Monday 5 May 2008

Nigeria: Ambassadors, be honoured to serve or get lost

The smart tortoise

One can conclude that we would not see grand strides and breath-taking leaps of progress from the government of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, it is however nothing to worry about.

The President’s abilities and style of government appears understated, but as the fable informs us, being a fast hare does not win you the race; the smart but slow tortoise could sometimes be better prepared and poised not to teach the hare about running but about winning races.

Some bloggers have labelled the President slow and sleepy; one would contend it is an unfair assessment of the man.

Looking at the many little decisions the President makes about issues, you end up for a directional, purposeful and determined leader not ready to brook unnecessary distractions from people who are not ready to follow the example of the servant-leader.

The Ambassadorial gift

One good example of this leadership style is in the appointment of ambassadors and high commissioners to other countries.

This list is awaiting approval by the Senate it would have been drawn up by the Minister of Foreign Affairs in conjunction with party operatives and some other power brokers.

Ambassadorial appointments can be ways of placating political rivals or sending them out of the political fray; it could also be a tactical move of planning the retirement of untouchable senior civil servants; sometimes it rewards service to Nigeria or lumbers Nigeria’s image with buffoons.

Accepting, lobbying or declining

The ex-Chairman of the People’s Redemption Party – Dr. Ahmadu Ali was one of the political appointees being placated and moved out of the political fray with an appointment to South Africa.

That happens to be the most significant political and economic entity in Africa, but Dr. Ali would have none of it, he was lobbying to go to the UK or the USA – it makes you wonder if representing Nigeria is the choice of the selectors or the selected.

Some people are going to dreadful countries like Burma and Zimbabwe, who does Dr. Ahmadu Ali really think he is?

My view is if we do have an operating and functional government in Nigeria, that government should be the final arbiter as to who represents Nigeria where – it is left for that person to take the honour and serve or respectfully decline and move on.

Career or political?

All governments need elements of political representation but a balance should be struck with technocratic and career representation – the list shows ambassadors appointed from a political or career diplomatic perspective – politicians might have to be properly schooled in diplomatic speak, Nigeria is too significant a country to have bumbling gaffes from our ambassadors.

Well, the President would have none of Dr. Ali’s truculence and he has asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs to appoint a career diplomat to the South African position with the hope the person would relish the opportunity and serve with distinction.

Influence peddling is passé

Dr. Ali must now realise that political influence peddling for positions of importance would not cut the muster with the President – he would not have people gum up the works because of what they think they deserve instead of humbly accepting the honour of representing the country.

I would hope that Dr. Ali would be committed to political oblivion from now on as a lesson to others who think Nigeria owes them when in fact they owe Nigeria a duty of selfless service for the opportunities they have gained from Nigeria and in many cases they ways they have relentlessly abused those opportunities for personal gain.

The least they could do is considering representing Nigeria with distinction in restitution and if they would not, their wings should be clipped and Nigeria move on.

The Chancellery in Deutschland

I remember just over 3 years ago, I visited to the Nigerian Consulate in Germany and met the ambassador, I was not sure of what to think of the setup, it was full of obsequious and fawning workers.

No one spoke out of turn, all the bowing, genuflection and Sirs by the score – it was suffocating. I was even advised only to speak when spoken to.

I think not, one cannot have a decent education and then be a dummy when in the presence of dignitaries – there is the matter of protocol and there is the matter of polite and intelligent conversation.

The ambassador was extremely pleasant and warm in his demeanour, he was engaging and generous with his time offering access to his home and a chauffeur-driven service to take us round town – it was a relief to see the difference between demeaning sycophancy and elevating mutual respect.

I would think the ambassador sometimes craves the company of people who can honestly speak their minds – I could be irreverent but there was no reason to be in his company.

Back to the matter at hand – Good job, Yardy.

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