First off, apologies for my incomplete, half-baked entry earlier this week on Malawians resisting the continued stay in office of election chief Jane Ansah despite her poor handling of the presidential election “won” by the incumbent, President Peter Mutharika.
And a quick note on the Supreme Court decision this week to suspend what were supposed to be massive demonstrations for Ansah’s resignation after President Mutharika threatened to unleash the country’s security forces on protestors: The court ruling represents a dangerous threat to Malawi’s democracy than the imagined threat posed by the demonstrations.
Now to the main issue of today about Nigerians living outside Africa’s biggest economy demanding their government put an endt o corruption and fix the country. This, apparently, is how they have decided to go about it: In a video clip that has been going around, people believed to be Nigerians are seen beating up a public official who’d arrived in Germany for medical treatment. They tell him to go back home and get treatment there like the rest of ordinary people. It’s common practice among politicians from developing countries, including Malawi,to seek medical treatment outside their countries while their people die from ailments that could be treated if funds budgeted for the health sector weren’t stolen by them and their cronies.
Nigerians in Diaspora are up in arms over Nigerian public officials taking money out to invest in other countries. They are also against public officials sending their children to schools abroad and are demanding an end to going on shopping sprees outside Nigeria while the vast majority continue to wallow in poverty. The action they are currently undertaking, they believe, is what will force elected officials and government bureaucrats to rebuild the country for the benefit of the over 200 million Nigerians and not just a few.
For this move by Nigerians in Diaspora to work, Western governments have a big role to play. While criticism by Western powers over corruption in developing nations is appreciated, they too need to stop turning a blind turn eye to the actions of the people they criticize when they visit their capitals to spend their loot.
I asked some Malawians what they think of what Nigerians in Diaspora –they warn that public officials, their spouses and children will meet the same fateor even worse as the guy in Germany — have decided to do. I am deliberately excluding the views of skeptics because I refuse to believe that hopeless Malawi can’t be salvaged in my lifetime. The following are the responses I care for:
“Nigeria yanyamuka [has taken off]. Way to go!” says former journalist Charles Simango.
“That’s what’s up,” says Ibrahim Kaleso. “Great new phenomenon. We need to keep these corrupt fools scared of coming here and spending their stolen money.”
“We are tired of these corrupt politicians,” says Grace Ziba who just returned from Malawi and supports current efforts by the opposition challenging the results of this year’s elections in court.
Tony Simwaka, an avid follower of Malawi politics, is ticked off by practices in the health sector that benefit just a few. He thinks health insurer Medical Aid Society of Malawi spends large sums of money — there’s incessant forex shortage in the country– paying for medical services sought by their members in places like India when “the government could just invite the Indians to [provide] the service in Malawi”and benefit many people in dire need of specialist services.
Frazier (not his real name) is another Malawian fed up with the status quo. He says,“we need to expose our politicians every chance we get until they change.” He feels an opportunity was missed recently when Malawi’s first and second ladies visited Great Britain, Malawi’s former colonial ruler. The president’s wife went to attend her son’s graduation ceremony in the United Kingdom (UK) with the second lady in tow. Frazier points out that “there was no outrage over this.”
Well, hindsight is 20/20. The trip to the UK by the wives of Mutharika and his deputy happened before the latest moves by Nigerians. Sometimes being late is still better than never. So, looking forward, there should be opportunities worth exploiting. Frazier says it would be nice to try and shame government officials, for instance, when they travel to the United States for the UN General Assembly in New York.
Malawian leaders are notorious for travelling with huge entourages to such events and Frazier claims that some government officials don’t even show up for meetings they are supposed to attend. Instead, says Frazier, they spend time socializing and shopping at the expense of hardworking Malawians back home who pick up the tab through their taxes.
Without a doubt, Malawians itching to take a leaf out of the Nigerians’ book and knock some sense into corrupt public officials have work to be done.
- The author is a journalist-turned clinician who lives in the Diaspora. He writes ‘Counterjab’ column on Nyasa Times