If You Are Blameless, Cast The first Stone at Cameron By M. Babajide-Alabi
Newspaper Column

If You Are Blameless, Cast The First Stone At Cameron

By M. Babajide-Alabi

(Published in the Sunday Vanguard May 15, 2016)

This past week the attention of the international community was turned to Nigeria. For this period, the subject, Nigeria, became the leading news in the western media. At the same time, the search engines got really busy as two keywords – ‘Nigeria’ and ‘Corruption’ were in hot demand.

I am sure many people combined the two words for effective search results. No matter how you order them – “Nigeria corruption” or “Corruption Nigeria” they are both “search engine friendly” and you will be amazed at the results that come up. If you are a fan of Wikipedia, you will find their entries on Nigeria and Corruption very fascinating, tracing the topics back to independence.

From time immemorial, Nigeria and corruption are mentioned in the same breath all over the world, just like the search engine experiments mentioned above. Is it not strange? You may tend to ask. No, it is not, Nigeria is synonymous with corruption. What may seem strange to any reasonable Nigerian is the way and manner some of them have reacted last past week in their attempts to prove that Nigeria may actually be a country of saints.

The United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron had during the week angered many Nigerians by his disparaging comments about the giant of Africa. It would be recalled that Cameron had during a conversation with Queen Elizabeth at the Buckingham Palace referred to Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt” countries. It was a gaffe on the part of the PM who, probably out of excitement forgot that television cameras do have microphones. It was not the first time he would embarrass himself and the people of Britain in such manner.

Nigerians immediately reacted in varying degrees to this gaffe. They were surprised and shocked that Cameron, a supposed “friend” of Nigeria could describe her with such unflattering words. Especially coming days before our great leader Muhammadu Buhari was expected as a guest in an anti-corruption summit in the city. Many Nigerians took exception to the tag while some called on the Federal Government to issue a diplomatic “fatwa” on the British Prime Minister and his country.

As events would reveal, these ‘patriotic’ reactions were definitely not in tune with what Buhari or his media handlers had in mind as response to Cameron. His media aide issued a statement expressing Buhari’s disappointment and shock at Cameron description of Nigeria. This was as far as the condemnation of the PM went. In a surprise move, Buhari, on arrival in Britain aligned with Cameron when he stated categorically on a Sky News interview that “Yes” Nigeria is indeed a corrupt country. He offered no further explanation.

We all agree that what Cameron said about Nigeria was not new, but some observers thought Buhari would have seized every media (and public relations) opportunities while in the UK to address the world about the efforts his government is making in this area. And also educate the West that not all Nigerians are corrupt.

Buhari was given another opportunity to launder the image of Nigeria in the interview with CNN’s Christine Amanpour. In what some of his supporters have described as his humility, he once again faced the western world and confirmed Cameron’s assertion again. He said: “Well, I think he’s being honest about it. He’s talking about what he knows about the two of us, Afghanistan and Nigeria, and by what we are doing in Nigeria by the day. I don’t think you can fault him.”

That’s right. We can not fault Cameron because, firstly, he did not say anything new or unheard of before and secondly, he knew of the corrupt practices in Nigeria more than Buhari. Who can argue with facts when Nigeria is ranked 136 among 178 countries? Moreover, Buhari knows that Cameron was talking from a vantage position of knowledge about the corrupt practices of our leaders.

It will be foolhardy for us to think the international community has any regard for Nigeria as a good example of how not to be a corrupt nation. It is indeed laughable if we continue to deceive ourselves as such. This trend did not start yesterday or last year, however, it gained momentum in the past two or three years, especially as events leading to the 2015 general elections began.

Right from a long time ago, there has been so many scandals associated with the country and the leaders. Of recent was the Halliburton, involving highly placed Nigerians in and out of government. This case, among many, announced to the world that Nigeria was bad for business. Many of the leaders accused of involvement in this scandal are yet to have their dates in court.

At the individual level we have the email scam, that has rightly been named “Nigerian email scam”. It does not matter where the email originates from, the first thought of the receiver is Nigeria. This “yahoo yahoo” business is associated with Nigeria and well known to the world.

Frankly, anytime Nigeria is in the western media, it is mentioned for either corruption or poverty. Therefore the picture of an average Nigerian in the head of a westerner is that of an impoverished citizen who works tirelessly to position himself where he can enrich himself and family corruptly.

Over the years there has never been any diplomatic reaction to these inference of Nigeria as a corrupt country. So why do we think Buhari would do otherwise? His confirmation that Nigeria is corrupt is more useful than the silence of various past administrations.

So for a long time we have marketed corruption as our Unique Selling Proposition to the outside world. Come to think of it. The only news we have projected to the international media in the lifetime of Buhari’s regime is corruption. The administration had made a song and dance about how corrupt the citizens are and has since its inception been on the trail of the few it has identified for now. Many rogue Nigerians have been detained while some more were said to have done plea bargaining – return the looted funds and be spared the “rod”.

There is no doubt corruption is rife. It is endemic to Africa, but particularly worrying in Nigeria, considering how much it has eaten into our fabric as a nation. The image of every Nigerian is tarnished no matter how hard working or honest you may be. Now, who will save the poor Nigerians? Who will tell the world that not every business or deals are transacted corruptly?

Corruption is the business of Nigerian leaders. They sniff it out and empower themselves with the gains of the corrupt practices. The common man on the street who is seeking what to eat have less or no opportunity to participate in corrupt practices on the scale that Cameron referred.

It is a way of life of our leaders, either military, political, business and some will add religious. They amass wealth unashamedly by corrupt practices and use this to establish themselves to oppress the masses.

While Buhari is boasting that he is on top of corruption in the country, may I seize this opportunity to tell him that his efforts are not really acceptable to the international world. They want the blood of every Nigerian cleansed.

The international world do not see any road at the end of the tunnel in terms of proper trial of the accused. They think it is part of the corruption charade that is common in Nigeria. They know the judges are not transparent. They know the anti-corruption agencies officials all have their hands soiled. And they have information that the police and other security apparatus are lords on their own as long as you grease their palms generously.

And in conclusion, the world is concerned because there has been selective trials. Will their be fair trial as most of whom are on trial for corruption are ‘picked’ based on their political affiliation.

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I am an experienced Social Media practitioner with a strong passion for connecting with customers of brands. As part of a team, I presently work on the social media account of a leading European auto company. On this job, I have brought my vast experiences in journalism, marketing, search engine optimisation and branding to play.

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