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Shameless London meetings

There is something historical about the re-emergence of the city of London as the central spot for meetings. For Nigerian politicians, this has always been…

There is something historical about the re-emergence of the city of London as the central spot for meetings. For Nigerian politicians, this has always been the city where it all began. Before the Queen finally asked Mr Lugard to lower the Union Jack, she had invited Nigeria’s future political leaders to various tea parties in London. Her Majesty did not see any reason to endanger the lives of M15 agents to mosquito bites when they could expose their innermost secrets under her bugs.

It worked like wonders. They struggled to ditch their local accents for Cockney ones, (apology to Kemi Adeosun), in their negotiations. Thanks to the abundance of hot tea appropriated from English colonies, the meetings produced pseudo-nations of which Nigeria is a pioneer.

Today, the grandchildren of those politicians are back in London, exposing their dirty secrets to its bugged vaults. In the eye of these clowns, Nigeria’s secrets stay in Nigeria. They could visit 10 Downing Street, take shots in Buckingham Palace but citizens dare not point the lenses of their Chinese cellphones towards major buildings in Abuja, without being beaten and dumped in indefinite detention. In the 50s, our political ancestors proudly took shots with traffic lights. Today in Nigeria, thanks to these leeches bereft of sustainable ideas, traffic lights, where they exist are mainly decorative. If Lugard turned in his grave, he’d be asking what Nigeria has done with 62 years of its flag independence.

But London hosted incredible meetings of Nigeria’s political bigwigs last week. Bola Ahmed Tinubu met with the new political bride, Nyesom Wike, in London. Olusegun Obasanjo, the first Nigerian to peacefully hand over power as a soldier and later as a civilian flew in from his base in Ọtà.

Obasanjo in a group picture with Peter Obi, one-time governor of Anambra State under APGA, one-time vice presidential candidate of Atiku Abubakar, under PDP, lately presidential aspirant of the same party before he jumped ship and embraced Labour Party. Obi’s handlers claim he only stopped over on a global tour of Europe and America.

Students of recent history easily situate Obi’s global junket as Nigeria’s 2008 version of American Barack Obama. Like Obi, Obama toured countries that mattered, making speeches and garnering the support of the global community for a historic, but eventually a disappointing two terms in office. Obama’s terms were racially symbolic for America; let us pray for Obi’s new popularity in the face of Nigeria’s daunting tasks.

For now, Obi is visiting Nigerians abroad, who have no voting power, but believe that their much-needed hard or crookedly-earned dollars and cents could help a man who, like the old Buhari, fills a frugality needed to stop Nigeria from sinking completely. He might benefit from the generosity of his Nigerian foreign friends and admirers.

Unlike Buhari, Obi does not claim to be a fake pauper or talaka, but his frugality in government and his distance from ostentation has earned him followers among the few, who are not waiting for an opportunity to take their place among the looting class.

The picture of Obasanjo and Obi revealed strange political bedfellows. In it was Nyesom Wike, the Rivers State governor, not known for his tact or diplomacy. To his party, the PDP, the smiling Wike is an elephant in the Chinaware shop. Since he lost his bid to clinch the party’s ticket and subsequently the vice presidential slot, Wike has become a political bride to all other aspirants except Atiku Abubakar. It is rumoured that the two finally met last week – probably in London, the city that unites Nigerian politicians.

Party stalwarts have met a stonewall every time they had attempted to placate Wike for losing two slots within a political campaign season. London brokered the truce. If there is something that the fresh air of London could not do for Nigerian politicians, that thing would be left undone.

Apparently, London air smells fresher than any city that these clowns have had the chance to transform in Nigeria. This is the reason they run to London faster than their jets could land in Obudu, Mambilla, Ikogosi or Obasanjo Farms and Library.

In the picture was Samuel Ortom, the governor of the sleepy state of Benue, who shot into the limelight by taking on Muhammadu Buhari, for his alleged conspiratorial silence in the killings by herdsmen and the general insecurity in Nigeria. For most Nigerian politicians, notoriety and popularity are two sides of the same currency.

Ortom appeared in London. So did Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, Seyi Makinde of Oyo and the man who built the Tinapa, only to watch it decay, Donald Duke. They sauntered into Heathrow in their private or hired jets while ordinary Nigerians face flight ban because Buhari’s promise to bring the naira at par with the dollar did not happen and Nigeria is holding on to legitimately earned airline profits.

If you are used to the sartorial elegance of our political clowns at home, you should pray to encounter them in jeans, T-shirts or blazer decoys in London. Derobed of their unearned status, they are as ordinary and sometimes the most clueless human beings on the street. London is a leveller, it grants no unearned special security for kleptocrats.

That is why in London, they suddenly look so vulnerable; they adopt the cloak of the chameleon. If you happen to catch them in those waiting for a cab or taking a stroll even in their acquired neighbourhood, they glance furtively around, afraid of what their victims might do to embarrass them where the ground levels everyone.

What makes London different from Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt or anywhere else? Well, number one is security. The London Met is available for all. There is no Special Branch separating the political class visiting the UK and the hoi-polloi.  Britain copes with knife crimes in its capital, but it could not be compared with the fiefdoms carved out by brigands enjoying state support and covering. Successive Nigerian ruiners pass the bulk, turning insurgency into a lucrative business.

Buhari says he looks forward to handing over a broken nation to a successor. He had neither the intention nor the will to fix it.

Some of those hoping to inherit that broken vase from him do not live here. Just like Buhari only shows up from time to time from needless and fruitless global junket and health tourism in London, Atiku shares Dubai with Buhari’s wife. She visits to claim her allowances and he shows up during campaign season. There is no guarantee that any of those hoping to succeed Buhari would make any difference to the current Nigeria morass.

Londoners might be appealing to the IMF to pay their electricity bills as a fallout of the senseless war in Ukraine, but power is constant. Nigeria taxes its citizens for the darkness it generates.

Obasanjo, the London Star boy, invested billions generating darkness and Buhari feeds that umbra. Britain preserves the legacy of its educational and healthcare system. Successive governments in Nigeria hope to destroy what is left of public education with state-induced strikes. It has killed the once reputable healthcare system and closed the chances of raising new healthcare workers with its devil-May-care attitude to the state of public schools.

Nigeria’s political class hopes that the death of public health care and education would pave the way for them to grow their own while dipping into our reserves for their jumbo payouts.

They’ll shamelessly cling to London as their destination spot until London makes it clear that it would no longer host them. In the hands of these clowns, national pride is as good as exhibiting one’s nakedness on the rooftops to curious London neighbours.


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