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…

 

Battlecry – stolen lives and lost dreams: our girls from Chibok 2015

Exactly one year ago today, 276 girls and their dreams were stolen from their Chibok community, in the dead of night, by cowards; this is exactly what cowards do: they perform their dastardly deeds under the cover of darkness, they prey on the seemingly powerless, and they count on the silence and fear of those left behind

One year later, whilst the abductors may continue on with their deadly modus operandi, those left behind on a local, national and international level have not cowered in fear nor have they been bound by silence, as they continue to be the voice for the stolen girls. The girls’ story may no longer be headline news, but the significance of this event hasn’t faded in the eyes of the countless many who continue to do what they know how to do best to ensure that the girls are not forgotten, and that their families remain supported.

The girls are not yet back home, but in their painful absence, they have shone a spotlight on war crimes on women, men and children all over the world, on the issue of rape in all sectors of society, on the convoluted relationships within and between ineffectual governments, and on the lasting legacy of misguided policies, greed and broken covenants. They have even been the driving force for a change of leadership!

Today, one year on, let’s continue to honor the girls and their families in any way we can. Any positive action is like a seed sown to bear fruit in future generations, so they are armed with knowledge and confidence to be their brother’s keeper in the true sense of the word.

We simply must not lose hope. Races like this are ‘not for the swift or strong but for those that endure to the end’. There will be tactical shifts, and changing of batons but rest assured victory will come and must come for these girls.

#BringBackOurGirls: For Our Girls from Chibok

 

10325655_703893972986996_8527027233136498105_nOn April 14 2014, 234 Nigerian schoolgirls aged 16-18, were abducted from the dorms of their boarding school in Chibok, NE Nigeria. It’s reported and accepted that the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram (meaning ‘Western education is sin’) was responsible, rounding up the girls, driving them deep into the surrounding forest towards neighboring Chad and Cameroon and selling them into sexual slavery. On the ‘drive to darkness’ some of the girls escaped whilst the militants set one of many villages en route on fire. A reported account from one of these girls can reduce a grown person to tears and make them hug their child tightly.

 

I read an initial news article of this attack via a news link on my Facebook page probably during the Easter weekend. My mouth dried up, my heart sank, my insides flipped over twice. Yet another story of citizens getting needlessly caught in the crossfire of senseless violent campaigns based on religion/politics/tribalism/sectarianism. Yet another story of women and sexual exploitation. Yet another story of child abuse.

 

And then, I sat back and waited for the news channels to start the rounds, confirm the events, cut to scenes of military swoops into the jungle and enlighten me, educate me on the religious geo-politics of this episode. I waited for the words from international Heads of State denouncing this depraved act. But actually, there was still a plane to find somewhere in the Indian Ocean, a royal visit down under to cover, a celebrity sex tape to publicize and rev up network ratings, and reality TV show shenanigans to drag out to a scandal-thirsty audience. How would the story of faceless African girls from an African country widely acknowledged to be a socio-political mess compete with all that?

 

But the story wouldn’t go away. My sister found another article and we exchanged Facebook comments. My cousin tagged on to another article I’d shared and we exchanged more Facebook comments. I set out to fill the gaps in my knowledge of this long running Christian-Islam, South-North battle in the most populous and wealthiest African nation  – in resources that is. The story makes for gut wrenching reading – this group is ruthless in their campaign, and they seem unhinged in their ideology and methodology as they do not discriminate against whom they kill and how they kill. They have burnt entire villages down and mass-slaughtered mere boys – echoes of the conflict in Bosnia ring loud. But I don’t think we have ever heard of brazen mass abductions of children like this, although Boko Haram have abducted girls before, many of whom were later found pregnant or with children…

 

The situation raises all sorts of issues that ought to be brought to the table, flipped upside down and inside out, trashed and shredded, including but certainly not limited to the far-reaching tentacles of Islamic extremism, selective media coverage based on socio-economic and racial lines, and ineffectual, apathetic and under-resourced African governments.  Not a word of support or of comfort or of hope from Nigerian or other African leaders – even if it’s just for PR purposes! Then there is our own self-made African racism, where a catastrophe befalling a community is excused on the basis that those of said community belong to a tribe deemed unworthy and deserving of such a disaster.

 

Whilst we rightfully discuss and debate these issues we must take 2 important steps. First we must set in motion some solutions. I say set in motion because we cannot deny the complexities of the situation and none can be resolved overnight either with the wave of a magic wand, or a motion in Parliament, or a UN treaty or a modification of a clause in a Constitution that was dubious in the first place. And we must be committed to keeping up the momentum on these solutions. We must involve like-minded folk and even engage not-so-like-minded individuals because sometimes we will get tired of the push, and will need others to step into the driving seat. We must continue to criticize our leaders, but it has to be consistently and persistently constructive, as much as it burns to be so. We must remember and remind them that they are human just as we are, and must not elevate them to a demi-god like status. We must never lose an opportunity to hold them accountable, because the minute we do – look at the consequences – we’re drowning in them. Dictatorships and autocracies around the world have fallen, and African ones are no exception – we must never for a moment become complacent to that eventuality. We must be committed because it’s going to be a long haul – we are unlikely to reap the benefits of our actions, but we must stay committed and faithful to the fact that subsequent generations must inherit much less of our mess.

 

Our solutions should be put forward alongside the second but probably the most important and immediate step. As citizens of this planet, with more power than we choose to exercise, we must find some way, any way, from our various corners, to be the voice of those that cannot be heard, or rather that no one listens to. Let our collective sanctified voices speaking on behalf of these girls urge all of our governments to step up. These Nigerian girls must know that we, whatever our color or creed, feel their anguish and are expressing that anguish for them.  If by chance they sneak a peek at their abductor’s smart phone or other device, let them catch a glimpse of any of the many social network sites that right now speak for them, petitions signed for them, and protests pitched for them. And let what they see fire their bravery to endure the horrors forced upon them, and sustain their faith that those horrors will end.

 

#BringBackOurGirls

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bringbackourgirls-UK/768530563180609