Yes, Nigeria is corrupt, but return stolen funds in UK
From Chris Iwara, Ndubuisi Orji, Lagos, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Romanus Ugwu, Abuja and Wole Balogun, Ado Ekiti
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday reacted to the British Prime Minister David Cameron’s label of Nigeria as a fantastically corrupt nation, saying he was not going to demand for an apology. Instead, he asked for the return of looted assets stashed away in “safe havens” including the United Kingdom back to Nigeria.
“What do I need an apology for? I need something tangible,” President Buhari told reporters after speaking at a Commonwealth event in Malborough House, London.
Cameron was caught on camera telling the Queen that Nigeria and Afghanistan were “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world.”
Buhari, whose anti-graft crusades were recognised by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said he was not embarrassed by Cameron’s comment.
In fact, when asked by Sky News’ Diplomatic Editor Dominic Waghorn whether his country was corrupt, Buhari replied: “Yes.”
In the 29-second video posted on Sky News website Waghorn asked:
Will you like an apology from the prime minister?
Buhari: No, no not at all.
Waghorn: Are you embarrassed by what he said?
Buhari: No, I’m not.
Waghorn: Is Nigeria fantastically corrupt?
But Cameron’s tag of Nigeria as a fantastically corrupt nation continued to generate mixed reactions.
While the All Progressive Congress (APC), said the statement was an embarrassment and unfair assessment of the current administration, Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the national chairman of the African Democratic Party (ADC), Chief Okey Nwosu, and the publicity secretary of the Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said Buhari and the APC should be held liable for the PM’s verbal salvo as he provided the basis for the insult on the country.
“I am disappointed that he (Cameron) could make such swiping statement and it is an unacceptable and a wild one to make. However, I want to believe that it is not about this administration. He may have spoken based on past government. It is definitely wrong for anybody to say that of this administration,” said the APC national auditor, Chief George Moghalu.
But Fayose disagreed. “What do you expect from the international community when the president of a nation keeps going abroad to say that his people are corrupt?
“When a president mounts the podium in foreign lands and gleefully says that his own people are criminals, that they are corrupt and that those abroad should be sent back home, why won’t leaders of other countries brand all citizens of such a country as fantastically corrupt?” Fayose queried.
Senior lawyer, Chief Robert Clarke insisted that Cameron merely stated what had for long been known to the international community.
He, however, queried the generalisation of corruption in the country. He said rather than label all Nigerians with the tag of corruption, the British prime minister’s statement should be properly directed at the political elite and public servants.
Chief Ladi Rotimi-Williams wondered why Nigerians should pretend over what was globally acknowledged, saying: “Cameron is not saying anything new. We are corrupt and the earlier we fight it, the better. The country is now being better governed and we’re hoping that corruption will be curtailed.”
For Mr. Emeka Ngige, Cameron’s statement did not come as a surprise.
He insisted that corruption was elevated to statecraft during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. He, however, assured that President Muhammadu Buhari was working hard to alter the trend with his anti-corruption campaign.
Although Chief Mike Ozekhome agreed with Cameron’s statement, he contended that Buhari’s administration could not be exonerated.
He insisted that corruption was not limited to looting of the public treasury. Reported disobedience of court orders and selective prosecution of allegedly corrupt Nigerians by Buhari’s administration, he said, were part of the basis for Cameron’s stand.
The ADC chief said Cameron only took a cue from President Buhari, noting that since he assumed office , President Buhari in many of his trips have disparaged Nigerians as corrupt people.
“Mr President has gone abroad severally to tell the world that Nigerians are corrupt. He has said it in Britain, he repeated it in America. When he went to India, of all places, he said the same thing. When we denigrate ourselves, this is what we get.”
However, presidential candiate of Kowa Party in the last general election, Remi Sonaiya tweeting @oluresonaiya, Sonaiya said,” Mr Cameron should have tempered his statement by mentioning the current administration’s war on corruption, which Bishop Welby did. But who wouldn’t describe Nigeria as fantastically corrupt, given the revelations being made? If such stealing isn’t fantastic, what is?
On his part, Odumakin said the comment by the British Prime Minister about corruption in Nigeria is an indictment of the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari administration. He said why the government is using some persons as scapegoats, the architecture of corruption in country is not being tackled.
“The truth of the matter is that in the current effort at fighting corruption, you cannot tell me that in the last 16 years, only members of the opposition are corrupt. Rather than blaming Cameron we should do a soul searching. His comments call for introspection.
“We are using people as scapegoats , yet the architecture of corruption is still intact. Are you not aware what happened to the 2016 budget,” the Afenifere spokesman said.