“Nigerians Embassy officials are sustained with taxpayer’s money and are primarily posted to safeguard the welfare of Nigerians” – from part of the text
THE posting of 93 new ambassadors to various parts of the world should ordinarily signify a new order in international relations for the country. It should also provide some hope for Nigerians in the Diaspora who have had less than satisfactory attention from representatives of their home government. It is imperative therefore that President Goodluck Jonathan’s charge to the new appointees to protect Nigerians in their countries of posting should be taken with all seriousness. Also, commendably, more than half of the new envoys are career diplomats.
The displeasure of Nigerians in Diaspora over the seeming nonchalant attitude of many foreign embassies to their plight is legendary. Often, this is occasioned by undue overzealousness on the part of the Nigerians, many of who get into avoidable problems. But the embassies also appear to give priority of service only to the privileged officials and their families. The shabby treatment meted to many ordinary Nigerians is unacceptable, and raises concern.
The embassies treat its citizens with disdain and suspicion, branding many of them as criminals or drug pushers who should have no business seeking embassy help. Although this attitude is often not totally unfounded, it tends to lump the good and the bad together. The result is that many Nigerians are thrown out in the cold when their embassies should give them succour. Ambassadors have a duty to sift the chaff from the wheat whenever they attend to complaints from citizens of their country. Even then, no Nigerian should be left without some relief in foreign land. The President’s charge appears to capture this enduring culture of mistreatment of Nigerians abroad by the country’s embassy officials who are sustained with taxpayer’s money and were primarily posted to safeguard the welfare of Nigerians. The ambassadors should heed this new order and re-assess their priorities to put the citizens first. Nigerians should be full beneficiaries of their country’s foreign policy objectives.
While addressing the 93 new ambassadors at the State House, Abuja, President Jonathan told them to defend the interest of Nigerians living and operating lawfully in the countries of their accreditation. This, he said, should be the ambassadors’ primary assignment. This assistance should necessarily be extended even to Nigerians that do not fall into the identified category, as they should not be abandoned to their fate. Countries do not abandon their citizens anywhere in the world, no matter the circumstance.
The President emphasised that the ambassadors should protect the interest of Nigerians through greater and more efficient consular support. He noted that the Diaspora is increasingly shaping the growth and development of nations. Nigeria, of course, should not be different, more so, as it has a vibrant Diaspora population that needs to be constantly engaged to contribute to national development.
It is important, as the President said, that the envoys should forge a common front and de-emphasize ethnic associations for the greater feeling of oneness. This is important, especially, at this critical time of the country’s political evolution. There should be no denial of assistance to any Nigerian on account of tribe or religion.
However, the patriotic tone of the President’s address is not matched by the choice of some of the appointees, or the criteria for selecting their countries of accreditation. Clearly, there is a deficiency of appropriate calibre, quality and experience regarding some of the non-career appointees, whose choice appears to be based more on political patronage rather than qualification and ability to perform. This, unfortunately, may inhibit the realisation of the President’s objectives in the postings. Some of the postings equally appear not to have taken into consideration the need to balance ability and experience.
Government should recognise the changing times in international geopolitics. The country’s quest to join the club of emerging markets requires that she puts capable hands to court foreign investors from her missions abroad. This is a crucial aspect of the ambassadors’ assignment. Nigeria can only ignore this reality at its disadvantage.