On Monday, the 16th of January 2023, I was at Chatham House. That in itself, is no news. What is interesting however, is the fact that on the 10th of December 2022, I put forth a piece on The Charade that is Chatham House where I stated that “I have never understood the perennial charade politicians, ‘rulers’ and leaders from many of the countries that make up the African continent perform when they make Chatham House a prerogative”. I posited that it is time Chatham House, seeks to set up sister bases and collaborations on the African or Asian Continents, where aspiring politicians for apex country positions from the West, should come and speak as well.
In my opinion, without such multilateral balance stated above, the continued lopsided trend of aspiring contenders for the apex jobs of running African nations, rushing to old colonialists to make speeches screams contemporary slavery. So, why did I join the Charade that is Chatham House and has my visit changed my opinion above? As a scientist, social scientist and a researcher, any opportunity to have my own first-hand experience of a concept will not be lost because it allows me better understanding and more objectivity in my assessment. More like the time-tested research practice of testing a hypothesis. Hence, you see why I made my attendance at the Chatham House appearance of Nigeria’s potential President, Mr Peter Obi.
Following the proceedings, I am still of the opinion that aspiring African or Asian leaders do not need to continue making an appearance at Chatham House prior to their elections. My argument is based on the premise that unless and until the same becomes true of Western aspiring leaders appearing to speak in named Houses of African and Asian Countries, it will remain contemporary slavery. Please do not get me wrong. I am not one to `milk` the victim mentality rather I am all for balance and equilibrium in this matter. So, I will maintain my earlier stance that from evidence-based studies and even my experience on the day, show that perception and power gradients are unspoken tools of politics across borders.
Again, I will state that words are not even needed, but rather a sustained pattern of carefully planned strategic actions are all that is needed over time, to erode the thought processes of a group of people, society, or a nation state. Even on the day, I carefully observed the non-verbal communication and body language of the anchor as well as the staff at Chatham House – it was not devoid of a power pressure gradient. Some of the personnel of Black African and other minority ethnic descent were not left out as they, exhibited a clearly visible mien of authority and a subtle imperial garb.
Nonetheless, one good thing stood out. It was a communication channel Chatham House is not used to. It was one that was neither via them, nor by them. It was one where Mr Peter Obi, took his message, raw and unmoderated, straight to his people, at the doorstep of Chatham House. I remember telling a staff of the House that there were Nigerians outside, eager to hear from the man they are supporting. Her response to me was “nothing outside the doors of Chatham House is our concern.” I want to use this medium to say a big thank you to the Nigerians and friends of Nigeria outside in the cold, who demanded that their potential President and his Vice addresses them – this is the prototype awoke followership we need in not just Nigeria but on the entire continent of Africa.
Our societal evolution is indebted to all those behind the scenes, who informed Mr Peter Obi of the crowd outside and that he should address them. I also commend Mr Peter Obi and Dr Datti Baba-Ahmed for aligning with their conviction and addressing the teaming Nigerians outside the doors of Chatham House, London. Deviating from the usual tradition of the House and stepping outside to speak to Nigerians of all colours gathered outside, was a solid re-affirmation of what I stated in the first writeup, in December 2022. I was unequivocal that those leaders who aspire to lead a people must engage directly with the people they seek to lead. These aspiring leaders must present themselves for scrutiny and interrogation by those they want to lead. They need no proxies, moderators, special houses or third parties. Finally, it is also symbolic that African nations have a new crop of emergent leaders who will eventually break away, organically, just like Mr Obi broke out of the walls of Chatham House onto its front steps, so will they break away from the age-old puppet strings that run along age old colonial lines.
Dr Loretta Oduware Ogboro-Okor is author of the book, My Father`s Daughter.