Africa We Want

OPINION: Nigerian Governors Retreat In Kigali - The Big Lessons

Fifteen out of the 36 governors in Nigeria and three deputies attended the three-day executive leadership retreat organised by United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, in partnership with the Nigeria Governors Forum in Kigali, Rwanda, between the 24th to 26th August, 2023. By Andrew Agbese

Nigerian governors retreat in Kigali

The retreat, which according to the organisers was to offer the governors an opportunity to “re-imagine Nigeria’s leadership to achieve transformation and nationwide sustainable development”, has however attracted the attention of some critics who quarrelled with the idea of taking such an event outside the shores of Nigeria, bearing in mind the prevailing economic crisis and the likely cost on the economy.

The observation would have been valid if the expenses for the trip had been borne by the state governments. But from the facts available, the UNDP wholly funded the retreat and only involved the governors as participants to expand the scope of their vision with tangible evidence of good governance.

The choice of Kigali was, according to the participants, unanimous and deliberate for two reasons. One, because it is far away from home hence would enable the governors concentrate fully on the business before them and avoid distractions. Secondly, due to the positive image Rwanda has come to project in nation-building and desirable leadership the world over, they would have more than theoretical experiences to take home.

This was a country that came out strong and better after experiencing one of the worst genocidal wars in human history but did not allow the tragedy weigh it down and rather, built from the ashes of the negative experience to rise to become one of the fastest developing nations in Africa in recent times.

At the last check, Rwanda had not only overcome challenges associated with atavistic fault lines but has built so much infrastructure and placed itself on the path towards rapid industrialization and economic growth.

The Rwandan President, Paul Kagame has for these achievements and the example he has set in leadership, become the cynosure of all eyes, receiving several invitations to share his experience with other world leaders, including Nigeria, to enable them learn from his experience.


He was, for example, one of the invited guests at the South-South Economic Summit in Nigeria in 2012, and more recently, a guest at the inauguration of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu led administration.

What better way is there to learn from the Rwandan experience than to take a visit to the East African country and encounter first hand some of the experiences being talked about as well as interact with those leaders who made it a reality?

Many states in Nigeria share the pre-war experiences of Rwanda and could relate with their challenges; more so as the country is not too different with them in terms of size.

States like Niger; Zamfara; Sokoto; Kaduna; Katsina; Borno; Yobe; Imo; Anambra; Lagos, etc ), which are battling with crime and other security challenges for instance, have a lot to learn from the Rwandan experience where criminal violence has been confined to the dustbin of history, while states like Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Benue, Nasarawa, Gombe, and others faced with inter-ethnic or inter-religious conflicts can learn from how Rwanda has put such differences behind it.


Almost all the states in Nigeria being confronted with ecological problems and waste disposal can also learn from Rwanda, which has since found and implemented workable formulas that have tracked down such challenges, making Kigali one of the cleanest capitals in Africa.

Taking three days to embark on such solution-seeking journey that will accord the governors a time for peer review while interacting with their colleagues to brainstorm on the best approaches to managing such issues is not too much of a sacrifice to make, even if it has to be paid for by their respective governments

But thankfully, all the expenses for the trip were paid for by the UNDP. Prof. Charles Soludo, one of the governors who attended the retreat, for instance, said the only time he spent money was when he, by empathy, took a decision to make a personal donation to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which is run on charity, as all the other expenses for hotel, feeding, flight tickets for him and the one single aide he travelled with, were borne by the UNDP..

African leaders have in the last two decades focussed on how to make Africa the centrepiece of their foreign policies and have encouraged bilateral relations among themselves to foster trade and commerce.

In that spirit, many African countries have been to Nigeria for similar meetings using our facilities.

Rwanda is just like a neighbour to Nigeria, with many Nigerian businesses, mainly banks, operating freely and thriving in the East African country.

Author: MANZI
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