Ironically, Britain remains the only second home of Nigerian citizens of the world, even as we reject the Greek gift
British Prime Minister, Theresa May, was unsparingly patronising during her visit to three African countries, including Nigeria. Worse still, the British leader was so condescending in the public relation stunt, which preceded her tour. According to her, the trip was solely to enhance Africa’s economic prospects by establishing trade ties and new partnerships on the continent.
What ignited, or, more correctly, what re-ignited that sudden interest in Africa? After losing out in European Union from which Britain is returning home after 45 years of frustration? Britain, during that period, abandoned Africa but, fortunately, nations like Nigeria, nevertheless, survived, thereby forcing the colonial masters to return to their vomit. Prime Minister May travelling with tens of business groups, all with the aim of recapturing the African, especially Nigerian market? The situation must be very desperate. Surely, not for Africans.
Before leaving home for her tour of Africa, May’s self-glorification was that Britain would invest £3 billion
in a new investment push on the continent. Must Africa thank the Lady Theresa for her gesture, which is not out of any generosity? And if at all it is a generous act, the question must be repeated, Is it by accident or design, that after a failed venture in European Union, Britain is now courting Africa’s three best economies – Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya?
If European Union ever benefitted Britain, there would have been no need to severe ties. Accordingly, the period in European Union taught good old Britain rather harshly the misjudgment and self-injury of abandoning Africa for Europe in the hope of accumulating cheap economic boom from Brussels. It was not Africa’s fault that, under the colonial era, its (Africa’s) economic and financial resources were siphoned to sustain the defunct British Empire, the squandering of which Nigeria or any other African colonial territory had no voice or control.
Independence era halted economic and financial looting of overseas territories by colonial Britain. What followed? Britain turned to European Union for economic salvation, since 1973. The main reason was that, after Ghana’s independence in 1957 and Nigeria followed in 1960, Britain gradually pooh-poohed any idea of Commonwealth ties for the erstwhile British subjects. The British Immigration acts of 1962 and 1971 imposed restriction on entry of Commonwealth citizens into Britain.
Indisputably, any country has the right to control entry of immigrants but the British approach was controversial. As Home Secretary before becoming Prime Minister, May hurt herself for some unknown reasons as she reportedly created what she herself described as “hostile environment for immigrants with big posters on public transport buses with intimidating and hurtful message to immigrant to ‘Go home, Go home.’” Right-leading newspapers, the Daily Mail and especially the Daily Express, fed fat on such development with increased circulation by playing on the fears and prejudice of the ignorant, the ill-educated, with alarming reports of ever-increasing number of immigrants. On the other hand, the much to the left GUARDIAN newspaper earns the credit of exposing the overzealousness of Home Office officials in mishandling even genuine cases of immigrants clamped into deportation centres or actually deported. Such poor performance of the Home Office since the days of May in charge eventually led to the resignation of the new Home Secretary for misleading Parliament on the issue.
To be fair, did May as Home Secretary actually introduce the policy of “hostile environment” for immigrants? She merely allowed herself to be carried away. Way back in 1967, Secretary of State for Education in the new Labour administration, Anthony Crossland, suddenly introduced fees for oversees students in British educational institutions. Clamped among the foreign students were Commonwealth citizens from West Africa, Asia and West Indians – Nigerians, Ghanaians, Sierra-Leoneans, Indians, Pakistanis and West Indians, all from newly emerging independent ex-British colonial territories.
Gone suddenly and hopefully forever were the privileges of so-called Commonwealth ties. As if not caring a hoot, Britain specially demarcated the old Commonwealth. In colonial era, the fraud of the day was the tag of British subjects or even British Empire subjects under which Nigerians were drafted not only into the World War in 1939 but also the Korean war in 1950. But for Nigeria’s independence in 1960, Britain, under the façade of British subjects, would have drafted Nigerians into the Falklands War (with Argentina) in 1982 and the Iraq war in 2003.
Following the demarcation of the Commonwealth into the old and new, the favoured group Canada, Australia and New Zealand were noticeably exempt by Britain for all visa requirements, while the new Commonwealth citizens, including Nigeria, India, West Indian countries and Ghana faced tighter immigration restriction for all trips to Britain. Such blatant racial divide by Britain, which now pretends to be aiming for special renewed trade ties with Nigeria? How about this: A couple of years ago, Britain flew the kite of mandating all Nigerians visiting the country to deposit £1,000 at the High Commission to be eligible for any type of visa. Of course, Nigerians shot down the idea vehemently, a reaction which rattled Britain to drop the proposal. The question is: why was Nigeria singled out for such diplomatic ridicule? Now faced with inevitable economic, financial and trade consequences of quitting European Union, Britain targets Nigeria for substitute market?
Since Nigeria called the bluff of Britain and United States in all matters of development and infrastructure, and alarmed by the growing influence of China in development projects and investment in Nigerian infrastructure, there should be little or no surprise in the sudden awakening of British and American interest on the continent and especially Nigeria.
Efforts of Britain and United states are better felt at the desperate co- ordination of the two administrations to be involved in Africa’s economy. Last time, one of those rare trips by American secretaries of state to Africa, Rex Tillerson (since sacked by President Donald Trump), cautioned Nigeria against embracing foreign investments, which, he said, might not be in Nigeria’s long-term interests. Who decides Nigeria’s interests? Only Nigerians rather than any aspiring neo-colonialist. In truth, there has never been a time Americans could claim to be focused on any serious trade or investment in Africa. Not even under former President Barack Obama.
Then the series of insults, all to embellish Britain’s media hype for May’s visit to Nigeria? Three billion pounds to be invested in Africa out of which £70 million would be spent to create jobs for 97 million Nigerians said to be in poverty? Very ridiculous. In the language of Britons, £70 million pounds or even the entire £3 billion in May’s shopping bag is chicken feed compared to the scores of billions of pounds stolen by public office holders and bank chief executives in Nigeria.
In decent societies, those involved in bankrupting financial services are rotting in jail. But in Nigeria, ex-ministers and ex-governors are beneficiaries of Britain’s sanctuary, where the funds are lodged in the banks. Prime Minister May was flaunting £70 million for investment in Nigeria? No thanks for her. What Nigeria demands from her is the repatriation of scores of billions of pounds stolen in Nigeria and deposited in Britain. Should May be correct that 97 million Nigerians live in poverty, Nigeria’s stolen money in British banks will be more than enough to alleviate the poverty of Nigerians.
Instead, British government barricades, with legal obstacles, every effort of Nigeria to recover the loot.
In preparation of Prime Minister May’s visit, the British government made much of plans to investigate “unexplained wealth,” a decoy aimed at impressing Nigeria. Nothing will happen on that score. So confident are the Nigerian looters concerned that they are already warming up once again for public offices, to enable them loot more funds and deposit same still in Britain. From such safe deposits of Nigeria’s stolen money, British economy booms.
Nigeria to be in new economic partnership with Britain? Who among Nigerian billionaires with fat deposits of stolen funds in British has been able to explain the source of such fraud? Has the British government even bothered to question any of them? What then is the basis for any financial partnership with Nigeria?
The word for Nigeria as well as South Africa and Kenya on this score is caution, indeed serious caution.
Ironically, Britain remains the only second home of Nigerian citizens of the world, even as we reject the Greek gift.