By Hamisu Kabir Matazu
The recent meetings of three presidential candidates with the Governor of Rivers State, Mr Nyesom Wike, in London have drawn many mixed reactions.
The first to visit were Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), then Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labor Party (LP).
The separate week-long meetings, which former President Olusegun Obasanjo also attended, were seen by many as an attempt to diminish Nigeria’s status on the world stage.
Diplomats also say it is an indication of a dangerous tendency to hand over Nigeria to foreign interests, with London, France and Dubai being their latest preferences.
In another instance, such visits by these politicians to Saudi Arabia in April 2022 came close to inflicting heavy punishment on Nigeria for carrying out campaigns in the two holy sites of Makkah and Madinah.
During this visit, a viral video was released where supporters were seen displaying their posters and calling out their names around the Ka’abah, which violated existing law and the sanctity of holy places.
But this time, Wike, who was in the company of Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, said the meetings were purely “about how to improve Nigeria”.
What meetings suggest
Many believe that Wike, whose camp was harmed by a scheme against him in the party, deliberately transformed himself into a “new wife” for whom the main politicians ran for, in the colonialist capital.
The analysts unanimously decided that the three presidential candidates and Obasanjo were in London, individually, just to win Wike’s support ahead of the 2023 general election.
Politicians, diplomats react
Politicians and diplomats who reacted to the visit had accused the candidates of being insensitive to the plight of the country’s people.
Reacting, the Nigerian Academy of International Affairs said it was outraged by the meeting in London, adding that it is regrettable and heartbreaking that these leaders had to abandon the shores of this country for the capitals of the ex-colonialists of London and Paris in search of delusional solutions to Nigeria’s problems.
A statement signed by the president of the academy and former foreign minister, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, said: “The ill-advised and unwitting jamboree of shame displayed by these leading Nigerian politicians in London/Paris has demonstrated once again that the Nigerian environment has created and polluted by them is not conducive to their conceited smugness and undeserved esteem.
“Therefore, and because of their neo-colonial mentality which prevented them from seeing and appreciating the goodwill and resilience of Nigerians, they preferred the tasty Western atmosphere.”
The group noted that by implication, the meeting exposes Nigeria directly or indirectly to unwarranted Western influence, especially as they were seen to be washing dirty laundry in the full light of the world.
“Isn’t it ridiculous that according to the information available to our academy, some horse dealers who have dominated their so-called discussions of bringing ‘lasting hope to Nigeria’, have focused on counting their hens before the eggs hatched, as deliberations focused on dividing and allocating the national cake even before the cake was baked, in regards to the allocation of the main offices of the National Assembly, ministerial positions, the secretary of the government of the Federation and others, rather than devoting sufficient time to finding solutions to the prevailing insecurity, the economic recession and the poverty of the territory, problems which they have caused or contributed substantially to their creation.
“Indeed, the unnecessary and inexcusable trips to London/Paris/Dubai have demonstrated the callousness and reckless disregard for the plight of Nigerian workers and pensioners whose wages and pensions have long gone unpaid.
“It is truly appalling and unacceptable that Nigerian leaders are still flying out of the country in search of the magic wand to solve the country’s problems. It would be more cost-effective and appropriate to brainstorm here in Nigeria to get sound advice from the rich pool of highly capable and patriotic Nigerians.
The group added that the solution to Nigeria’s problems lies within Nigeria, among Nigerians and in Western capitals.
“Let it not be the norm or the practice that Nigerian leaders have to travel to Western capitals to govern the country from a distance in the same way that many nonchalant state governors run their states from Abuja.
“During the most serious period of our existence, our civil war, peace meetings/conferences only took place in Africa. None took place in Europe or the Americas.
“It is this kind of neo-colonialist behavior that has led to our absence from the world stage.
“Nigeria is not invited to the G20, BRICS or any important meeting. Countries that observe the pattern of behavior of our leaders, such as the hateful London/Paris/Dubai conclaves, will have no respect for Nigeria. Nigeria No wonder South Africa has eclipsed Nigeria from the world stage.
“The academy, a platform set up for open and private debate on the emerging new world order and the role or non-role of Nigeria in the world, feels it is its duty to call on our leaders when their behavior diminishes Nigeria’s status in the world,” he said.
Also reacting, the National Publicity Secretary of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Agbo Major, told the Daily Trust that the talks were the height of callousness from the participants.
He said it was wrong for them to travel en masse to a foreign country to discuss issues affecting Nigeria.
Major said: “Do British politicians come to Nigeria to discuss political issues? Are there no appropriate places to discuss local issues concerning our country in Nigeria?
“Our leaders have continued to give in to the claws and dictates of neo-colonialism and therefore can no longer be trusted. We urge the Nigerian electorate to punish all involved in this ill-conceived mission to continue mortgaging our future by denying them votes in 2023.
“They have shown that they have no independent spirit to govern us, but prefer to follow the instructions of foreign imperialist authorities.”
He further said that the trips had “worsened the plight of Nigeria and Nigerians at a time when there is great pressure on the forex leading to monumental inflation never seen before; at a time when the value of our currency continued to fall. Where is the wisdom in this ignominious outing? We must punish them in February 2023 with our votes accordingly.
Similarly, the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), through its National Publicity Secretary, Ibrahim Adamu Tudun-Doki, said the money used for the trips would have greatly helped ordinary Nigerians.
He said: “Seriously, if we take seriously the situation in the country, we have displaced people everywhere, this money for foreign trips can be put to good use.
“I expect these politicians to think back to these trips. This is also why Nigerians should rethink who they are voting for in the upcoming elections.
A political analyst, Jide Ojo, said he did not know what difference meetings in London would make that meetings in Nigeria would not.
He said: “My main concern is the use of state resources for meetings that may be held in the country. But if you’re talking about their legality, I don’t think any law was broken.
Tinubu, Atiku, Obi’s takeaways in London
Although much of what they discussed behind closed doors has yet to be made public, media and analysts have continued to deal carefully with vested interests whether the talks have favored them or not.
So far, no statement has been released regarding the meetings, but knowledgeable sources said the talks were dominated by bargaining over self-aggrandizement rather than the “so-called” talks aimed at bringing “hope sustainability in Nigeria”.
According to the media, the first candidate to negotiate with Wike for a better deal in London was APC’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu, but the meeting was not attractive as it ended without any commitment.
Two days later, PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar countered his rival’s visit to realign himself with Wike, whom he defeated in the PDP primary.
However, sources with knowledge of the meetings said that the conditions set by Wike to the two candidates were largely “unrealistic”, therefore Tinubu refused and explained why he could not accede to his demands, while Atiku played the game and agreed to some of the terms just to put his house in order before the 2023 general election.
The latest suitors to travel to London were Labor Party (LP) presidential flag bearer and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Peter Obi, who many see as a supposed attempt to coax Wike and his camp into their fold.