Cameron ‘v’ Buhari: The case of a spade, a pot and a kettle

So this past week, our very own UK Prime Minister David Cameron, bestowed upon us a revelation of fantastical proportions. He was overheard or rather ‘over-recorded’, in a conversation with the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, stating that ‘We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain… Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world’. This conversation was conveniently made available to us, the public, 48 hours before an anti-corruption summit, hosted by Mr Cameron himself, was to be held in London. It’s always intriguing to me how western leaders take any opportunity to show themselves as leading the way in making the world a better place for us to live in – a leaked recording justifying the need to cleanse the world of dodgy dealings might, to the inflated political ego, equate to some serious brownie points. But, we know better don’t we?

‘A spade is a spade’

The ensuing frenzy over Mr Cameron’s so called gaffe showed the lengths the media will go to whip up a political storm. Was it really a gaffe? No. Mr Cameron was just calling a spade a spade. Nigeria and Afghanistan rank at the top of the international corruption index. It’s a well-known fact, in all four corners of the globe, that Nigeria is not just fantastically corrupt, but stupendously so. Nigerians will tell you themselves, with no hesitation, just how tightly corruption is woven into the fabric of every aspect of their society – from the state house to the pulpit, threading in everything in between. In fact, Mr Cameron could have gone all the way and reeled off a long list of other fantastically corrupt countries, many of which would be found on our beloved continent of Africa, and chances are that he would have got full marks. I for one was offended that he didn’t call out my birth nation of Zimbabwe …

‘Best qualified’

The parties involved in that leaked conversation are by far the best qualified to assess who is corrupt and who isn’t: Mr Cameron who himself admitted that he has benefitted from hidden offshore assets and whose party is bankrolled by businessmen with dubious links who, in return, get titles and tax breaks; our dear Queen Elizabeth, Head of the Royal Family, whose family fortunes are founded on loot plundered from all corners of the British Empire, and are sustained in the present day by the tax payer; the leader of a religion that has long exploited those that they are supposed to protect from evil; and the leader of the House of Commons packed with Members of Parliament who inflate their expenses and land the tax-payer, again, with the bill, whilst regularly popping up as the central characters in salacious scandals straight out of a den of iniquity. Nigerian leaders, present one probably excluded, are familiar with all these tendencies; put them all together and you have a cupboard full of pots and kettles calling each other black.

‘Clean up your act too’

However, there is one person who came out less charred than Mr Cameron – Mr Buhari, the Nigerian leader. His response was class. He didn’t retort hypocritically and indignantly in the way that some of our African politicians would have, and deny (the obvious) that Nigeria is corrupt, or demand an apology (because this was not about him), or embark on some irrelevant tirade to deflect from the real issue. Instead he took it to another level, rose above it all: ‘No. I am not going to demand any apology from anybody. What I am demanding is the return of assets. What would I do with an apology? I need something tangible.’ In others words, ‘we can go round and round in the way that spades, pots and kettles do, but actually, if you’re serious, you clean up your act too’. Mr Buhari has been cleaning house in his own country so he probably knows what he’s talking about.

‘A true boss’

And interestingly, with that response, mainstream media swiftly moved on to find another story to drum up – in their eyes, this particular storm, with no mud-slinging, had turned into nothing but a damp drizzle.

Mr Buhari, handled this like a true boss – wonder how his anti-corruption colleagues and his country handle him after this…



The Syrian Saga – An Unexpected Twist to Tale.

I don’t know about you but I have been transfixed by the goings-on played out in the media since a chemical attack killing over 1, 400 Syrians was first reported 2 weeks ago. The images of young adults and children contorted in pain, some breathing their last breath, were indescribable in the sheer horror they conveyed. In many ways, what we saw appeared much more gruesome than the more commonly displayed sight of blood stained sheets covering distorted bodies after a suicide bomb or mass shooting. And of course, this does not compare to witnessing or experiencing the terror itself. After over 100,000 deaths in the country since the start of the hopeful Arab spring just over 2 years ago, this was the event that got the ‘key’ political players and we the sofa-based revolutionaries fully engaged with the latest debacle of the Middle East.

I took a little bit of time to pay more attention to what Syria, Assad, and the Syrian opposition was about. The saga is truly sorry – failed democracy, US interference, sectarianism, nepotism, dictatorship, military coup after military coup, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, economic crises, drought, oil. In the mix of this pressure cooker is a young population with a median age of just 22 years – 91% less than 54 years old with 55% being less than 24 years. This is what makes the story so tragic – a nation killing its own potential, with no thought to the long-reaching ill effects for its own evolution and revolution.

Over the subsequent week, every news channel – terrestrial or virtual, and publication – trashy or classy, bombarded us with what felt like minute-by-minute updates on just what the leading politicians were going to do to fix this mess once and for all. With the USA posturing about ‘red lines’ and the like, the Russians posturing right back, a supposed United Nations WMD inspection report (apparently due to be released tomorrow), it seemed inevitable that we were headed for another Iraq and surely World War III. Along the way, it all became a war of words and egos, about who is the biggest and the ‘bestest’, who’s on my team and who is not.

This past week though, the collective thought for a different outcome seems to have been acknowledged. Personally, I thank the British for paving the way for this acknowledgement.  Whatever issues we have on this rock, and God knows we have many, we are the voice of reason. And without Tony Blair, that voice of reason was heard loud and clear. Our parliament said, ‘No. In our view, it is clearly not appropriate to so openly contribute to killing more Syrians than we have already done, ignite further chaos, and truly cripple our economy’. To his credit David Cameron listened, and worse, endured a very public dressing down from Vladimir Putin.  With the US losing their ally in war, Barack Obama ‘back-tracked’ and declared that he will check with his senate first before releasing some extra special drones  – the ones that can spare the lives of the ‘goodies’, but still not quite get the ‘baddies’.

With this unforeseen shuffle of leading roles, we are told that there is now an unlikely political hero in the form of Mr. Putin. He has now successfully convinced the Syrians to at least start to think about getting rid of their cache of nasty WMD. Along the way, he gets to tell the Americans, using their own media platform, that essentially, I Vladimir am now running the show (‘Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders’)*, you are nothing special (‘it is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional’)*, and you must learn to communicate (‘we must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement’)*.  A victory for Putin (not Russia) and an unforeseen twist to the tale. Meanwhile, though, hundreds of Syrians continue to evade victory daily as neither will this diplomatic and egotistical coup fix the mix in the Syrian pressure cooker, nor stop our Alliance of Syrian Suppliers (ASS) from handing out arms to both Assad and the Mixed Bunch of Bandits of the Opposition.

Whatever souls were sold and deadly deals fixed in the G20 summit board-room, we mere mortals, sigh a shallow breath of relief that history is not to be repeated just yet.  We should be hesitant for 2 reasons. Not only do we now have 1 incendiary device – the Middle East  – ready to blow; we now have a 2nd here in the Western political landscape.  The US and Russia are like 2 very large tectonic plates whose positioning has dictated major world events in the last century. This is not to disregard emerging players taking the place of a disjointed Europe and dormant Japan. In this latest shift, the plates have converged, the American one sliding under the Russian, creating a new pressure. At some point either plate must crack or break. Though we not when that will happen, we know just what will happen.

*taken from Vladimir Putin’s editorial, The New York Times, September 11, 2013