COP28: Our contingent of dishonour – Femi Adeoti Column




We are a world unto ourselves only. The bad, the ugly and the worst. Our leadership fits that bill concisely. That is why they spring unpleasant surprises all the time.

But we were never like this before. We were not created this odd way at creation. In the beginning, we were moulded just as any other being. And God attested to what He created: “It was very good.”

But the British imperialists pounced on us. They didn’t like how God created us. The intruders decided to re-create us for their convenience and comfort. But to our disdain and disadvantage.


A drunkard couple was to do the hatchet job: Lord Frederick Lugard, British colonial administrator, and his “side-chick, Flora Shaw, a journalist. She later became Lady Lugard. The lot eventually fell on Flora.

She scripted “Nigeria” in an article in The Times, in 1897. It was coined from “River Niger running through the country.” Niger area, a space housing more than 250 ethnicities. And so be it for us!

The contraption was brazen, unwise and arbitrary. It was made to trouble us. It was the beginning of our woes. The everlasting evil colonialism did to Africans.

Imagine. A foreigner had some uncanny brainwave. She felt elated, perhaps, from sips of “hard” gin. She was desperate for what to say. And all she could do was to pronounce us a name, “Niger area.”

Flora’s mind was incredibly warped. Places like Sokoto, Maiduguri, Lagos and Port Harcourt are lopsided. And declared Niger area. Not minding the distances and diversities.

She ignored all these oddities. She planted land mines on our paths. Her Niger area is limitless. No bounds, no boundaries. Certainly, she didn’t see beyond her long nose.

Our feelings, sentiments and emotions were disregarded. To Flora, we should have none of these. The absurdity is taking a huge toll on us. We are under the heavy yoke of that awkwardness.

The colonialists foisted it on us. And forced it down our delicate throats. We must swallow it. We did, hook, line and sinker. The way Flora wired us is one reason for our predicament.

Our legendary tripod founding fathers got it right: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, East, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, West, and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, North. Collectively, they took the bull by the horns.

They did wonders in their respective regions. They refused to be daunted. Barriers erected by the colonialists would not deter them. Despite the intentional hurdles, they never lost focus.

They made maximum use of the opportunities placed on their laps. They dwelt richly on our strong strengths and respected our weaknesses. The famed three were our finest in our best of times.

They firmly held sway before and after independence. There was healthy rivalry. And this spurred meaningful development. No frivolity or make-believe. No deceit either.  Proudly our golden age. Truly, there was once a Nigeria.

They knew where they were coming from; where they were heading. And how to get there. They didn’t miss it. They were resolute with great resolve. The picture of our future was clear in their honest minds. They saw our tomorrow. And worked assiduously towards it.

They detested flimsy excuses. They were given to serious challenges. They were daring in their pursuit and exploit. They were giants after our hearts. We are eternally grateful to them.

That is not the case with the present breed of leaders. They are the exact opposite of our past. They saw, acted differently from the tripod of Awo, Bello and Zik. They are visionless with selfish mission.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), did the hatchet job. We are glad Nigeria is involved. It is an exhibition of our rulers’ nakedness. It showcased their cruelty to us. These mean characters are wicked inside-out, back and front.

The prodigal among us saw COP28 as a cash cow. And it must be milked to the marrow. So? They set at their dastardly mission. They have ulterior motives to actualise. And Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), is the ultimate.

They looked into old books. They made a “startling” discovery, to their amazement. Last year, we could only make a slim list of 169-strong contingent. In a country of over 200 million! That’s not good enough, by their weird reckoning. They juggled their list forth and back.

At the end of the day, they shouted, 1,411 is it! The number of delegates is a stiff competition. They beat their chests for making the top four. We trail behind the host, UAE (4,409), Brazil (3,081) and tie with China (1,411), a superpower. What a feat!

And that’s where their “sweet story” ends. Then the “hailers” and “wailers” swung into action. Don’t blame the wailers. Spot the difference: “We have the same number as the Chinese contingent. China’s budget for 2024 is about $4 trillion. That’s about $2,860 per head. Nigeria’s own is a mere $33 billion; $165 per head.” Who would not wail?

Even more: “Nigeria has more people living in ‘multi-dimensional’ poverty than China, despite the fact that China has seven times Nigeria’s population.”

That is the superpower we feigned to compete with. Ours is a queer clime. Always aspiring to excel for the wrong reason. We practically emptied Nigeria into UAE.

Take it or leave it, Peter Obi came handy here. You can’t ignore him. He spotted the most tragic: “The vast majority of those in the Nigerian delegation to COP28 are either non-relevant civil servants or relations, friends and hangers-on of high government officials.”

Samplers: A report gave a tip of the iceberg. Very embarrassing: “Among the delegates are President Bola Tinubu’s son, Seyi, chefs, luggage officers, stewards, among other individuals, including over 50 personal assistants.”

Of this category, Obi remarked: “Most of them hardly understand or have anything to do with climate change. This huge contingent is at public expense at a time most Nigerians can hardly afford food and basic needs as a result of economic hardship.”

His sincere counsel: “We urgently need to cut the cost of governance. We need to tie spending to necessity and national priority.” That’s what is required from our leaders. And it is doable. Effortlessly too!

Akintunde Babatunde is a veteran. A familiar face at COPs. He testified: “The average cost for an individual to attend COP is about $4,000. With 821 official party delegates from Nigeria, that is about $3.2 million.”

His mixed feelings: “Well, that is average, knowing that Nigerian officials are extravagant with state money. The cost will definitely be higher than this.”

He knows his onions too well. You can’t fault him: “I have been to COP countless times. I can tell you for a fact that I know how this works.” Sure, you do.

This opened a floodgate of pressure the Presidency couldn’t bear. It caved in. It reluctantly agreed it sponsored only 590. Nobody believed. Some insisted the figure could be far higher.

Then Senator Jimoh Ibrahim wandered arbitrarily in. He felt we must hear him out. Of course, he is a hailer. His argument:

“(Government) funding (over) 400 people to a conference like this is too small. You may want to host the conference sometime in future.” Laughable?

By every rational standard; whether it’s 1,411, 850 or even less. The team is still too heavy for our stumbling economy to bear.  You have to be meticulous and intentional in this.

The economy is bleeding. Don’t kill it dead. Let’s resolve together and heal it instead. That’s the best option at hand. Even with 590 delegates. Government would have spent more than N880 million on flight tickets. This excludes hotel accommodation, estacode and sundry expenses.

The jamboree and spending spree would last 13 solid days. The entire 1,411 conference “tourists” are being ferried by three large planes. That’s quite huge and enormous.

For the compilers of the list, nothing is amiss. The more the merrier. That’s the slogan. That’s the beat. And it’s sounding loud and clear. It is reverberating even beyond our borders. Dubai is no exception.

At a critical time like this. Our rulers are forcing us to tighten our fragile belt to our frail frame. But not so with them. They have even removed their belt completely from their chubby frame. They couldn’t walk their careless talk.

We are exporting one rare skill we have in reckless abundance. Extravagance is it! In recklessness we are extremely prudent.

In sharp contrast to our 1,411 team. Kenya’s President, William Ruto, reduced his delegates from 189 to 51. This aptly tallies with Proverbs 6:6, KJV: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” Let’s harken to that biblical injunction. It’s divine.

Martyrs of bombing error

Let’s observe unending silence for the rare 127 martyrs. They were victims of the army’s bombing target error. It occurred on Sunday night in Tudun Biri, Igabi Local Government, Kaduna State.

That’s the least honour we can accord them. Rest in peace all.

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