Buhari: Shunning Flamboyance at the United Nations, By Aliyu Abdullahi
The small size of the president’s delegation amazed a large number of guests who lined up to receive him. One of them recalled how Reuben Abati, the spokesperson to the former head of state, President Goodluck Johnathan, had a running battle with some media houses which reported that Nigeria had up 600 delegates in New York for the 2013 edition of the same meeting.
Often times Nigerians ask the question: “Where is the Change we were promised by President Muhammadu Buhari in his 2015 presidential campaign?”
The question is legitimate in the sense that the electorate still remains the masters, while the president remains the chief servant by virtue of the fact that he occupies the highest office in the land, which he holds in trust for the people.
Change manifests in several ways and this is why delegates from other countries and Nigerians resident in New York were shocked that President Muhammadu Buhari’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is the smallest so far to accompany any Nigerian Head of state.
At the Hotel Millennium UN Plaza in New York, guests and dignitaries who thronged out in their scores to welcome and catch a glimpse of Nigeria’s “Change Agent in Chief” on Sunday, September 17, 2017, were shocked when the president arrived in a convoy of only four vehicles, as against at least 30 vehicles and outriders, as was the flamboyance for which former Nigerian heads of state were known.
On arrival at the hotel, the first car in the convoy of President Buhari to pull up was a saloon car that conveyed him and his ADC, the second car was a black wagon bus, a third car trailed behind, while the fourth vehicle had the American FBI inside.
The wagon bus had Femi Adesina, the president’s spokesman; Bayo Omoboriwo, the president’s photographer; Abba Sarki, the senior special assistant (Domestic), two journalists, including Adamu Sambo of NTA and Gloria Ume-Uzoke of Channels TV, their cameramen and three Directorate of State Security Officers.
The third car had the national security adviser, Major General Babagana Munguno (Rtd.) and two of his officers. These were the 12 officials that accompanied the president to New York from the Aso Rock villa.
The non-Aso Rock delegation seen at the hotel included Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State; Deputy Governor Bala Banter of Kaduna State; minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; minister of Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibrin, and the minister of State on Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed. Five of them were seen when the president arrived, making it a total 17 officials. This is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria when it comes to attendance of international meetings.
The small size of the president’s delegation amazed a large number of guests who lined up to receive him. One of them recalled how Reuben Abati, the spokesperson to the former head of state, President Goodluck Johnathan, had a running battle with some media houses which reported that Nigeria had up 600 delegates in New York for the 2013 edition of the same meeting. The figure was confirmed by the then Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Mr. Bashir Wali.
A national of Saudi Arabia who was at the hotel to catch a glimpse of President Buhari wondered why Nigeria had such as small delegation and thus inquired whether the country was still in recession.
He was told that Nigeria is out of recession and that the small delegation was informed by the fact that the change mantra which formed the president’s campaign is being fully implemented and that the Nigerian head of state is not only modest in his life style but is allergic to wastage in governance, and as such has plugged all the loopholes that public officials usually exploit to defraud the nation.
However, this was not the case when the president of Senegal arrived in his hotel in New York for the same meeting. A long convoy of vehicles and not less than 50 officials from that country accompanied him. Aside the huge crowd that awaited him, there was merriment, singing and dancing. It is like Senegal has adopted the former Nigerian style.
It will be recalled that in the past, international conferences served as drain pipes on the nation’s resources, especially, the foreign reserve. Government officials, including those who had no business attending such events, wrote bogus proposals to justify their participation.
So much foreign exchange was spent by previous government in paying the bills of high ranking officials who simply see such outings as a jamboree. They just attend opening ceremonies and spend the remaining days of the conference frolicking and shopping, while attending expensive night clubs to dance away the fortune of others.
By the end of the day, scarce resources needed for welfare programmes that would benefit the poor, end up in the pockets of a few who use the public funds to quench their taste for luxurious goods and services.
With a Buhari in power, Nigerian has waved a good bye to such wastes and if there is any indication that change has come, the New York outing stands out as a perfect demonstration
Aliyu Abdullahi, a public affairs analyst writes from New York.