By Nita Melessen

After two years of extensive planning I was ready for the Millennium Eco Rally. An initiative to raise funds to support a local agricultural NGO in Rosso, Mauritania, where 9 teams drove from Leeuwarden through the Sahara to Banjul, Gambia. A 7,144 km journey full of incredible experiences and beautiful surroundings. On the 18th of October I was finally able to take on this great expedition.

One of our coaches of our partner organization AYHD wished me a good journey before I went, saying: ‘Do have a nice time in Gambia. That is a step to Nigeria’. Well, a step to Nigeria? There were still quite some kilometers between those countries, I thought. However, he was right. The day I left Banjul to return by plane to the Netherlands, the capital prepared for something important: the visit of the Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan. The city was buzzing with excitement. More military trucks were cruising through the city than usual carrying soldiers with their AK-47’s ready for action. Streets were being decorated. The road guiding the airport was crowded with numerous students holding banners of the schools they were representing, while entertained by cars filled with huge jukeboxes to keep the spirits high.

Pessimistically, I wondered how much pressure was put on those children to cheer ‘voluntarily’ by their president that ‘ruled’ the country already since 1994. What a masquerade, I thought, to cheer for a man who gained power in the bloody 2011 election, which killed over eight hundred persons and displaced over 65,000 Nigerians. Briefly forgetting that shameful first thought: ‘Oh, Jonathan! Nigeria! I want to see him’. Maybe those people did cheer voluntarily and I was terrible presumptuous to assume straight away otherwise, or not? However, I have a hard time believing Rutte will ever receive such a welcoming party in Spain.

What would your thoughts be on this particular event? Would you have cheered along with the other people? Should one follow along with the crowd and become part of the festivities or should one remain in the background, keeping in mind supposed underlying multi-faceted aspect of it?

Photograph: Millenium Rally

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