Perhaps Africa’s and indeed Nigeria’s greatest enemy with regard to negative and biased reporting is Michael Peel. In fact, I have tried to hold back and be patient with this voyeur cum journalist, but I can no longer hold back. Not after the latest damning report from him and his one-sided version of the fraud and scams allegedly emanating from Nigeria and which he claims cost the UK billions a year.
As we say in Nigeria, enough is enough. How long should we wait and watch this guy dehumanize Africans and indeed Nigerians with his negative view of the African continent? Last week most UK newspapers were inundated with Mr Peel’s story, conversations on the tubes and buses and in offices were once again alight with the story of Nigerians and their financial invention: the 419 scam. But this is not all that Nigerians are good at; unfortunately it is the only one that Michael Peel tells the world.
For people like me, who speak the English language with a strong Nigerian accent, and who carry flag-waving African names, there is no escaping the scorn, ‘sympathy’ and ridicule. As West Africa correspondent for the Financial Times newspaper, Michael Peel has never found anything good and positive in the entire sub-region worth reporting, his reports are often laced with cynicism, threads of decay, death and backwardness linking them together, just like the news reporting of your fellow Western media journalists stationed in Africa whose sole mandate is to report the bad and the ugly. For Michael Peel and his associates, nothing good comes out of Africa; Africa is still a dark continent and its wild and criminal people.
I often wonder, when you go to bed at night, do you quietly close your eyes with the satisfaction that you have done your best through your many distorted and negative reports to improve the lives of Africans whom you constantly denigrate, or do you think that they may be contributing to Africa’s backwardness remain somewhere in their minds?
As an Associate Fellow of Chatham House, does Michael Peel not realize that the papers he writes and that Chatham House endorses in some way influence policy, including decisions made by governments and global investors regarding Africa, and that that parochial view of the issues is in conflict with Africa and, indeed, with Nigeria’s march towards national renaissance and its current drive to attract foreign direct investment (FDI)?
Where has the journalistic objectivity you learned in journalism school gone? In telling his readers how much the UK loses annually to fraud emanating from Nigeria, he conveniently ignored the fact that his fellow citizens (the ‘innocent’ victims) are also co-perpetrators of the crime, and that their ‘misfortune’ only came because of his greed and its immoral inclination to rape Africa and steal its resources. An arrangement that dates back centuries and continues to be witnessed in many African mines and oil wells.
So who has the last smile now? The poor Africans he so detests and constantly ridicules, subjecting them to constant ridicule in the Western media, and elevating them to favorite topics at the dinner table, and ballroom party conversation in Westminster through his negative reporting,? or are they greedy white men and women who planned to reap where they did not sow and ended up in the process?
Perhaps Michael Peel should take a cue from John Simpson, the BBC’s former Africa correspondent and world affairs editor who reports on Africa as a partner in Africa’s progress and development; praising and criticizing it when necessary and at the same time savoring, celebrating and immersing oneself in the culture of the town; its food, music, art and lifestyle. In one of Mr. Simpson’s many introspective essays published sometime in 2000, in an issue of High Life, British Airways’ in-flight magazine; John Simpson wrote what I consider to be one of the most beautiful articles on Nigeria ever written by a non-Nigerian. In said article, he showed his soul while declaring his love for a country that, according to him, was probably one of the best countries in the world to live in despite adversities and challenges. Surely there are things that Mr. Simpson must have seen or experienced to have made him come to such a conclusion. Such endorsement coming from a well-traveled man and writer obviously trumps the many keyboard-pounding Michael Peels of this world who may have stayed longer than expected, and should now be thinking of packing up and leaving the country. beautiful continent; the land of great rivers and the rising sun.
I guess only Michael Peel can produce the statistical formula he used to arrive at the alleged amount of money the UK loses annually to Nigerian fraudsters. If his calculations of billions of pounds were true, would there still be a need for Nigeria and the rest of Africa to ask for debt cancellation? Wouldn’t such a gigantic product of crime have been visible on the ground? Wouldn’t all the roads and pavements in Nigeria be tarred and paved with gold, and would the UK economy not have seriously felt the impact of such illegal capital flight out of the economy into Nigeria?
Michael Peel should have another calling and leave Nigeria and Nigerians alone. Being scary is not what the world needs at this stage, particularly the UK, which is currently facing a host of problems, including large-scale corporate fraud (post-Enron, Andersen, WorldCom, Tyco, etc.) , organized crime, poverty, antisocial behaviors, teenage pregnancy, threat of terrorism and rising unemployment, etc. If he is so worried, he should be scouring the studios of the BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and 5 as well as Sky urging people on him and advising them not to give away their ‘billions of pounds’ to Nigerians.
Africans and their governments share some of the blame for not fighting their own battles themselves. They have repeatedly failed to invest in their own media systems and infrastructure to tell their own stories. However, it may be along these lines that the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), owned by the Nigerian government, recently began broadcasting internationally. Also noteworthy are the plans reported by the Nigerian News Agency (NAN) of Nigeria to start a 24-hour broadcast from January 2007, as well as other global news wires. These are all positive moves that, if sustained in the long term, would give Nigeria a voice on the world stage, in addition to the small efforts of private terrestrial channels such as Africa Independent Television (AIT), Bright Entertainment Network (BEN) Television, and OBE etc
Mr. Peel’s attempt to present his guests as research to support his position and that of his payers is truly appalling; if only he were honest a casual investigation would have told him that the majority of scam emails do not originate from Nigeria he agreed that some unscrupulous Nigerians may have popularized the scams but other citizens of the world including citizens of the United Kingdom, have since perfected them. . Can’t Mr Peel argue with certainty that the daily ‘Euro Millions Prize Monies’ and similar scam emails that bombard our inboxes every day originate from Nigeria, or do you not watch BBC Watchdog? How many Nigerians have appeared on that show? Aren’t the usual suspects your countrymen and women who get caught in the act while trying to fleece other law-abiding citizens, including retirees, of their hard-earned money?
The long-standing dependence of African countries on Western media such as the BBC, Financial Times, CNN, VOA, etc., for information has not done Africa much good. The time has come for Africa and Africans to start telling their own stories and engage Michael Peel and his fellow travelers who feast on Africa’s misfortunes and are always quick to condemn, judge, blame and criminalize the good people of Africa with their short-sighted reporting to the dustbins of history.