| By Bashorun J.K. Randle, OFR, FCA |
(Address delivered at Annual Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce Dinner at the Grand Ball Room, Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos on Friday 4th December 2015.)
LET me start by thanking the new President of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce, Prince Dapo Adelegan for inviting me to deliver this address on the occasion of his inauguration as the 14th President of the Chamber.
I assure you all that I do not hold it against him that when he spoke to me to convey the invitation, he made it perfectly clear that his first choice was Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laurette (1986) who had previously confirmed but has had to decline on account of other commitments.
Hence, you must forgive me if I cannot boast of having won any literary awards not to talk of having the omnipotence to predict the future of the relationship between “Anglo” (whether England or Britain) and Nigeria over the next 100 years as prescribed in the topic of my address. Maybe we should leave Wales, Ireland and Scotland out of the equation and focus entirely on “Anglo” (England).
I must also confess that I have not taken an insurance cover regarding the hazards of attempting to sustain the interest of such an august gathering as we have here tonight while dinner is waiting to be savoured. I am reliably informed that when Dr. Livingstone and Henry Stanley embarked on their journey of exploration of Africa in 1841 the dinner menu was limited to “Missionaries” or “Explorers” in certain parts of Africa!! Thankfully, our hosts have laid on a spectacular array of choice food and exotic selection of wines as well as Champagne.
There will be plenty of time to dwell on the last one hundred years of “Anglo-Nigerian Relations” and adopt it as a basis or trajectory for the next 100 years. That would be a fatal flaw of logic and aggravated self-indulgence bordering on indolence. Indeed, when the Chicago gangster, Al Capone was asked by a reporter from The Wall Street Journal to predict the future of the Chicago Stock Exchange for the next 100 years, his response was:
“If I knew, I would certainly not tell you;
but if I have to tell you, I have to shoot you first.”
I assure you, there will be no gunshots here tonight.
Rather than rely on the past, perhaps we should ponder on our present realities. Ambassador (Dr.) Patrick Dele-Cole our former envoy to Brazil has provided us with a most disturbing snap-shot of how matters stand on our home front:
“The reality is that when the oil dries up, the IOCs [International Oil Companies] will pick up and leave. This has been the lot of small powerless people the world over – look at what has happened to Southern Louisiana where the blacks and poor whites live.
Less than 30 years ago, there was one petrol station in Yenagoa in the whole of Bayelsa. There was none anythere else: in Buguma, Tombia, Bakama, Abonnema, Okrika, even Bonny. None in Brass, Nembe, Oporokuma, etc. In all these places till today Kerosene, which is their main fuel for cooking, costs more than anywhere else in Nigeria? Children still go to school in canoes and buildings are still on sticks jutting out of the water. There is nowhere in Ijaw land with potable water to drink. We drink from wells. The toilets are still at the water side, next to where they bathe. This degree of poverty is no excuse for the excesses of our ministers and governors who obviously have not learnt the art of hiding their wealth. What wealth is there to hide when 80 per cent of the buildings are made of mangrove trees. There is no need to go to Brazil to see how the natives live – just a few miles out of Port Harcourt or Yenagoa or Bomadi or Patani and you are in Ijaw country. The water has the inevitable shine of oil spillages.
The people stand by the waterside and watch their land being drained of its wealth as the service boats and badges speed along to destinations unknown. The Ijaws are a modern misfit; cannot move speedily because the boats cost too much. Cannot keep nurses and doctors in the cottage hospitals built because these people have no after work recreation; there is no recreation club in any Ijaw town that I know, so no football, tennis, billiards, etc. The people are just emerging from ravages that insect parasites visit on their hairs, their legs and feet – lice, jiggers, etc. The men have to go further afield for fishing; the women sell next to nothing. Yet their culture is rich and calls for wealth. The Chiefs are so poor that they are no better than beggars and their Local Government Chairmen know this and treat them with the ignominy beggars deserve. Chiefs go to parties with plastic bags to carry away food and drinks. The elegant chiefs’ dresses many see when these chiefs go to Abuja, Port Harcourt, Asaba, Yenogoa – are a chimera – a phantom of an age long gone to which they pretend to succeed. No serious Ijaw man stays in his village – to do what?”
Perhaps we should place it on record that as we speak, we have not had a substantive High Commissioner in London for almost six months. It is the same story with Washington DC; Beijing; Paris and numerous critical diplomatic posts.
Anyway, while taking stock, we should also factor in the nuclear missile from Donald Trump who is a leading contender in the election for the next President of the United States of America: His deep disgust for Africans (Nigerians not excluded) is amply evidenced in this report which has gone viral on the internet:
“Africans Are Lazy Fools, Only Good At Lovemaking And Stealing”
Speaking in Indianapolis, Trump who is also the Republican presidential torch bearer re-iterated his promise to deport Africans especially those of Kenyan origin including their son Barack Obama, the current President of the United States of America
“Once again, US business magnate Donald Trump has expressed his deep disgust for Africans by referring to them as lazy fools only good at eating, lovemaking and thuggery.
Speaking in Indianapolis, Trump who is also the republican Presidential torch bearer reiterated his promise to deport Africans especially those of Kenyan origin including their son Barrack Obama.
“African Americans are very lazy. The best they can do is gallivanting around ghettoes, lamenting how they are discriminated. These are the people America doesn’t need.
They are the enemies of progress. Look at African countries like Kenya for instance, those people are stealing from their own government and go to invest the money in foreign countries.
From the government to opposition, they only qualify to be used as a case study whenever bad examples are required.
How do you trust even those who have run away to hide here at the United States hiding behind education? I hear they abuse me in their blogs but I don’t care because even the internet they are using is ours and we can decide to switch it off from this side.
These are people who import everything including matchsticks. In my opinion, most of these African countries ought to be recolonized again for another 100 years because they know nothing about leadership and self governance” explained Donald Trump bitterly as he illuminated how he plans to reconstruct America and restore its lost glory.
“I promise to make America great again by restoring our dignity that we have since lost through Obama.
The more reason why I still believe that he, and his Kenyan brothers and sisters should be deported back to Kenya to make America safe”
Anyway, we have only ourselves to blame for dropping the ball. Ironically, the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce has stated its objective boldly:
“The promotion of trade and investment between Nigeria and Britain.”
Regardless, it is up to each of us to decide whether we should be severely jolted or seductively re-assured by the front page report of “The Nation On Sunday” newspaper of November 29, 2015.
Headline: UK DEPORTED 48 NIGERIANS, NOT 500
- States why immigration law can’t be waived
- UK – Nigerian trade volume is about £6.1 billion
“The British High Commissioner in Abuja, Mr. Paul Arkwright said yesterday that only 48 Nigerians and not 500 were deported last week from the United Kingdom as illegal immigrants.
There are about 250,000 Nigerians living legally in the UK, he said.
About 168,000 others applied for visa in 2014-2015. He put the trade volume between Britain and Nigeria at £6.1 billion.
Arkwright who was reacting to criticism of his country’s unfair treatment of the deportees said they were indeed ‘fairly’ treated.
He said: “The UK and Nigeria have an excellent commercial relationship with £6.1 billion worth of trade per year. We want the number of business people travelling to and from Nigeria and the UK to increase and so support the economies of both our countries.
Those who break the rules cannot expect to remain in the UK illegally but the UK is open and welcomes Nigerians who want to visit our country for business or leisure.
The links between the UK and Nigeria are deep and far reaching and rooted both in our shared past and partnership for the future.
Today up to 250,000 Nigerians are living legally in the UK, making a significant contribution and adding to the rich fabric of our society. Every year around 130,000 Nigerians visit the UK from Nigeria for both business and leisure. Nigerians who come to the United Kingdom in accordance with our well publicised rules will always be welcome guests.”
He added, “In 2014-15 global demand for UK visas from Nigerian nationals was 168,000. Of these, 73% of visitors’ applications were successful, a rise of 5% from the previous year. In addition, 50% of settlement applications were successful. We are also proud to provide a quick service: 95% of visitors’ visas were processed within 15 days with an average processing time of 7.4 days.
So it has been disappointing to read, in a few isolated incidents, inaccurate media reporting of the UK’s policy concerning how we return Nigerians back to their home country when they have been present illegally in the UK.
This week some media reported that 500 Nigerians had been deported from the UK, arriving on one flight to Lagos. Nigeria’s immigration service confirmed to the media that that number was incorrect.
The actual number was 48 – all of whom were people who had broken UK law by remaining in the UK when they had no right to be there, and who had been given full right of appeal, and had exhausted that legal process.”
The High Commissioner said the UK will never allow those who have refused to play by the rules to stay as illegal immigrants.”
Also, the jury is still out regarding the current status of Nigeria as an investment destination. Our beloved country ranks 169 out of 189 countries profiled in the World Bank Ease Of Doing Business Report for 2015. It also has a ranking of 124 out of 140 countries profiled in the global competitiveness report of the World Economic Forum for 2015.
May I commend a new book: “A New History Of A Turbulent Century” by Richard Bourne as an appetiser for the dinner which we should be savouring instead of listening to speeches. Tim Butcher has summed matters succinctly in his review:
“Any attempt at history risks being grimly repetitive. The Nigerian cycle of political crisis, economic mismanagement and civil strife might appear relentless. To the outsider, Biafra and Boko Haram, Abacha and Abiola, coup and corruption can merge into one. So Richard Bourne is to be congratulated for avoiding such sameness in his ‘new history.’ By focusing on the streams that have shaped the nation, he captures one that is multi-dimensional in its fault lines, tantalising in its possibilities yet exasperating in its performance.
Bourne takes us through the trillion US dollars the country has received in oil income since 1960. He writes of ‘Mr Ten Per Cent’, a politician who decimated tenders; the widow of a dictator caught fleeing with 38 suitcases stuffed mostly with cash; and a recent report that in a country with 36 states, 23 governors face accusations of graft. Yet with an MP earning a million pounds a year, the venality of local politicking is hardly surprising. If anything Bourne is guilty of understatement when he calls Nigeria’s first hundred years ‘turbulent.’ But to focus on the corruption and political crises is perhaps to miss the point. For a country so vast and diverse, Nigeria’s greatest achievement is its continued existence as a single nation. If that diversity can be harnessed, then the next hundred years promise a spectacular new history for Africa’s giant.”
Perhaps we should pause at this junction and appreciate the fact from our Independence on 1st October 1960, Britain has been exceptionally particular about the quality of its High Commissioners to Nigeria. Here is the list:
- 1960–1963: Antony Head, 1st Viscount Head
- 1964–1967: Sir Francis Cumming-Bruce
- 1967–1969: Sir David Hunt
- 1969–1971: Sir Leslie Glass
- 1971–1974: Sir Cyril Pickard
- 1974–1976: Sir Martin Le Quesne
- 1977–1978: Sir Sam Falle
- 1979–1983: Sir Mervyn Brown
- 1983–1984: Sir Hamilton Whyte
- 1984–1986: High Commissioner recalled following the Dikko Affair
- 1986–1988: Sir Martin Ewans
- 1988–1991: Brian Barder
- 1991–1994: Christopher MacRae
- 1994–1997: Thorold Masefield
- 1997–2001: Sir Graham Burton
- 2001–2004: Sir Philip Thomas
- 2004–2007: Sir Richard Gozney
- 2007–2011: Robert Dewar
- 2011–2012: Andrew Lloyd
- 2012–2015: Sir Andrew Pocock
- 2015–present: Paul Arkwright
A quick check would reveal that the following Britain envoys were from Oxford University:
Sir David Hunt
Sir Leslie Glass
Sir Richard Gozney
Cambridge University produced the following:
Sir Francis Cumming-Bruce
Sir Martin Ewans
On our part, we do not appear to have been unduly concerned about the quality of our High Commissioners to Britain.
I am in a position to confirm that late Ambassador Ade Martins was an excellent envoy. So also was late Ambassador George Dove-Edwin and more recently Ambassador (Dr.) Christopher Kolade. However, some of you may recall that during the turmoil and turbulence of our Civil War (1967 to 1970), our spokesman in the U.K. bore the name, Alhaji This Thing. It really was his name !!
Perhaps I should share with you a vignette from the tragic events of January 15, 1966 when the first coup d’etat occurred in Nigeria. BBC was the first to deliver the “Breaking News” on Saturday morning. On Monday morning, our then High Commissioner in London, Alhaji Abdulmalik Atta summoned all senior staff of Nigerian Government agencies in London – Nigerian Airways; Nigerian Ports Authority; Nigerian Shipping Line; Electric Corporation of Nigeria etc to the High Commission in order to brief them and assure them of the safety of their kith and kin back home. It was a very sombre affair until it was time for questions:
From the back of the room a hand shot up. It belonged to Dennis Okafor. He went straight to the point:
“Your Excellency, it is the middle of the month and I am already broke. Will our salaries be paid on time at the end of the month?” Even in the midst of grief, laughter erupted.
As we speak, there are some (but hopefully not many) who are hinting that Nigeria has a memory deficit which may account for our predisposition to the belief that if you ignore a festering sore, it will eventually disappear. Right now, the reality is that the Boko Haram problem is not likely to vanish any time soon.
Indeed, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Mathew Hassan Kukah has put us on notice that we stand accused of unconscionable carelessness, wilful neglect and brazen arrogance compounded by compulsive ignorance.
According to the front page report of “Daily Trust” newspaper of November 29, 2015, the Bishop delivered the following verdict from his pulpit: “THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE OF RELIGION IN NIGERIA’S POLITICS.”
“Unfortunately, northern Islam has continued to privilege religion as a source of identity, power and control. A hypocritical elite continues to believe that it can claim the benefits of Democracy but use it only to consolidate its hold on power. This is what has laid the foundation of Boko Haram.”
At the risk of stating the obvious there is a direct link between religion and trade as the latter is not likely to thrive while religion and the conflicts it is spewing forth prevail.
In the meantime, the following note of despair by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, has gone viral on internet:
“Nigeria has sunk deeper than any human being can redeem.”
This may have prompted The Serving Overseer of The Latter Rain Assembly, Lagos, Pastor Tunde Bakare who in 2011 was the Running mate (Vice-President) when General Muhammadu Buhari ran on the ticket of Congress for Progressive Party (CPC) as presidential candidate to declare on CNN that President Buhari appears to be helpless to adequately tackle the multi-faceted challenges (not excluding persuading Britain to buy our oil!!) confronting our nation.
“If the people in government who promised us change can say this, where does our hope lie? So, you can begin to wonder where the nation is heading towards. The Peoples Democratic Party could not do it. The people who promised change have started saying the nation’s problems are deeper than human beings could solve. Who do we turn to to solve our problems? What they are saying is that we should turn to God to solve our problems. What we know is that Nigeria will work in our time.”
Actually, President Buhari put matters more bluntly when (during a recent visit to France) he declared:
“Nigeria is broke.”
For those who insist on pursuing the Holy Grail in search of what the next hundred years portend for Nigeria and Britain in the arena of business, politics, culture and everything else, it would be instructive to reflect on the “Due Diligence Report” which Lord Frederick Lugard delivered to the King of England in 1926:
“In character and temperament, the typical African of this race-type is a happy, thriftless, and excitable person – lacking in self-control, discipline, and foresight. Naturally courageous, and naturally courteous and polite, full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity…. His thoughts are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future, or grief for the past…. He lacks the power of organisation, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business. He loves the display of power, but fails to realise its responsibility…. Perhaps the two traits which have impressed me as those most characteristic of the African native are his lack of apprehension and his (in)ability to visualise the future.”
Also, on 1st October 2015 President Muhammadu Buhari spoke with commendable candour at the celebration of our Independence Day at Eagle Square Abuja.
“Our nation is celebrating 55 years of political independence and continues to remain as one indivisible entity despite several grievous challenges. Since Independence (in 1960), Nigeria has witnessed a lot of internal strife, survived a civil war but has remained united. This feat achieved by the country is an eloquent testimony to the determination of our citizens.”
However, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State was more sanguine when he was interviewed on SKY News and CNN:
“There is a major issue that we must address urgently in Nigeria and that is the issue of the unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Today, I must say that the only force holding Nigeria together is God because all the qualities and qualifications of nations that have broken (down), all of them are here, and all the characteristics of a broken nation are evident in Nigeria.”
Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria added a new dimension to the equation when he declared on Al Jazeera:
“There is clearly a direct link between the very uneven nature of distribution of resources and the rising level of violence. When you look at the figures and look at the size of the population in the north, you can see there is a structural imbalance of enormous proportions. Those states simply do not have enough money to meet basic needs while some states have far too much money.”
Almost fifty years ago, General Johnson T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, the military Head of State walked straight into an ambush when in 1966, he promulgated Decree 34 which stated:
“The Federal Military Government hereby decrees as follows: Subject to the provisions of this Decree, Nigeria shall on 24th May 1966 (in this decree referred to as ‘the appointed day’) cease to be a Federation and shall accordingly as from that day be a Republic, by the name of the Republic of Nigeria, consisting of the whole of the territory which immediately before that day was comprised in the Federation” The comprising regions – Northern, Western, Eastern and Mid-Western were re-designated groups of provinces and were thereby requested to divest and subsume their prior regional identities within the proposed United Republic of Nigeria.
On Fox News, Shaka Momodu was quoted as vehemently declaring:
“Despite producing some of the best brains in all spheres of human endeavour, the black race, especially Nigeria is held down by the selfishness and wickedness of a visionless and greedy leadership. Nigeria, the biggest black nation on planet Earth has become the laughing stock of the world community because it would not do that which is right in order to grow and prosper. Nigeria cannot project power anymore even in West Africa. The country has become pathetically so weak that it cannot even crush a ragtag band of terrorists, who have consistently bested the military in the battlefield.”
We all appreciate that we now live in a global village in which alarms whether false or genuine reverberate all over the world in a matter of minutes. A case in point emerged following the recent abduction (or kidnapping; terrorism; hostage taking; etc) ordeal of Chief Olu Falae who contested against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for the presidency of Nigeria in 1999.
Yoruba leaders summoned the world press to the garrison town of Ibadan and delivered the following verdict on the state of the nation:
“We are alarmed by the recent abduction of a foremost Yoruba nationalist and Nigerian patriot, Chief Olu Falae, by Fulani herdsmen on his farm the day he turned 77. His violent abduction during which machete cuts were inflicted on him was sequel to the running battles he has had with nomadic Fulani cattle rearers who at various times destroyed his crops thereby denying him the sweat of his labour…If we do not see meaningful steps at apprehending and bringing his abductors to justice and redress the Fulani nomads’ menace in Yorubaland, the Yoruba may reconsider their place in a union that cannot protect them and would not allow them to protect themselves and use all legitimate and peaceful means to attain self-determination.”
I believe it would not be out of place for us to seize this auspicious occasion to reflect on the ebbs and flow of the relationship between Nigeria and Britain. Some of the events that come to mind are truly profound and earthshaking but we shall confine ourselves to:
- The attempt by agents of the Nigerian Government to abduct late Alhaji Umaru Dikko from Sussex Gardens, Bayswater, London in broad daylight – right in the midst of a busy street on 6th July, 1984.
- The forceful seizure and subsequent nationalisation of British Petroleum (BP) in 1984.
- The recent denouncement of greedy Nigerian politicians and corrupt government officials by Richard Branson which led to the collapse of Virgin Nigeria.
- The suspension of all British Airways flights to Nigeria during the military regime of General Sani Abacha in 1996.
Perhaps we should add as a tragic footnote that about a year ago, Peter Carter, the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria was returning from a trip to London when he collapsed close to the carousel at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja. This was during our virulent Ebola crisis and sadly no one came to his rescue out of the all consuming fear of the dreaded Ebola. It is little solace that he was a victim of a mild heart attack and his life would have been saved if only the defibrillators in the airport were in good working condition.
I have very good reasons for my hesitation and scepticism about predicting Anglo-Nigerian relationship for the next one hundred years. First of all, we cannot but observe that those grandees who invade our shores to re-assure us that by year 2020 (or 2030), Nigeria will be the tenth largest economy in the world, insist on being paid their fees in dollars (or other hard currency) NOW rather than wait until their forecast/prediction is actualised in year 2020 (or 2030)!!
Besides, about twenty years ago I played a very minor role (almost negligible) when I was Chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Chairman of KPMG Africa in the endeavour of the then Chairman of KPMG International, Colin Sharman to predict the events that would define our future as chartered accountants in the next millennium. The team that Colin assembled travelled all over the world and produced a massive report which was distributed to the members of the KPMG International Council of which I was a member.
We felt that he had done an excellent job. However, alas, there was no mention of some of the profoundly game-changing events that have since defined the global landscape. I refer to the hijacking of planes; suicide bombings; the emergence of Bin Laden; Al Queda; ISIS and Boko Haram. Neither was there any mention of mobile phones; SMS; e-mails; smart phones; ATM machines; re-usable space rocket launchers; stem cells; invitro fertilization; Facebook; Instagram; Twitter etc.
Realistically, the best we can hope for is a more robust and perhaps more equal relationship between Britain and Nigeria based on mutual respect, trust and confidence in spheres beyond trade to embrace culture, tourism, education, and the faithfulness of the Almighty regardless of colour, gender or ethnicity. Time and space will not permit us to dwell on reverse psychology, capital flight (from Nigeria to Britain), the ability of Nigeria to respond to external shocks to its terms of trade; precarious price of oil; the linkage between productivity, output, employment and poverty; and our addiction to policy reversals; etc. Regardless of whichever way we toss the coin to predict the cuture, there is no getting away from Nigeria’s grievous infrastructure deficit particularly power, roads and housing. All these are in addition to our broken public finance.
Also, we have to contend with the mismatch between our Growth Domestic Product [GDP] growths rates of 2.3 per cent and our teeming population that is exploding at the rate of 2.5 per cent, one of the fastest in the world.
For several decades Nigeria was hooked to the “Command and Control Regime” under successive military governments while Britain had adopted free market economics and liberalisation which are the basic ingredients of competitive market economics. Our challenges stretch beyond politics and economics to religion as we stare (and hover) on the brink/precipice of moral collapse. Willy Nilly Nigeria is starting the second hundred years of its Anglo-Nigerian relationship with the prospect of becoming the third largest population in the world by 2040 without the certainty of achieving the tenth largest economy.
Anyway, the late Prime Minister of Britain, Sir Winston Churchill has assured us that the empire of the future will be empires of the mind. So we must factor this critical element into the equation and algorithm of the future of Nigeria and Britain.
At numerous fora in different parts of the world, I have had the privilege of occupying a ring side seat where those in the main arena argued vehemently that as a nation, Nigeria has lost its way. Regardless, the next hundred years will afford Nigeria a fresh opportunity to forge a new relationship with Britain based on convergence and mutuality of interest as well as shared values – even a common destiny. However, we have to think smart and act with boldness.
Ironically, my own generation was reared and nurtured by the prism of Lagos-London relationship. My first passport stated very clearly that that I was “A citizen of the Colony of Lagos and The Dominions”!! Hence, I did not require a visa to enter London or anywhere else in the British Empire. Incidentally, in 1951 the population of Lagos was only 431,000 (four hundred and thirty-one thousand). A friend of mine Ade Popoola was pleasantly surprised when on arrival in London in 1964, his position as a “First Class” clerk in Lagos entitled him to exactly the same rank in the British Civil Service into which he was recruited promptly.
It may be tempting to canvass that Nigeria should enter into peace talks with Britain in order to restore the glorious past when landlords in London boldly advertised “No blacks (except Nigerians); No Irish; No dogs”!!
However, Yitzak Rabin the former Prime Minister has cautioned:
“You do not negotiate peace with your friends.”
Hopefully, the British High Commissioner, Mr. Paul Arkwright who is here with us will confirm that Britain is still a friend of Nigeria.
Finally, let us seize this moment and paraphrase the incisive observation of Sir Winston Churchill:
“This is not the end (of the hundred years).
It is not even the beginning.
It is only the end of the beginning of the next hundred years
(of Anglo-Nigerian relationship).”
The last word belongs to the Rt. Honourable Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe the first President of Nigeria who pleaded with Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of Northern Nigeria: “Let us forget our differences”. However, Sir Ahmadu insisted :
“No. Let us understand our differences”
The subject of their anguish was not Anglo-Nigerian relationship. Rather, it was our beloved nation, Nigeria.
It is self-evident that the current status of the relationship between Nigeria and Britain is somewhat akin to an open marriage whereby each is free to pursue other interests and partners with no sense of guilt or remorse. The next hundred years would require faithfulness and real commitment by both Nigeria and Britain – for better or worse; and for richer or poorer!! There is no room for flirtation or cheating with other partners. We must however make allowance for the plea of St. Augustine:
“Make me chaste, but not yet.”
In the meantime, Dr. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury who is now the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge has enjoined us that with the imminence of Christmas:
“Let heart speak to heart”
This is a message which both Britain and Nigeria should take to heart.
Britain still enjoys tremendous goodwill – in Nigeria – particularly among the Anglophiles who prefer cricket to hustling and would insist on English breakfast and afternoon tea (English of course!!) preferably from Harrods or Fortum and Mason.
In my own case, it all started with my grandfather Dr. J.K. Randle who graduated in medicine from Edinburgh University – Scotland in 1888 and won the Gold Medal in surgery. This was followed by further studies in tropical medicine in London. He was the only Nigerian subscriber to the founders’ shares of Bank For British West Africa Limited (now known as First Bank of Nigeria Plc). The inaugural meeting of the shareholders was held in 1894 at the Colony Hotel, London. It is also on record that he was the founder of Nigeria’s first political party – The People’s Union in 1908.
Perhaps I should add that one of his children (my uncle) Jack Romannes Randle grew up in Buckingham Palace as his mother Victoria and grandmother Bonetta were adopted by Queen Victoria. It was comprehensively covered in a recent BBC documentary as well as special features in “The Sunday Times” and “The Observer” newspapers.
I am particularly delighted to see Ambassador (Dr.) Patrick Dele-Cole in our midst. It is almost twenty-five years ago when he and I were entrusted with a very delicate assignment by the then Military President and Head of State of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babaginda (IBB) who was having serious problems with regard to his exit strategy – specifically, his civilian successor. He had banned (and unbanned) virtually all the leading politicians who were vehemently protesting that it was all a ruse and that he did not really plan to hand over power. Anyway, IBB called their bluff and threw down the gauntlet – if the politicians could agree amongst themselves as to who should succeed him, he would hand over. Patrick and I were chosen as the umpires when the twenty-three candidates converged at the residence of Senator Mahmud Waziri at Roman Gardens, Victoria Island, Lagos. Amongst them were Major-General Shehu Yar’Adua; Alhaji Lateef Jakande; Senator (Dr.) Olusola Saraki; Chief Olu Falae; Chief Solomon Lar; Chief Jim Nwobodo and others. I believe that Patrick has the full list. Anyway, to our astonishment the politicians contrived through tactical voting to ensure that there was no winner. It ended in a deadlock and chaos.
The only option left was for the umpires to step into the breach and declare J.K. Randle as the President-in-waiting with Patrick Dele-Cole as the Vice-President – or vice-versa!! We did not seize the moment and the relationship between Nigeria and Britain is the worse for it.
President Muhammadu Buhari has consistently deposed that Nigeria’s problems are huge and multifarious. However, his topmost priorities are to tackle
- The Economy, and
Here we are six months after he was sworn in as our president, the British press has been beaming its searchlight on our beloved nation. Last week “The Financial Times” published a supplement on Nigeria. However, several other British newspapers and magazines have succumbed to scepticism to such an extent that in their view, Nigeria’s democracy is still somewhat patchy and precarious. The front page story of our local “Sunday Vanguard” newspaper of November 1, 2015 with the caption:
“BENUE KILLING FIELDS!!
- Suspected Fulani herders fingered in 262 murders
has gone viral. It features very graphically a man wielding a huge cutlass/matchete (while his accomplices are armed with knives) hacking their helpless and hapless victim to death in broad daylight. Matters are certainly not helped by the recently published 49-page report of Transparency International titled:
“PEOPLE AND CORRUPTION: AFRICA SURVEY 2015.
It revealed that the police in Nigeria and other African countries are perceived as the most corrupt institution in the continent. Also, at 83 per cent, South Africa was perceived as the most corrupt nation in the continent. It was closely followed by Ghana at 76 per cent and Nigeria with 75 per cent respectively.
The dilemma for British friends of Nigeria is whether to prevail on Britain to mobilise political will and resources to forestall any crisis in Nigeria now or should they rather wait and see what would evolve in the next four years.
Of course, it is obvious that Britain itself has a lot on its plate already – Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and a host of other countries.
Regardless, Nigeria is in the category of “Too big to fail”. One out of every five people in Africa and the diaspora is a Nigerian. The consequences of a major crisis in Nigeria are just too awesome to contemplate. Lt-General T.Y. Danjuma alerted us a long while ago:
“No nation has been known to survive two civil wars.”
Indeed, Pope Francis spoke from the pulpit two weeks ago:
“The Third World War has commenced piece-meal.”
Pope Francis has invoked World War III, saying that it has begun in a piecemeal fashion. The Third Secret of Fatima could provide Christians a framework for considering this terrifying new development.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) – In condemning the Nov. 13, Paris attacks, Pope Francis referred to them as a “piecemeal World War III.” In essence, the Holy Father is explaining that World War III has begun, at least in a piecemeal fashion. The level of violence around the world is rising rapidly, fueled chiefly by militant Islamists.
The Third Secret of Fatima could provide some direction at a moment of crisis such as this. In the Third Secret, Sister Lucia wrote:
The Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions.
This obviously sounds like the Pope. Could it be Pope Francis?
The Third Secret could pertain to any pope and any city, especially today. It could have been intended for Pope John Paul II, or it could be for a future pontiff, after Pope Francis. It could hardly be a prophecy at all for that matter. However, it does make clear that the way of the faith includes strife, and that brings blood and death, from which life begins again.
Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
More importantly, the Third Secret has the answer to our present problems, and indeed, our problems in every age. the Angel cried out in a loud voice: “Penance, Penance, Penance!”
A new Cold War has erupted between the United States and Russia. There’s been a sharp increase in military activity, at least in the United States, giving people the impression we’re preparing for something big. Our news reports are now dominated by wars and rumours of wars, mostly centered on the Middle East, but conflicts are also reported in Africa and across Asia. Even China and the United States had some unusually tense moments recently.
In 2014, the conservative estimate of the number of Christian martyrs for the year clocks in somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 souls. That’s almost two dozen people per day who die for their faith, or about 1 per hour.
There can be no question that the world is at war. It may be different from all previous wars, for each war is unique thanks to the abuse of new technology, but the casualties are there. And few populations are suffering like Christians. Is this a sign of the end?
It doesn’t matter. Penance, Penance, Penance! This should be our chief occupation, so that whatever terrible judgment we have brought upon ourselves might be stayed. Our Lady has always had one message for the world, and that is the conversion of hearts. Only through the conversion of hearts can the world be saved. Our best action is to ensure that our own hearts are converted, and trusting in the Third Secret, it begins with penance.
The poignancy and relevance of the observation of the Holy Father is that within Nigeria as a nation and its various components – state and local governments, wars are being fought with ferocious intensity albeit largely under the radar. Grievances are either entirely ignored or further compounded by wickedness, perfidy and treachery. Most of the disputes revolve around territorial boundaries in the urban areas but in the cities, the controversies are usually over the abuse of authority by government officials regarding the forceful acquisition of private land or property for public purpose – only to turn around and share the loot promptly among private/personal interest. Violence quickly erupts and spreads like wild fire.
Even in Lagos the Randle family is restrained by the spirit of our ancestors to exercise utmost sense of responsibility over the state of J.K. Randle Memorial Hall, Onikan; and the Swimming Pool next door which was donated along with the adjoining “Love Garden” to “The People of Lagos for their peaceful enjoyment and recreation” by Dr. J.K. Randle in 1928.
A huge scandal is brewing over “Eagle Club” (previously “Shell Club”) Surulere, Lagos; as well as Nigerian Ports Authority Sports Complex, Surulere which the government (and its officials) have surreptiously hijacked/converted for their own benefit – regardless of the fact that the ownership is clearly vested in the Randle family. Perhaps we should add the 300 hectres of land at Alausa Village/Agidingbi which the government compulsorily acquired supposedly for public purposes and with an undertaken that it would pay compensation, to the list.
Indeed, the government secretariat at Alausa is right in the midst of the acquired land. So also is the new shopping mall. The relevance of this to the title of my address is that if any of these mendacities and low cunning had occurred during the Colonial Government, a letter of complaint to the Colonial Office would have sorted it all out pretty sharply or at worst the matter would end up at the Privy Council for final adjudication.
Currently, Nigeria is locked into a circus. The judges try politicians for corruption but the politicians turn round to accuse the judges themselves of corruption. They are determined to ruin our dinner and derail the relationship between Britain and Nigeria.
Bashorun J.K. Randle is a former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former Chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa Region. He is currently the Chairman, JK Randle Professional Services.
Email: [email protected]
— Jan 18, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT