It is now a matter for the records that Nigeria, for the first time, played host to the world under the platform of the World Economic Forum for Africa. South Africa has had the single honor of doing so on several occasions now; in fact some accounts indicate that it had played host to this Forum eleven times now. First of all we congratulate the Government and people of Nigeria for a very successful outing against the background of the fear occasioned by the senseless and murderous activities of Boko Haram (western Education is sinful) a militant and terrorist Islamic group founded in the year 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf that seeks the introduction of ‘pure’ Islam in the country within the context of Sharia jurisprudence.
It was obvious that the terrorist attacks were orchestrated as the hosting of the Forum approached with a view to stopping it. After two years during which there was a lull there were suddenly two deadly bomb explosions Nyanya, a suburb of Abuja where such incidents have not been experienced before. The first intimation of the looming tragedy was when it was reported that an attempt was made by the Sect to release some of its members held in; of all places in the guard room of Department of State Security in Abuja. In point of fact some people have also raised issues regarding the morality of hosting the world when the country is facing the challenge of having to find the kidnapped girls. But besides the reputational damage withdrawing from hosting would have cost the country; as it transpired the actually going along with this hosting it is expected might fortuitously fast track the finding of the girls and commence the numbering of the days to the termination of the murderous activities of the deadly Sect. Therefore we must give glory to God that the evil intentions of the insurgents were not realized.
The hosting of the WEF took place under very difficult and trying circumstances for the country. The country was faced with the unprecedented situation whereby mysteriously over 200 school girls were abducted from their dormitory at night by the dreaded Boko Haram Sect. The mystery surrounding this development is that it is difficult to envisage how such large number of girls could be taken from their school considering the share difficulties that would be encountered in putting together the logistics that would be required. Not surprisingly there have been a number of conspiracy theories making the rounds.
The northern chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria made it a point to accuse the Governor of Bornu State, Kashim Shettima, of complicity in this matter demanding to know how come since the incident the Governor who has immediate and direct responsibility has not found it expedient to take any positive steps in attempting to contribute to the solution of the unfortunate incident and how it happened that none of the principal officers at the School had their child involved in this kidnap saga. And that this suspicion is exacerbated because this is an area dominated by Christians. This suspicion led to the request that the pictures of the girls involved should be released and that WAEC should also come forward to authenticate their bona fides as registered candidates for the examinations.
This goes to demonstrate to what extent politics has eaten into the body fabric of this country but it is reassuring that somehow good counsel prevailed and two principal members of the opposition in the persons of former President Buhari and APC leader Ahmed Tinubu separately issued published statements asking for all to come together irrespective of whatever political differences there might be to fight and find a solution to this assault against our common humanity. Buhari pointedly made the point that this was not the time to play politics but for all to join hands to find the missing girls while condemning in unmistaken terms the deadly activities of Boko Haram.
The world really rallied round Nigeria in this moment of her need. The feeling of outrage and sympathy was unprecedented and came from across the globe. Mitchell Obama used the opportunity of the US Presidential weekly national address to add her voice by expressing the views that the mass kidnap of Nigerian school girls fits neatly into a pattern of threats and intimidation facing girls around the world who are intent on pursuing their education. Malala the Afganistan teenager that was shot on the head to prematurely terminate her agitation for girl child education but miraculously survived and now a recognized international campaigner for girl child education also added her voice in condemnation and prayer for the early release of the kidnapped girls amongst many other numerous celebrities. But the fact remains that Boko Haram has shot itself on the foot through this abduction which has generated such massive rage as it will no longer be business as usual for the deadly Sect.
The WEF on Africa, by all counts, was a roaring success. There were over one thousand participants including 13 heads of governments in spite of the Boko Haram threat; a level of participation for which President Jonathan is on record as having thanked the international community for the vote of confidence and which has led to the defeat of the obvious evil intentions of Boko Haram to stop the Forum from holding. There were 48,000 articles on the Forum compared to 16,000 which were published the last time the Forum held in South Africa. A whopping amount of 68 billion dollars was pooled toward investments based on various initiatives in the country.
There was Grow Africa Initiative, initiatives related to health, agriculture, small and medium scale enterprises amongst others but particularly the ‘Safe Schools Initiative’ which was masterminded by Gordon Brown; a former British Prime Minister for which the Nigerian Business Community pledged the sum of $ 10 million which the Nigerian Government has matched with the counterpart funding of also $ 10 million with Gordon Brown promising to mobilize the international community to contribute. This particular initiative is aimed at making schools in North Eastern part of Nigeria safe for pupils to attend. As we add up the gains of the Forum we must remember the fact that Nigeria dominated the airwaves of international media during this period which is a contribution difficult to quantify in monetary terms. We hope that we would run with the various initiatives to facilitate the rapid growth and development of the Nigerian economy and further give fillip to the President’s transformation agenda.
Dr Boniface Chizea is principal consultant at BIC Consultancy Services, Lagos