I am Heading to Rwanda

Did I hear you ask why I am heading to Rwanda? Why will you ask such a question? After all, many of you seem to be talking about and pointing at Rwanda and its President in the last few years. Even our State governors just went there for something. So why shouldn’t I also go? There must be something good there. Or you think I don’t deserve or would not like a good thing? Because I am not a governor?

The news was all over the place early this week that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme UNDP, convened a three-day Executive Leadership Retreat for first and second term Nigerian Governors in Kigali, Rwanda from 24th to 26th August, under the invitation of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. According to the NGF, “the retreat was dedicated to fostering dialogue on re-imagining leadership and leveraging innovative technology, drawing inspiration from Rwanda’s transformative journey”. Hmmmm! Big grammar.

The main theme itself echoed the grammar – ‘Reimagining leadership in a fast-changing world’, and the distinguished participants, represented 19 Nigerian States, and they engaged in sessions that explored Rwanda’s successful investment destination transformation in digital technology, urban planning and socio-economic transformation, capping off with a candid private dialogue with President Kagame.

There is no doubt that Nigeria faces a complex web of interconnected development challenges stemming from a huge trust deficit, an economy highly dependent on oil exports, a job crisis and growing youth population, rising insecurity and separatist agitations, and a growing number of multi-dimensionally poor.

According to Asishana Okauru, Director General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat: “As a non-partisan organization and policy arm, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum organized this gathering with the objective of fostering transformative leadership and facilitating honest, frank and open dialogue to shape the discourse on these cross-cutting themes.”

From his end, Mohamed Yahya, UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria said that, in recognition of the complexities and aligned to UNDP’s mandate as the lead UN agency on development, the retreat “offers an opportunity to reimagine Nigeria’s leadership to achieve transformation and nationwide sustainable development”.

The retreat is said to have focused on learning through dialogue – with sessions on rethinking leadership, leading systems, leading self and leading to deliver, as well as learning through observation – with an interactive programme exploring Rwanda’s emergence as an investment destination through visits and exchanges with innovation hub Norrsken House, the Rwanda Development Board and the Mayor of the City of Kigali.

Seyi Makinde, Governor of Oyo State and Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum said it was an engaging retreat. “I am glad a significant number of governors are here to be part of it so that, together, we can use the knowledge acquired. Our discussions have equipped us with adaptive leadership strategies and identifying pathways to effective governance and nationwide sustainable development.”

His Abia State counterpart, Alex Otti, said it was a privilege to be hosted to a remarkable dinner by President Kagame, “where we had the opportunity to engage with him. He graciously shared key leadership insights with us and patiently answered other pressing questions. It was an unforgettable experience that further enriched our understanding of effective leadership.

Also speaking, Matthias Z. Naab, Director of the UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa, in his opening remarks said that, “Adaptability in leadership has never been so urgent, globally and in Africa. Adaptive leaders possess the unique ability to not only acknowledge the challenges that come their way, but to also harness them as opportunities for growth and innovation.”

There were many issues and questions that were raised by commentators on mainstream social media on why the Governors had to go to Rwanda for a retreat which could have been held here in Nigeria. One analyst on X, (formerly Twitter) said it was an opportunity for the governors to tell “other

African countries that Nigeria has failed”, since they could not find any suitable place to host meeting in their country but to go outside. But this was seen as a simplistic view, because another analyst felt it was a good step to a right direction for the governors to have a good insight from Paul Kagame and his leadership style and rich ideas that would surely have enlightened the governors and help transform Nigeria.

Paul Kagame is not a stranger to Nigeria and he has had several opportunities to speak while he visited here. There is also no doubt that Rwanda has become a Mecca of some sort since he became President and he seemed to have revamped his country in many ways, hence the flocking to Rwanda, even for tourism, conferences and retreats.

But like his other African counterparts, he has been heading that country for many years and has also become a permanent leader for whom the constitution was changed to give him extra terms as President. On the political level, is that the style we ought to learn from? Many Africans find him charismatic because we think he brought his country out of the brink of destruction and has fostered unity. That is what we see on the face level.

We hope that our governors that went to Kigali have taken the positive side from Rwanda’s economic development and will learn from it as they strive to also make their states better for their citizens. It is also hoped that the visit was not just the usual jamboree and the participating governors or their representatives will be able to replicate the good things from Rwanda in their domain.

I still need to go to Rwanda though. Me too – I want to learn like the governors. I wonder if UNDP will sponsor my trip. I also need someone to go with me. So, contact me – you may be the lucky one to come along.

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