Nigeria stands ready to welcome the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles and his wife, Princess Camilla, who is the Duchess of Cornwall, as the English royal couple begins a three-day visit to the country. It is the Prince’s second coming since 2006 and the Princess’s first ever. The visit is part of a week-long, five-nation swing through The Gambia, Ghana and ending in Nigeria.This high profile visit, announced by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright, during the weekend in Abuja, the Nigeria capital, would afford the Prince an opportunity to attempt to “engage in peace building capacities”. Specifically, he would try to “address persistent attacks” by herdsmen on farming communities.
The high point of the royal visit is a scheduled meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, Abuja. Their discussion, according to Arkwright, would centre on “practical solutions to alleviating the tensions arising from the activities of herdsmen”. These attacks have been on for years, resulting in several deaths and raising concerns over the future of agriculture which employs the majority of Nigerians outside the formal sector of the economy. It is this sector that the government is promoting to wean the country from dependence on oil revenues.
“People do want to come together and if we can provide that kind of environment, then hopefully, we can come up with some ideas and solutions to resolving some of these conflicts,” explained Arkwright. “Some of the issues like the farmers/herders crisis are deep-rooted and are about the economy, land resource, climate change and cultural issues. The Prince of Wales will be looking at the causes, talking to people who are working in this area and together, seeing if we can find solutions and move on.”
The High Commissioner said getting to the “root causes of conflicts” would lead to “a peaceful and more prosperous Nigeria” and benefit the two countries. The visit, he expected, would strengthen the existing ties between them, as members of the Commonwealth. “We want to ensure that through the Commonwealth we develop links, relationships, whether in trade, environment, or in education, all of which are important to the future of the Commonwealth and to the future of Nigeria.” Prince Charles took over as head of 53-member Commonwealth of Nations last April, succeeding his mother, Queen Elizabeth 11. The Commonwealth consists of Britain and its now independent former colonies. Now, membership has been enlarged to accommodate some French and Portuguese-speaking (Lusophone) African nations like Cameroon, Nigeria’s next door neighbour.
Prince Charles’s visit is coming on the heels of that of Prime Minister Theresa May on August 29. Both visits demonstrate that Britain still has a lot of faith in Nigeria’s future unlike some other Western nations that have given up on us and would prefer that Nigeria dissolve in chaos. A measure of the UK’s faith in Nigeria is the keen interest Prince Charles has shown in the resolution of the tensions the herders/farmers conflict has created, as Nigeria heads into elections next February. Not that his visit would provide the proverbial magic wand which we would use to wave away the conflict and other national challenges. No. However, it is good to know that we do not stand alone. It is this show of solidarity that will inspire our leaders to go the extra mile in the search for peace in the land.
Once again, we say to Prince Charles, welcome to Nigeria.