The politicians’ rush to Chatham House (2)
Do presidential candidates need Chatham House to speak to Nigerians abroad who, by the way, have no voting rights? Of course not. However, because of their connections to international interests that can help improve the country, if aspirants really must leave these shores to meet and interact with fellow Nigerians on their plans and programmes for their country, we should think that the Nigeria embassy is as good a venue as any. Whatever these politicians are paying (if at all) to use the Chatham House facility can more usefully accrue to the purse of the Nigerian mission.
Do Peter Obi, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Bola Tinubu, and the yet to feature Abubakar Atiku need the Chatham House podium to speak to the world on their foreign policy if elected? Absolutely not. As politician Chief Sunny Onuesoke is quoted to say, ‘[we] have similar bodies like Chatham House here in Nigeria. The NIIA and CDS among others.’ So said too NIPSS alumnus, Yusuf Usman who maintained that it is ‘a negation of patriotism to shun what we have built with public resources to go abroad to a similar Institution to project the political mission and vision of persons seeking to occupy the highest political office in Nigeria.’ We cannot agree more.
Tinubu at Chatham House promised to do many things across the sectors to improve the fortune of Nigeria and its people; so did too Obi and Kwakwanso. Incidentally, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmoud Yakubu was also a guest of the House. Since it is all about here (in Nigeria) and not about there (in Europe), pray, why would these people expend so much time and other resources to do the needless? This strategy defies common sense.
Adekunle Adekoya commented that ‘it has not happened that British politicians seeking to become Prime Ministers come to our Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, to speak on their plans for the British. Neither have the Japanese PM hopefuls, or American presidential aspirants, or leaders of other countries in the world for that matter. Despite the fact that many Indians have lived all of their lives in Nigeria making piles of money for the benefit of their home economy, no Indian PM hopeful has come to Nigeria to speak on his/her political agenda ahead of any election. Why do Nigerian politicians do this?’ He concludes, rightly, that the presidential aspirants ‘should take care of the home front before taking issues out, if truly, charity begins at home. We do not need appearances at foreign think-tanks to deliver political messages.’
The point must also be made that politicians make many promises, in speech and in writing, to the electorate. The largely unfulfilled content of the All Progressives Congress (APC) manifesto of 2015 is a clear case in point. More important, the then presidential candidate of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari, speaking at Chatham House in February 2015, made large promises to restore Nigeria to the path of peace and prosperity if the Nigerian people gave him the job. On the pervasive insecurity in the land, he noted that: ‘‘What has been consistently lacking is the required leadership in our battle against insurgency’ and promised that ‘if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently’…we will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas. We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester, and I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front and return Nigeria to its leadership role in regional and international efforts to combat terrorism.’’
On corruption, Buhari said ‘‘…there will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration. First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference.’’ On the economy, the aspirant said, ‘‘In the face of dwindling revenues, a good place to start the repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to swiftly tackle two ills that have ballooned under the present administration: waste and corruption. And in doing this, I will, if elected, lead the way, with the force of personal example.’’ He added: ‘‘In reforming the economy, we will use savings that arise from blocking these leakages and the proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our party’s social investments programmes in education, health, and safety nets such as free school meals for children, emergency public works for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly.’’ A few months to the end of his two terms (eight years) as chief executive and commander-in-chief, it is regrettable that there is very little to show for these promises made on the ‘global stage’ of Chatham House.
The ‘pilgrimage’ of the presidential aspirants is only the latest in repeated trips to London and other foreign destinations to discuss purely Nigeria matters. In the past months, Nigerian politicians made trips outside the country to hold political meetings of sorts. A disgusted Nigerian Academy of International Affairs (NAIA) said: ‘It is most unfortunate and heartbreaking that some Nigerian leaders had to abandon the shores of this country for the ex-colonialists’ capitals of London and Paris in search of delusion-solutions to Nigeria’s problems.’’ The Guardian condemned such trips in an editorial that in conclusion warned ‘‘those trips abroad to discuss genuine matters of our country must stop forthwith because those who do not have faith in Nigeria to hold and keep their secrets have no business running the affairs of Nigeria. They are advised to seek ‘bread’, ‘glory’ and publicity in other ways’’ This admonition applies too to presidential aspirants who would rather speak on Nigeria’s challenges and their solutions to them from foreign lands to foreigners. There is neither political astuteness nor wisdom in that.