How Nigeria Can Punish the U.K., By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

In the week or so since the British Government under David Cameron announced a surprising decision to impose a £3000 cash bond on Visa Applicants from Nigeria, Ghana, India, Pakistan and Sri-Lanka – all of them Commonwealth countries, we have heard a barrage of voices, most of them speaking trenchantly against the policy. However, there is a real fear that in the din of these very loud and vexatious discussions, the truth is becoming a victim as critical issues are side-lined by people who have interests that are less than wholesome.

No one, for instance, seems to be asking the question of how does Nigeria retaliate in the event that the U.K. goes ahead with this racially discriminatory policy? You know that given the stubborn nature of U.K.’s international policy, they will not listen to any of the loud protests we have been making. The U.K. is not amenable to moral suasion. I was not too young to remember the debate in the 80s engendered by the U.K.’s decision to impose a visa requirement on some Commonwealth citizens going into Britain. The list of those countries, as you know, was made up largely of African members of the Commonwealth and those from poor backgrounds in other parts of the world. There were no arguments or threats that were not advanced, including suggestions that the Commonwealth stood the risk of irrelevance and disintegration. Nothing deterred them from imposing the visa regime.

The U.K. has enormous financial problems at the moment and they are officially back in a recession. There is no indication of how long they will continue to sink deeper and deeper into financial crisis. In times like that, all nations have the bad habit of scapegoating foreigners for their difficulties.

If you are a Nigerian, you are already used to being profiled as the rogue element at all airports and public places especially in the U.K. They blame us, not themselves for everything they fail to achieve or fix accordingly. Yet, we are not any more crooked or insincere as the British, the Europeans or the Americans. Today, there are 500 politicians in New York prisons for as varied offences as fraud, larceny and all kinds of felony. Every two minutes, a woman is being raped in New York and in this city, every minute records the mugging of a woman.

The English fraudsters stole all the money in the world’s biggest insurer, the Lloyds. U.K. Automobile maker MG Rover was so badly mismanaged that the English swallowed their pride and sold the company to the Chinese. In America, Enron died and took with it to the graves, the famous accounting company, Arthur Anderson. Meryl Lynch’s vaults were emptied through fraudulent transactions. Millions were made homeless following the collapse of mortgage institutions and banks such as Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers. Mismanagement killed the Northern Rock and million others made cashless. Was it Nigerians who did these?

To avert the growing culture of theft and larceny in London, they recently set up the “Financial Conduct Authority.” That whistle-blowing body did not say Nigerians caused all those financial troubles. Why are we then targeted? I have read and really been amused by recent accounts of immigration frauds involving Nigerians caught in marriage scams. Did any of these immigration frauds happen without an Englishman or woman in cahoots with them?

If the U.K. has financial problems as we all see, do they have a legal or moral basis to burden others with them?

The fact that Nigerians are divided as a people in culture and viewpoints does not in any way suggest that we have no common interests. As clearly demonstrated by the reaction of the government, the National Assembly and the media, Nigerians won’t have anyone taking a cheap shot at them. Domestic differences do not presuppose that we don’t care for our people or our country. Nigeria contributed to Britain achieving of the greatness of the United Kingdom. Nigeria lost valuable lives and material resources defending British global hegemony in World Wars 1 and 11. We are not to be treated this way. We have maintained the U.K. as a viable trading partner for over 100 years of our association. We can change trading partners. Look at how prosperous we have made the British Airways. All Abacha did was to cancel B.A.’s concessions and the British Prime Minister was kowtowing to the military dictator. This country’s support at international fora is almost always taken for granted by the U.K. That can change, as a mark of our protest over this silly and discriminatory policy.

Britain doesn’t listen to moral suasion. Their history, replete with facts, shows that they only recognize military and economic strengths in others. The unfortunate thing for our country is that we did not have a good foreign policy from time to time. There is no doubt about the competence of Nigerian diplomats. But the diplomats take their orders from the political leadership.

This government is totally devoid of a good understanding of world affairs. They don’t have men and women of intellectual caliber that can lead Nigeria and Africa to offset the kind of balance that has warranted this British arrogance.

On his next visit to Turkey, our President, Dr. Jonathan Goodluck should learn a few tricks from his Turkish friend, the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey under Ataturk spared no effort to please Europe so that they can gain admission into the European Commission, now European Union, E.U.

He ordered the call to prayers to be said in Turk, and not Arabic. He banned women from wearing head scarf and the Madrassas from teaching the Qur’an. He set up a directorate of Religious Affairs to ensure that orthodox Islam did not make a comeback. That still did not satisfy Europe. Even now, Europe has not given up its Turkophobia. But Erdogan is a successful leader because he ignored much of European feelings and turned to new friends in Asia and the Middle-East.

Today, Turkey is prosperous and a leading European economy because of the choices it made and everyone out there is talking about that country in sweetheart terms as a model for the Muslim world.

M.K.O. Abiola’s favorite proverb which I like is “you can’t eat omelette without breaking eggs”. Nigeria may have been tarnished in its image by corruption, scams and schemes. But we are a people with a proud history and a pride of place in the global community because of our contributions. Our government, more than any other one, should be the first to recognize this. And defend it very well.


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