Fallout from President Goodluck Jonathan´s visit to Germany: Ambassador Abdu Usman Abubakar under fire
(L: President Goodluck Jonathan visits to German. R: Ambassador Abdu Usman Abubakar Nigerian Ambassador to Germany)
“It must be clearly stated that who gets invited to a dinner with the President of the federal Republic of Nigeria or any other government functionary during any of their visit to Germany is at the benevolence of the president and the prerogative of the Ambassador to Germany. This cannot be contested. But arranging for the president to meet the Nigerian community, the people who “voted” him into office should be a fundamental duty and primary assignment of any Ambassador that takes the people he represent serious”
Long before arm-chair analysts woke up to the realities on the ground, this newspaper warned about the visitation of strange things in the relationship between the Nigerian Embassy and Nigerians in Germany. Because of our dogged convictions, we were called unprintable names but we resolved to encourage ourselves in the Lord knowing that in little time, the wind would blow and some covered things would be exposed! In the past months, we warned about policy short-falls and deliberate administrative machinations that would certainly create bad-blood between the Nigerian Mission in Germany and the people they are supposed to carter for-the Nigerians in Germany. In little time, reputable Nigerians including professional organizations began to see what we hammered on. Now that the President’s visit seem to be the litmus test that triggered awareness of what we already know, may we use this medium to reach out and to critically look into the existing disconnect and its impact on the chances of Nigerians in Germany to being all they can be towards the development of Nigeria.
Based on the foregoing, this newspaper would not condescend to beating its chest as the “fore bearer of the whole truth” neither would it resort to using irrational name callings that does nothing more than elevate poor judgment to record highs. We would offer analysis that hinges on the dialectics of the relationship between Nigerians that reside in Germany and their mission, the various heads of the Nigerian mission in the past decade or two, their relationship with Nigerians that reside in Germany and the experiences of Nigerians in Germany with various heads of government that visited Germany on official basis.
For close to one year since H.E. Ambassador Abdu Usman Abubakar was introduced to selected individuals on the 51st National day celebration in Berlin, the man has not seen the reason to sit with Nigerians and know their plight. It has gotten to the point where Nigerians have resorted to equating the situation to the reality of Bob Marley’s song “I don’t wanna wait in vain for your love”!!. The pertinent thing to note is the ultra-new dimension of random hand-picking as an administrative tool since the change of leadership in the mission and the coming of the new Ambassador. For the sake of clarity, this essay would re-visit the finger-picking model of administration later. For now, please follow our analysis and prepare to grant your conscience an unbiased panorama of intrigues, exhibitionist mediocrity and plenty more!
We would start by paraphrasing public commentaries of reputable Nigerians living in Germany, about the administrative style of the present Nigerian mission in Germany.
Expression of dissatisfaction by Nigerians
“Contrary to the unfortunate arrangement made by the embassy in which there was to be no interactive section with H.E. the President; we understand that His Excellency himself requested on arrival, a meeting with Nigerians. A rushed last minute arrangement was therefore made in the President’s suit where the ten persons originally invited by the embassy to a diplomatic reception were now redirected to a private session with the President with about just space for this few”
– Emeka Okoli (General Secretary, NIDOE Germany).
Another comment on the same issue reads, “ H.E., Your people in Germany welcome you with deepest respect, admiration and support. It is unfortunate albeit noteworthy, that the organizing efforts on the ground were unable to create a befitting participative role for Nigerians resident in Germany in this august visit. We have the capacity and willingness to show hospitality in our traditional form and to express both our love and support for your transformation agenda. Nigerians in Germany longed to have an exchange of ideas with you in commensurate representative numbers. However, as we understand, for logistic reasons, our requests to this effect could not be met. We are grateful though for this briefing note to have been allowed to reach your attention”
– A Briefing Note to H.E. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (PhD), GCFR, during his visit to Germany 19. April 2012 by Sebastian Udeajah (MSc., S. Engr.), President of NIDO Germany.
A third protest letter addressed to the senate house Abuja and made available to Heritage media two days before the official visit reads, “Your Excellencies, rumors have it that the Nigerian Head of State, President Ebele Goodluck Jonathan, will make short Official State Visit to Germany and that the scheduled date of visit falls on 18th and 19th April 2012. Regrettably, Nigerians in Diaspora in Germany – namely, the Nigerian Community Germany, the Nigerian Elders, the NIDO and other Nigerian Organizations have not been officially informed, rather, few hand-picked Nigerians were contacted through the telephone – a week before the scheduled date of the said State Visit of the Nigerian President. Nonetheless, if the Rumour of the visit of Nigerian President to Germany is taking place as scheduled, it is absurd to note that Nigerians in Diaspora mentioned above , have not been appropriately informed of the said State visit of the President”
– Nigerian Elders – Germany.
The foregoing is glaring and even with the measured choice of words used, you can feel the dissatisfaction of Nigerians over the planning and execution of programs during the President’s visit to Germany. For us, it is an orchestrated attempt to label Nigerians in Germany as inconsequential to the national development of Nigeria!
The Nigerian Community in Germany and the Nigerian Embassy:
For over three decades, a very vibrant Nigerian community has existed in Germany and parades one of the best brains and hands amongst Africans residing in Germany. A simple proof of the caliber of intellectual warheads and entrepreneurs of Nigerian descent can be found in the African Heritage Magazine penultimate issue which displayed 100 most influential Africans in Germany. Just for the record, Nigerians in Germany can boast of a cross section of practicing professionals and proven entrepreneurs in the areas of IT, medicine, transportation media, Engineering and scientific research, including but not limited to the likes of Professor Brando Okolo-African Heritage Man of the year 2011-who at age of 38 years became the first black African – and perhaps youngest – full Professor of Engineering at any German University, Chief Cassidy Osuji, an IT solutions expert recognized within and outside German telecom business as a Telecommunication wiz kid, Professor Dr. Anyanwu Enyeribe, Consultant Vascular & Thoracic Surgeon, former member of Heidelberg medical examination board who have organized for advanced medical practice curriculum in Germany; Okwui Enwezor, a scholar, curator and writer and the, First black African director of the historic Haus der Kunst in Munich, Humphery Umezulike, a world class artist popularly known within the art world as the junk man of Africa, Dr Emmanuel Franklyn
Ogbunwezeh-Head of African Desk in Human Right watch Frankfurt am Main; Dr. Daniel Kutchin a well sort after Consultant Cisco Internetwork Expert – Routing and Switching; Femi Awoniyi, Editor-in-Chief, Founder/Publisher The African Courier Verlag, Blossom Onyegbula, Founding Member NCG Germany e.v. with years of experience at the embassy, Dr. David Okeke System Analyst, lecturer and member of British Royal statistician society, Dr. Dan Ubani, renowned surgeon and pioneer Nigerian community leader to mention bet a few.
In fact, in all walks of life in Germany, Nigeria has a solid representation. Naturally, these Nigerians are abreast with the real need for best practices transfer from Europe to Nigeria and had in the past reiterated their willingness to be part of Nigerian development through the Nigerian mission in Germany. This willingness is all summed up in the paradigm shift from brain drain to brain gain and the democratic dispensation in Nigeria applauds this zeal to join hands with various governments starting from Obasanjo to the Present government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan. There is no need resorting to counting the number of the Diaspora in Jonathan’s cabinet thereby signifying the fact that Dr. Jonathan considers the Nigerian diaspora as partners in progress.
Furthermore, the representation of Nigeria in Germany should be embodied in the existence of a mission with the responsibility of creating avenues for joint partnership in development. In the past, the Nigerian mission had a cordial relationship with Nigerians in Germany. A clear example of such a cordial relationship under Prof Adeniran was the mission’s direct intervention in providing life-support for the badly wounded Nigerian Community Germany of those days. The Embassy sponsored talks that eventually produced an executive which put the organization back on its feet. Like Prof Adeniran, Rindamp had an open door policy with an ear for the worries of Nigerians in Germany. It was under Rindamp that Nigerians living in Germany had the constant opportunity to question the value of government in Nigeria. This was so because; he always provided an avenue for government functionaries to meet with Nigerians each time they are on a visit in Germany. This system probably went to our head and we believed that it was the least one could expect from the Nigerian mission. Enter the new era and the hunter became the hunted!
It is on record that a Nigerian provided the contact and ground work for the eventual signing of working agreement between BASF (German multi-national chemical company) and the Nigerian government under Obasanjo all through the cooperative system of Prof Tunde Adeniran. Do we need to herald the contributions of Rimdamp who was so loved by Nigerians in Germany? How can we honestly expect anything close to the instances above with the new Ambassador of Nigeria in Germany?
Under the new leadership, selection and restrained access to government officials when they visit Germany entered the policy dictionary of the Embassy of Nigeria. This policy method was first used in the organization of the 51st independence anniversary which also stood as the introduction of the new ambassador to a select few Nigerians in Germany. Fact is that this policy method would hurt Nigerian development which should be our common focus. It motivates an unruly tendency to again ask; why do we have a Nigerian Embassy in Germany?
It must be clearly stated that who gets invited to a dinner with the President of the federal Republic of Nigeria or any other government functionary during any of their visit to Germany is at the benevolence of the president and the prerogative of the Ambassador to Germany. This cannot be contested. But arranging for the president to meet the Nigerian community, the people who “voted” him into office should be a fundamental duty and primary assignment of any Ambassador that takes the people he represent serious. One of the primary duties of every Ambassador is to guarantee a cordial relationship between the state of Nigeria and Germany and to work for the welfare of Nigerians in Germany irrespective of ethnicity, religion or profession. This can only be possible when there is a cordial relationship between the Embassy represented by the Ambassador and the Nigerian community in their respective countries. That the Ambassador personally slighted the various Diaspora group but instead played one personality and group against the other is a failure of judgement and total disregard to the sensitivity of the people he is sent to represent.
It is actually the duty of the Ambassador to strongly advice the President on the need to exchange ideas with the community. The time and place as well as the number of people the location will accommodate is a question of planning and logistic and it is left to be seen if everything have been done in this respect with regards to the president visit. From all the reliable information we gathered, all the efforts was aimed at organizing a poor show.
It is common knowledge that prior to the visit of the Nigerian President, His Excellency Ambassador Abdu Usman Abubakar have not only turned down any organized platform to meet with Nigerians collectively or individually but have engaged in a typical back room politics of playing one group against the other both within and outside the Embassy on the advice of his kinsman. It must be emphasized that every policy administrator, Ambassadors inclusive have every right to his or her style of leadership but turning down the media who could help him reach the host country and the Nigerians as well is a tad myopic in our view. To have allegedly complained to the President that Nigerians are fighting each under is simply the elevation of ignorance.
The intrigue which took place before, during and after the president’s visit only climaxed with the visit of the president and the issue of meeting with Nigerians. It is shocking to note that the present Ambassador have no official meeting with the local staff close to one year since in office. Some officers are yet to be fully assigned permanent responsibilities and designations while Minister R. Shehu took advantage of coming from the same place with the Ambassador and constituted himself as the self-appointed second in command, taking over the office and residence of Ambassador Okoye (now recalled) without recourse to Embassy standing rules and regulations. Our new Ambassador is either closing his eyes or refusing to act on this anomaly. Meanwhile, we have it on good standing that the outstanding circular from the permanent secretary ministry of foreign affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to correct certain imbalance at the Embassy have been ignored and disregarded till the time of writing this report. It is also on good record that the wife of the Ambassador strolled in during an official address by the first lady to the wives of Nigerian diplomats and few invited wives of other Diplomats in full gaze of those who attended the occasion. Irrespective of the circumstances for such a late appearance when the Nigerian first Lady was already making a speech leaves some bad test in the mouth. All these indicate a programmed confusion that adds to the already haphazard method of administration.
If the statement accredited to H.E. Ambassador Abdu Usman Abubakar is true, that Germany does not have many Nigerians as part of the explanation of the poor turn out to meet the president, and that the few ones available are busy fighting each other to make any meaningful contribution, it will be the most unfortunate statement any serving Ambassador will make against his own people, and this has gone a long way to show how little he knows the constituency he is sent to represent. Maybe he should sincerely tell us if the crowd that welcomed him for the 51st Independence celebration was not much more than the select few they presented to Dr Jonathan. Olusegun Obasanjo cannot say that Nigerians are not much in Germany because Prof Tunde Adeniran made sure that he saw plenty Nigerians starting from three cultural troupes in the Airport to welcome him and a super town hall meeting where over 300 Nigerians had the opportunity to question him on how government is run. The late Yar’Dua (God bless his soul) could not say that Nigerians are few in Germany because he sat with over 60 Nigerians in the residence and had a super interactive session for over 2 hours with Nigerians residing in Germany all made possible by the able leadership of Abdul Rimdamp as Ambassador in those days. In fact, it should be noted that there are over 5,000 Nigerians in Germany and we cannot be responsible for the poor means of data collection of the Embassy of Nigeria in Germany.
African Heritage can confirm authoritatively that due to the handling of the president visit by the Embassy, a demonstration was planned by Nigerians in Germany to express their dissatisfaction to the president but for the intervention of prominent Nigerians who reasoned that it was a deliberate attempt to provoke a demonstration during the president’s visit which will draw a negative report in the German media and play into the hands of the Embassy.
President Yaradua visited Germany for a G-8 summit as his first international journey as President of Nigeria. His program was made available both within the Host country and Nigerian community and they included; Economic Forum organized by Afrika Verein at Auswertigeramt Aula Berlin with business community including Nigerian business personalities present. This was letter followed with a reception by the Nigerian community at the residence of the Ambassador. The residence took all it could accommodate and that was a large number. During his address, President Yaradua insisted that the he would come down from the podium and sat amongst Nigerians, till seen till date on facebooks and other social media for those who had the opportunity to stand next to the president. In the company of Senator Bukola Saraki and Ojo Maduekwe the president mingled with the people until the end of the interaction. This singular gesture from the president who Nigeria lost to ill health, made him so popular with Nigerians in Germany and we say that even if the setting was so intended or a PR stunt the leadership of the Nigerian mission took much of the credit from Nigerians in Germany. Until his death, the community felt a bond with him and supported most of his policies and administration.
The story was not different when President Obasanjo visited under the watchful eye of Prof. Adeniran. First he attended a press conference at Deutschewelle, then a business forum and town hall meeting for the community. Apart from the press conference which featured only accredited media houses, Nigerians took part in the entire program. I will not forget an incident when as the editor of African Heritage, the journalists were asked to take their seat, I was asked by the organizers to leave the seat next to the president free, the president asked why and asked me to seat next to him. Later on the day the official town hall meeting saw a full house and the president took every question without exception including that about third term agenda and corruption. I guess more than half of the people left reassured that the president has a solid agenda and should be supported.
(Pixs, left: Nigerins meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan ganized by Ambassador Abdu Usman Abubakar)
After President Obasanjo left office he came to Hamburg on the invitation of an international organization that brings ex-world leaders to address the world situation, which took place at Atlantic Hotel Hamburg. He requested to meet the Nigerian community Hamburg and during his address stated that it will be unfair to stop over in Hamburg without saying hello to Nigerians there. He urged them for unity and to take interest in the affairs of Nigeria. Today we have a different situation where the mission would rather shelve Dr Jonathan from Nigerians.
The Nigerian Ambassador to Germany as the leader of the Embassy failed to either impress the president on the need for a town Hall meeting or neglected the president’s wish and aspiration to meet with his people. Either way, in line with the democratic principle of collective responsibility in leadership, it is fair to conclude that the Ambassador of the federal republic of Nigeria to Germany has failed the president who sent him to Germany and the Nigerians in Germany who he swore in good conscience to fairly represent.
Please look at the pictures showing a cross section of Nigerians in the town hall meeting with Obasanjo, a cross section of Nigerians in a reception/interactive session with President Yar’dua and the picture of 10 Nigerians with President Jonathan. Then, use your initiative to react to the statement that Nigerians are not many in Germany. Furthermore, please use the organization and outcome of the various receptions as a yard stick for measuring performance of the past three Ambassadors and let your conscience provide the true answer about competence!
Kenneth Gbandi, Editor-in-Chief African Heritage Print/Online Magazine
Obiora Nweke, Editor / Head Policy and Political desk African Heritage Print/Online Magazine