It was time to say goodbye. My mission in Morocco was complete, and although we always have one reason or the other to complain about Nigeria, I am one person who always eagerly looks forward to returning home after every foreign trip. But as I gave one final hug to Mr. Driss Ouahi of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Morocco, tears uncontrollably rolled down my cheeks.
This was a very warm personality who has denied himself every comfort to make sure my stay in his country was as productive and rewarding as possible. In general, the people of Morocco are very accommodating and hospitable. And as indicated in this column last week, it was as if the phrase “generosity of spirit” was coined to describe the warmth of hospitality of the people of that country. But even at that, the attitude of three illustrious Moroccans I had the privilege of meeting was extraordinarily something else.
First is the Moroccan envoy to Nigeria, Ambassador Moha Ouali Tagma., a person that personifies integrity and decency at their best. Then his deputy, Mr. Hussein Oustitane, and, third, Mr. Driss Ouahi, my host in Morocco during my two trips to the country. There are of course a host of other Moroccans whose kindness I enjoyed during the course of these trips, and that includes the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Nasser Bourita, whose infectious humility could be felt whenever there were foreign guests to entertain.
Since his ascension to the throne in 1999, the country’s ruler, King Mohammed VI, has made placing Morocco atop the global map a major priority. It is a policy that has seen him bringing the world to Morocco and taking the country to the outside world, making it a topmost tourism and international conferences destination of choice.
In just a space of two days, I attended two major conferences, the first of which, as reported last week, was the convergence of the 23 African countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean. That event that was aimed at boosting the socio-economic and security wellbeing of these countries successfully took place in Rabat, the nation’s capital. It was followed by the Tangier Dialogue that successfully took place in the coastal city of Tangier, between June 9 and 12, instant.
Tangier, a Moroccan city on the Strait of Gibraltar, has been a strategic gateway between Africa and Europe since the Phoenician times. From this city, Europe or, specifically, Spain, is less than 30 minutes away, across the Mediterranean Sea. Its whitewashed hillside medina is home to the Dar el Makhzen, a palace of the sultans, which is now a museum of Moroccan artifacts. It is one of the most amazing cities I have ever been to, and which I look forward to visiting again and again.
It was in this city of beauty that I had to say goodbye to Mr. Ouahi, my ever-generous host. My flight back to Nigeria was about seven hours away. He expressed the wish to escort me on the three hour trip by road to Casablanca, an offer I rejected, since there were many other guests to attend to. But trust Mr. Ouahi. He arranged a luxurious VIP trip for me and Mrs. Magdalene Ukuedojor, a senior editorial staff of the News Agency of Nigeria. Courtesy of the Moroccan Embassy in Nigeria, both of us represented the Nigerian press in the two major events.
There are a lot Nigeria could learn from Morocco, a country that has selflessly not limited its security concerns to within its borders, but is doing a lot towards a more peaceful and prosperous world. In just one month, starting with the Ministerial Meeting of the Global Coalition Against ISIS, Morocco hosted three major events that had to do with the socio-economic wellbeing of the global community. And recognition for its unprecedented efforts is coming in torrents.
With President Muhammadu Buhari probably starting to write his handover note, the incoming President of Nigeria will do well to partner Morocco in deepening global peace through a robust economic and social activism.
One of Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Rabi’u Kwankwaso and Peter Obi is going to be President of Nigeria next year. Whoever it might be, he does not have to look far for a solution to the multifarious problems afflicting Africa’s most populous nation.
How is it possible that the entire road stretch between Tangier and Marrakech, a distance of more than 500 kilometers, does not have a single pothole, and you will not see a single broken-down or accident vehicle on the highway? And how possible is it also that, in this entire stretch, you can choose to park in the bush and take a rest, without any criminal feasting on you?
There is no doubt our security and intelligence services in Nigeria are trying their best. But isn’t there a thing or two to learn from this fellow African country that has resolved problems still looking insurmountable here? Surely, the whole issue is about leadership and facing the reality of our time.
Unlike us whose form of democracy is fashioned after some developed countries, Morocco’s democracy is in tune with its culture, tradition and other realities suiting its existence. Though it is essentially a monarchy in nature, leader after leader in that country always makes sure advancement of the society and its people is at the front burner in his governance agenda.
Is it because Morocco’s population is less than a quarter of that of Nigeria that it has been able to provide decent and affordable housing for all of its citizens? But there are countries with a fraction of Morocco’s population that have failed to provide the same for its citizens, just as there are a few other countries, like China, whose population is far more than Nigeria’s, that have also been able to attain the same feat.
In the overall analysis, therefore, vision is key. It is what makes the difference. Our new set of leaders in Nigeria must be focused and fully intent on changing our story for the better.
We should be the giants of Africa not only in name, but also in substance. I mean, a Nigerian living in Nigeria should be made to feel proud doing so, with our leaders genuinely doing all they could to show the way.
Can we remodel our democracy to make that beautiful system of government more suitable and beneficial to our peculiar needs as a nation? Surely that is a constitutional matter that could be tedious and long in coming. But it is worth the wait. And even in constitutional matters there are what can be called low-hanging fruits.
One of the many solutions to our problems is the matter of devolution of power. Interestingly, that is one of the major changes promised by almost all the four leading candidates for the presidency, as one solution that could FastTrack development and give democracy more meaning for our people.
But of course beyond mere semantics is the issue of realism. Humans drive development, and in the challenging world we live in, that requires intense and consistent focus. That, of course, translates to a leader with these and more qualities. And this is all the more reason why Nigerians cannot afford to make any mistake as we elect the person that will lead us to the promised land.
But from what I saw in Morocco, it takes more than just a leader to develop any society to an enviable stage. Citizens have almost as much role to play. There is no way, for example, one can expect any magical security turnaround in a situation where, like the case of Nigeria, many citizens will rather cooperate with enemies of the nation at the expense of our security personnel.
Today in our country, you will see pictures being shared on the social media, of terrorists moving from one village to the other without anyone reporting it. But the same villagers will call these terrorists and pass to them information about movement of our troops, thereby exposing our national forces to serious danger. Instead of serving as informants to those staking their precious lives to defend and protect us, many of us are rather helping the enemies with critical information.
As earlier mentioned, you could hardly see an accident or a broken down vehicle on Moroccan highways. How did they come about this? There is one word that is responsible, and it is called patience. Drivers in that country are always patient with other motorists and even pedestrians.
Throughout my two trips to that country, I did not hear of vehicle horn being blared. Not even once. All drivers there take driving as a matter of life and death and accord it all the seriousness it deserves. Getting drunk to drive? Try it in Morocco. The long arm of the law is readily there to make sure you do not get the chance to ever do so again.