Nigeria is one of the most important countries in the world. It’s by far the largest country in Africa; it’s the fastest growing economy there by a long chalk. Nigerians all over the world hold positions of power and importance.
From a UK perspective, one of the largest contingents of secret service (‘Mi6’) in the world is in Nigeria. Why? Because more than anywhere else, Nigeria represents a confluence of developing and developed world, feudal religious instincts and modernity. In many ways, Nigeria’s progress is Africa’s progress. So if there’s a big thing going on in Nigeria, the UK knows about it alright.
Two years ago, Nigeria held a presidential election in which something remarkable happened. The underdog (albeit a former general and temporary leader of the nation) won and the incumbent president politely conceded then stood down. Nigeria presented a profoundly responsible face to the world.
President Buhari took office promising to clean up Nigeria’s business and culture and move Nigeria into a new era. And he’d started to do just that. Notably, he recently succeeded in having the kidnapped Chibok girls released.
I have an interest in all of this. During Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign, I organised supportive meetings on his behalf at Westminster; always on behalf of Nigerians and never off my own bat. I had nothing personal against his decent predecessor, but I felt that the new ere of politics Muhammadu Buhari represented, was a good thing. I also felt that successive UK governments, and the UK parliament, had given the (now previous) Nigerian government too easy a ride. President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration was talking a good game but doing little of any substance to help the people of Nigeria.
Ultimately, of course, it was a matter for Nigerians. Not all have been fans of President Buhari, but most today recognise his essential decency and his determination to help Nigeria to the world status it deserves.
For two days, some sources have been reporting that President Buhari has died in a London hospital. Other sources, including the presidency, have been denying this, but not very convincingly. A general rule of thumb for any leader anywhere is that if people think you’re dead then you get yourself on the telly alive, immediately. So maybe there’s a bit of a temporary cover-up involved? And if there is, it’s hard to imagine the UK’s security service (‘Mi5) doesn’t know about it and have folk all over the place inside the hospital in question.
The most striking thing in all of this is that the UK media doesn’t seem to give a toss either way – few outlets have publish anything at all on the subject.
It’s Africa and not a famine; it’s Nigeria but not corruption, you see. No NGO comment or interest necessary.
UK coverage of Africa is dominated by white journalists who pop from country to country and claim special knowledge. The news agencies are populated by young white journalists working in effect as stringers, often little more than kids taking a year out having a wee adventure. The NGOs who work mainly on Africa are so white it’s a disgrace. Perhaps if each employed a few more Africans we’d get some decent and serious coverage of that continent.
For now, we can just wait and wonder on the fate of a president in London.