NOT YET A JAMBOREE
Nigerians who have been so mauled by the serial misrule of their leaders and their agents, so much so, that they now view every public act with great suspicion. Our national resources have been so mismanaged and misappropriated that we now regard even the best intentions of the government, or people near it, as those geared towards the further despoliation of the State. That is the fate that anything remotely associated with the celebration of Nigeria's 50th independence anniversary is currently suffering, especially as most Nigerians consider the N10 billion budget being touted as an unmitigated waste.
Under the current season of suspicion, the government does not help matters by not publicizing the content of the celebrations to enable the citizens judge the relevance (or otherwise) of each of the items on the offer that necessitated the submission of the jumbo bill of N10 billion to the National Assembly at a time Nigerians believe that more crucial items on the national plate are competing for the dwindling contents of our lean coffers. When, therefore, some aspects of the celebration were thrust on the face of Nigerians, a justifiable uproar ensued, as should be expected. The shyer the government became in defending the cogency of the need for us to celebrate at this stage of our existence, the more suspicious the citizenry becomes about the real motives of the government. Public confidence has got that bad.
Whatever is the case, and in spite of this cynical view of our lives which has become the pervading attitude, nobody should belittle the need to celebrate a golden birthday of a nation which, in spite the years of general indiscipline and incompetence of present and past generations, holds enormous promises for Nigerians of the next 50 years. Significantly, many believe that the only thing it would take Nigeria to 'take off' is just for us to organize one free and fair election - an opportunity that was missed in 1993, when IBB annulled the results of the elections. And if that goal looks achievable now, then Nigeria of 2060 would be a cynosure of the world.
It would also be unfair to belie or play down on the international dimensions of this celebration, as 2010 marks the golden jubilee of the independence of some 14 African countries from their European colonial overlords, Nigeria being the most prominent among them. In these days of global compression, it would be sick to doubt the need to showcase Nigeria's potentials to a global audience at a place that would better guarantee the attention of the type of international investors and audience that can better catalyze the type of future we look forward to. I sincerely believe that it was these, considerations, realities and more that must have informed the thinking of the private sector organizers of the Nigerian Golden Jubilee Business Summit which held in London between the 28th and 29th June, but which has attracted a lot of brickbats from Nigerians.
However, the summit would have attracted better understanding of Nigerians, had its organizers and the federal government agencies, like the High Commission in UK and the Nigeria Investment Promotions Council (NIPC) which backed and supported it, done the right thing by not taking the people for granted by educating and enlightening them on what it was all about. Rather than that, the organizers ended up creating the impression that what was a laudable project was just another publicly-funded avenue for top government officials and their friends to jet out to London on a spending spree at public expense.
It has since been ascertained that the two-day summit was unable to achieve the full potential that had been expected from the attendance and participation of high caliber Nigerian officials including the president and ministers partly due to the malicious and usual flip-flop attitude of top Nigerian public officials who had been involved in the planning from the onset, but who suddenly started swerving and turning coat for inexplicable but obviously dubious intentions. From information available, the summit had been conceived and proposed to the government when the late president Umaru Yar'Adua was still on seat and it had received due approvals and instructions that the Nigerian High Commission in London should ensure its successful implementation.
It was also learnt that by last April, when Jonathan was still an acting president, the arrangements for the summit had been finalized and so, its organization could not have been part of the jumbo N10 billion budget. Dr. Jonathan had reportedly signified his intention to attend, just as many other ministers and executives of parastatals with international business linkages. Even though it was a private-sector initiative that was conceived and executed by a London-based Nigerian Company, BusinessinAfricaEvents UK Ltd and many other prominent corporate sponsors, the event was said to have enjoyed such confidence of the investing community that it became massively sponsored by banks, airlines, oil companies and other conglomerates and would have provided a good meeting ground for Nigerian government officials at the federal and state levels with serious international business partners.
Furthermore, the organizers were said to have also considered the cultural, diplomatic and historical linkages that the event would have strengthened for the benefit of our national life by incorporating a gala night and dinner which took place at the Lancaster House, which was also the place where the declaration of our independence was signed 50 years ago. The summit went ahead as planned but without the participation of the president as well as key ministers for many unspecified reasons, but for those which an intelligent guess would put at the government's reaction to unpalatable reactions of the ill-informed Nigerian audience which were echoed by the press. Specifically, the government must have been put off by the obvious 'bad bele' of its own officials. But by and large, it was learnt the event was well attended by the international business partners of Nigeria who, in any case repose greater confidence in their partnership with the private sector than with the successive governments that have come and gone.
At the end of the day, what appeared like the eventual foot-dragging and volte-face by the High Commission in an event which it had been involved in from the onset, might have only ended up showing that Nigeria is still far away from exorcizing the evil hands of unpatriotism from the high places of its public life. However, the high calibre of attendance from the international and domestic community underscore the fact that Nigeria remains a force to reckon with at the levels where it matters globally.
More importantly, it is refreshing to know that the state governors and other private and public sector individuals and organizations that attended the summit must have come away with a fuller realization of how highly Nigeria is still being viewed with respectability, in spite of the gross ineptitude of the public sector at home.
Because it is the private sector which drives the economic growth and prosperity of most nations of the world, ours should never be shy to stand tall and place us where we belong. It is such international forums like the one that has just taken place in London, but which was wantonly misunderstood that can conduce to a better international understanding of Nigeria as a nation with huge potentials mainly because of the quality of its people.
There is nowhere in the world that Nigerians would not be found standing tall in all aspects of human endeavour. To that extent, no opportunity should be spared to make this point to market ourselves. You don't light a lamp and hide it under a cupboard; the international arena, for now, understands London, New York, Paris, Berlin, etc better than Abuja and Lagos better, so our private sectors and public sector promoters of business should not shy away from showcasing ourselves to the world, especially if those outings would not entail robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The London summit was a good event especially as it did not benefit from the huge budget that Nigerians are complaining about. Rather than play it down, the Presidency should have ignored the perfidy of its own officials and given it the prominence and stature it deserved. More crucially, whenever such an important event is being organized, its managers should owe it as a duty to adequately educate and enlighten the people on its import; otherwise, their best intentions would be misunderstood and misconstrued. That is why communications experts continue to insist that doing a good thing without adequate notice 'is like winking at a lady in the dark; she doesn't know what you are doing, nor do others'.