Sunday 10 October 2010

Nigeria: Our Golden Jubilee celebrations in Holland

There’s a party to attend

It was for the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Nigeria’s independence in the Netherlands that I thought for once in the 20 years I have been in Europe, I would seek out a Nigerian event and attend.

The programme for the event appeared as a Facebook status message, a graphic with alternating green and white backgrounds and text as a homage to the flag of Nigeria.

It is impossible to clearly identify how the Nigerian Embassy in the Netherlands gets news of events out to Nigerians resident in Nigeria but from this notice it is fair to say no lessons have been learnt from criticisms given years before about publishing such notices.

Facebook triumphs

A five day programme of events commencing Wednesday the 6th of October 2010 was published on Monday the 4th of October 2010 on the Nigerian Embassy Facebook page and there was no indication of these events on the now much-maligned official website [1] of the embassy.

Maybe when it comes to these events, there are people in the know with the town-crier penchant for information dissemination and using the modern modes of communication and advertisement is for those of us who are to fill the halls for attendance rather than for recognition of our Nigerian affinity.

Therefore, the business forum events of Wednesday and Thursday might well have been attended by those in cahoots with others in cahoots with them who swarm the premises of the embassy which I am made to believe is no better than a raucous marketplace at the best of times.

Though on closer inspection the embassy seems to do much more on Facebook than its official website, if you are not on Facebook, you are not in the loop. It makes you wonder if social networking with its restricted access is the smarter way of information dissemination when the public web presence is the one the most visitors will encounter when searching or information about the embassy. This is begging for a new IT and publicity strategy.

Over here and over there

The Friday Muslim Juma’at service would have catered for those of that persuasion just as the Sunday service would have for the Christians; for a country with at least 10% animist following and a greater percentage of those who dabble in multi-faith allegiances for immediate safety and eternal judgement, no allowances were made for that middle ground of Nigerian heritage.

Saturday was programmed as a full day of events; a novelty football match between Nigeria and its more credible rival Ghana in Amsterdam; and then in Rijswijk a suburb of The Hague - an arts and trade exhibition, a lecture and cocktail and a gala night.

We arrived at the venue thinking we were late for a well organised event when at the entrance we were being offered wrist bands for Nigeria or for supporting the candidacy of the President for the 2011 elections – surely, even if the becoming an ambassador is a political appointment, open politicking under your watch giving partisan advantage to people is definitely not on.

We refused the wrist bands and were immediately accused of lacking patriotism, to which I retorted, our patriotism was already evident in our gracing the poorly announced event.

We were then asked to sign an attendee’s register and I could not help but noticing that there were probably over 150 people there for the event and I was just about 20th on that register.

Farts and tirades

What passed for arts and trade when we eventually cottoned on what they were would not have helped promote either tourism or trade in Nigeria; for the 1st time observer, they would have been none the wiser about what any of the statues, material or pictures meant.

In fact, there was nothing indicating what trade Nigeria might be involved in, I dare say, people who have walked the corridors of the embassy might just have recalled seeing those statues before – a nation of 150 million with 400 ethnic groups and centuries of tradition and culture could be better represented with an “Ibeji”, a Benin Bronze, a Nok culture terracotta pottery piece that I believe the Dutch will be familiar with just walking up an exotic antiques street anywhere in the Netherlands.

Die of thirst lowly ones

On arrival we each got a drink but as the day wore on and the programme was running late without any sign of the dignitaries, we could no more sate our thirst as bossy officials stepped up to bar the stewards from serving any drinks to anyone but the distinguished guests of the high table who had not yet arrived and no allowance was made to purchase drinks if needed, certain guests got desperate almost to no avail, thirty and hungry without any idea of if they will survive the night.

About an hour into the scheduling, the ambassador appeared but proceedings did not start for another 30 minutes and when they did start, no one had the courtesy to announce that the national anthems of Nigeria and The Netherlands were to be played, we were well into the first before everyone realised the need to stand up.

Scratch that speech

The compere with his suit fully buttoned up, that is all buttons made no apologies for the late start of the events and the ambassador was introduced twice with all her extraordinary and plenipotentiary titles before she came to the podium where the sounds system dared to spare us for a while – she holds a PhD in something but I suppose her welcome speech was to appeal to the common man in the language of the lowest common denominator

It is the only excuse I could give for the lack of rigour or erudition in the speech which ended in the same admonition I rebuked her for [2] when she was appointed ambassador in 2008. If the ambassador cannot find herself apparently honest, trustworthy, law-abiding Nigerians to engage with that to trot out this tripe; that is unfortunate.

Tell me about this tribal frolic

The glossy programme pamphlet had this whole event set for the venue of the Town Hall in the Hague, but this venue was in Rijswijk; as the order of the programme was dispensed for a hotchpotch of activities with dancers from Edo State coming on stage and squealing down the microphone everyone clueless of the words and intent until at the end we were told these songs were for the Oba of Benin.

I remember visiting opera houses in the Netherlands and where the performance is in another language you either have a narrator and/or sub-titles to describe what is going on – this performance could have well been in a hamlet with the women pounding the brown earth welcoming the bwana in their midst.

The cacophony continued for 30 minutes before the keynote speaker was introduced, that was we thought as the person we thought was the professor rambled on for another 10 minutes before the professor was then called to the podium.

Not the texture of a lecture

I was expecting a lecture, the man sitting in front of me had his head in his hand with a feeling of utter despair if not embarrassment, and only a comforting hand on his shoulder brought a smile to his face.

This professor of some sort of policy failed to acquit himself well, it was not a lecture but a polemic of rehashed clichés about Nigeria, I found no original thought or exercise of productive reasoning but a throw-back to vocal affirmation typical of Nigerian Pentecostal circles, dripping with religiosity and lacking in the rigour expected of a supposed senior academic – I had to ask if the speaker was really a professor.

It might well be that he is not that much of a public speaker but is much better at his day job, however, we much genuflect to people with academic titles and applaud twice more even if we have learnt nothing new from his lecture which the ambassador commended as having ideas that she can convey to the president another holder of a PhD who is begin to fail to exhibit the class, demeanour and conduct expected of those in high office with his bungling of the bomb attacks in Abuja on the 1st of October.

Breaking rumours for facts

At that point, I had had enough of this atrocious charade, though as people began to sink their teeth into the food and the expectation of jollity, every need to objectively review events to that point would have been lost.

The programme suggested a popular musician (9ice) would be in town, performing in The Hague, but no one was sure if he had even managed to get a visa to visit the Netherlands and perform.

The rumour mill was in full tilt and no one had a story that had a sense of veracity, eventually, 9ice appeared at a venue in Amsterdam where the patrons were fleeced anything from 25 Euros onwards to listen to him.

I have no clue who 9ice is, but if anything was evident from the events of yesterday, the sense of organisation is still lacking even though the jumble would end up a qualified success and one is not encouraged to waste time at any of these events if one could help it.

Suffering like a Nigerian

As I walked to Rijswijk Station, a young man, travel weary and confused asked for directions to the Nigerian event, for 2 hours he had wandered looking for this venue having first gone to the originally publicised venue in The Hague and there is every probability that there was no notice put up there to indicate the change of venue.

Poor chap! But then, how can you be Nigerian and not have to suffer the gross incompetence of fellow Nigerians? I wonder.


[1] Akin: Nigeria: One look at our Dutch website - Ewww!

[2] Frankly, Madam Ambassador, I am not impressed []

Cordially invited, my regrets []

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