600 Delegates: Nigerians, How Much Is Too Much?

(By Adekoya Boladale)

In the words of Abati, “the number of delegates was in proportion with Nigeria size”. Nigeria currently is over 160 million, this means the government must ensure at every point in time to display our voluminous population by ensuring each household, tribe, ethnic group, senatorial district, state and zone is represented at every official outing. With this Abati’s ‘logical’ defense then a lot of us need to start demanding from the government why our various families have been left behind for so long.” 

“You Nigerians have a larger than life figure. Your president and his delegation arrived in two Presidential Planes. It was like a carnival when they landed in Australia, Nigeria had the largest delegates to the event” – Australian High Commissioner and Member CHOGM Organising Committee.

THE level of profligacy of Nigerian politicians and government officials was brought to a zenith recently, as a radical online news site ‘Sahara Reporters’ revealed the presidential train of 600 men plotted to occupy New York for the United Nations General Assembly and probably showcase to the world through their skin and freshness that we are not as poor and hungry as the world thinks.

   Before I proceed permit me to do a little introduction, I am Adekoya Boladale, a full-fledged Nigerian. I hail from the lineage of Ogundeyin in Iperu-Remo Ogun State Nigeria. I hope this brief profile will convince some arrant critics of the authenticity of my nationality hence my ‘locus standi’.

  The title of this piece was borne out of the desire to equate the might of President Goodluck Jonathan with that of King Leonidas of the epic fictional movie ‘300’. In the spirit of patriotism I have decided to envision the President has been twice as powerful as the Spartan King. I hope am not wrong?

  For those not following the story, President Jonathan left the shores of Nigeria to New York with over 30 delegates according to Dr. Reuben Abati.

  The presidential spokesman battled to convince Nigerians of the rationale behind the hyper-numeric figure but failed woefully in telling us the actual figure.  In the following paragraphs I will try to analyze the presidential defence and if possible draw sense from it.

   By precedent, it is a regular culture for Nigerian ministers and government officials to travel abroad for official assignments with minimum of 10 officials each. We shouldn’t blame them here but try to see reasons why they do so. One, official assignments abroad are all expenses paid, this means that every delegate no matter the status gets to enjoy free food, shopping allowance, free luxurious hotel suite and a mouth watering first class return ticket with royal hospitality. Who will have such opportunity and not wish to bring an enemy along, after all it is not your father’s money (even though it is the sweat and tax of others). Two, the trip often ends up being a shopping spree hence there should be ample hands to help with bought items.

  The truth is President Jonathan left with fewer than 30 real delegates even though Sahara Reporters reported 26; the 30 officials are individuals who have mental and intellectual contributions to the conference. However, salient questions such as how many officials were in New York as advance team? How many stewards and staff are the ministers, governors, permanent secretaries, director generals, chairmen of Agencies and Departments, Special Advisers, Senior Special Advisers, Personal Advisers, Personal Assistants taking along were left unanswered? I am not a mathematician but in Nigerian history, none of these individuals have ever travelled to Lagos from Abuja alone, to then bring the freezing climate of New York which will require ‘natural blanket’ into consideration and the need for someone to hold the telephone, take charge of bags, help with sunglasses, be in charge of diary, open doors and close them then 10 officials for each official-delegate is generous.

  In context of the foremost quote by the Australian High Commissioner, if Nigeria could ferry 300 delegates to far end country like Australia and appear in ‘just’ two presidential planes how much more New York at our backyard; I think the Presidency took into consideration our financial strength (at least we make trillions of naira yearly even though our states and local governments are still being owed August and September allocations) before pegging the figure at 600.

   In the words of Abati, “the number of delegates was in proportion with Nigeria size”. Nigeria currently is over 160 million, this means the government must ensure at every point in time to display our voluminous population by ensuring each household, tribe, ethnic group, senatorial district, state and zone is represented at every official outing. With this Abati’s ‘logical’ defense then a lot of us need to start demanding from the government why our various families have been left behind for so long.

  I respect President Jonathan for the office he holds, I see him as a very handsome individual but there is more to leadership than physical attributes. Jonathan and his cohorts need to start taking classes in being truthful. Just few days ago, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya stood in front of millions of Kenyans to address them and restore hope and confidence of the people in the government even when the country was been held hostage by terrorists. He didn’t move to dispel media reports on numbers of casualties; he showed great courage and patriotism, this singular act won him the trust of the people.

  It is comical that the Presidency in all sense of fairness would expect Nigerians to believe her as against international media and journalists. When last did the Presidency hold on to its weakness and shortcomings? When was the last time the President uttered words like ‘I am sorry, forgive me’? When was the last time the Presidency made full disclosure of the state of our nation before the media makes it breaking news?

  Yes, Sahara Reporters may have published the news to generate traffic to its website as claimed by Reno Omokri. The focus of every business organisation is to make profit but the question is what superior argument has the Presidency provided against this claim? Why is the Presidency feeling shy to publish the list of delegates in New York as approved by the secretary of the Federation and Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

  Obviously, the government is not far from our definition; an assembly of people who perhaps may not mind if the resources of our country are siphoned for the benefits of their generations yet unborn while covering their tracks with lies and deceits.

   The people who painstakingly voted the President into power deserve respect and loyalty not the other way round.  They deserve to see you as representing them at every point in time. It is tantamount to foolishness if you fail to give report to your boss when you return from an official engagement. Yes, the electorate are the boss. We are the ‘count’ in country, without us there is no government. We deserve respect from every government official either appointed or elected!

   The National Assembly should not be spared too, another coalition of sick old men and women who occupy our red and green chairs but have made no significant input to the lives of the people. They allocate billions of naira to themselves as allowances yet see no sense in authorising few bucks as survival allowance for the unemployed youths.

  For Nigeria to move forward, our government must be responsive. We don’t need a Sahara Reporter or any news media whatsoever to give us report about their activities. They should make openness and truthfulness their core value and Nigerians will believe more in the President than anyone else.

• Boladale is a political scientist and the Convener, Advocacy for Better Leadership (ABEL), an alumnus of the Political Leadership Academy (POLA).

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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