A strange and disturbing development in Nigeria’s politics is the penchant for frequent foreign trips by presidential candidates of major political parties ahead of every election season.
Before any general election, it has become a pastime for the political class to waste scarce resources and taxpayers’ money on foreign trips to hold meetings that are supposed to be held in Nigeria.
This development became noticeable in 2015 when in its desperation to wrestle power from the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) repackaged its presidential candidate as a born-again democrat, General Muhammadu Buhari, to deliver his famous speech at the Chatham House in the United Kingdom.
Worried by these wasteful trips, the Nigerian Academy of International Affairs, a body of former foreign affairs ministers and retired diplomats, had recently condemned Atiku, Tinubu, Obi and serving governors, among others, for holding political meetings in London, Paris and Dubai.
In a statement by its President and former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, the academy described the recent political meetings held by some presidential candidates in London, Paris and Dubai as ill-advised and unwitting jamboree of shame.
Akinyemi, who issued the statement on behalf of 17 other former foreign affairs ministers and retired diplomats, lamented that some horse-trading, which dominated their so-called talks on bringing “enduring hope to Nigeria,” centred on counting their chickens before the eggs are hatched.
He said the ill-advised and unwitting jamboree of shame displayed by the leading political leaders in London, Paris and Dubai “has demonstrated once more that the Nigerian environment created and polluted by them is not conducive to their vainglorious self-importance and unearned esteem.
“Consequently, and because of their Neo-colonial mentality which blinded them from seeing and appreciating the goodwill and resilience of Nigerians, they preferred savoury Western atmosphere.”
Rather than finding solutions to diverse challenges confronting the country, Akinyemi lamented that deliberations at the meetings focused on dividing and allocating the national cake to themselves even before the cake is baked, as regards allocation of principal offices of the National Assembly, ministerial posts, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and others.
He argued that the political leaders should have devoted sufficient time to finding solutions to the pervasive insecurity, economic recession and poverty in the land, which are some of the problems which they caused or contributed substantially to their creation.
The presidential candidates – Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives (APC) and Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) – recently held separate meetings with Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike in London, Paris and Dubai.
Many of the leaders who embarked on these frivolous trips have held positions that gave them the opportunity to make Nigeria an Eldorado, but they allegedly utilised the chances to feather their own nests and left the country worse for it.
One of the pioneers of these frequent trips is the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku, who once had the opportunity of attracting development to all parts of the country, or at least, his home state of Adamawa and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, when he was the vice president for eight years.
But he could not use the opportunity to make Abuja or Yola, the capital of his home state suitable for meeting with the members of his political camp and his aggrieved opponents. Atiku is known to have held series of meetings in Dubai and London with other Nigerian politicians, instead of holding these meetings in Nigeria. The former vice president has since made Dubai his second home because Lagos or Abuja or Yola could not provide him the needed comfort for a deserved rest.
On their part, the presidential candidate of APC, Tinubu and his counterpart in the LP, Obi, as well as their supporters have regaled Nigerians with the endless stories of how they delivered good governance as state chief executives.
For instance, Tinubu and his supporters boast on every occasion that the former Lagos State governor will build Nigeria as he built Lagos. Without anyone interrogating this claim, Tinubu has unwittingly admitted that the Lagos he built is not suitable for him to hold consultations with other Nigerian politicians.
Of course, if his guests at such meetings survive the traffic nightmare in the state, they may have to settle social miscreants or have their convoys blocked, if not attacked. The streets and highways in Lagos have been taken over by weapon-wielding and in some cases, charm-bearing social miscreants who extort money from motorists on behalf of transport unions, local governments and community leaders.
Obi also boasts of not only building Anambra but also saving money for his successors to complete any unfinished projects. However, Awka, Onitsha or Nnewi can’t still provide the needed comfort and security for Obi to hold his strategic meetings.
Maladministration by successive administrations has made Lagos, Abuja, Awka and Yola unsuitable for holding strategic meetings by the political class.
While one or two of the presidential candidates are believed to have underlying health challenges and are using foreign consultations to seek medical care away from the prying eyes of Nigerians, others resorted to these wasteful adventures to prove that they have the support of foreign governments and Nigerians in the diaspora.