Meeting with Acting Governer Alhagi Garba Umar


Today (Tuesday) was the most interesting day yet. We started with a trip to the orphanage to take the final portraits of teachers and staff. The students were quite enamored with our photo-taking so we took many more photos with them and showing them how the camera worked, etc.

Mid-morning Benji took us to two scheduled meetings with two bank managers. John Ogbaji represented Diamond Bank and were thanked him for his bank's many food, clothing and other drives and collections on behalf of the orphanage. We then met with Sadik from Fidelity Bank to thank them for their contributions to the construction of the orphanage guest house. The hope is that Fidelity Bank will donate additional construction materials such as ceiling fans and electrical work.

Once we completed our bank visits, we were called to a pre-scheduled meeting with the Acting Governor, His Excellency Alhagi Garba Umar. He has been acting governor for about nine months as Governor Danbaba Danfylani SunTai was seriously hurt in a plane crash.

Once we arrived we were turned away as it was nearly lunch time and it was going to be awhile before the acting governor would return to his office/home. In Nigeria the governor's office and home are co-located within the compound.

Our guide for the government trip was Taraba State Television journalist Alhassan Abdullah Agyo. He is also helping Benji with orphanage public relations. Agyo joined us for lunch at the bishop's guest house before embarking on a return trip for our meeting with Umar.

Once we arrived on the government grounds we went through several levels of security. We left our electronics outside the final meeting house. Once inside we were gathered with other state and local government dignitaries all awaiting a meeting with Umar.

We waited inside the waiting area about 20-30 minutes when we were finally called in for our meeting. As we entered the Taraba State press corps followed us. Once inside Jim Miller nearly sat in the chair reserved for Umar, flanked on one side by the state flag and the other with his party's flag. You can imagine the commotion to make sure Miller was directed to an appropriate chair.

We were settled in when all of a sudden a giant guard (tall, fit and serious) came into the room and demanded that all but one news camera man leave the room. What ensued could be compared to a point, counterpoint rant you might witness on the Fox network in the U.S. except the exchange was entirely in Housa. At one point a second guard came in to hold the door where protesting journalists continued to try to get in the room.

Our guide Agyo remained calm throughout but later commented that the guard and government were wrong to exit all of the press except for the one. In addition, we witnessed the one journalist wanting to leave as he did not want to be the only one in the room reporting for fear of not meeting expectations, reporting poorly or being scorned by his colleagues for being the chosen one. The intensity of the room caused us great angst as at least two large machine guns accompanied the guards.

Once the room calmed down, a few minutes passed and Umar arrived.

Benji announced why the meeting was requested. Benji thanked Umar for the government’s support of the orphanage. He followed with a specific request for funds to replace the boy’s dormitory that burned over Christmas. He also requested help with transportation, as the orphanage van is quite worn and aging. Benji handed him a formal letter of request.

Benji then called upon Dorothy Halvorsen to offer a message from the orphanage partners. Halvorsen did an excellent job of providing a context for our work with the orphanage, our appreciation for government support and added her plea for additional funding to replace the dormitory building.

Umar responded positively and remarked of the impact the orphanage has made and the validity of the need because of the fire. He verbally committed to helping with both the dormitory and mobility issues. We shook hands as we began, exchanged thank yous and good wishes and we were on our way.

Once in the car, someone from the government house came running after Benji. Umar requested that a government person come to the orphanage on Wednesday and do an estimate of the costs to replace the dormitory. We are excited about this opportunity and hope that the funding comes to fruition.

Finally, this was the day that the Nigeria Federal Court ruled on the Southern Conference case to deny Bishop Johnwesley Yohanna his right as bishop of Nigeria. We learned mid-day that the ruling went in Bishop Yohanna's favor. The Federal court ruled that the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church takes precedence over any government ruling in this case.

In a conversation with Bishop Johanna at his home in the afternoon, he said he continues to extend his welcome to all those in the Southern Conference and continues to invite them to work with him to resolve differences and work on the healing process. Yohanna said he believes it is God's will to bring the church together to make disciples of Jesus Christ to help transform the world.

I took some video of Bishop Yahanna, but between the lighting, the wind and ambient noise, our new video producer Jeremy Wurst will have his work cut out in editing it into something we can use. Yohanna provided a message regarding our orphanage partnership as well as his thoughts on today’s trial.

All of the above occurred before 4 p.m. today. We are now enjoying some quiet time (although without electricity). My new mode of communication is to sync my keyboard with "Notes" on my iPhone and pray that my Sprint International calling plan actually works.

Lafiya kalu babudamuwa (I am well, no problems),