Archive for April 2013

JONATHAN, BEWARE OF BLAIR!   1 comment

“Tony Blair is not known to do principle but deals which give him money. This is not a man any Nigerian leader who wants to solve Nigeria’s problems should take advice from… Jonathan, [beware] of Blair.” –E. O. Eke

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is too close to President Goodluck Jonathan for my liking. I fear there is something weird or shady going on. Blair has met with Jonathan at least six times since he became Acting President in February 2010. Blair and Jonathan have had four meetings in Abuja (February 20, 2010, November 17, 2010, June 17, 2011 and July 31, 2012), one meeting on the sidelines of the 2012 UN General Assembly in New York at a sponsored event (September 26, 2012) and most recently, in Lagos, on April 20, 2013. The frequency of these Blair–Jonathan meetings can only suggest there is more to it than meets the eye.

Fair enough, Blair has visited Nigeria, under Jonathan, for some humane causes. His faith foundation, for example, has the stated intention of seeking to entrench tolerance between Nigeria’s two main religions. What gets me, and I would assume, other discerning Nigerians, worried, though, is that Blair is ostensibly taking advantage of Jonathan’s gullibility to secure lucrative deals for his business partners and cronies. A case in point is the deal Blair brokered for the US bank, JP Morgan, which led to an upgrade of its representative office in Nigeria to a full branch. Blair is a JP Morgan adviser and is said to also have oil and gas interests. Make no mistake about it: Nigeria’s financial services sector is about the fastest growing in Africa and any investor is assured of good returns from it.

In 2010, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said “Blair [supported Nigeria] in the area of health but more importantly in the area of debt relief. Blair led G7 to get us debt relief.” But, interestingly, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also said that it was her former colleagues and contacts in the World Bank and the IMF that played a leading role in persuading Western powers to grant Nigeria debt relief. Either way, if Blair indeed played a significant role in helping Nigeria to clear off her debts, it is likely that he is now leveraging on that to secure juicy deals as part of his ‘payback’ package.

Blair is often full of praises for Jonathan whereas he always veils his criticisms of the man. Whilst one may excuse Blair’s veiled criticism of Jonathan as a given for diplomatic etiquette, how can one justify the unrestrained praises Blair often heaps on him, with his obvious ineptitude and failings?

On November 17, 2010, for instance, a few months to the 2011 elections, Blair made an indirect endorsement for Jonathan’s presidential bid during an audience with Jonathan and the CEO of JP Morgan. Blair said it was the confidence the international community had in Jonathan that attracted JP Morgan to do business in Nigeria. As Vanguard Newspaper reported, “According to Blair, there was a huge amount of goodwill in the international community towards supporting President Jonathan’s efforts to achieve rapid socio-economic development in Nigeria.”

Similarly, in June 2011, at an audience with Jonathan, Blair described him as a “focused leader”. In fact, after he emerged from the closed door discussion with Jonathan, Blair told reporters that Jonathan would do well as President in the term he had just won. Blair said, “I think the President is absolutely focused on the right areas… that he is making the changes that are necessary.”

However, on July 31, 2012, apparently perturbed by the spate of violence in the country, especially as, I would think, they threaten the investment climate needed to facilitate his business interests, Blair again held talks with Jonathan, in the company of some British officials. It was reported that that meeting was to seek ways to end the menace.

Most recently, in Lagos, on April 20, Blair said “There is need for safety and security of the people…” He added that “For total and stable national transformation to take place in any country there is need for the government to provide adequate power supply, construct new roads, eradicate polio, ensure job creation and do other things that make life meaningful.” For a visit that came only a few weeks after the widely condemned Alamieyeseigha pardon, if Blair truly means well for Nigeria, he would have capitalised on that to strongly speak up against corruption. Corruption is, unquestionably, the main reason why Nigeria lacks adequate power and infrastructure.

Jonathan is fleeceable and easily impressed by the company and compliments of, especially, Western leaders. Blair, an Oxford-trained barrister, expert in the art of persuasion, is just cashing in on that and surely having a field day with his unsuspecting prey. Jonathan would be better advised to be more cautious in his dealings with Blair. An attribute of good leadership is the maverick ability to decipher the motives of powerbrokers that often employ beguiling means in the pursuit of their selfish interests, especially when the national good is at stake.

In a recent opinion piece urging Blair to hands off Nigeria and Jonathan to be wary of his friendship with him, E. O. Eke, a Nigerian medical practitioner who lives in England and keenly followed Blair’s premiership, wrote, inter alia, “Goodluck Jonathan should study closely what happens to Blair’s friends. At the peak of Gadhafi’s dictatorship, Blair was his best friend. He reintroduced him to the West and claimed that he was a changed man. His role in helping Gadhafi’s son (Saif) obtain his degree at the London School of Economics has not been investigated. Blair is still resisting the call to declare how much Gadhafi paid him for that PR job. We know what happened to Gadhafi a few years later. Jonathan should tell Nigerians how much Nigeria paid Blair to attend a breakfast meeting with him in New York (in September 2012). We know that Tony Bair does not do such things on charity.”

Also, in a November 2012 opinion piece, captioned “We shouldn’t be welcoming Tony Blair in Nigeria,” analyst, Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, argues that “Blair comes into Nigeria so regularly that most people seem to have forgotten that he does not even command respect in his home country anymore and is unable to walk around in London, with same spring in his step that we see during his regular, and obviously lucrative, Nigerian visits. Blair is reviled around the world for his role in the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. He told lies about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, as justification for the invasion… Blair should no longer be welcome in Nigeria. His regular visits here assault our human decency!”

In August last year, Nobel Laureate and anti-apartheid icon, Desmond Tutu, said it was “morally indefensible” to share a platform with Blair and withdrew from a leadership summit that Blair was to attend. Tutu later called for Blair and Bush to face trial for the “physical and moral devastation caused by [their] war in Iraq.”

Concurring with Tutu’s stance, a commentator, George Monbiot, writing in The London Guardian of September 3, 2012, said “That Blair and his ministers still saunter among us, gathering money wherever they go, is a withering indictment of a one-sided system of international justice: a system whose hypocrisy Tutu has exposed.” In fact, Monbiot founded an organisation calling for Blair’s arrest.

Blair is not only notorious for having been Bush’s right-hand man in the illegal war in Iraq. Blair has also been noted for his involvement in shady deals in Libya, Kazakhstan, etc. He ought to be on trial for his horrid role in Iraq; not globetrotting to expand his business empire. Jonathan, beware!

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