‘Oxford blues (basketball)’
WE are back at the Bay Tree Hotel, in sleepy Burford for a retreat, which was previously scheduled to hold at Balliol College with Jamaican-born Prof. Peter Blair Henry as the Guest Speaker.
Unfortunately, he is unable to make the trip from the United States on account of the strike by British Airways – thanks to Managing Director, Willie Walsh’s intransigence. In any case, the professor has just moved to California where he was for twelve years one of the star attractions at Stanford Graduate School of Business culminating in his being made professor of international economics, and associate director of the Centre for Global Business and the Economy. He also excelled at basketball. Much as he would have loved to join us he is in the midst of settling down in Manhattan, New York as the new dean of Stern School of Business.
His credentials are truly formidable, almost intimidating. In the 1990’s he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford (in the footsteps of U.S. President Bill Clinton) and was awarded a Full Blue in basketball.
We are compelled to settle for a transatlantic video-link to hear the message by the professor.
“Because I come from a place like Jamaica, which is a small, open economy, I viscerally get the importance of the global economy. My research in the past dozen years has been about policies for emerging economies (Nigeria and the rest of Africa) – and emerging economies are now in fact becoming more and more the world economy.”
He would certainly have been the perfect guy to guide our deliberations on global financial instability and financial liberalization in emerging markets. Specifically, we must resolve the critical issue that has been begging for an unequivocal answer; Is it debt relief or aid which better serves poor countries.?”
The case study is Nigeria.
Sarah Murray of The “Financial Times” has graciously assured us that before the year runs out the “Financial Times” will invite the learned professor over to savour the excellent tea for which the Bay Tree is rightly famous – scones, clotted cream, watercress sandwiches, muffins, smoked salmon etc.
In the meantime, we are assured that the professor has commenced his new position with tremendous enthusiasm and infectious vigour. He is a champion of enhancing course content on the role of business in reducing world poverty and the ways in which globalization can benefit poor countries. According to him:
“Business is one of the most powerful institutions on earth for creating wealth and opportunity and helping to lift people out of poverty. When you think about it that way, then business is not separate from development policy. We are at an incredibly interesting time in global business. Capitalism has come under question and countries are questioning the best way to move forward. Management education institutions can play a critical role in answering such questions by fostering discussions between corporations, development institutions and policy-makers. Business schools need to be at the forefront of this.”
Before we can get into our stride debating the weighty subject for which we have assembled, we are interrupted by a newsreel from CNN’s “BACKROOM” on Inside Africa.
First there is Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe. He is unrepentant and emphatically declares:
“I insist there will be no retreat on a new law in Zimbabwe requiring foreign investors to cede 51 per cent of their shares to indigenous Zimbabweans. You can have as many retreats as you like in Oxford. We have made up our mind. Don’t confuse us with the facts.”
Next was Nicholas Sarkozy, President of France who was on a visit to Rwanda with which diplomatic ties had been severed for many years since Rwandan President Paul Kagane accused France of complicity in the 1994 genocide by supporting the Hutu regime that orchestrated the murder of 800,000 Tutsis. Diplomatic ties were restored only three months ago. Mr. Sarkozy stopped short of offering an apology.
Each participant is given a copy of the economic report on Nigeria by The Oxford Business Group. The Editor-In-Chief is Andrew Jeffreys who has summed up matters as follows:
“The solution to Nigeria’s problems is first and foremost, there is need for transparency, reduction in high level of corruption presently bedeviling the country as well as adoption of policies by Nigerian business owners in order to gain the confidence of banks to lend to them.
The second thing is that there is need for transparency and more accurate data. There is need for a credit bureau. There is need to have institutions that are trusted because the problems with the companies is that before now it was difficult to understand the situation in which they were. There is not enough trust in the economy. If you go to a bank and say this is my company, here are my books, the banks do not necessarily believe you. It is a problem because people are hiding their monies form tax authorities. All of these make lending difficult and this unfortunately is normal for emerging economies.”
The Oxford Business Group forgot to add that 98 per cent of the 234,682 students who sat for the last National Examinations Council (NECO) failed. Only 4,223 (less than 2% ) pass with credit in five subjects. Nigeria is willing to spend billions to hire a foreign coach for its World Cup football team even while its educational sector has virtually collapsed.
We are interrupted by “Breaking News” courtesy of CNN.
Headline: “Daily Champion” newspaper of Monday, March 29, 2010
“N1.78 BN FRAUD: NIGERIAN WOMAN JAILED 4 YRS”
A London-based Nigerian housewife, Ruth Ayinde-Azeez was last week jailed for four years over her role in a £8 million (about N1,781,649,739.31) mortgage fraud.
According to agency reports monitored in Lagos, the 26 year-old home care assistant lavished part of the sum on holidays in Dubai and the south of France, kept £1.6m in her bank accounts and blew huge sums at upmarket bars and restaurants.
In the suit brought against her at, Southwark Crown Court, Mrs. Ayinde-Azeez of Barnet, whose husband Victor, a fraudster is on the run, led a mortgage fraud gang which plundered nearly £6m from high street banks in just six weeks using a network of front companies and crooked solicitors.
At the end of her trial, the court found Mrs. Ayinde-Azeez, guilty of conspiracy to acquire, use or have criminal property and removing criminal property.
During the trial, the jury heard that when she was arrested, she had loaded her car and was about to leave Britain.
Judge Anthony Beddoe told former care home worker, Ruth: ‘I do accept that you got sucked into the dishonesty of your husband, and it may be that if you had never met, you would never have been in the position you are in, in this court.
‘But you are not, I am afraid, as na?ve as your counsel sought to suggest on your behalf to the jury.
You were not stuck with Victor Ayinde-Azeez because you had his baby.
The evidence revealed to me that this relationship became a meeting of minds, and you came fully to enjoy, as he did, the trappings of excessive wealth.
So much so that you were prepared to follow his lead wherever it might take you, ready to leave your child in the care of your mother if necessary, and ready to join your husband overseas.
You laundered over £1.25 million, and were set to launder very much more.
I recall the images shown to the jury of you spending and sharing the spoils with Victor.
Meanwhile, three others who took part in the fraud were also sentenced.
Isaac Matthews, 42, of Chatham, Kent, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to acquire, use or have criminal property and two counts of entering into an arrangement in relation to criminal proceeds. Describing him as a ‘seasoned fraudster’ the judge sentenced him to six years in jail.
The court heard he had previously been sentenced to nine years in the US for fraud.
Matthews used his sister, Anthonia Akinyele, 35, of the same address, to help launder the money through two companies.
In total £5.2 million went through the companies, Zikkito and Isaac and Isaac International.
The judge said: ‘I have no doubt you were to receive and were expecting to receive a very significant cut.’
I am seated right next to Paul who is a former High Commissioner of Uganda to Britain. He is fidgety and somewhat apprehensive. For some strange reason, he keeps looking over his shoulder – as if he is in danger.
During the coffee break, he whispers to me: “You know African leaders are vicious.
General Idi Amin is after me. He wants to kill me.”
It is all very strange indeed. I am striving very hard to gather my wits and make sense of it all. It is to no avail that I assure him that Idi Amin died in Saudi Arabia almost ten years ago. This only make things worse. He was adamant.
“What you do not seem to know is that in Africa when you get rid of one tyrant, he (or she) is quickly replaced by an even more terrible tyrant.
I challenged him on this. He was a broken man. He was broken by Idi Amin’s terror campaign.
We found an alcove within the hotel while the others were having coffee. According to him, he joined the Ugandan foreign service after graduating from Brasenose College, Oxford University where he studied history. For almost two decades he served in various Ugandan missions abroad and rose through the ranks before ending up as the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom and the Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Out of the blues, he received a summons from the Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs – Idi Amin wanted to see him and he was ordered to catch the first available flight to Kampala. For him it was like the kiss of death. He had never met Idi Amin and he had been away from the country for so long, he hardly knew anybody in Uganda.
Besides, his wife Ruth had only just died, leaving him with two children who were in boarding houses at public schools in Britain. He needed to be in London as his children were his first priority.
Anyway, on his arrival in Kampala he was virtually arrested and driven in a car to meet Idi Amin. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was already waiting in the ante-room. To Paul’s greatest surprise, Idi Amin was all smiles. He welcomed him effusively and even hugged him before declaring:
“Ambassador Paul, I have heard everything about you. I am appointing you as the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You are just the right man for the job. The last one was no good. He was absolutely useless. If you look in that fridge over there, his head is cooling its heels, along with the head of the Archbishop of Kampala. You better behave or the same fate will befall you. I am Idi Amin, King of Britain and the Commonwealth.”
Paul was about to protest that he could not possibly take the job on account of his children who would be stranded in Britain.
However, he could not but notice the frantic winking by the Foreign Minister who was warning him that if he declined the job, he was dead meat. He had no choice but to accept the job he did not want. Then Idi Amin added:
“As for that former Foreign Minister, a Princess who was caught kissing a Nigerian diplomat at Charles de Gaulle airport Paris, I am going to deal with her – princess or no princess. I sacked her immediately she returned to Kampala.”
For the next six months she struggled with the job of coping with Idi Amin’s whims and caprices. Drafting speeches for him was a total waste of time. He was a bombastic illiterate who would say whatever came into his head regardless of the occasion or the audience. On one occasion when a very senior Vatican official was visiting Kampala, Idi Amin declared:
“I am now a Moslem but tell the Pope to invite me to Rome so I can pray and dance with him.”
The audience did not know whether to laugh or cry.
Anyway, the only friend Paul had in Kampala was his secretary Margaret who lived in an apartment for junior staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Everyday, he would play tennis for two hours after work and retire to Margaret’s room just for a chat and to cool off before heading home to sleep. There was no romance whatever between them.
Besides, he was careful to keep his head under the radar well out of range of Idi Amin and his penchant for rage as a prelude to murder.
Anyway, there he was on a Friday evening in his tennis gear in Margaret’s room when there was frantic knocking on her door. She ignored it as she was not expecting any visitor.
It was not necessary to ask him if he was expecting anyone but she did all the same. “Of course, not” he declared but the knocking would not stop. Instead, it became more violent and threatening. Then they heard the voice of a soldier: “Margaret, the President wants to see you now.”
While she was busy protesting that there must be a mistake as she had never met Idi Amin, Paul knew that the die was cast. He jumped out of the fourth floor window and ran to his car in spite of the injury he had sustained. He drove like a fury to the border, bribed his way through and went straight to the British High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya. He declared himself a refugee and threw himself at the mercy of the British. He was not disappointed. He was smuggled back to Britain and for several years he had been the beneficiary of their hospitality. He was too old to do any work other than being an Ambassador/High Commissioner. Besides, he was a broken man. He had come within a whisker of being shot at sight by Idi Amin’s goons for being “an obstruction” to the president’s desire for Margaret. To make matters worse, one of his children had been expelled from school for unruly behaviour and drug taking while he other just disappeared and went off with some hippies.
There were tears in Paul’s eyes and it was a Herculean task persuading him to join the rest of the group for what was left of the coffee, biscuits, cakes and croissants.
However, my attention was distracted y what was flashed on the sceen as we rejoined the group. From “The Champion” newspaper. (March 29, 2010).
Headline: TENANT STABS LANDLORD TO DEATH”
“Double Tragedy struck at 26(A) Salifat Abioye Street Oke-Ira, Ogba, Lagos, last Friday as a tenant identified simply as Johnson, allegedly stabbed his landlord to death. He also stabbed himself to death immediately.
The landlord, Chief Muyideen, was said to be settling a minor quarrel between Johnson and wife (Johnson’s wife) when the suspect who had previously accused the landlord of always taking sides with his wife allegedly stabbed the deceased with a knife and latter killed himself with the same knife.
Daily Champion gathered that both the landlord and the tenant were rushed to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja where they were confirmed dead.
Confirming the incident, Police spokesman, Mr. Frank Mba, said their corpses have been deposited in the mortuary for autopsy.
He said no arrest had been made. However, our correspondent gathered that some residents of the area have gone into hiding for fear of random arrest by the police.
Mba, a Superintendent of Police (SP), however, said detectives are interviewing some witnesses in respect of the case.
He said the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo has directed that the case be transferred from Pen Cinema Police Station Agege to the Homicide unit of State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, Panti, Yaba for investigations.