Convincing hard-nosed French businessmen to bring their Euros to invest in Nigeria was serious business, and all government officials and top businessmen who spoke at the Nigeria International Partnership Forum in Paris last Wednesday approached the task with the seriousness it deserved. Yet, there were some light moments as well.
National Security Adviser General Babagana Monguno ended his review of Nigeria’s security environment by saying the situation reminds some people of Matthew 24: 7-8, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places.” Monguno however said people who think of these verses tend to forget the one which says “…but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.” It earned him a thunderous ovation and one participant shouted, “Pastor Monguno!”
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva, who spoke soon after President Buhari delivered his address and left, said when he took over the mic that he had nothing more to say because his minister had just spoken. Nigerians laughed heartily at that but the Frenchmen probably missed the joke, not knowing that Buhari is the Minister of Petroleum.
AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Adeoye, passionately advocating for a Pan African Force to address continental disputes, listed some strong African nations that he said should contribute troops to the force. Then he warily said, “I know it sounds strange to recommend Algeria and Morocco in one force,” a reference to the two countries’ standing on opposite sides of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic dispute.
Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said he was not surprised by the French’s welcoming attitude to Nigerians in Paris because President Emmanuel Macron himself is a Nigeriaphile, having done a year’s internship stint in Nigeria. When Macron visited Nigeria, Onyeama said he accompanied him to visit Fela’s shrine in Lagos, and during the trip, the French President spoke very fondly of his experiences in Nigeria.
During the question and answer session, a French-speaking woman of the African Diaspora struggled to put a question through to Information Minister Lai Mohammed. She apologised for her unsteady English. Alhaji Lai suddenly cut in with a flurry of fluent French, which drew wild cheers from the audience.
Minister of State for Transportation Gbemi Saraki, who cuts the image of well-travelled international folk, opened her address by saying she has three fears in this world. “The first is flying. The second is flying. The third is flying!” Her phobia was worsened, she said, when the pilot aborted the landing as her plane came in to land.
Billionaire Chairman of BUA group Abdulsamad Rabi’u, who is President of the France-Nigeria Business Council, had just done a good job outlining investment opportunities in Nigeria when a woman entrepreneur stood up and said she was having difficulty finding Nigerian partners for her wine business. Rabi’u tried to direct her to the Nigeria Investment Promotion Council, which is one-stop shop for all investment issues. The woman wondered if he could partner in her business. The son of the late Khalifan Tijjaniya in Nigeria smiled with embarrassment at the prospect of investing in wine, saying NIPC could find partners for all prospective investors.