- Monday, April 14, 2014
By Funmi Falobi / Senior Reporter, Lagos
Corruption is the bane of Nigeria’s development and has denied the common Nigerians the dividends of democracy. As a matter of fact, Nigerians have called on the government at all levels to curb corruption in the country in order for the nation to grow socio-economically with positive impact on its citizens.
Recently, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe during his 90th birth luncheon hosted by the service chiefs and the public commission, had described Nigeria and its citizens as corrupt.
Not taking the remark lying low, the Federal Government last Thursday reacted by describing Mugabe’s statement as “unstatesmanlike and dishonourable.”
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Martin Uhoimoibhi addressing the Zimbabwean Head of Chancery, Stanley Kunjeku, said the Federal Government was deeply concerned that a sitting President whose country Nigeria had assisted immensely during its liberation struggle and had enjoyed cordial relations with, could take “considerable time to vituperate about Nigeria, reflecting what we considered to be a strong aversion for our country.”
Mugabe, while addressing the delegates at the occasion, had said Zimbabweans were now almost behaving like Nigerians who, according to him, have to be corruptly paid for every service.
But Uhoimoibhi said it was disheartening that not only did the utterance not reflect the reality in the country but that it came from a sitting president of a brotherly country.
He said: “We considered the remarks denigrating and unstatesman like on Nigeria and Nigerians in general. We want to present the strongest protest on that statement. We thought it was most unkind and very dishonourable.
“So we take the strongest exception to it and we protest it for its partial inaccuracy, and also for the unfriendly attitude that it conveyed from the President towards Nigeria and Nigerians. Nigerians are Afrocentric people. We are very proud of the role we have played throughout our history to uphold the dignitary of the black race and the black man wherever he exists.
“…But for the number one citizen of that country to regard Nigeria in a term in which the statement of the president was reported to have represented Nigeria with what was most unkind, hostile and unfriendly, we hope that this does not reflect a long-standing aversion for Nigerians.”
“We have the utmost respect for Zimbabweans. You are welcome to our country but we are not happy and we are most unhappy indeed at this utterance.”
The Federal Government’s action has however elicited reactions among Nigerians. Analysts explain that government should rather fight corruption than engaging in diplomatic row.
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has urged the Federal Government to address the endemic corruption bedeviling the country.
The Executive Chairman of the Coalition, Mr Debo Adeniran noted that Mugabe’s statement means that Nigeria has no integrity whatsoever in the sight of the outside world.
He said, “It is very unfortunate that the truth about our country is coming from a tyrant. Mugabe may be a lot of things to different people but he spoke nothing but the whole truth. What is however unfortunate is that if Mugabe, can see Nigeria in such light, it means our country doesn’t have an iota of integrity before the outside world.
“It is a known fact that corruption has become a way of life in Nigeria, and that our country is so corrupt to the extent that even corruption is scared of us. It is sad being insulted by other governments that are corrupt. Mugabe, though corrupt, spoke the truth about our country. The level of impunity in this present government is disheartening.”
Similarly, Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda, Edetaen Ojo said, “The Federal Government’s action is expected, it is only diplomatic action it can give. The reality is that corruption is widely known in the country. Government should do the rightful to fight corruption. There are serious corruption allegations against government officials and nothing has been done about that. This shows that the nation is not only corrupt but the government is corrupt.”
While urging the Federal Government to deal with the message rather than the messenger, Adeniran said, “If our leaders feel the Zimbabwean President had said anything untrue, they should counter his claim with facts; or else the Federal Government should tackle the issue of endemic corruption ravaging every sector of the country.”