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Isn’t it the height of hypocrisy for a British politician to label Nigeria as fantastically corrupt? Britain built its economy on the wealth looted from colonies such as Nigeria. Today, British politicians collude with their thieving Nigerian counterparts to spirit away money that is then invested in London and other Western cities. Cameron’s neo-colonial moralism fools no one.

British Prime Minister David Cameron described Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt.” Many Nigerians are reacting to this comment.  Some believe the British politician said it either in bad or good faith. Assuming this labeling is even correct, one is tempted to ask to know the motive. To put down or support the present regime’s effort at ridding the country of corruption? At a time when the government under the leadership of Mohammad Buhari l needs more than encouragement to successfully carry through her crusade against corruption in the country, one is bound to interrogate the significance of certain comments by those seen to have so much influence on the domestic affairs of other countries.

For some, mulling over the Prime Minister’s comment is unnecessary; after all, Nigeria has been notorious among the most corrupt countries of the world. In any case, it calls for deep reflection and self-assessment to be sure of where Nigerians stand presently in the eyes of those who claim to be friends. There are good and bad people everywhere. And there is no need to label or even give an impression of everyone being good or bad.  Britain was fantastically morally corrupt for being a leader in conquering and colonizing other territories in order to rule them against their will in an atmosphere of monarchical, unitary style democracy. This broad and undisassgregated labeling of Nigeria as fantastically corrupt by the British Prime Minister calls for deep contemplation, especially in the context of history.

The prime minister is a politician. British politicians were at some point in the history of the world among the most morally debased. They were at the forefront of taking decisions about conquering and colonizing territories abroad. This was part of her expansionist ambition of remaining a world political and economic power. Yet not all Britons were part of these decisions and therefore need not carry the broad labeling of being fantastically morally debased.

How scientific is the description of Nigeria as fantastically corrupt? What insinuations come with it? Does it mean corruption in the country is like none in the world? Not only has an impression of every Nigerian being corrupt been sent out; Nigeria’s image has been equated with the evil work of a few politicians who rule over the majority poor. The British politician should have seen the need to qualify his name-calling by being more careful to indicate those he had in mind when it comes to corruption in Nigeria.

Financial corruption is anti-development; no doubt it has hindered development in Nigeria. It has stolen from Nigerians what rightfully belongs to them. The same way British politicians unethically took what belonged to Nigerians during the days of colonialism without putting back something for the development of the country. It is often said that some of the major cities in the UK were furnished with wealth stolen from Africa.  Indeed, Britain practiced political corruption in her colonized territories of Africa.  To be sure, racism was the bedrock of her colonialism, as with the other world powers involved in colonization of territories in the 19th century.

British politicians formally handed power over to Nigerian politicians in 1960 at the instance of political independence. It is as good as saying that, having trained a set of politicians to take over the baton of leadership, handing over should have engendered change and sustainability in society. Unfortunately since then, the mentality of lordship over the ruled, which colonialism imposed on Nigeria, has continued to affect the country.

British politicians had no mission of changing living conditions of locals during colonialism.  This, also, has been true of many politicians in Nigeria in the post-independence era. Britain had a mission of lining her national pocket with resources obtained in Nigeria during colonialism. Corrupt politicians in Nigeria today have the objective of lining their pockets with resources that belong to the people. There is a great similarity between the behaviour of British and Nigerian politicians, which means an unsuccessful or polluted mentoring relationship has taken place. Succession at all levels of human relationship, including power, requires some level of mentorship or learning. What did Nigerian politicians learn from the British colonizers? Corruption or option? It would have been option if they saw the unethical orientation of failing to develop the country and took the alternative paths of ensuring the same crime did not catch up with them.

Billions of dollars have left Africa through illicit channels, but not without active collaboration with partners in the developed countries like Britain and other countries in both North America and Europe. A terrible collusion of financial institutions in both worlds is responsible for the raping of Africa.

In the distant past, British oil company Shell BP secured license from the colonial state to explore for oil in the entire country. The dominance of the company was well orchestrated perhaps to lessen the probability of competition. What is crucial today if the prime minister and his friends in the developed countries really want to help Nigeria fight corruption successfully is not to be sarcastic but return all the monies kept in their financial institutions by corrupt Nigerian politicians and their friends in these countries.

* Fidelis Allen is Associate Professor of Development Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.



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