In their first seven months in office, Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu and his Vice, Sen. Kashim Shettima, visited 16 countries, collectively spending 91 days in foreign engagements, Sunday PUNCH observed.
Checks revealed that Tinubu had so far visited Paris, France (twice); London, the United Kingdom; Bissau, Guinea-Bissau (twice); Nairobi, Kenya; Porto Norvo, Benin Republic; New Delhi, India; Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the United Arab Emirates; New York, the United States of America, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Berlin, German, spending 55 days.
Meanwhile, Shettima represented him in Italy, Russia, South Africa, Cuba, China and the US, logging 36 days abroad in 2023.
On June 20, 2023, three weeks after assuming office, Tinubu opened his foreign schedule in the city he last visited as President-elect, Paris, the French capital.
During his four-day stay, the Nigerian leader participated in the Paris Summit for the New Global Financial Pact, to “review and sign a New Global Financial Pact that places vulnerable countries on the priority list for support and investment, following the devastating impact of climate change, energy crisis, and after effect of the COVID-19 pandemic,” a statement signed by then-Special Adviser, Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Dele Alake, read.
On Saturday, June 24, Tinubu departed Paris for London, the United Kingdom, for private talks with his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, spending three days.
From July eight to 10, he was in Guinea-Bissau to attend the 63rd Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States, where he emerged as chairman of the regional bloc.
In his capacity as Chairman of the ECOWAS authority, Tinubu was in Nairobi, Kenya, from July 15 – 17 for the fifth Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union, the Regional Economic Communities, the Regional Mechanisms, and the African Union Member States.
Tinubu began his foreign ceremonial engagements in the neighbouring Republic of Benin on August 1, 2023, when he honoured an invitation from his counterpart, Patrice Talon, to attend the country’s 63rd independence anniversary.
Afterward, he remained in Nigeria for over a month to organise his cabinet of 48 ministers nominated to the Federal Executive Council.
On September 5, he resumed foreign travels in New Delhi, India, where he attended the G-20 Leaders’ Summit held from September 10 to 11, at the request of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Upon leaving India, where he spent a week, the President made a “technical stopover” in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital, where he met UAE Leader, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The meeting was a “follow-up discussion to address specific, salient issues within the bilateral relationship after conversations held during a recent visit by the UAE Ambassador to the President at the State House in Abuja,” the Presidency explained.
Later that month, the President spent nine days with world leaders in New York, USA, at the 78th United Nations General Assembly, which began on September 19, his first UNGA as President.
Afterward, he proceeded to Paris, France, where he remained for five days, arriving in Abuja on September 29 ahead of Nigeria’s 63rd Independence Day anniversary on October 1.
The President did not leave the country in October until November 9, 2023, when he arrived in Saudi Arabia to attend the Saudi-Africa Summit in Riyadh the next day.
He departed Saudi Arabia on November 16 for his second ceremonial function, the 50th independence anniversary of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.
On November 18, he embarked on his third trip to Europe, where he attended the G20 Compact with Africa Conference hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. The conference was held on November 20 after which Tinubu returned to Abuja six days later.
A week after returning from Germany, he departed for Dubai, the UAE, to attend the COP28 Climate Summit and returned on December 5.
Meanwhile, Shettima was in Rome, Italy, from July 23 to July 26 to represent Tinubu at the first Stocktaking Moment Summit themed ‘Transforming food systems for people, planet and prosperity’.
From Rome, the VP proceeded to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Russia-Africa Summit held from July 26 – 29. He also participated in bilateral meetings with representatives of relevant Russian senior government officials and business leaders to discuss relations between Russia and Nigeria.
On August 21, Shettima arrived in South Africa to represent President Tinubu at the 15th BRICS Summit of Heads of State and Government in Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, scheduled from August 22 to 24
He was also in Havana, the Cuban capital, from September 11 to18 for the G77+China Leaders’ Summit.
Shettima spent his longest streak of 20 days outside the country from October 15 to November 3, when he represented Tinubu at the 3rd Belt and Road Initiative Forum in Beijing, China, held from October 16 to 18.
On October 22, he arrived in the US to participate in the AfDB World Food Prize-facilitated Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue, which commenced two days later in Iowa.
Speaking with our correspondent on the development, the Executive Director of the Abuja-based Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani, said, though foreign trips are part of governance, leaders must only pursue engagements that fetch Nigerians the highest returns.
He said, “I think it is essential that the public officials understand that the country does not have the resources to embark on travels without significant economic value to the nation.“While we cannot ask public officers to stop travelling altogether, they should also minimise careless and reckless expenses when embarking on some of these trips.”
The Executive Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, told Sunday PUNCH that such engagements are necessary to cement Nigeria’s place in the comity of nations.
He said, “Politicians who just got hold of the reins of governance would want to establish their credibility among the comity of nations, expose their agenda and get endorsements from those that matter in international politics.
“I think they (Tinubu and Shettima) are trying to lay a solid foundation for international relations in tandem with their foreign policies. So that, maybe, their administration will be able to right the wrongs of the past.
“I believe that they needed to do some of these travellings, especially that of the G-20 in India and the BRICS summit in South Africa.”
Meanwhile, the Presidency said Nigerians should expect the benefits of these trips as 2024 begins.
The Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Mr Bayo Onanuga, told The PUNCH that the foreign engagements were the new administration’s lifeline to sell Nigeria’s vision to the rest of the world.
Onanuga said, “These trips are very necessary. The new administration has to sell Nigeria and the President has done very well serving as the marketer or the salesman in chief of the country. He is selling the country as the best destination for investments.
“Those who say those trips are unnecessary need to check what benefits were brought back. For instance, in Dubai, agreements were signed on Siemens’ involvement in Nigeria’s power industry.
“In this new year, 2024, we will start to see the fruits, the realisation of all those engagements and promises that came during the foreign trips. That is what we’re going to reap in this year 2024.