A recent Nigerian conference took a form strikingly different from the usual sedentary occasions held within four walls. This 'rolling conference' spanned four different venues hundreds of miles apart. It opened in the dusty heat of Kano, in the north of the country, and concluded a thousand miles away amid the steamy palm plantations of the south.
Spearheading the conference as it moved from site to site in three cars and a 25-seater bus were 23 students and young graduates from five Nigerian colleges. Their intention was to reach thousands of their countrymen and women with their conviction that a new Africa can be created despite the frustrations of economic depression and rampant corruption. To reinforce this conviction they took with them the play The Next Phase which, with humour and lightness, deals with corruption and division in national life.
During the 'rolling conference', which took place at the end of April and the beginning of May, the play was staged at each of the four venues - Kano, Jos, Nsukka University and Awo-Omamma in Imo State.
Packed audiences responded enthusiastically to the play and to what individual cast members said afterwards about family reconciliations and their decisions to be honest. For instance they heard a history lecturer tell how he had refused to take advantage of his bank's mistake in crediting him with a sum of money, even when the amount would have enabled him to get his car back on the road.
The relevance of these issues was summed up by one speaker when he said, 'The economic restructuring programme of the government without moral restructuring would be like trying to fill with water a barrel that had holes in the bottom.'