgot that. Whereas a Cameron would have rejected a sinner Nigerian with his looted funds, he, the British saint, unbelievably provided a safe haven for the assets. What was his interest? Yes, Buhari admitted Nigeria is “fantastically corrupt”, but what about the recipient of the assets? The latest insult on Nigeria is not the first time Britain is promoting a diplomatic row with Nigeria. Around June, 2013, the UK government nnounced an imposition of £3,000 as travel bonds on the citizens of six countries which included Nigeria, Ghana, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka, Pakistan and India. While Nigeria and Ghana are West-African countries, the rest are Asian. According to the government, these countries were “high risk” countries.
Interestingly, these countries were colonized by Britain and so, are tucked into the conglomerate of the Commonwealth Nations.
But Commonwealth is an intimacy that seems to be lost on the home policy of the British government each time it needed to attack its former colonies.
In September 1986, the Margaret Thatcher administration decided, at the end of a cabinet meeting, that, in future, travelers from Nigeria, India, Ghana, Bangladesh and Pakistan would need to obtain visas in their own countries before traveling to the UK. Before then, nationals of all Commonwealth nations, except Sri Lanka, did not need visas to travel to the UK.
Of a truth, these unfriendly decisions of the UK government against its former colonies put to question the relationship the country has with the former colonies.
Perhaps, no other lines could be so appropriate to let the international community understand what it has done to Nigeria than the words of Buhari who, in his speech at the Anti-Corruption Summit, accused it of shying away from the anti-corruption fight, urging it to create anti-corruption infrastructure and a strategic action plan to facilitate the speedy repatriation of stolen funds hidden in secret bank accounts abroad.
“When it comes tackling corruption, the international community has unfortunately looked away for too long. We need to step up and tackle this evil together. That is why we have gathered here today”.