If The Brits Holler, Let Them Have It, By Ali M Ali



Olugbenga AshiruLast week, I played ‘the disappearing act’ trick. I didn’t feature on this page. At the back of my mind, I thought only a few would notice. Fewer still, I told myself consolingly, would bother to make contact. I was wrong. There were calls. And there were emails. All were demanding an explanation why I played “Jonathan at AU 50th anniversary summit” without a warning. I apologize. I didn’t know that I had a ‘following’. One told me that on a day like this he reads this column only because it is ‘therapeutic’ .I am still bewildered. What is “therapeutic” about the disjointed thoughts of a harassed Nigerian and an even more harassed journalist? The feedback, however, taught me an important lesson. Once started, columns assumed a life of their own. Often they compel the writer. They are tyrannical. They write the writer. A micro example of the ‘hunter hunted’. There is a columnist I know who has been as consistent as the monotony of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. In the last ten years, he has not, on a weekly basis, failed to deliver a resounding treatise. His views are extreme. You may disagree with him but he always makes the point weekly. Like the column, he is a tyrant. His view is sacrosanct. It can’t be challenged. He is like Tyson, the disgraced boxer. He can give punches but he can’t take them. He has a glass jaw. Hit him a little and he screams and yells. He betrays a healthy disdain for procedure but tap him mildly, he runs to the court foaming at both ends of the mouth.
Columns are a public platform. The columnist may own the views expressed therein but actually are the real owners and the writer owes them some obligation in keeping them informed on occasional misses. Henceforth, I would prepare the minds of my readers any day the muses fail to inspire.
Having said that, this may seem belated. But I figure that it is better late than never. I had wanted to comment last week on the ill advised and ill timed UK visa bond slapped on travelling Nigerians but at the eleventh hour, I faltered. The gods deserted me. Personally, I welcomed it but as a patriot, I kicked. Time to really place Britain where she should be.
There are some of us who were never and will never be fascinated by Britain. The attraction it held for some of us was its educational excellence. Beyond that, she is certainly not my favourite destination for holidays or any form of tourism. Even the historical accident of being a former colonial mistress is as impressive to me as Obama asking African leaders to legalize gay rights. As a patriot, I was miffed by the connotative implication of a visa bond. The reasons advanced confirmed my suspicion that it was malicious in intent. I digress.
The globe is chaotic. Bedlam everywhere. Too many troubling issues agitating the mind presently. The midweek coup in Egypt for instance, is one. The Egyptian Army has walked its talk. Egyptians should swap places with Nigerians. They had no idea what hell was. Let them come. Morsi is a perfect contemporary example of the corrupting influence of power.
The plane crash in the US is another. And poignantly, the mindless killing of defenseless students by cowardly dissidents in the state of emergency Yobe state on Saturday was another chilling reminder of the inefficacy of brute force in tackling rebellion. All these warrant commentary away from the UK affront. But the urge to fume at the not so great and economically depressed Britain was over powering.
Precisely two weeks today, the United Kingdom did what travelling Nigerians are accustomed to. It slapped a 3000 pounds (N800, 000) “visa bond”. At a N25, 000 minimum wage, that is the salary of 32 Nigerians. We were not alone. Citizens of Indian, Pakistan, Ghana, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were similarly affected. These countries according to Home Secretary Theresa May constitute “the most significant risk of immigration abuse.”

Expectedly there was and still is an ocean of emotion. Most citizens were aghast. Most yelled for retaliation. The Foreign Affairs Minister Olubenga Ashiru was diplomatic in sending home the message. He summoned the British High Commissioner and told him in ‘diplomatese’ that “It is incompatible with the strong and cordial relations built over the years between the UK and Nigeria.”
It was a subtle way of telling the envoy to advise ‘Home Government to’ to rescind.
But the Senate through was unequivocal. Henceforth it is tit-for-tat. Speaking through its leader Victor Ndoma-Egba, it said “reciprocity is not an option lost on us’’.
This may seemed extreme. but I am a firm believer in the doctrine of tit-for-tat in international relations. Some call it an eye-for-an-eye. Here I disagree with India’s foremost patriot and proponent of non-violence, Mahatma Ghandi on this. Ghandi had reportedly argued that an eye for an eye would leave the world blind. I counter.’ The only thing power respect is superior power’ according to Mao Zedong. So I agree, for a change with our Senators totally.
The Brits have been treating us rather shabbily. We gave them the chance. Our government treats citizens even more shabbily. Before UK considered this option, smaller less significant countries in Africa have treaded this path.
There was the case of South Africa that deported Nigerians last year on account of yellow fever vaccines. There was also Kenya. And now UK.This time the Brits must eat humble pie. They most reverse this. The underlying and unmistakable motive for this idea is to scapegoat us, hapless Nigerians for Britain economic woes. The assumption that Nigerians are inclined to crime and extreme disposition in UK is balderdash. Consider the recent hysteria in the wake of the grim murder of a British soldier by Britons of Nigerian descent.
Juxtapose the contributions this and the deafening silence of the scholarly and medical contributions of Nigerian academics and medical doctors resident in Britain. Nigerians in the jet set category are the biggest spenders during holiday season. They contribute a significant percentage to UK’s GDP. This is not exhaustive. I could go on. Throughout the years IRA made parts of the Kingdom restive, not for once did Nigeria consider UK or her citizens as likely to risk ‘immigration abuse’. So if the Brits Holler, Let them have it.

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