2023: LONDON THE NEW CAPITAL OF NIGERIA.
Last week, the top three presidential candidates in Nigeria’s 2023 elections were in London, holding meetings with people seen as political powerbrokers in Nigeria. They ensured that those photos were sent out and most Nigerian newspapers published them on their cover. Most of the people in the photos were on holidays in Europe or on medical trips, while a few were on short visits.
The interesting, or rather sad, part of the story is that there is nobody in all those photos that is from Europe or any country outside Nigeria. Nobody in those photographs lives in Europe or is there as a temporary worker. All of them flew from different Nigerian cities recently.
Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, met with the Rivers State Gov Nyesom Ezenwo Wike - CON Also in the meeting were Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State.
Similarly, a former president of Nigeria, Olusegun obasanjo, met with Wike, and the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, in London. Also in the meeting were Ortom, Ikpeazu, Makinde and former Cross River State Governor, Donald Duke.
Wike also confirmed that he and Ortom, Ikpeazu and Makinde also met with the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in London.
In the past, of the three top presidential candidates, only Mr. Peter Obi had visited Wike in Rivers State since the completion of presidential primaries in early June. Even Abubakar, who is in the same party with Wike and has wanted to resolve the rift between him and the Rivers State governor, could not visit Wike in Nigeria. He had to go to London to see him.
Some may say that the reason for the preference for London was because of security concerns. But that cannot be true. In the past weeks, many politicians had visited Rivers State, on the invitation of Wike, to commission some of the projects he had completed. There has never been any story of an attempt on them.
Some have also said that the reason was that Wike was holidaying in London with Ortom and Ikpeazu, making it easier for his itinerary to accommodate his visitors who need his support as the governor of the oil-rich Rivers State with a sizeable number of voters in Nigeria.
But all those excuses are untenable. The optics of a former president of Nigeria, a former vice president of Nigeria, top presidential candidates, incumbent governors and former governors gathering in a London hotel to hold political meetings among themselves—with no single non-Nigerian in attendance—was awful. It was a slap on the face of Nigeria.
Could you just visualise the political leaders of New Zealand, South Korea or Austria flying into London or New York to hold political meetings amongst themselves? Even the thought of political leaders of such countries holidaying in another country is something that would not make their citizens happy.
All serious countries take pride in showcasing things that depict them as patriotic, while Nigerian politicians take pride in showcasing things that depict them as unpatriotic. They derive a special kind of joy from showcasing their foreign tastes as a mark of their sophistication.
Yes, Wike is an important figure in the 2023 election. But if the Independent National Electoral Commission keeps to its word to be detached, disinterested and unbiased in the conduct of the election, no individual— including Wike—will have any control over the way voters will cast their vote.
The best many politicians can do is to use money to induce voters. But because millions of voters will be voting, unlike what was obtained during the party primaries, the number of people to induce will be too high to be possible. In spite of the hunger in the land, many people are angry with the condition of Nigeria and are eager to register their anger with their vote.
Some days ago, Wike and his fellow governors returned to Nigeria. One then wonders what was so important with meeting Wike in London that it could not wait till this week or next week for the meeting to be held with him in Rivers State. He had hosted different political party leaders in recent times in Port Harcourt in Rivers State. Why couldn’t those meetings be held in Port Harcourt instead of London?
National pride is not all about wearing the national colours and mouthing slogans like “I love my country.” It appears in little acts like giving medical treatment to Nelson Mandela within South Africa until the day he passed. If he were a Nigerian, the Nigerian government would have flown him to a hospital in Europe, North America or Asia.
Over the weekend, Ondo State announced that it has become an offence for teachers employed by the state to enrol their children in private schools. The state chairman of the Universal Basic Education Board, Victor Olabimtan, said the order came in reaction to the dwindling population of pupils in public primary schools across the state. The South-West state said it was worried that despite its investment in primary education, public primary schools’ enrolment continued to dwindle.
Ordinarily, this action of the Ondo State Government should be commended. But the hypocrisy in it is what makes it sickening. The Federal Government and the various state governments have a record of trying to enforce patriotism on others, especially the weakest in society.
In a country where federal and state officials send their children to foreign universities or private universities in Nigeria or go abroad for medical treatment or holidays, what moral right has the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, to force teachers employed by the state not to send their children to private schools where they will get a better education?
If Akeredolu, as well as the deputy governor, commissioners, members of the House of Assembly, and members of the public service, had their children in public primary schools, secondary schools and universities, it would be justified to direct government-employed teachers to keep their children in public schools. That is how to lead by example. You can’t be selling a product you don’t use.
Patriotism is not decreed into law. It percolates through the system and becomes part of the national culture when the citizens see that those who lead them practice what they preach by putting the country first and showing a readiness to make sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, for the country.
So sad to know this is happening..☹️