I had wanted to write about the awards conferred on deserving – and not so deserving – individuals on Tuesday by President Muhammadu Buhari. I thought I would be reading it today in Geneva, Switzerland.
I should have been in Geneva, today, attending the 2022 World Cancer Congress organised by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) taking place from the 18th to the 20th of this month.
I was not going to the congress as a journalist covering an international event. No. I was going there as a delegate from Nigeria because I founded a foundation – Lami Fatima Babare Cervical Cancer Foundation – which is concerned with awareness, screening, and primary care for cervical cancer patients.
The foundation, in the name of my late wife, who died from cervical cancer in 2018, was launched in Abuja on March 16 this year. Two volumes of my book, The Arbiter, were also launched with the proceeds going to the foundation. And to this day, the foundation has donated money to some cancer patients and is building a ten-bed wellness centre in Potiskum. The centre, which has already recruited a certified nurse and three Community Health Workers (CHEWs) and is training them currently, will screen for breast and cervical cancer as well as undertake primary care, referring secondary problems to relevant bodies.
Seeing the noble intentions and efforts of those behind the Foundation, the Nigerian Cancer Society invited the nongovernmental organisation to register as a member. It is because of the privilege of being a member of the NCS that the UICC extended the invitation to it, making me a delegate.
The official invitation signed by one Mit Freundlichen Gruꞵen and by Celine Francina, Head of Congress and Events, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), 31-33 Avenue Giuseppe Motta, 1202 Geneva – Switzerland, was sent to me on 26 August through my email.
Of course, when I got the invitation, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Why Switzerland? What’s so special about Switzerland, a country that Walter Rodney perhaps had in mind when he wrote How Europe Underdeveloped Africa?” It did not break sweat when Europe was scrambling for Africa only to surface and corner its wealth through its shady institutions and thieving leaders.
No country on the globe has contributed to the underdevelopment of Africa by encouraging barefaced stealing of its national resources by the continent’s dictators as Switzerland. African despots, since African countries started getting independence, have been evacuating their nation’s resources to Swiss banks notorious for ultra-secrecy.
While being poker-faced and presenting to the world a face of morality, funds that should have gone into developing the poor continent of Africa got siphoned into private accounts in that country. Its leaders always turn their faces away as if they never knew what was happening. These are the resources they use in developing their countries. And you don’t even see them at the forefront of those giving “aid” to impoverished nations.
So, I kept wondering, “What’s so special about Switzerland”, a country that without its policy of inviting and hiding, deep down in its coded banking system, blood money, perhaps international organised crime would have been finished?
All the big-time drug pushers’ illicit funds, arms dealers’ blood money and terrorists’ pay system find easy and safer transactions through the Swiss banking protocols. All the monies financing inter-tribal or religious wars in Africa and other third-world nations go through the banking system of that country. So, what’s so special about Switzerland?
Happily, for them, a greater percentage of those who have impoverished their countries and stashed their ill-gotten loot in that country die leaving those plunder buried deep in that country’s financial system. It is the same with all the stash of international criminals who find a haven in their banking sector. They use these monies to develop their country and tell us we are backwards.
Therefore, you can understand my consternation when hit with the knowledge that I was to go to that country for a congress tied to the well-being of humanity. On the other hand, attending the conference would surely go a long way in my foundation’s drive towards networking with like-minded bodies to bring succour to cancer patients all over the world, particularly in Nigeria and in my locality.
Feeling like a person about to commit euthanasia, I made up my mind to go, though, because after careful analysis, I concluded that the advantages of going there far outweighed the reverse. And so, we registered four participants.
On September 15, as part of the process for visa application, I forwarded the invitation letter to the Swiss embassy in Abuja. The embassy replied me the next day, requesting that “the invitation letter must be sent directly from the organisers in Switzerland to the embassy by e-mail”.
I promptly informed the organisers and one Swen, the same day, sent an e-mail, copied to me, to one Marie-Theresa A. Bou Younes, asking her to “please assist the participant with his visa application”, giving her the e-mail address of the embassy. And on September 20, at 4.25 pm, Marie-Theresa did so, copying us all that the letter had been sent.
Confidently, and buoyed by the belief that I have been presented with an opportunity to expand and enhance our noble works, I dived headlong into the process of the journey. Return flight tickets for four cost us about two and a half million naira. We booked hotel accommodation and spent generously on buying heavy winter clothes we do not need here. And the embassy made each of us part with 36 thousand naira.
I then went for the visa interview on October 4 knowing full well that I had fulfilled all the stringent measures, including my bank statements of account, that of the foundation and of my company, Neptune Prime Nigeria Limited, required to qualify for a Schengen visa. Sadly, even though I know of people who accuse them of racism, the way and manner they do their inquisition – because I won’t call it an interview – was indecent and demeaning. It is as if one was on trial to enter paradise.
The “inquisitors”, Nigerians afflicted by mental slavery, treat their countrymen as scum desperate to go to “God’s country on earth”, not knowing that the majority of us love Nigeria more than any country in the world. We are unapologetic about this and won’t trade Nigeria for any country, especially a leech whose wealth is a result of pilfering from us, for any reason to do with the economy or politics or anything.
Agreed, I gave it back to the malnourished-looking, saucy Nigerian lady young enough to be my grandchild who was interrogating me as if I wanted to go to her adopted country and confiscate Africa’s wealth keeping them afloat. She told me to come on Friday, 14 of October for the visa, while my journey will be the next day.
And then they refused me a visa when I returned. Their reason was that “the information submitted regarding the justification for the purpose and conditions of the intended stay was not reliable.” A diplomatic way of saying I was lying through my teeth just to enter their blasted country! The same reason was presented to deny my other partner while the foundation’s secretary, a lawyer and worker with Médecins Sans Frontières, was denied because he “will not return”, they said. I just laughed and asked myself, what’s so special about Switzerland, anyway? A country that will refuse visas to persons of integrity pursuing good causes and yet gladly open their gates not only to all manner of kleptomaniacs but also to paedophiles?
According to SWI swissinfo.ch published on December 27, 2020, a Swiss couple, convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment for child sex abuse in India, fled to Switzerland while on bail.
The Brussels Times of 15 June, 2020, reported that a priest, Frédéric Abbet, found guilty of sexually abusing a nine-year-old boy in a boarding school between 2010 and 2011 in Belgium, was arrested in Switzerland, where he was living free despite being sentenced to three years in prison in 2017 by a Brussels Court of Appeal
And so, what’s so special about Switzerland, by the way?
Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.