By Gambo Dori
MANY matters seemed to have arisen from the visit of Prince Charles to Nigeria. The visit which lasted only three days drew as much kudos as anger. There were criticisms on the fact that the royal couple’s itinerary only covered a visit to Abuja and Lagos. One angry State Governor was Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who pointedly accused the Federal Government of deliberately keeping Prince Charles away from the Niger Delta region. He spoke during a courtesy call by an international preacher, Evangelist Daniel Kolenda who visited him in Government House, Port Harcourt. Governor Wike said, ‘the Prince of Wales came to Nigeria and they took him to Abuja and Lagos. They didn’t want him to see the suffering people of Niger Delta. It is our money and resources that they used to develop Lagos and Abuja. Yet, they did not want the Prince of Wales to see how they have neglected the area that produces the wealth of the nation.’
One can understand the ire of Governor Wike when his State was overlooked by those who drew up the itinerary of the Prince of Wales visit. I would like assume that most Governors would have wanted to receive the royal couple in their capitals and bask in the attendant publicity. But I ask, is that any reason for Governor Wike to voice his frustrations laced with such abusive barbs? Definitely there seemed to have been some sloppiness in the arrangements of the visit.
I fail to see any reason why Prince Charles, who is known to be a strong advocate of cleaning the environment, visit Nigeria and not to be taken around the Niger Delta to view some of the worst examples of man-made environmental degradation. I guess, another prime area of concern would have been the Lake Chad whose receding waters due to climatic changes have caused terrible economic hardship to millions that were sustained by it. Of course, the activities of Boko Haram insurgents in the Lake Chad surroundings would make it a no-go area these days.
The Prince visited Abuja, the capital city, and Lagos which is both the commercial centre as well as home to most military instalments. On a second thought, one can understand why there could have been considerable sloppiness in the arrangements. One obvious fact could be that the Prince came at a bad time when most of the political leadership was so much engrossed in the conduct of party primaries and their worrisome aftermath. Probably the issues of survival in office took some precedence over whatever.
It was not only the sloppy arrangements that caught attention of readers. Even the various issues raised at the parley between the Royal Fathers and the Prince did not quite go down well in certain quarters. The issue of funds looted from Nigeria and stacked in British banks was hardly raised. A reader, Isah Mukhtar, wrote from Shagari Low Cost Yola, and asked:
‘Why didn’t the royal fathers help ease the frustration of President Buhari, by re-echoing the return of our looted assets of over “$5b in UK alone by only 55 Nigerians” if I heard Lai Muhammed correctly, so that we cease to be the “poverty capital” of the world as audaciously put by Theresa May. How ironic! You keep looted sweet funds and turn round mocking the victims for being in penury….
Gambo, this topic is worth a full-page appeal by you and your colleagues in line with “what you cannot help with your hands, then say it or at least detest it”. You have the ability, pen and space in a most circulated paper……’
Another aspect that aroused the interest of readers were the omissions in the number of royal members of the royal family that visited the country over the years. A clergyman wrote from Jos:
‘This is an old Catholic priest, an Irish missionary, who spent long years in Borno and Yobe States and is now in Jos. I found your article on British royal visits to Borno (Daily Trust, Nov 13 ) very good. Congratulations on a well-researched article.
Another British royal visit was that of Prince Michael of Kent, first cousin of the Queen, about the year 1970. He was brought to the Catholic mission in Pulka (Gwoza LG), by Meta Monguno (Shettima Ali’s wife) — as far as I can remember.
Borno does indeed attract important visitors. The visit of King Juan Carlos of Spain to Maiduguri in 1986 is another example. The links between Borno/Kanem and the Ottoman Empire in Tripoli; and through Songhai and Marrakech, with Cordoba in Spain, are all well documented. I have written of the latter in the Annals of Borno 19/20, in 2003.
Shi ke nan, and thanks for your article. As for me, I am Irish — and so a staunch Republican!
With happy memories of those days.’
There were more omissions which readers took pains to point out. Steve Egbo wrote from NTA: ‘You forgot one of the royal visits considered to be the most important. In November 2003, Queen Elizabeth visited Nigeria, the first since independence. In fact, both the Queen and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, were in Nigeria at the same time. It was a very rare occurrence. Both were here for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting held in Abuja.’
Another reader pointed out to me that Princess Alexandra visit during the 1960 Independence ceremony was not, as I alluded in my earlier piece, confined to the Southern parts of country alone. Her visit was actually well-spread across the country. In fact, the last colonial Governor-General, Sir James Robertson who accompanied the Princess in all the visits wrote about it in his memoir, Transition in Africa. He wrote: ‘HRH set out on a tour round the regions. I attended her on her visit to the University College at Ibadan where she received a wonderful welcome from the hundreds of young Nigerian students, and a day or two later I flew to Port Harcourt where she visited the ports installations and performed a number of other engagements. Her tour ended with a rapid three-day visit to the North, ending in Kano, where I bade her farewell on her return journey to London.’
The same reader was also a witness to Princess Alexandra’s visit to Sokoto. He told me that the Princess was treated to a grand durbar where she was reported to have returned the Flag of Sultan Attahiru which was taken away by Lord Lugard when his forces overran Sokoto in March 1903.The return of the flag was a grand gesture that was widely appreciated in the Sultanate.
As for the 1989 visit of the Duke of Edinburgh to Borno State I had mentioned that a special airstrip was constructed at Wachakal village for the Duke’s plane to land. A friend who grew up in Nguru, a short distance from the village, phoned to tell me that the airstrip had been in existence right from the first or second World War. It was then used probably as a stopover for military planes from Kano airport, that was heavily utilised by the allied forces, linking up with bases in North Africa. What the Borno State Government did was merely to spruce it up and make it ready for the Duke’s visit.