18 November 2012

Nigeria: London


Its' a name with six letters and a magical effect at least on the Nigerian - London! They all scramble to be associated with it. The naïve think its trees grow sterling, the rich assume its lingo, carry its air and boast of how often they go there or the new house they've bought there. Young Turks talk about their family house in London, and the middle class boast of sending their children to its prestigious schools. The rest of us go, cap in hand to the British government begging them for scholarship, knowing that a degree from a London school is a passport to sudden upgrade on the social scale.

From being the capital of the once Great Britain, London has rebranded itself the capital of the United Kingdom and the favoured destination of Africa's giant in the limbo. The visa queues are long; the conditions ever stringent; the treatment sometimes dehumanizing; the murmurs ever loud; but the traffic never wanes - London - every Nigerian's first choice. With cunning, the empire colonized territories and amalgamated regions, with determination; the founding fathers drank their way into freedom pregnant with the hope of building little London on the map of Africa. For Nigeria, the founding fathers mopped up all the evil with the Union Jack, covering their dreams with the green-white-green. But as with every dream, wakefulness is a bolt of lightning that opens the ears of the deaf - the greens have faded and the white is soiled, but the love for London as destination has remained.

Every day of every week, a fertile jumbo jet is impregnated in Lagos or Abuja and delivers six hours later on Heathrow a colony of passengers with dreams as varied as Joseph's cloak. Every day of every week;London fashion shops spread their arms to welcome transformed Naira plucking goods from their shelves en route Nigerian market. Every day we all hope to eat something from London or wear something from Oxford Street, our sense of patriotism buried in our quest to be more Londoner than the Queen.

Till late after independence, Nigerian notion of law was anything in force in London; our best lawyers were Queen or King's Counsel. We neither imbibe the patriotism of the Londoner nor the dynamism of its laws. The Nigerian thief steals and buries his stash in London banks, estates and businesses. In 2004, London decided that all the bleach in Laundromat would not wash the dirt from the stash taken off the dreams and aspirations of the masses. James Ibori must have been too enraptured in his looting to hear the news. Or perhaps it was his link with the powers that tilted the balance of the scales of justice here in favour of those who were connected to the corruption grid.

He found out rather too late while standing before the temple of Innes Court. Before then, London diplomats changed the laws, sending our own worst back home to serve their sentences, but Ibori they kept as a VIP - very important prisoner.

Now two brothers who failed to launder their dirty linens in their village stream are learning the hard way. According to This Day the feud between Cosmas Maduka and Ifeanyi Uba has attracted the pronouncement of a London court that has frozen the accounts of the later. Coups used to be twice a penny by Sandhurst trained officers until London stopped recognizing phony generals. Corruption is still our garland of success, but if signals from London are anything to go by, maybe not for long.

Who nows, the city that seduces its visitors with unquenchable allure may even send warnings to errant pastors who fly jets on the blood of their congregations. If its not fashion in London, it would not last in Nigeria. Yes the kleptocrats are changing route - finding solace and succor in Dubai, but perhaps London knows how to turn off that tap too. And when it does, perhaps corruption may still hold like the poverty that NAPEP has failed to eradicate; but at least, it may cease to be directive principle of state policy. If that happens soon enough, that revolution that Obasanjo fears more than death may knock on the door and enter - and free up the stolen cash that is needed to free our nation from its undying love for everything London has to offer.

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