The governors’ trip to Kigali is ill-advised
Under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), many of the 36 governors are currently in Kigali, Rwanda where they completed a three-day leadership retreat yesterday. According to claims by the organisers, the programme was funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). But we understand that the UNDP only paid for the venue, facilitators, and conferences costs. The governors and their retinue of aides bear the real costs for their transport, hotel, allowances, and other incidentals. Even at that, we fail to understand how an institution like UNDP which keeps telling Nigerians that they are multi-dimensionally poor will join in enabling our political leaders on this expensive jamboree.
If one of the aims of the programme is to nurture “skills to support deep listening and self-awareness”, then the governors must accept that they are indeed deficient when it comes to self-awareness. Otherwise, they would not have embarked on this exercise at this time, especially when it is being held outside Nigeria. Under whatever guise, a three-day programme that causes many governors to desert their states to a foreign country remains inexcusable. With everything going on in Nigeria right now, it is ill-timed, ill-advised, and insensitive. That some governors in a troubled zone jettisoned a programme they had initiated to fly to Kigali is telling of their lack of seriousness.
We are in such dire economic circumstances that most Nigerians cannot afford one respectable meal a day. Besides, at a time we are seeking investors and tourists in Nigeria, our governors are ferrying themselves to another tourism destination in Africa. Would it not have had more impact on our national pride and economy if that programme had taken place in Uyo, Yankari, Ibeju Lekki, or elsewhere within?
It is unfortunate that many of our leaders have no sense of shame. Otherwise, governors would not incur huge costs at public expense to travel to Kigali for a retreat. Many of these states have better resources than whatever Rwanda has to make it a destination of choice. While Rwanda has shown the difference in leadership, there is no clear understanding of the objectives of this trip. Paul Kagame and his regional prefects will not empty out into Abuja for any such programme.
At a recent meeting, the National Economic Council (NEC) comprising all the governors announced that the federal government had approved N5 billion for each state of the federation as palliatives to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal. But there has been controversy over the implementation in many of these states. It is therefore self-deception for our public officials to imagine they need to undergo some tutelage in Rwanda on “multiple complex challenges” when they cannot handle basic tasks. Clearly, these trips are not driven by altruistic motives. They are meaningless and add nothing to the quality of lives of the citizens. They have also become a source of international embarrassment and are proof that the real issues of governance are still lost on many of our leaders.
Over the years, the NGF secretariat has turned workshops, seminars, and foreign programmes into one big racket for the governors. Yet, questions remain as to how these programmes impact the governing process in the states. If anything, the indices of poverty everywhere make it difficult for us to understand the recklessness that drives this junketing. Indeed, notwithstanding the excuses, the trip to Kigali is bizarre in conception and irresponsible in terms of the funds expended on it.