By Pius Mordi
Ordinarily, the word fantastic is an adequate superlative to draw attention to an issue. For David Cameron, however, it does not convey the depth of understanding he wanted Queen Elizabeth to have on the subject of corruption in Nigeria. The British prime minister had to use “fantastically” to qualify the level of corruption in Nigeria and for good measure he had to tag us with Afghanistan whose ranking on Transparency International’s 2015 corruption index at 166 is 30 places more than Nigeria’s 136. Afghanistan, it should be noted, is just about beginning to shed the garb of a failed state.
In effect, the level of corruption in Nigeria must have been mind boggling to Cameron that it must be bordering on insanity. Yes, corruption among leaders in Nigeria is a national past time. For public office holders, the level of respect and esteem earned in and out of office is contingent on the how brazen stolen wealth is displayed. Corruption in leadership is a global phenomenom, but its application may vary. Nigeria has been the victim of senseless rape of its collective wealth that defied logic. Here, leaders’ perception of providing to their children is just to stash money in foreign accounts. There is no thought to investing money to create wealth that would have genuinely guaranteed the future of their families.
The poverty of leadership in Nigeria is the worst kept secret within the global community. And for leaders that consider themselves smart and see the systematic rape of other nations’ wealth as fair game, Nigeria has always proved a very fertile hunting ground. Cameron’s blunt characterisation of our country is a stark reminder of the centuries long conspiracy of past colonial masters and developed countries to undermine the growth of developing nations.
By authorising the establishment of a rogue banking system that provided a safe haven for stolen money to be shielded from the prying eyes of the law and seconding their “experts” to enlighten African leaders on how they can safely siphon their people’s wealth, they laid the foundation for the emergence of a culture of unconscionable impoverishment of the people by their leaders. The government of Switzerland perfected the culture of rogue banking through several platforms designed to protect stolen money. Numbered accounts and phoney companies became some of the preferred options for safely stashing money in banks that with state protection undermining the noble ethics of banking. At the point of political independence of sub-saharan Africa, Britain and other colonial powers contrived all manner of gimmicks to prevent the emergence of responsible leadership and strived to hand over a structure that would engender instability.
After superintending and providing expert advice to our rulers on the dynamics of safeguarding looted funds, Britain and the rest of the west are finally waking up to the evil of providing safe havens for corrupt rulers albeit in a head-in-the-sand manner. President Muhammadu Buhari’s response to Cameron’s salvo may have surprised the British prime minister. Equally without any diplomatic nicety, Buhari calmly acknowledging that Cameron’s assertion was true and asked him to return the looted money in his country back to Nigeria. Just as she has always demurred on the issue of returning the prized artifacts that her band of vengeful solders looted from the Benin empire in 1897, Britain has put all manner of obstacles on the path of repeated requests to return public funds hidden in its banks back to Nigeria.
Now that fighting corruption is the theme of an international conference hosted by Britain, a crucial outcome should be the adoption of banking standards that should be enforced globally. Under the auspices of the United Nations, crimes deemed to be against humanity are now punishable irrespective of whereever and whenever it is committed. Looting of public funds is more devastating in impact than the perpetuation of crimes against humanity. No less culpable is the provision of a clement environment for corruption to thrive through rogue banking regimes. Just as sectarian strife through crimes against humanity has bred poverty, displacement and emigration of populations, corruption and arbetting of corrupt practices is the harbinger of mass poverty, deprivation, lack of access to basic health as well as sectarian strife.
It is imperative that the United Nations spearhead the adoption of protocols and agreements that will holistically combat corruption by political office holders. Although the initiative by London is commendable, it will be fraught with inadequacies if left for Britain to single-handedly lead the fight. If Cameron desires to demonstrate a genuine concern on corruption in leadership, he should heed Buhari’s call and facilitate the swift repatriation of Nigeria’s looted funds stashed in the vaults of his country’s dubious banks. In addition, he should authorise the return of the hundreds of timeless artifacts his country looted from Benin.
And for those that mindlessly steal our commonwealth to save for their urborn children, its perdition to them and those generations.