By Innocent Okon
Ever since London became a first choice destination for ailing Nigerian political leaders, the old city now doubles as a credible national news source for newshounds. Many issues that are either swept under the carpet or denied back home are disclosed, discussed and dissected with candour in London!
Since 2015, London seems to be the safest haven for health tourists to seek medical attention and explain Nigeria’s fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policies. It was in London that one time Prime Minister of United Kingdom, David Cameron told the late Queen Elizabeth on the sidelines of a high profile summit that Nigeria was “fantastically” corrupt. President Muhammadu Buhari attended that conference and neither Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, nor Femi Adesina, the Presidential spokesperson, took Cameron to the cleaners for making mount Everest out of a mere Zuma rock.
Nigeria was corrupt (am even charitably referring to corruption in past tense here) and its acknowledgement by a world leader of Cameron’s status needed no rejoinder! It seems the present genre of serving public officers have justified that clarion call by late Sam Mbakwe of old Imo state for Britain to return as our colonial master once again.
Apart from being the preferred one-stop destination for medical tourism, in recent times, London also doubles as the safest place domestic political altercations could be discussed and resolved. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state and his ‘comrades in perpetual protest’ now jets in and out of London whenever there are ‘ matters of urgent partisan political concerns”. The luxurious state Government Lodges can no more provide the needed comfort, ambience and security to midwife political intrigues and strategies! Good old London has not ceased in attraction and grandeur to seduce and take captives our leaders and national resources.
Just the other day, President Buhari paid a visit to the new King of England, Charles III in Buckingham palace. Unlike his conventional style of directing Adesina or Garba Shehu to issue press statements on such a high profile meetings, the President opted to grant a press interview on the visit. He reportedly told journalists that King Charles asked him if he owns a house in Britain? And he replied his Majesty that he had none!
President Buhari in his predictable simple attitude may not go beyond the diplomatic finesse of the question. But it’s one question laden with meanings. His Majesty has access to where and whom to get information on assets of Nigerians in London . By asking the seemingly innocuous question, he possibly wondered how a leader of an endowed country like Nigeria could consistently prefer hospitals in London than his country!
The king possibly was thinking aloud how a leader since 2015 could not build, equip and employ first class health personnel to cater for his health needs within his country. Methinks, the million Pounds sterling question was not meant to showcase a materially detached leader, but to make a veiled statement on poor returns on leadership in Nigeria! King Charles was at the best display of a royal diabolical sense of humour. He must have spent his royal time to ponder on man hours and foreign exchange expended on routine medical visits to London! By asking President Buhari that question, His Majesty articulated the common rebuke of the Efiks of South South Nigeria whenever they want itinerant visitors to return home: OBIO MBUFO, NDI IKANG ATA? (Is your homeland on fire?).
Now I appreciate better why Chinua Achebe identified deficit in leadership as the trouble with Nigeria. Let President Buhari and other leaders who travel regularly to seek medical attention in UK to take to heart the question by King Charles and do something to build their home.
Okon, a lawyer, lives in Uyo.