Are Bush, Blair and Condy sending the right message to Nigeria? No.
There is tension in Nigeria at the moment, as if there isn’t always tension in Nigeria, but Africa’s rich oil producer is technically without a president. The elected leader is either very sick or dead (no one’s sure), and the Nigeria’s Parliament has given his powers to an Acting President.
Nigeria’s long and labored post-colonial history is rife with horrible violence. Remember Biafra? Well there have been demonstrations and police repression lately reminiscent of the horrible days that led to that terrible conflict.
So presumably to delay what some believe is the inevitable, former leaders Tony Blair and George Bush jetted into town with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, ostensibly to honor Nigeria’s freedom fighters at an award’s banquet.
Although I’m not sure this is anyone’s idea but theirs.
Problem was that the lead awardee of “freedom fighters”, former anti-corruption investigator Nuhu Ribadu, had fled the country for his life.
Ribadu had been ready to indict several top ruling-party politicians, including the one that George Bush was sitting next to, former dictator Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari was one of Nigeria’s most feared generals, detaining government critics without charge and afterwards pushing through laws that allowed him to hold the detainees indefinitely without trial.
Ribadu once estimated corruption cost Nigeria — a nation where most people live on less than $2 a day — over $380 billion since independence.
And another famous Nigerian human rights champion, Shehu Sani, who was to actually be seated near former President Bush, couldn’t, because he’d been jailed the day before.
I kind of now understand why nobody in the Obama or Brown administrations attended.
Sani, who was freed on bail but then denied entry to the event, told the BBC that “It was a peaceful protest. I was officially invited to the banquet – so I wasn’t going to throw any shoes.”
“But the police came and used force to shove me into their vehicles along with about 80 others.
“They said we needed a permit – but according to the constitution all we have to do is write to the police and tell them about the protest. We had done that.”
So Bush, Blair and Condy are the west’s representatives to an award ceremony for freedom and liberty in Nigeria except the awardees are either in exile or jail.