THE Federal Government went to Dubai with a village. They went ostensibly to be abreast with climate change. It appears that anything done to restore the hopes of many politicians and senior civil servants will be good for the country. After the trip, the government can resume telling the masses the need for sacrifices to salvage the country from its perilous economic situation.
Back home, nobody cares about the climate and the environment because child malnutrition and abject poverty rule. The country has grown tired of checking open defecation. Clean pipe-borne water doesn’t exist in most of the cities. But when other nations come to talk about climate change, Nigeria assembles an Olympic contingent. Yet, when it’s time for Olympics, the country will assemble more officials than athletes to lend grace to the occasion.
In line with the development agenda of the Federal Government, many ministries sent their big wigs to Dubai. If they had to pay from their pockets they might have declined. But it’s government freebie. So why not? Dubai is a tourist attraction. Besides, overseas travels fetch estacodes. Naira is dead. Dollar is king. Folks had to make hay while some climate change sun shone. The only problem with such pilgrimages is that our creditors whose debts we can barely service take note of our incurable penchant for frivolity. Otherwise, it might have been advisable to send a larger contingent than China and India to understand climate change properly.
Some political detractors can’t seem to appreciate that as the giant of Africa, when we attend we must attend gigantically. A senator who attended frowned at the habit of busy bodies that inhabit Nigeria and call themselves critics and perpetually find fault with the creative attempts of the government to showcase Nigeria to the world. He pointed out that presidents who came with large contingents walked in like Hulk Hogan. He wondered why shortsighted critics would have preferred our great president to walk in unnoticed and present his paper unsung, without a matching thunderous applause. The distinguished senator suggested that it was more prudent to bring our crowd from home rather than rent a crowd in Dubai.
The last time our president discussed climate change, he talked about church rats and poisoned holy communion. Since that speech, which he made as a presidential candidate, the country has become more wretched than a church rat. It will be interesting to know if the rat went with his kinsmen and inlaws to tell church people at the international conference that if they didn’t start leaving crumbs in church for rats to feed on then they should forget their holy communion and any compliance with futuristic protocols. But if the developed countries seeking pan-global cooperation with the protocols looked at our oversized contingent twice, they might conclude that the church rat doesn’t deserve any church sympathy.
Regardless of what the West will make of our love for living large, they must persevere. We tried a kind of Change at home for eight years and ended up seeking to restore hope. Our leaders are industrious people. We must allow them once in a while to eat from where they work. And if something is happening in Dubai or Florida and there is a reason to be there, then we must send in a contingent to represent us well.
It’s better for them to go to Dubai for a climate change conference than to go to London to discuss which party to defect to. At least with climate change, if they actually attend the sessions, they might understand a bit of forward thinking. With climate change, they might understand conservation and preservation. They might be introduced to thinking about tomorrow.
The poor must endure. They must not start false rumours about how the government removed the petrol subsidy only to subsidize the appetite of the rich and powerful. They must realize that we have no other country. And if they make foreign investors think that our leaders are wayward folks, then how will we get foreign investments? So they must always praise their leaders.
These government officials leave their wives and children to travel thousands of kilometers for these conferences for the good of the poor. There is nothing in Dubai they don’t have in their houses. The masses must learn gratitude. It’s because of their love for the country that they went there in large numbers so that they could represent the country well . And anywhere countries that have embraced climate change are mentioned there our country must be mentioned.
It’s not good for our country to be mentioned only for banditry and advance fee fraud. There is even nothing wrong with using some of the money recovered from the petrol subsidy to take more leaders to such conferences so that they can take whatever they learn to the grassroots to implement in their communities. So that governors’ wives can resume tree-planting campaigns and teach the rural poor how not to use firewood.
Let’s allow our leaders to breathe. The government took over 400 officials to Dubai to attend a climate change conference. The pears are done, let them eat in peace.
Ugoji Egbujo writes from Lagos