Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mi corruption, Su corruption..

Whenever I allude to a morsel (or chunk) of Nigerian corruption, some commentors quite rightly allude to examples of corruption in the 'developed' world - the smelliest one being perhaps the Saudi arms deal the Serious Fraud Office lost their voice over. In this context, I thought you might enjoy a snapshot of an email exchange between 3 Naija-loving Brits, (or rather, two Naija-loving Brits and one Tiv-Brit) today (the debate rumbles on). Start from the bottom (SG) and read upwards (AW then OO):

And the Saudi intel thing is a bunch of bollocks anyway. The Saudi regime is more scared of Al Qaeda than we are, given their stated aim to take over Saudi, and they rely on our help to protect themselves from their own citizens. The real reason it was dropped is to protect BAE and the Thatcher family - yes, Mark 'Equatorial Guinea' T was mixed up in this too...

Since you mentioned Siriana, that film also illustrates the correct, neat, businesslike way to handle these things, which is to factor a fall guy into the equation. You call up the Saudis and say ' we need to show the public a head on a spike, you pick a useless unwanted political liability of yesteryear to pin it all on, we do the same, justice is seen to be done and we can all get on with business as usual'. That's what you, I or Babangida would have done.

But TB thought little enough of the British public that he allowed the Attorney General (a position he created to defend the independence of the legal system) to stand up in parliament and say 'in this case national security is more important than the rule of law'. That's a sentence which if uttered by a member of George Bush's government, would have echoed round the world, and if uttered by Obasanjo would have had the NBA, NLC, and every other TLA in Naija up in arms and out on strike.

But in Britain, the response was limited to James Naughtie commenting "and I thought the rule of law WAS a matter of national security", and then a day of headlines before everyone went back to speculating over premiership transfers and how much value those horrible curtains of their neighbours' would knock off their own house price. The reason why TB correctly thought we were such a bunch of supine f*cking wankers is because we were surprised when the investigation he ordered his mate to do into dead government weapons scientists exonerated him and blamed the independent media. We wouldn't recognise a scandal if we found it on the sofa molesting our children...

I'm not telling you anything John Lydon didn't already tell you in 1976. The British public make me want to puke sometimes.

The official rationale for dropping the sfo investigation was that it would damage national security. (thats what they said -piss the saudis off and we lose their intel on Al Q)
Whatever you think about that (and personally i think its bullshit) that was their "nuanced" decision.

In theory, as voters, we can turn around to the labour party and vote them out if we disagree with them. (ok we don't really have much of an alternative -the conservatives would have done the same thing i suppose).

Playing devils advocate for a second, they could say there was a benefit to British industry by the corruption: jobs, intelligence, favourable deals with the internationally key house of Saud... Its real politick and whatever you think about that, that's their reasoning. Their question would be: What negative effect does that corruption have on the lives of British people? As a character in Syriana (A film i thought was actually pretty dull) says: "corruption is why we win"
On the other hand, whats the rationale for dropping (or not proceeding with the cases) people like Ibori, Odili, Dariye et al... what's the quid pro quo? Where's the benefit? qui bono? How is allowing those guys to extract everything from the budget and "convert it to their own use", as the phrase goes, improving Nigeria's ability to compete in manufacturing? Creating much needed jobs? Buying international favour with key world players? Who can nigerians vote out if they disagree with the way their leaders do things?

I thnk when Nigerians say "see corruption in Britain!" what they are saying is "there is corruption in both the UK and Nigeria, therefore there's nothing wrong with corruption in Nigeria". That’s not the point. The real question is "why is corruption in the UK different from corruption in Nigeria?" ie: why does corruption have apparently little negative effect on the quality of life of Britons, but a massive effect on the quality of life of Nigerians?
I personally don't like the government's decision to drop the SFO investigation. Theorists on international development have for many years falsely classified (either implicitly or in some outrageous cases explicitly) the world into the "honest" developed world and the "dishonest" developing world.

Quite obviously that is completely wrong.
But instead of the developing world saying "see corruption in the Britain!" they would be better asking what benefit they are actually getting from their leader's tight closed-shop attitude to power.

I was at Michaela Wrong’s book launch at SOAS t’other night (‘Its our turn to eat – story of a Kenyan whistle-blower’). All good stuff. Nice, Africa-lovin folk, though their perspective on corruption is a bit one-dimensional and stereotypical. The discussion tended to be over-simplified, until the BAE scandal was mentioned. At which point Sir Edward (ex-High Comm to Kenya/anti-corruption crusader) showed his true colours, as a pillar of the establishment. The message was clear – African corruption is a simple, linear matter, to be exposed and decried; Brit corruption is nuanced, complicated and needs to be kept in context.

Yes, Sir Edward.


THE Y RIVER 6:44 pm  

Naijablog, I dont think you or any of your readers read about this German 419 king!
who had conducted himself as "a special swiss rep". He must have watched osofias the masters or could it have been the other way round? Or where else could he have gotten that sense? Had he been a Nigerian the media would have presented the story with regards to the guys race, colour or/and ethnic origins. Here no mention of colour. It's a very funny world. Wester corruption is even more interesting than African corruption. There should be a grammy for corruption and if there really would be one, I wonder who would win, Africa or the west, or east?

But I love this post jare

Anonymous,  6:52 pm  

Next please!!!
Can you stop using other people's phrases without credit!!!

plastiQ 7:26 pm  

@Anonymous: it makes sense to some people. Maybe the other people don't want the credit, hence the initials and no full names.

@JW: The west is not serious about stamping out corruption. I mean, their economy booms and thrives on corruption. See d recent GLOBAL economic recession where the rest of the world has to suffer for the greed of the westerners.

Everyone is concerned. Our politicians are stealing us blind, the west plays home to the loot. It used to be cool to run 'abroad' to greener pastures...but the greener pastures are all arid now. A friend even called me that the British government is looking for any excuse to deport as many Nigerians/foreigners as possible. It goes on and on, and the youth keep hitting the cybercafes looking for quick riches. They have even involved black magic, so forget all your FBI and's a crazy world right now....The Tipping point

THE Y RIVER 11:45 pm  

@naijablog, this is too funny!

@anonymous, are you a peckerwood? It is not my duty to defend anyone here but you would do well to be more specific as to who your comment is directed. Give some examples or refer to where we can find those particular phrases so we can ascertain whether you truly are as stupid as you look.

Anonymous,  9:22 am  

Yes the West is corrupt, but where do you go for shopping? Do you make anything? Can you make anything? even the oil cannot be managed! Forget about corruption in the West, we live in a f*cking shambles of a society. The West is corrupt, but they have power, water, schools that we all troop to for education.....the West is corrupt. Yes they are....and????

Dade 6:19 pm  

The West is corrupt, the East is very corrupt, but we in Africa (does that make us the South?) are greedily corrupt.
It can only be greed and perhaps a sprinkling of schizophrenia that propels all these tossers called public officials to carry on stealing as if money is going obsolete.
They then pack all the loot and park it Western and Eastern banks and assets.
If they can only 'invest' half of that money productively in their home economies like the sensible corrupt people in the East and West do, then maybe we too can be blessed with Water, Power, schools and nice shops for added measure.
It's a big IF.

NZ 3:50 am  

Agree completely with Dade.

Also Africa is generally referred to as part of the global south (South America and parts of Asia).
- side note: why isn't Australia included in the Global south equation especially since it located on the most southern tip of the world map.

Also we (Black Folk) suffer from a serious case of inferiority complex. True Story.

why?,  1:00 am  

Excellent exchange. Most interesting is that the focus ought not to be on corruption per se, but on how 'issues of national interest' are best played out. I agree with AW. To what extent is it in our national interest to allow the likes of Ibori to steal with impunity? Our PDP friends might surmise that coddling a major party donor really is for the greater good (not unlike awarding peerages). It is left for us to ask whether the greater good as envisioned by PDP really is in the nation's best interest. That debate, unfortunately, is yet stillborn.

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