From Service Chiefs To Ambassadors

The appointment of Non Career Ambassadors or Diplomats by Nations is nothing new as it has always been the norm right from time immemorial. Benjamin Franklin, the Father of the United States Nationalism, a charismatic personality who had succeeded with scientific inventions, printing, publishing, business despite his limited formal education was appointed as Uncle Sam’s pioneer Ambassador to France during the war for independence against the United Kingdom. During the Second World War, the then US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Joseph Patrick Kennedy Sr as the country’s Ambassador to Great Britain where he brought to bear his vast experience as a securities trader and investment banker who had greatly reformed the stock market after the 1929 crash by banning insider trading. In the heady days of the Civil Rights Struggle, a prominent Civil Rights Leader, Andrew Young who had served as the Mayor of Atlanta was appointed as the nation’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

In all the above cases, the United States put forward the names of their first eleven to represent them as high powered envoys especially in times of crisis.

It was with shock and disgust that I read the nomination of the recently retired service chiefs – Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

These were service chiefs who performed greatly below expectations while they held sway. There was an order given by President Muhammadu Buhari, the nation’s supposed Commander-in-Chief to relocate to Borno State so as to better tackle the Boko Haram Insurgency. These chiefs chose instead to stay in their comfort zone in Abuja without any repercussions from Buhari. What contempt! No form of sanction was meted out to them by Buhari. It was established that billions of naira meant for the prosecution of the war against the insurgents was allegedly misappropriated which left the rank and file at the mercy of their adversary. Many of these soldiers weren’t allowed to leave the battlefield even after spending more than the allotted fighting time, many didn’t have their allowances paid to them, many of their widows were left to the elements to fend for themselves with some even immediately thrown out of the military barracks into the cold streets. How callous! Is it a crime to be patriotic and to lay down one’s life for your country? Nigeria is truly a hater of honest labour.

Many political pundits opine that the raison d’etre behind Buhari’s nomination of them as service chiefs was to shield them from any form of prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.

Nigeria boasts of an array of shining stars and talents both at home and in the Diaspora who are contributing positively to either the motherland or their second adopted countries. Why can’t he tap from their wealth of experience to launder Nigeria’s image which is currently at its lowest ebb? Why field people not even fit to be on the bench using the football sport as an allegory to represent the supposed ‘Giant of Africa’ abroad? When the Central African Republic emerging from the ashes of decades long strife wanted to shore up its image abroad and attract the much needed foreign direct investment to stimulate the economy, she wisely tapped the services of the Late Charismatic larger than life businessman, Antonio Deinde Fernandez. That move was akin to a successful coup-d’etat as it greatly helped the nation advance her economic interest.

During the Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, he brought on board Dr. Christopher Kolade, the erstwhile Chairman of Cadbury and veteran broadcaster to be the nation’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. This in no small measure helped the battered image of the country in our former colonial Master’s territory stained by drug peddlers, credit card fraudsters and online scammers. His vast boardroom experience came in handy and foreign direct investments from the UK surged greatly.

Nigeria’s image is at its nadir no thanks to the insurgency in the North East, Fulani herdsmen attacks on farmers, the rampaging bandits on our highways, gargantuan level of corruption, corruption which saw our drop in the recent Transparency International Corruption Index and Ease of Doing Business. We are in the news frequently for the wrong reasons. This news inadvertently scares away foreign investors and even many local investors are divesting from the country. Iroko TV, described as the ‘Netflix’ of Africa recently announced its plan to reduce many of its operations in the currency due to the unfavourable exchange rate that was affecting the profitability of the business. Imagine the number of workers that will be inadvertently thrown into the already saturated labour market due to Buhari’s anti-people economic policies!

A master stroke by Buhari would have been for instance to appoint someone like Tony Elumelu as an envoy in a strategic country. He has numerous contacts and counts many world political and business leaders as his personal friends. His Midas touch would have helped the nation to attract funds from abroad as the nation needs jobs, jobs and more jobs to stem the rising tide of general insecurity and nip the ever growing insurgency in the bud. We don’t need discredited and disgraced former service chiefs as envoys as they carry a behemoth of baggage which isn’t in the nation’s best economic, political, security or diplomatic interest.

There are many Nigerians in divergent walks of life that would have acted as better diplomats and it is sad that Buhari has chosen to reward incompetence with such a prestigious job. For how long will we continue to celebrate failure over merit in a country of abundant human resources and talents? We recall the response of Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, the Esama of the Bini Kingdom when some journalists asked him why he thought his son, Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion who had performed badly in his first term should be rewarded with a second term. He retorted that if a student failed a course in the university, he was given the opportunity to resit the course to use the Nigerian parlance ‘carry over’ it. History has repeated itself with the appointment of these incompetent ex service chiefs as envoys.

The Senate should rise up to the occasion and be on the side of the Nigerian people by roundly rejecting these nauseating and sinister nominations in the nation’s best interest. Anything short of that will amount to a betrayal of the social contract as espoused by John Locke which is supposed to govern the relationship between the legislature and the electorate.

Enough is Enough!
Tony Ademiluyi wrote from Lagos

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Articles by Anthony Ademiluyi