Wednesday 12 October, 2016
Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora spoke to Nigeria Canadians in Toronto through a town hall meeting organized by the Nigeria Canadian Association (NCA) on September 8th, 2016. The acting Nigeria high commissioner was there too with his entourage.
Abike Dabiri as you may know was a radio host at Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) and because of this, she was a familiar face when she arrived in a very simple dress typical of North American leaders. Canada being the most secure country in the world, you can walk around with free mind. Most attendees of the town hall meeting were expecting to see Lai Mohammed, the minister of Information and culture at the event but was instead represented by Abike Dabiri.
We would guess that either because of the timing of the town hall meeting or the lack of interest in Nigerian affairs , most Nigerians in Toronto could not attend the event thus leading to lots of empty seats at the venue. Kudos to the NCA president, Chidi Nwanwanwu for sticking through thick and thin to organize the event.
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Just before the opening speech started, members of the Indigenous people of Biafra IPOB stormed the venue with their placards moving to and across the high table where the dignitaries were sitting. The acting Nigeria High commissioner sitting next to Abike Dabiri developed a cold feet. You could see him speak to one of his aids to call for security. You would also expect that Abike will fall off her chair but she summoned enough courage to address the Biafrans in the most pacifying voice that made the difference the rest of the evening.
“Gentlemen, please sit down. Put your placard away, I understand how you feel, I promise you we will discuss all issues in detail tonight” She said.
The IPOB members that attended were not expecting any accommodating statement from a Nigerian paid government official given ongoing Biafran killings in the South East Nigeria and the position of the Nigerian government on Biafra issues and the quest for Biafra referendum. From the look on their faces (IPOB), you could feel that they were prepared to disrupt the event of the evening but alas, Abike’s manner of approach melted their intentions and they accepted to take their seats. Here is snap shot of the look on their faces:
Faces of IPOB members
You could also see that the Acting high commissioner was not comfortable with the new developments. Abike Dabiri may have applied her experience dealing with public at Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). News casters can deliver the most agonizing news in very calm and appealing manner. She took control of the night, ensured that the Biafrans put away their placards so that it doesn’t appear on the camera.
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The first drama of the night started when the moderator of the town hall presented the order of events for the night which included that Abike will only take questions that were submitted in advance of the town hall and also that he will read the questions on behalf of the submitters to ensure that the questions are managed effectively.
Abike Dabiri Taking Questions from the Biafrans in Toronto
People have already drawn from history that most moderators of political events manipulate the questions in favor of the politicians. As a result, Biafrans disagreed with this approach and insisted that they also have questions that the Nigerian government must answer and that Abike must allow them to table their questions in their own words. This took another 5 minutes of shouting and disagreements between people from different political divides. But again, Abike Dabiri took control of the town hall confirming that the Biafrans or anyone that has already sent their questions can ask their questions in their own words directly to her. She also promised that she will take questions directly from the attendees. This is another surprising anger management strategy and leadership skill that Abike Dabiri employed knowing how volatile and tensed the environment can become.
While the situation has calmed down, she began her prepared speech:
As expected, the Special assistant delivered a good speech praising and eulogizing the president Buhari administration on, according to her, “the good plan he has for Nigeria”. She called on Nigerians in Diaspora to support the Buhari administration because “He is the only president that will not steal your money”.
She added that “The people in the Diaspora can help in improving the economy and we know how important you are to the nation. This is the time to bring the dollars home through the legal way ofcourse”.
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She also noted that “Just in 2015, Nigerians in the Diaspora sent home $21 billion and this were just the ones that were accounted for formally, so you can see how important you are to the country.
The time to ask questions has come and you could feel in the hall the Yorubas and Hausas in the town hall were all speaking with one voice. They made every attempt to pretend that everything was going well in Nigeria and in the process attempt to shout down anyone that attempts to ask questions criticizing the government of Buhari. But the Biafrans in the meeting didn’t give them a free hand. They had already prepared what they called Questions for Buhari.
Aside from those asking “job/contract seeking questions”, the only direct questions that shook the town hall were from the Biafrans. What prevailed that night was that some Biafrans submitted high level questions but when they were called to ask the question, the updated their questions with strong Preambles and facts that made Abike Dabiri and the dignitaries very uncomfortable. You could hear the shouts of” Ask your question please” from the members of the other political divide”.
Source: Biafra News Spot