Don’t build a new ship out of old wood. (Chinese Proverb)

As the government is, such will be the man. (Plato)

Ambition is so powerful a passion in the human breast, that however high we reach we are never satisfied. (Machiavelli)

I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of the thoughts. (John Locke)

A state without some means of change is without the means of its conservation. (Edmund Burke)

You forget that the fruits belong to all and that the land belongs to no one. (Jean Jacques Rousseau)

To digress a bit from the point, I deliberately avoided writing about the independence anniversary, because, there is nothing to write about a failed state. Sometimes, I wonder how we as a country got to this unenviable height. If I look at India or Malaysia that got their independence just a few years before Nigeria, I wonder why we have been deceiving ourselves for such a long time. I still find it difficult to explain why Nigeria remains an “adult delinquent” at forty-seven. I wonder why Nigeria refuses to grow despite the fact that it was “born” forty-seven years ago. 

India that had nothing at independence is today a major world economy; India is exporting trained labour to all over the world. Indian computer experts are sought after the world over. The Indian economy is growing at an alarming rate that every other country is rushing to do business with it. Indian indigenous technological know-how is making huge impacts all over the world. India is teaching the world how to convert refuse into riches, turning used nylons into designer handbags and using nylons collected from the refuse dumps, melting and mixing them to asphalts to construct roads that can withstand the devastating effects of the monsoon rains. Even the industrialised countries are trying to copy this Indian unique road construction technique. What can the world copy from Nigeria? Corruption, fraudulent acts, techniques to be used in looting the treasury, how to use the courts to circumvent justice and on and on! 

Malaysia that was way down behind Nigeria in the 1970s has being, since the 1990s, one of the Asia’s economic miracles and one of the “Asia Economic Tigers”, having transformed their economy from an agrarian to a technologically driven one. They are one of the emerging strong economies in the world and they didn’t allow technological advancement to dwarf their agricultural production, rather, they are using technological techniques to improve upon their agricultural productivity. Malaysia was so poor in the 1970s that they were out then looking for a source of foreign income by all means. They came to Nigeria then to learn about the culturing and cultivation of palm tree. They bought their first palm seedlings from Nigeria, lo; today Malaysia is the world largest exporter of palm oil and its by-products. Where is Nigeria that taught them how to cultivate it? I don’t even want to think about this, because, it makes me very angry. Nigerian successive leaders failed to diversify the economy, making it solely dependent on oil. I wonder what will happen, when the oil wells run dry. 

To the topic: Recently, YarÁdua nominated sixty two persons for ambassadorial postings. The list is made of forty two politicians and twenty career diplomats. The president chose to reward his party members and cronies, even when many of them have no record of competence. This is a clear case of recycling the same old incompetent politicians that achieved nothing for Nigeria and this is a mark of insensitivity to the problems the people are facing on daily basis on the part of the president. YarÁdua can preach “rule of law” and can call himself “servant-leader” from now till eternity, but, such words are meaningless to the poor people. Those words are meaningless when poverty, ignorance and diseases are prevalent in the society. Those words are meaningless when the people are hungry, unemployed and dejected. 

Nigeria through the actions of this president is becoming a laughing stock more than it was before. Tell me how a president can nominate forty two politicians out of sixty two for ambassadorial postings whereas there are career diplomats that have laboured all their lives and rose through the ranks to be where they are today, that should be those that are supposed to be appointed as ambassadors? You see how hardwork and dedication to duty are sacrificed on the altar of party membership with the compensation of those that failed to win elections or those that are well connected in the party and the society. These unqualified people don’t have any atom of idea how a Nigerian mission can project a better image of the country outside, infact, they might help through their attitudes in soiling the more, the already battered image of the country. Merit should have been the main consideration in the nomination and that demands the appointment of career ambassadors rather than selfish politicians. 

I can´t still understand what came over YarÁdua, when he first came in, he had good intentions, that was why he refused to nominate any of the immediate past governors as minister, because, he wanted to give others a chance. YarÁdua is a shadow of himself now. The YarÁdua of April 2007 wouldn’t have nominated some of those nominees, but, YarÁdua of today is different from that of April 2007, as lots of water has passed under the bridge since then till now. I still hope that YarÁdua will re-discover his bearings and start being the old YarÁdua we all knew prior to his Aso Rock sojourn. 

One thing is clear, those people that are sponsoring these politicians for ambassadorial appointments have their selfish interests at the back of their minds as those nominees will be conduits through which the peoples money will be siphoned out of the country. Just a case was that of Chimaroke Nnamani who as the then governor of Enugu state, got his protégé planted as Nigeria’s ambassador to Spain and this ambassador helped him in siphoning the wealth of the people of the state out of the country and he even ran to the Ambassador in Spain when his tenure expired before he sheepishly came back thinking that EFCC has been flattened out by YarÁdua at the inception of his government. 

The constant disproportionate number of politicians over career diplomats in ambassadorial appointments will no doubt undermine the management of the country’s foreign image. There is no reason for the government to be compensating failed politicians with ambassadorial postings. This calls to question the usefulness of a number of trained and qualified career diplomats and their future. The interests of Nigerians may not have been a primary consideration in making the nominations. If the diplomatic handbook, “priority consideration in posting” shall guide us here, it states that ambassadorial appointments shall be given to diplomats in ratio of nine to one and that the appointment of non-career ambassadors whose members may not exceed twenty five percent of the total number of ambassadors shall be at the pleasure of the president and shall leave when the president ceases to hold office. 

The nomination of forty two politicians for ambassadorial postings is a threat to professionalism in the practice of diplomacy and will mean usurping the places that are supposed to be for the diplomats and truncating their careers. The proper practice is for every country to send its best tested hands and brains as her mouthpiece abroad. The action of this government will kill the morale of career diplomats who after many years of service are made to serve under political appointees who carry on with impunity even when they are violating service rules and who don’t even understand what diplomacy is all about. The politicians cum diplomats can only poison the working atmosphere at the embassies they are posted to by compromising the laid down rules through favouritism and fanning of embers of ethnicity, which will definitely affect the cordial working relationship already existing among the embassy staff before the politician-turned-diplomat came. 

The politicising of our missions must stop before it leads us to something else. It is disturbing that the government is asking every state to bring a name for ambassadorial posting when we have qualified career officers from each state. That is disparaging rather than the rules, which say, if only such states are short of the number, then non-career persons may be considered by the president. A good background checks on the activities of some of the political appointees will definitely prove that they engaged in practices inimical to Nigeria’s national interest at one time or the other. How do this government reconcile that? Government and the political nominees should study the Vienna Convention of 1961, which deals on diplomatic relations and provides a format for handling sensitive issues between nations, before they commit blunders in our names. 

All the politicians pencilled down for ambassadorial postings have one shortcoming or the other. Consequent upon time and space constraints, let’s look briefly at only few of them. It is now a well known fact that YarÁdua is compensating some of the PDP gubernatorial candidates that lost during the last election, some of his party faithfuls and those that helped to install him as president with ambassadorial postings when there are qualified career diplomats there. What are people like the PDP Chairman, Dr Ahmadu Ali, and Lagos State PDP governorship candidate, Musiliu Obanikoro doing in the list? Ahmadu Ali has been on the scene for over thirty years. He was a colonel in the Army and the minister of education when Obasanjo was the Head of State and was then infamous with the “Ali must go” slogan during the famous students riot of 1978. What on earth is he still doing on the national scene? He has been one disaster after another and will only bring ignominy to Nigeria in his new ambassadorial posting. 

Why is Brigadier Buba Mohammed Marwa in the list? He was once governor of Lagos State and is stinkingly rich. We would like to know the source of his wealth. He has no degree as far as I know; he might not know his left from his right as an ambassador. These people should know that there is more to being a diplomat than carrying gun and embezzling people’s wealth. Of all the nominations, that of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Joy Ogwu, is the most senseless. How can this woman stoop so low to take up a lesser appointment? That beats my imagination. Former Minister of Aviation, Chief Kema Chikwe has allegation hanging on her neck, that she and her son are involved in a scam. There was also allegation of her dirty dealings as the then minister of aviation concerning Virgin Atlantic and how the airline came to operate in Nigeria. These kinds of people can only bring shame to Nigeria, if they are to represent it outside. 

Many Nigerians abroad are passing through tough times and need Nigeria representatives (Ambassadors) in their countries of abode that will promote our country’s interests and will be all out to protect the rights of Nigerians. Nigerians suffer indignations, assaults, maltreatments and deaths abroad and many of our foreign missions do nothing about these things. Some Nigerians abroad get no protection or support from some Nigerian missions when they are in need of it. These politicians nominated are people that will keep quiet while their fellow compatriots are being victimised upon. They will be more pre-occupied in getting personal and financial gains, business connections and deals in the foreign countries they are posted to, than attending to the needs of their fellow compatriots. 

Like I always say, talk is talk and talk is cheap, YarÁdua want everybody to have a clean break from the past, but, he is doing another thing. He is yet to explain why fresh bloods and new generation of diplomats with the pre-requisite qualifications, knowledge, ideas as to what diplomacy in this ever changing world should be, were not nominated. There is no rationale for rewarding bootlickers that have no idea of diplomacy with ambassadorial postings as they will only be embarrassments to Nigeria abroad. This list can never help improve Nigeria’s image abroad and can´t help strengthen economic ties with other countries or attract foreign investments to Nigeria. 

By Temple Chima Ubochi, Bonn Germany

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