Former American Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, who roused anger in Nigerian diplomatic quarters with his bruising 2010 book, Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink, at the weekend, threw a rough jab at the Jonathan administration, characterising the growing face-off between Nigeria and Zimbabwe as escapist and perhaps opportunistic.
Coming by way of the diplomatic spat between Nigeria and Zimbabwe, Ambassador Campbell commented sardonically on his blog, Africa in Transition, hosted on the website of the Council on Foreign Policy, cfr.org, that perhaps it was “useful distraction for both countries to quarrel over which is the more corrupt than to face their numerous other internal challenges.” He also tweeted the article seeking to amplify its reach.
Ambassador Campbell who is Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies, at the famous think tank, Council on Foreign Policy, where he tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa, said while “Nigeria faces the Boko Haram insurrection in the north, ethnic and religious conflict in the Middle Belt, and the prospect of renewed insurgency in the oil patch,” it was technically wrong for Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe to depict his country as less corrupt than Nigeria.
“Zimbabwe remains an international pariah and faces unresolved succession issues, Ambassador Campbell wrote,” but with respect to corruption, he remarked that “Transparency International’s well regarded “Corruption Perception Index” lists Nigeria as 133 out of 175 countries, and Zimbabwe at 157. “So, Mugabe is wrong: Zimbabwe is more corrupt than Nigeria” the former envoy stated.
After his book drew wide anger and sharp responses from Africanist scholars and Nigerian administrators four yeas ago, the American diplomat stoutly defended his critical attitude to Nigeria’s domestic and external management of its image saying, “I think, myself, that Nigeria not only has the potential, Nigeria has the calling to be the leader of the African continent…. that’s why I care.”
“If I were hostile to Nigeria, I would simply shut up and be quiet. It’s because I love Nigeria that I refuse to be quiet” he told Sahara TV, the video segment of the New York based news platform, Sahara Reporters, in a 2012 interview.
The full posting of his 263-word blog reads:
Robert Mugabe, the poster boy for bad governance in Africa, said last month that Zimbabweans were behaving “like Nigerians” with respect to bribes and corruption. This, he implied, is not a good thing.
The administration of Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan was apparently enraged. On April 11, the Nigerian Foreign Ministry called in the senior Zimbabwean envoy in Abuja to protest, characterizing Mugabe’s comments as “vitriolic and denigrating.” According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). The ministry’s statement continued, “not only does it not reflect the reality in our country, but to come from a sitting president of a brotherly country is most unkind and very dishonorable.”
Transparency International’s well-regarded “Corruption Perception Index” lists Nigeria as 133 out of 175 countries, and Zimbabwe at 157. The country ranked one (Denmark and New Zealand tied) is considered the least corrupt, that listed 175 (Somalia, Afghanistan, and North Korea tied) as the most corrupt. So, Mugabe is wrong: Zimbabwe is more corrupt than Nigeria. Nigeria faces the Boko Haram insurrection in the north, ethnic and religious conflict in the Middle Belt, and the prospect of renewed insurgency in the oil patch. Zimbabwe remains an international pariah and faces unresolved succession issues.
Nigeria may feel especially stung by Mugabe’s comments because it prides itself on the assistance it provided to southern African liberation movements in the days of apartheid in South Africa and Ian Smith’s white-ruled Rhodesia. But, perhaps it is also a useful distraction for both countries to quarrel over which is the more corrupt than to face their numerous other internal challenges.
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