It’s been almost a week since the French President, Emmanuel Macron made a historic two-day official visit to Nigeria. Macron is quite the miracle worker, during his brief stay, he had a bilateral meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on issues of insecurity, terrorism and the economy, commissioned the Alliance Francaise office, visited the Afrika Shrine in Lagos, held an interactive session with entrepreneurs in Lagos and essentially charmed Nigeria.
Although the visit may have come and gone, it is important to highlight the benefits of the 40-year old leader’s visit to the country.
Beginning with his discussion on security challenges with Buhari, where he pledged (on behalf of his country) to increase the cooperation between Nigeria and France in tackling security challenges brought about by the activities of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists in Nigeria, and his challenge to Buhari to work towards providing an enabling economic and political environment to help youth to achieve their dreams. While on the surface this might look altruistic, France does have a very selfish reason to wade into the fight; Cameroon, Nigeria’s neighbour has also been heavily hit by Boko Haram and joining Nigeria’s battle to rout the terrorist will directly affect Cameroon’s fortunes, and by extension the Bank of Paris.
Macron’s pledge on this aspect of security is indeed beneficial considering the fact that despite the stand of the Nigerian government that the Boko Haram terrorists have been ‘technically defeated,’ a situation which is not totally true. Nigeria needs all the assistance available, in the form of capacity building, military hardware and intelligence sharing on the location and operations of these terrorists. These would go a long way in achieving total success against the terrorists.
In my opinion, however, the high point of the Abuja meeting was when he stressed on the importance of leaders in Africa gaining an understanding of why young people were disposed to joining terrorist groups. If followed, it indeed opens a vista of solutions towards tackling terrorism and other security challenges in the country and the continent at large.
In the second leg of the visit, where he was hosted to a concert at the New Afrika Shrine, Lagos founded by Nigerian music legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, President Macron was exposed to a rich display of the country’s talented acts in Art, Music, filmmaking and fashion.
Having served previously at the French Embassy in Lagos, he must have had a great time being entertained by Femi Kuti, son of the late Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who largely used his songs as a tool to fight human right abuses, political injustices, oppression and misrule, that he had to request a return to the shrine on his visit as President of the world’s fifth largest economy.
As I watched from my seat that night, I heard a delighted Macron describe the shrine as an iconic hub, as he explained his return to once more appreciate the Nigerian culture. The greatest takeaway from this aspect of the event would be the boost given to the tourism potential of the city, beyond putting the shrine on the world map.
“First, because I wanted to find a good occasion to come back there. I know the place and I have some memories. I think that is such an iconic place for a lot of African people and African culture. Fela, Femi, Seun Kuti are obviously very famous in France and Europe. I mean they are big successes, but the Shrine is a cultural hub, an iconic hub.
“It is very important for me, first on a personal level. That is why I want to say with a lot of humility that I recognise the importance of this place. I recognise the place of culture in this current environment.”
On the other hand, we saw that the roads leading to the shrine were rehabilitated overnight by the Lagos State government, and despite the fact that this smacks of sheer hypocrisy on the part of the Akinwunmi Ambode -led government, it indeed was beneficial to the community housing the shrine.
As expected, the commissioning of a new complex of the French cultural organisation, Alliance Francaise, will help in promoting French language and culture in Nigeria.
Macron rounded up his historic visit with an interactive session with over 2,000 budding entrepreneurs from Africa organised by the Tony Elumelu Foundation. A session that offered African entrepreneurs a platform to closely engage with him and garner ideas from his wealth of wisdom and experience. It was also an avenue for entrepreneurs to network and forge partnerships across country lines.
In each session of the French President’s visit, one prominent feature was his belief in Africa’s ability to rise to a place of pride in the global scene, especially through homegrown solutions as well as a strong belief in the potentials of the youth who have become largely inspired by his attainment to such an exalted office at a young age.
This is indeed of immense benefits as it will provide a huge encouragement for the youth to take an active part in politics and lift the country to glorious heights.