Journalism in the service of society

Governors and Kigali: Enough of the conference tourism

NINETEEN newly elected Nigerian state governors recently returned from Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, where they had a one-week retreat sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme. Although it was one of the exercises to prepare them for their new role, it sounds ridiculous that elected executives from the supposed giant of Africa would find serenity in a retreat in a small country which in 1994 was a war theatre.

To be sure, the meeting was not an international conference. It was a retreat for the Nigerian state governors, purportedly aimed at “leveraging the innovative technology of Rwanda.” These are newly elected state governors whose immediate focus should have been on the rudiments of leadership in a democratic setting instead their preoccupation became that of learning innovative technology in a country whose governance orientation is different from Nigeria’s.

In the first place, it is an indictment on Nigeria for its governors to go to Rwanda to learn something about development. More than that why would it take UNDP to organise and ferry Nigeria’s newly elected governors on a retreat to Rwanda when there are institutions like the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies and the Nigeria Defence Academy that are well suited to give home-grown orientation to the new helmsmen; and why the prioritisation of innovative technology over democratic governance at that stage? It says quite a lot about our priorities as a country,

We cannot find any plausible justification for flying the governors abroad for a retreat. The communiqué issued at the end of the jamboree neither provided any. This is an exercise that would have been more relevant and most likely to yield better results for both the governors and their states if it was done within the country where there are requisite faculties and choice locations for such outings.

During a recent television interview, Nigeria’s former Foreign Affairs minister and renowned diplomat, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, was very blunt in denouncing the trip to Kigali as he said that it exposed the governors, and indeed other Nigerian government officials who prefer having retreats outside the country, as leaders with little or no thought for originality. He wondered why Nigerian politicians should be travelling out of the country to learn how to govern their own people, especially given the democratic credentials of the countries they go to.

That trip gave a fillip to the perception that the Nigerian establishment has never been strategic in its approach to governance. It also sustained the oft-asked question of whether indeed Nigerians are a serious people. Nigerians seem to be attracted to things foreign even when those things add no strategic value to the furtherance of the system.

Apart from some strategic institutions, Nigeria has exotic locations that can peacefully host retreats, but government officials and their sponsors would prefer a country rebuilt after its genocidal war of 1994 by a man like them, to the serene plateaus of Jos and Obudu Ranch Resort, even if the focus is technology. Much more than a jamboree, which it actually was, that Kigali trip was not just a colossal waste of time and resources but a huge indictment of Nigeria in the areas of development and security. It smacks more of a mentality of gratification than a desire for national development.

Holding strategic conferences and retreats within the country, apart from the economic gains, gives positive signals about growth levels and our security status. A retreat of newly elected governors held in a place like Obudu Ranch Resort, Mambilla Plateau or Oguta Lake Resort, would be reassuring security-wise that Nigeria is still a conducive place to live and do business. It would also add to the growth of the local economy as huge sums in foreign exchange can be conserved.

With good media exposure, it can serve as a public relations boost for the country because such an exercise, with the involvement of the UNDP, had the capability of opening up the country not just to Nigerians but to those outside who might want to visit but are discouraged by the various negative stories peddled in the media. It would not just showcase the natural beauty and ambiance of the locations but would also point to the peace and conduciveness of the country.

It is always a depressing scenario seeing government officials abandoning all the natural endowments and resources within the country to embrace the success of other countries. It is not only a disgraceful disposition, it portrays us as a people unabashedly lacking in shame.

If our political leaders and appointees desire beautiful and peaceful places to go for retreats, they should create them within. It is a thing of shame for them to be rushing to other countries that were developed and sustained by human beings like them, some built from very challenging terrains with fewer resources. Enough of the conference tourism!

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.