Who Is The Thief?
It’s on days like this that I miss the magnetic personality of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. I can see him now, pounding the piano with tunes that will colour the “unforced error” dribbling out of the mouth of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. I can hear the music tumbling out of the stereo and filling the breezy evening air.
“Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense”.
It’s on weeks like this that makes me long for the days of my youth in the blissful countryside of Ado Ekiti. We didn't have much but we had hope. My father preached hard work. He taught me that my future lies in my hands and sweat. I believe the Holy books even backed that up. It says, reap where you sow.
I wonder if Cameron sometimes takes the time to read that Holy book since it's written in his own language. If he does, I wonder what he thinks about the banks under his sphere of control who reap the bloodied loots ferried into their vaults from impoverished nations that are “fantastically corrupt”.
It’s seasons like this that fills me with the bile that threatened to drown us in my days as an active journalist. We would pound the streets trying to expose the rot in the country. As young me, our one dream was to make our country better. It was a frustrating endeavor because the closer your nose gets to the stench, the wider your eyes open and you realize that the thieves of Nigeria have a safe harbour in Britain and other developed nations. You can write all you care and expose the high and mighty. The British embassy is busy stamping their passports with visas so they can go spend the looted funds in London. And, you wonder – who is the thief?
Any day Cameron takes a stroll from his hallowed 10 Downing street residence, down the pricey streets of London, he knows most of those mansions are owned by men and women who have bled their country dry. Some of them are Nigerians. Anyone who cares knows their names. Some of them are even in the Panama Papers that Cameron is very familiar with.
You wonder what Cameron does about the thieves strolling his streets? Does he care about the impoverished people in the lands where the funds were stolen or does he care about the property tax flowing into British coffers? Why hasn't Britain joined other European Union states in imposing sanctions against British overseas territories and crown dependencies that continue to act as tax havens for the wealthy.
I can hear Fela again, shouting – “authority steal pass armed robbery”.
Go to the museums in London and you'll see artifacts stolen from Nigerian cities. The museums make millions of pounds annually from tourists eager to see these amazing works of our forefathers. What does Nigeria get from these exhibits? Nothing. Would Britain do the honourable thing and return the artifacts to where they rightly belong?
Or, would it be business as usual with uppity rhetoric tumbling down from the bloodstained mountains?
Is Nigeria corrupt as a nation? Yes. Are we as a nation trying to correct the ills of our recent past? Even a man lost in the space knows the answer is a resounding yes.
We have a president in President Muhammadu Buhari who has had opportunities to be one of the world's silent billionaires but resisted the temptation. We have a leader who wakes up every morning thinking of how to get the looted funds overseas back into Nigeria so we can develop our country. We have a man who goes to bed at night wondering if any child went to bed hungry because of the mismanagement of past leaders. We have a patriot traversing the globe in search of a way to move his country into the league of advanced nations.
Now you know what they mean when they say talk is cheap. It's cheaper when you hold a glass of wine in one hand and force errors out of your ministerial mouth, all to impress her majesty.
I serve at the pleasure of a president who is not afraid to ruffle feathers. But, I was exceptionally proud of his stance on Cameron's error. “I am not going to demand an apology from anyone, what I will demand is the return of our assets,” the president said.
The ball is firmly in the court of Saint Cameron? What does the Prime Minister do? Does he take up President Buhari's challenge and help return the stolen wealth back to Nigeria where they belong?
And, that makes me wonder – who really is the thief? Is it the man or woman who steals from his country and flees overseas with his loot? Or, is it the country who stashes that money in the bank, shelters the looter and provides him safe haven?
Now, if you can answer that, you would have stumbled on something truly fantastic.
Written by Babafemi Ojudu.