Hard Talk: Charting Nothing New At Chatham House

Hard Talk: <strong>Charting Nothing New At Chatham House</strong>

Nigerian politicians and their coterie of hangers-on have found a new pastime and tourist attraction in faraway United Kingdom. That fascination is no other place than the prodigious Chatham House, which has a long history spanning over 100 years. It is known that several renowned world leaders had been hosted there.  

In the current political dispensation and coming close to the general elections many gladiators have found the House a veritable forum to ply their trade as if the UK has any specific relevance to our elections beyond mere observation neither can its leaders influence the choice of Nigerians. Besides, the issue of Diaspora voting is still alien to us and not feasible yet.

Notwithstanding the realities, even the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu was at CH, January 17, focusing on ‘Preparations, Challenges, and Priorities for Ensuring Electoral Integrity and Inclusivity’. Next day, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party with a particular focus on his policy ideas for Nigeria dropped by at CH. The People’s Democratic Party Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar is yet to visit CH this time, but he had been on that pilgrimage on two occasions – 2007 and 2018. Mr. Peter Obi, flag bearer of the Labour Party was in CH also dishing out his plans for Nigeria. These men acted as if we are deficient in public spaces to anchor their manifestos at home.

 Our leaders are given to anything exotic or foreign. It is therefore not surprising that when ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar went to the UK last, it was largely celebrated after meeting some officials there. His aides quickly defended his bias for Downing Street against the CH. They had stressed then that what was important for Nigerians was to make their principal’s plans for the nation widespread among Nigerians rather than a wild goose chase to CH. However that may not close Atiku’s likely appearance there as it appears now the vogue among the top contenders to our presidency.

It is not too expedient for our political leaders to engage in this grandiose pilgrimage in a manner that suggests that they are out for some form of showmanship. There are several potent fora locally they can exhibit their ‘talents’ and indeed oratory if they possess any.

Some years back, Lagos-based showbiz impresario, Calebs Olumhense, the guv’nor of the Niteshift fame had a forum in his prodigious club where contenders to political offices often go to showcase the stuff they were made of. That interactive session which was live afforded the audience an interface with gladiators. It was clearly unbiased and it opened the public to a contestant’s positive energies and exposed deficient sides. I believe several of these fora do still exist but they are snubbed for the luxury of going exotic and sheer exhibition of unnecessary and wasteful hype.

It is even more unpatriotic if funds have to go into these foreign ‘exploits’ in terms of fees outside overhead and sundry expenses which should have been better allowed to run within our now near impoverished nation. I believe our politicians can begin to think inward to give our country its needed posturing to thrive without any grandstanding at the risk of sounding outrageous.

Nothing spectacular has come out so far from these voyagers to CH. They have neglected our own Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, a replica of CH which has had a reputable history. It could have offered anything better than any foreign entity at the moment as our people can quickly connect with it. Besides, with a large number of illiterate voters, it is very doubtful if they can relate with the huge dose of intellectual issues that often characterised ‘high-profile’ fora.

It is of note that President Muhammadu Buhari may not have been pretentious in urging the international community to steer clear of the nation’s forthcoming elections; that further demonstrates the need for us to handle our polity in our own best interest without recourse to any interference but it is ironical as President Buhari has accepted foreign donations to support local elections.

It would not be out of place for anyone to dub our politicians as being on ego trip and showmanship as their appearance in CH would not add any material value to their pursuit of elective office.

It may just be pertinent to ask the question if politicians of other nations, no matter how lowly placed, have found our country a destination for such ‘political’ tourism as we do.

Town hall meetings, local debates and more can serve better purposes than this rush to Chatham House.


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