Sometime in 2012 at the height of Goodluck Jonathan’s unnerving incompetence amid rising Boko Haram insurgency, I made a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Nigeria’s governance should be privatized. I got a swift pushback from a motley crowd of humorless, dewy-eyed “nationalists” who thought I was advocating the recolonization of Nigeria.
But does anyone seriously believe Nigeria isn’t still a colony, that Nigeria is independent, and that its leaders cherish national sovereignty? Look at our current president. He is an unapologetic Anglophile. When he won election in 2015, the first place he flew to was England. It’s also where all his children went to school. It’s where he goes to treat even his littlest ailment “since 1978 when I was in Petroleum,” according to a transcript of his interaction with Nigerians in London, as reported by the Punch of February 6, 2016.
The Amerophilia of the late Umar Musa Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan were no less cringe-worthy. When Yar’adua was elected president, he visited America and told George Bush his visit to the White House was “a rare opportunity” and a “moment that I will never forget in my life.” I know of no elected president of a sovereign country who ever said that to another elected president.
When Jonathan was made acting president in 2010, he sought a stamp of legitimacy for his acting presidency by visiting America. He also gave more weight to the empty diplomatic compliments of Obama than he did to the genuine feelings of the people he governed. The Vanguard of September 26, 2011, for instance, reported him as saying “I just got back from the US. The President of America is like the president of the world because it is the most powerful country…. Obama, when he spoke, commended Nigeria but back home we are being abused.”
As I pointed out in my March 23, 2013 article titled, “State Pardon: 5 Reasons Jonathan Can’t Appeal to Sovereignty,” “all post-independence Nigerian governments, with the exception of the late General Murtala Muhammed military regime, actively and slavishly seek the approval of Washington almost as a state policy.”
I explored this unsettling xenophilia (irrational, unjustified, inferiority-driven love for the foreign) in my September 24, 2011 column titled “What the WikiLeaks Controversy Says about Nigeria’s Leaky-mouthed Elite.” I pointed out that most Nigerians would seem to be held hostage by a debilitating and deep-seated inferiority complex. This complex consists in the internationalization of a mentality of low self-worth and an inordinate reverence of the foreign, especially if the “foreign” also happens to be white.
It is this xenophilic inferiority complex that allowed low-grade US diplomatic officers to extract treasure troves of sensitive national secrets almost effortlessly from well-placed Nigerian officials, according to revelations from WikiLeaks.
What I’ve found particularly instructive from the US diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks squealed in 2011 is that our perpetually lying politicians suddenly become truthful, honest, and straight-talking people when they talk to Americans. You would think they were standing before their Creator—or at least before a stern, omniscient, no-nonsense dad who severely punishes his kids for the minutest lie they tell.
For instance, Nuhu Ribadu who had told the world that he thoroughly investigated former President Obasanjo and found him squeaky clean confessed to the Americans that Obasanjo was, indeed, more corrupt than Abacha who, in Nigeria’s popular discourse, has become the byword for obscene corruption.
The same Ribadu had lied that the EFCC he headed never investigated Mrs. Patience Jonathan over money-laundering allegations. But leaked US diplomatic cables confirmed that he did.
Nasir el-Rufai had also publicly denied any debt to Atiku Abubakar for his political rise, but he confessed to American embassy officials that Atiku indeed gave him his first public service job as head of the Bureau of Public Enterprises.
Many Nigerian leaders seem to have an infantile thirst for a paternal dictatorship. The United States is that all-knowing, all-sufficient father-figure to whom they run when they have troubles. We learned from the US embassy cables that our Supreme Court judges, Central Bank governors, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and governors routinely ran to the American embassy like terrified little kids when they had quarrels with each other.
In the past, many people had been falsely accused of being “CIA agents.” For instance, Dr. Patrick Wilmot, the brilliant sociologist who taught at Ahmadu Bello University for many years, was deported to England under the pretext that he was a CIA agent. Many other innocent people, Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike, have been falsely labeled “CIA agents.”
Now we know that it is our leaders, who are embedded in the inner recesses of our national power structure, that are the real “CIA agents.” The American government doesn’t need to invest a lot of money planting agents in Nigeria when they can—and do—get any information they want first-hand and untainted from our very leaders.
Our elites’ egos are often flattered to no end when a white person—any white person—considers them “worthy” enough to serve as traitorous snitches against their own country.
When I worked in the presidential villa during Obasanjo’s administration, people used to joke that the surest way to attract the president’s attention was to bring a white person to his office. I once read the experiences of German expatriate workers in Nigeria who said they made a boatload of money from Nigerian governors who paid them to appear with them in public as “foreign investors.” They said all they did was to pretend to sign documents, shake hands, and take pictures with governors and commissioners.
But it isn’t only our political leaders who are afflicted by this psychiatric malaise. A friend here in the United States once told me the story of a rich Nigerian woman who came to Houston in the state of Texas to treat a medical condition. It turned out that the best doctor for her condition was a Nigerian-born medical doctor. But the woman, to the shock of American doctors who referred her to the Nigerian doctor, said she would never submit to being treated by a Nigerian. “How can I spend millions of naira to come to America only to be treated by a Nigerian? No way! I might as well have stayed in Nigeria. No, I want a white man to treat me,” my friend quoted her as saying.
Long story short, the Nigerian doctor recommended the treatment regimen to be given to the woman and handed it to a white doctor who administered it to her.
Do you see any parallels between this woman and our president who goes to London even for an “ear infection” that can be treated in Nigeria and the President’s Chief of Staff who rushes to London even for “breathing problems”? And we claim we are a sovereign nation? Give me a break!