It may surprise many that the late Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, visited Nigeria more times than his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, who at some point, between 1960 and 1963 before Nigeria became a republic, was officially known as the Queen of Nigeria.
The Queen has visited Nigeria twice – 28th January to 16th February 1956 and 3rd to 6th December 2003, the latter time to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2003 in Abuja. Her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh came with her both times. During the Abuja CHOGM, they were hosted then to several other events by then Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who officially welcomed the royal couple at the Abuja Airport.
It was during this last visit that he was famously quoted to have told Obasanjo, who was dressed in flowing Agbada for their reception that, “You look like you’re ready for bed”, referring to the fact that the traditional attire looked like night wear.
Their 2003 two-day state visit marked the Queen’s first return to Nigeria since 1956, although Prince Philip had visited Nigeria in-between, in 1961 and 1989 without the Queen and he had several reasons to be here because of several philanthropic projects he was involved in, many of which were related to his Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.
During the first visit in 1956, Queen Elizabeth then was only four years into her reign, and Nigeria, then Britain’s most populous remaining colony, was still four years away from independence which came in 1960.
That first visit by both Queen and Duke lasted 20 days. The Duke, ever the adventurous one, was reported to have gone surfing on the Lagos Lagoon, while the young queen went about more ‘serious’ duties.
However, with Lagos no longer Nigeria’s capital, activities in Abuja and environs took up most of the time during 2003 and with security concerns now a serious issue, and the Queen’s non-CHOGM event only included a walk through a mock village constructed by the BBC.
The village at Karu, 32 kilometers east of Abuja, was the set of a BBC radio soap opera, with its plot set in a Nigerian market. Local traders had been allowed to set up stalls for the occasion, but were kept 100 meters back from the visiting dignitaries. Only the radio actors were allowed to meet the then 72-year-old British monarch. This was a far cry from the 1956 visit when the Queen Prince Philip rode in open Land Rover and waved to crowd of school children at rallies in places like Lagos and the racecourse in Ibadan.
Prince Philip on his own still flew down south though, this time to visit health and environment projects in Lagos, especially those connected with his award programme in which more than a million young people around the world are currently participating.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a global framework for non-formal education and learning, which challenges young people to dream big, celebrate their achievements and make a difference in their world. Through developing transferable skills, increasing their fitness levels, cultivating a sense of adventure and volunteering in their community, the Award helps young people to find their purpose, passion and place in the world.
It operates in more than 130 countries and territories, helping to inspire millions of young people. And although the Award’s framework remains the same wherever it is delivered, no two Awards are the same. Instead, each young person designs and creates their own bespoke programme, unique to them. There are currently more than a million young people doing their Award around the world, via hundreds of thousands of youth-focused partners and operators, including schools, youth organisations, examination boards and youth offender institutions.
Founded more than 60 years ago, the Award is available to all 14 to 24-year olds and equips young people with the skills they need for life, regardless of their background, culture, physical ability or interests. On an individual level, this can make a transformational difference to a young person’s life; on a collective basis, it has the power to bring significant change to the wider society.
The International Award for Young People Nigeria, affiliated with The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, delivers a global framework for non-formal education and learning which challenges young people to dream big, celebrate their achievements and make a difference in their world.
Through developing transferable skills, increasing their fitness levels, cultivating a sense of adventure and volunteering in their community, the Award helps young people to find their purpose, passion and place in the world.
The programme oversees the implementation of this global framework in various organisations (known as Award Centres), including resourced and under-resourced schools, institutions of higher education, community-based groups, residential youth care facilities, faith-based organisations, correctional centres and any organisation that works directly with young people.
The long term ambition is that every young person in Nigeria will have the opportunity to participate in the Award, irrespective of their background, challenges or circumstances.
The Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, representing the Duke, visited Nigeria in February 2020 to meet young people taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh International Award. As Chairman of the International Award Board of Trustees, Prince Edward saw first-hand how award participants and volunteers have benefited from developing their life and leadership skills, through opportunities offered by the Award programme.
While in Nigeria, the Earl paid a visit to the Children’s International School in Lagos where he met current Award participants and discussed their experiences completing the scheme. Since its reintroduction in Nigeria in 2014, over 27,000 young people have participated – with more than 11,000 currently involved.
Although he seemed far away, the Duke of Edinburgh’s influence has been felt by several of our young people in Nigeria, through the International Award Programme. There is no doubt that even though he’s gone, the programme will continue to be of benefit to our youths who key into the vision set out for them.
IMAGE CREDIT: intaward.org.ng, BBC