The recent meetings of three presidential candidates with the Rivers State governor, Mr Nyesom Wike, in London have generated a lot of mixed reactions.
First to visit was Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), then Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP).
The week-long separate meetings, which former President Olusegun Obasanjo also graced, was seen by many as an attempt to diminish Nigerian status in the global scene.
Diplomats also say it is an indication of a dangerous tendency to hand Nigeria over 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 nearly caused Nigeria a stiff penalty for taking campaigns to the two holy sites in Makkah and Madina.
In that visit, a viral video trended where supporters were seen displaying their posters and calling their names round the Ka’abah, which violated the existing law and sanctity of the holy places.
But this time, Wike who was in the company of the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia said the meetings were purely arranged “on how to make Nigeria better.”
What the meetings portend
Many believe that Wike, whose camp was aggrieved over a scheme of things against him in the party, has deliberately turned himself into a “new bride” for the top politicians to bid for, in the colonialist capital.
Unanimously, the analysts have settled that the three presidential candidates and Obasanjo were in London, individually, only to drum up Wike’s support ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Politicians, diplomats react
Politicians and diplomats who reacted to the visit had accused the candidates of being insensitive to the plight of people in the country.
Reacting, the Nigerian Academy of International Affairs said they were scandalised by the meeting in London, adding that it is unfortunate and heartbreaking that these leaders had to abandon the shores of this country for the ex-colonialists’ capitals of London and Paris in search of delusion-solutions to Nigeria’s problems.
A statement signed by the president of the academy and former Foreign Affairs 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 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.”
The group noted that by implication, the meeting is exposing Nigeria directly or indirectly to unwarranted western influence, particularly as they were perceived to be washing dirty linens in the full glare of the world.
“Isn’t it ludicrous that, from information available to our academy, 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, as deliberations 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, rather than devoting sufficient time to finding solutions to the pervasive insecurity, economic recession and poverty in the land, problems which they caused or contributed substantially to their creation.
“Indeed, the unnecessary and inexcusable trips to London/Paris/Dubai demonstrated the insensitivity and reckless disregard for the plights of Nigerian workers and pensioners whose salaries and pensions have not been paid for a long time.
“It is really revolting and unacceptable that Nigerian leaders should always fly 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 in order to get wise counsel from the rich pool of very capable and patriotic Nigerians.
The group further said the solution to Nigeria’s problems lies within Nigeria, among Nigerians and in the western capitals.
“Let it not be the norm or practice that Nigerian leaders have to fly to western capitals to rule the country by remote control in the same way that many nonchalant state governors rule their states from Abuja.
“During the gravest period of our existence, our civil war, peace meetings/conferences were held only in Africa. None was held in Europe or the Americas.
“It is this kind of neo-colonialist behaviour that has led to our absence from the global scene.
“Nigeria is not invited to G20, Brics or any significant meetings. Countries that watch our leaders’ pattern of behaviour such as the obnoxious conclaves in London/Paris/Dubai will have no respect for Nigeria. No wonder that South Africa has eclipsed Nigeria from the global scene.
“The academy, a platform set up for open and private debate on the emerging new world order and Nigeria’s role or non-role in the world, feels it has a duty to call out our leaders when their behaviour 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 Daily Trust that the parleys were the height of insensitivity by the participants.
He said it was wrong for them to move in droves to a foreign land to discuss issues that affect Nigeria.
Major said, “Do British politicians come to Nigeria to discuss political issues? Are there no suitable places to discuss local issues about our country in Nigeria?
“Our leaders have continued to give in to the claws and dictates of neo-colonialism and so can’t be trusted anymore. We urge the Nigerian electorate to punish all those involved in this ill-conceived mission to continue to mortgage our future by denying them votes in 2023.
“They have shown that they have no independent minds to govern us but would rather take instructions from foreign imperialist authorities.”
He further said the trips had “worsened the plight of Nigeria and Nigerians at a time there is heavy pressure on forex leading to monumental inflation never seen before; at a time the value of our currency has continued to plummet. 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 monies used for the trips would have gone a long way in assisting ordinary Nigerians.
He said, “Seriously, if we are serious about the situation in the country, we have IDPs all over the place, this money for foreign trips can be put to good use.
“I expect these politicians to rethink about these trips. Also, that is why Nigerians should have a rethink about who they vote for in the next 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 could be held in the country. But if you talk about the legality of them, I don’t think that a law has been broken.”
Tinubu, Atiku, Obi’s London take-aways
Although the gist of what they discussed behind closed doors is yet to be out in public, media and analysts have continued to carefully scoop from the vested interests, which the parley had favoured or not.
So far, no statement was issued regarding these meetings but competent sources said the parleys were dominated by horse-trading on self-aggrandisement rather than the “so-called” talks on bringing “enduring hope to Nigeria”.
According to media reports, the first candidate to parley Wike for a better deal in London was Bola Ahmed Tinubu of APC, but the encounter was unattractive as it ended without any commitment.
Two days later, the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, countered his rival’s visit to realign with Wike, whom he defeated at the PDP primary election.
However, sources privy to the meetings said the conditions Wike tabled to both candidates were largely “unrealistic”, therefore, Tinubu declined and explained why he couldn’t accede his demands, while Atiku played along and accepted some of the terms just to put his house to order ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The last suitors to visit London were Peter Obi, the presidential standard bearer of the Labor party (LP) and former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, which many see as a believed attempt to convince Wike and his camp into their fold.