Thursday 19 May 2011

Editorial: Friends of Nigeria are welcome

The security risk of ambassadors

A United States Ambassador to any country is in essence a security risk and in some cases a national security threat to the countries to which they are posted as envoys to protect American interests and elicit the workings of the system in which they find themselves.

The WikiLeaks diplomatic cables showed how ambassadors with their status gained access to the powers that be and teased out state secrets, modes of operation and details of governmental activity which they relayed back home for analysis and processing by the State Department.

The each cable does not in and of itself spell the complete truth but taken together forms a perspective from which the government of the United States could be ahead of the curve in their dealings with any counterpart state.

Getting their quarry

In Nigeria, Ambassador Robin Sanders appeared to have credentials that made for a smiling ruthless interrogator that served you tea and walked away with the brains of her guests fully informed of everything she wanted to know.

In the early 90s, it was Ambassador John Campbell who as a fellow of the Council for Foreign Relations projects himself as an expert on Nigerian issues.

Now, there is nothing to besmirch his esteemed scholarship and analytical skills, Nigeria has had no end of problem analysts, the fact is we know the problems and the issue is no more about identifying problems but the need for solutions that are well thought through, maybe radical, maybe visionary or maybe just insightful.

Nigeria is too big a behemoth for the radical but step-changes and tweaking in different areas of the polity might begin to seed the clouds for a torrential downpour that starts the sweeping away of many of the issues that plague Nigeria.

A foe almost vile

Unfortunately, Ambassador John Campbell for all the knowledge and insight he gained about Nigeria has not put himself within the solution seeking school of thought, rather he has become the herald of its problems, its failings, its catastrophes and its impossibilities.

In essence, his well-constructed and authoritative analyses are hostile, damaging, unfairly critical and can be used to instigate the prophecies of turmoil, discord, carnage, division and hopelessness that has become his core narrative.

Nigeria needs helpers not lepers, it needs friends not skeptics, it needs solutions not reminders of our problems and the role John Campbell plays to the world about Nigeria is patently unhelpful as he has refused to use his expertise accentuate the positive about Nigeria.

Within rights

That is not to say that there are no problems and we are reluctant to brook criticism but his actions have become inimical to Nigeria’s possible progress that the decision of the Federal Government not grant him a visa to visit the country and find a platform at the university founded by the president’s bitter rival to spew his vituperations is apt and acceptable even if generally uncalled for and possibly reprehensible.

Nigeria has simply exercised a right that other countries like the UK or the US exercises when they are worried that some personality with contrary and atrocious views might create a public nuisance and a security situation.

If anything, Nigeria’s friends are welcome, so are those who bring solutions to many of the problems we have found insolvable and insurmountable; those who seek to weaken the already fragile state of affairs cannot be considered friendly – at first the refusal of a visa might be a warning but they are on the slippery slope to being cited as persona non grata.


I wrote an analysis of WikiLeaks pertaining to Nigeria which was termed NaijaLeaks on my blog. Robin Sanders biography speaks for itself as for John Campbell his biography to the point he became ambassador is hosted on the embassy website.

His views as the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations are aggregated here.

A columnist called him out on his views with a write-up for Business Day Online titled Between John Campbell and Goodluck Jonathan (2) and the news about the government’s refusal to grant him a visa appeared on many news outlets and reference the on offered by CBS News.

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