Fresh from his mission to honour the invitation to the G20 Summit in New Delhi India, President Bola Tinubu continued his economic charm offensive to the United Arab Emirates, UAE, where he met with the country’s President, Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, early last week.
There was a flurry of controversy surrounding the issue of whether the Middle Eastern country indeed lifted the indefinite travel ban it imposed on Nigeria in October 2022 over some diplomatic disputes.
The country’s famous national carrier, the Emirates Airlines, also shut down its services to Nigeria over the estimated $85 million the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, failed to remit to it.
The Nigerian president’s spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, had claimed that UAE had lifted the travel ban in addition to other investment pledges.
However, the UAE’s embassy in Nigeria in its statement about the meeting between the leaders of the two countries, failed to mention any lifting of the ban.
It only spoke in generalities about the determination to strengthen ties “in areas that serve both countries’ sustainable economic growth, including economic, development, energy and climate actions fields”.
Ngelale’s faux pas should serve as a lesson to him to tone down the rush to hype every little action of his principal to avoid bigger future embarrassments.
President Tinubu’s highly commendable effort to restore the dignity and esteem of the presidential office by keeping out attack dogs must be sustained henceforth. Nigerians do not need the hype. We want substance and truth delivered with maturity.
The sad aspect of this episode was the rejoicing it elicited among some sections of our society. Though Dubai, the famous UAE business hub, is a prime destination for a lot of Nigerian businesses, especially traders and job seekers, it has also come to symbolise a place where the overfed Nigerian ruling class go to enjoy themselves at the expense of the masses.
We hope the eventual restoration of full relationships will create a level playing ground for genuine mutual benefits.
One of the grounds for disagreement was that UAE’s Emirates enjoyed the lion’s share of flight slots while Nigeria’s Air Peace was offered a pittance and made to land at Sharjah Airport to the great inconvenience of its customers.
It is high time we let countries like the UAE know that Nigeria has a whole lot more to offer than it had showcased before now.
Unlike UAE which is a dry desert country though super-fantastically developed, Nigeria has a broad sweep of weather delights, from equatorial to Sahelian, desert to temperate.
We must learn from the lessons that UAE uses Dubai and Abu Dhabi to teach the rest of the developing world.
If we do the right thing, the world will come here and lick oil off our fingers.