Friday, April 25, 2014

Oshisada: The Fuss Over President Mugabe’s Comments
Republic of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe with Buganda Queen Sylvia
Magginda Nmangareka and Nigerian Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi
Friday, 25 April 2014 00:00 Written by Victor Oshisada
Nigerian Guardian

THE second lead news-story in The Guardian, April 11, 2014, provides much food for thought. It reads: “The Federal Government summoned Zimbabwe’s Embassy Head of Chancery in Nigeria, Stanley Kunjeku, over a statement that was purportedly credited to President Robert Mugabe which is considered uncharitable to Nigeria and her citizens”. This forms the first part of my opinion piece.

  Reporting further, The Guardian stated: “In related development, the Federal Government has condemned the attack on 10 of its citizens in South Africa and the looting of 25 shops owned by Nigerians by organized gangs in South Africa”. In an allusion to newspapers’ reports of March 16, 2014, it was revealed that Zimbabwean President, during his 90th birthday hosted by Service Chiefs and the Public Commission, described Zimbabweans as behaving like Nigerians who have to be corruptly paid for every service”. The Federal Government protested Mugabe’s statements. From the fore-goings, there are two different issues that are involved.

  First for consideration is the “uncharitable” accusation that Nigerians are corrupt. This writer finds it difficult to draw a line between telling the home truth and patriotism. “Home truth” is a true but unpleasant fact about a person, corporate body or organization and a country, usually told to them by somebody else. Patriotism is the love that one has for his country and the willingness to defend it. What patriotism is it if the home truth is told about one’s country and temper tantrums are thrown? Why should Nigerians be at daggers drawn with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, because he labeled us as being corrupt? Does it hallmark patriotism if we are applauded for our wrongdoings in which there is no abatement? And we are unabashed by the ever increasing misdeeds? Corruption inhibits progress and due process.

  Admittedly, President Robert Mugabe might have turned all his artillery on Nigerians as corrupt people, but even so, we must be tolerant to accept criticisms. The reality is that the uncomplimentary allusions to us must be accepted in good spirit, if truly we are desirous of turning over a new leaf. In private life, if a neighbour criticizes and points out a misdeed to the head of another family, the ideal step to take is to strive for a change, and not to take offence- that is, feel insulted. Are we not truly corrupt?  

  Our country is blessed with avalanche of robust media, which is good for our healthy political existence. There is no day that our print media are not awash with news-reports of corrupt practices by our political leaders. There are high and low profile corruptions. Indeed, with our leaders, promises are like piecrusts made to be broken. In most of our local government areas, facilities that are not provided are claimed to be in places. For example, roads that are not in existence are claimed to have been commissioned; bogus signboards are displayed on both ends to deceive the taxpayers that work is in progress. Invariably, it is phantom exercise to be taken with a pinch of salt. By any stretch of the imagination, there is no road construction ever to take place. If our leaders are not purchasing bulletproof cars or stealing unspent budgetary allocations, they are the embezzling or misappropriating pension funds. The leaders who dip hands into the public tills deserve to be censured locally and internationally. Being a Commonwealth country that is non-aligned, Nigeria is host to High Commissioners and Ambassadors from other nations, even as our country has its diplomats spread abroad. What do we think is the official assignment other than to spy for their home countries? The diplomats are here to monitor the goings-on and report to their home countries. Our envoys abroad perform similar duties for us. Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe is not resident in Nigeria, but his incandescent remarks are eventuated by the diplomatic despatches on his desk in Harare.

  Admittedly, he may be a coarse-fibred man; his wealth of experience eminently qualifies him to take a swipe at our corrupt practices. An angel rules no nation; Robert Mugabe is not one. He has problems that are peculiar to him. The land problems, plus his long rule since April 18 1980, form the albatross around his neck as a dictator. In no way do these preclude him from pointing at the mote in others’ eye. At 90 years of age, he is managing his dictatorship and he will do so into his grave. Mugabe’s main minus is that this writer’s freedom of expression is lacking in Zimbabwe, but intact and relevant in Nigeria. This is a plus for Nigeria and President Jonathan. He said: “We (Zimbabweans) are not just like Nigeria where you have to reach your pockets to get anything done”. Nigerians’ replies are tenuous.

  What does it matter if, in the liberation days, Nigeria was supportive of Zimbabwe? Most regretted because Mugabe is a sitting president of a brotherly country, and most unkind and very dishonourable despite Nigeria’s support for Zimbabwe during the liberation struggles. There is no gratitude in international politics. In my considered opinion, the statements serve dual purposes of admonishing Nigeria to change. Also, the cataracts of invectives are meant to caution Zimbabweans not to derail and become poor copybook of corruption. In the natural course of events, this may be possible. It is up to us as Nigerians to be tolerant of criticisms and change from corrupt practices, instead of fuming with indignations. If external opprobrium is required to rid us of corrupt practices, pray, let us have plenty of it.

  The second leg of this piece is the attack on 10 of its citizens in South Africa and the looting of 25 shops owned by Nigerians by organized gangs in South Africa. This is the height of barefaced criminality. Of primordial importance is the necessity of protecting our citizens in foreign countries; failure to do so speaks ill of the President’s incompetence and phobia for the nations, which he rules. Nigeria is not even trying enough in protecting its nationals abroad. There is no Western nation that treats the life of nationals with flippancy or unconcern in foreign lands. Therefore, Nigeria is right on track for baring its fangs in protest. In this respect, President Goodluck Jonathan deserves a pat on the back for registering his protest against the criminal treatments of Nigerian nationals in South Africa. This opinion piece has the imports of offering sticks or carrots respectively to a leader whenever he is due for any.

• Oshisada, a veteran journalist, lives in Ikorodu, Lagos. 

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