President Goodluck Jonathan departed Abuja for Brussels today after the Federal Executive Council meeting, to deliver a speech at a Customs conference in Belgium.
Mr. Jonathan's trip is basically a jamboree organized by the Director of Customs, who reportedly bribed Jonathan's wife and his Chief of Staff, Mike Oghiadome, to ensure the President’s appearance at the event.
Last week, Mr. Jonathan was severely criticized by civil society activists and opposition groups, for leading a vast delegation of 116 officials and hangers-on to the Rio+20 conference in Brazil.
During his third presidential media chat last Sunday, Mr. Jonathan tried to rebut the criticisms, claiming that the widespread attacks in two States in which militants killed over 70 people was not enough reason to prevent him from that trip.
Sources told Saharareporters that this week’s Belgium jamboree will cost Nigeria its prime spot at the Economic Commission for West Africa (ECOWAS) table in Yamassoukro, Cote d’Ivoire. Mr. Jonathan was expected to be there to represent Nigeria to intervene in the political instability in Mali, where rebels have carved out a den for themselves in the north, and Guinea Bissau, where military bandits upstaged civilian power.
Nigeria, which has lost a lot of political respect in Africa, is leading a 9-nation committee to resolve the conflicts in those two countries. Instead, Mr. Jonathan opted to go to Brussels with no clear agenda. His large delegation includes Senators, governors, and sundry officials.
The Nigerian Customs Service is footing the bill of several attendees, including paying the first lady special estacodes for the nights she will be in Brussels.
Mrs. Jonathan will leave Brussels for the United States with 36 aides to attend to another jamboree: the First Lady's “Youth Infusion” Summit in Annapolis, Maryland.
The Summit is organized by a group in Maryland that is apparently outside the purview of UNESCO, although it is supported by a non-governmental organization called the UNESCO Center for Peace. The group’s website shows that only African first ladies from Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, Nigeria, Benin, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Sierra Leone have been invited.
Curiously, the organizers website -firstladysummit.org was registered and created only six months ago, in January 2012, and has largely pixelated photos of advisors that clearly have nothing to do with UNESCO.