INTERVIEW WITH HIS EXCELLENCY, AMBASSADOR, OBED WADZANI EMBASSY OF NIGERIA IN SPAIN.
Conducted by Adewale T Akande on Tuesday,27th of October,2009.
Q-Your Excellency, Could you please provide a bit of background about your career?
Ambassador-Welcoming you once again Mr. Akande to the Embassy of Nigeria in Spain. To start with your question,I have never served in any Nigeria embassy outside Nigeria. This is my first call as an Ambassador.You know,this is a political appointment. It is a prividge and honour to serve my country in this disposition.We went through a lot of screening by the members of the Nigeria National Assembly.Later,we had induction training programmes to prepare us all fully for the task ahead and most especially focusing on the mission and programmes of the federal government.
Q-Since you came to Spain, in just less than a year,we have seen and feel positive changes in the embassy building, staff relations and most especially your free interactions with Nigerians. Sir,What measures are you taking to improve the welfare of Nigerians living in Spain especially in this economic melt down period?
Ambassador-Thanks for your observations and acknowledgements. You know this is a mission of the external department of foreign ministry of the federal republic of Nigeria. The embassy carries out bilateral relations with the host country and the rest of the world,that is reprenting Nigeria in the World Trade Organisation. The embassy is responsible for the welfare of Nigerians living in Spain,and represent the interest of Nigeria in the World Trade affairs.Since I got to Spain on 16th of May,2008, and presented my letter of credence as the new Ambassador,we have been receiving cordial relations with the Spanish government and the Nigerians in all parts of Spain.
The Embassy is divided into different departments to ease daily work-load.We have Head of Chancellor, that is Head of administration,the Secretary,administrative staff,Economic department which is headed by Commerce Attache.There is Account department which is also headed by a qualified Accountant.We also have political,education and social afffairs departments respectively.We have cleaners and drivers.Everybody is very important here from the cleaners to the head of the mission.
We all aware of the economic crunch sweeeping across Europe. The Embassy is now moving their services closer to Nigerians wherever they are living in Spain.To reduce their transportation cost of coming to Embassy office in Madrid,we have been going to Bilbao,Barcelona,Sevilla and Palma Mallorca to provide all related services to Nigerians except the scanning for new international passport that requires their physical presence at the head-office.The embassy is also colaborating with non-governmental organisations on this issue.We help in giving emergency services to those Nigerians that are suffering due to the economic melt down and encourage those that cannot cope with the situation here to go back home.Those willing to go back are well informed about the situations and opportunities at home. We should remember that if Africa is develop.the immigration problems will be reduced drastically.Europe and international communities should address the development of Africa now.
Q-What are some of the strongest misconceptions Spanish people have about Nigeria and Nigerians? How is embassy handling the issues of Nigerians in Spanish prisons and indiscriminate deportation?
Ambassador-There is this general impression that every black people comes from Nigeria.And there is also a misconception that all Nigerians are criminals.That bad impression is far changing now.This does not mean we still don't have bad eggs.What is lacking here is integration. Integration issue is very important when somebody leaves his country and decides to live in another man's country. For example,if a Nigerian who have been living here for almost four years cannot say a word in Spanish when stopped by a policeman. It is against traffic law to drive a car without a driving licence or current car insurance certificate. Some people are still braking this rule.They need to learn the language and their cultures as most of the white men will do with keen interest on getting to the African soil.
On the issue of deportation,the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave order last year to find out the numbers of Nigerians in prision abroad and their offences.This has been done with Spanish government cooperation.This action was a follow up of the Bilateral relations agreement signed between Spain and Nigeria purposely for rehabilitation of those deportees taken home.It was an agreement of cooperation in terms of technical assistance.With this,there is Centre for Immigration which give information and guide for africans seeking for jobs abroad.This is way of encourging legal immigration for skill and and careers development as informed in your book.(Study and Work Abroad published by Spectrums Books limited). Some jobs centres offices are now open in Mali,Morroco and Mauritania for all immigrants seeking jobs abroad,especially in Europe.
Q- Your Excellency, I believe that Nigerians can benefit from the educational and technological advancement of this country to improve their future career. What is the embassy doing on the issue of Nigeria Educational Certificates and Driving License convalidation as enjoy by other immigrants in Spain?
Ambassador- Immidiately after the visit of the Spain Prime Minister came to Nigeria in June, the Nigeria Ministry of foreign affairs have came up with a memorandum of understanding with the Spanish government.Spanish Embassy which is resolving this issue of educational and technological advancement.For a Nigeria certificate to be recognised here, firstly,it has to be convalidated.This involve Nigeria federal ministry of education and federal ministry of affairs verification,necessary legal translation and stamps from the Nigeria embassy in Spain.The same thing apply to any foreigner or even Spanish doctor that wants to work in Nigeria with foreign certificates.There is need for genuine proof of the certificates.It takes a lot of long processes but we are making progress on this issue.
On issue of driving,we have to be very sincere with ourselves on the using Nigerian driving licence to drive here.We have to do a lot of driving orientations.Back home,there should be more driving schools and programmes to help learn more about international road signs,markings etc.
Definitately,a lot of things should be known before driving here. With more seriousness and serious preparation, anybody can pass their driving test and qualify without problems. After all,you can sit for the test in english language. The Federal Road Safety at home is doing fine especially with their new standard and computerised driving licence and we need to cooperate with them.
Q-Your Excellency,the Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Luis Zapatero was in Nigeria on June 23 this year, to talk about the potential of working along with Nigeria's oil,gas and renewable energy companies.Before, he left Aso Rock villa, he signed major bilateral agreement with President Sheu Yar'Adua on avoidance on establishment of bi-national commission for culture and tourism. What is the embassy doing on this issue of intercultural and tourism diplomatic relations?
Ambassador-This is the first time any Spanish Prime Minister will be visiting Nigeria.His visit is a good plus to our established relations as they consider the role of Nigeria in Africa.With the visit of foreign minister Madueke in 2008 as a follow up to former President Olusegun Obasanjo visit in 2005,a stage was set for the Spanish Prime Minister his historical visit to Nigeria. With his visit,a joint commission was established between Spain and Nigeria with high levels of the two governments to meet every year bilateral economic relations.Agreement for the reduction double taxation was signed. Nigeria is doing very well with Spain in the area of economic and trade relations.Just last year (2008),there was a Trade Expo in which Nigeria pavillion displayed a lot of opportunities abound in Nigeria.It was a great platform where we launch our investment opportunities to the whole world. Day 21 was set aside as Nigeria day at the Trade Expo with attendance of Nigeria minister of trade and commerce,officials of Nigeria Investment Promotion Council and representatives of the public and private businesses.All these are yielding postive results.
In the area of tourism,the administration of President Yar Ardua is doing everything possible to make tourism as an investment opportunity for the country like we have in Spain. Spain is the third largest country in the whole world in terms of arrivals and depatures of tourists.The Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation headed by Otunba Olusegun Runsewe (Director General) is doing all what it takes to employ practical approach to Nigeria tourism and live to its diverse oppotunities in tourist attractions and holiday resorts.This gesture will surely generate fund for the government.Most states in Nigeria are coming up with carnivals to attract tourists.For example,Abuja and Calabar
Festivals are now globally recognised and frequently attract a lot of foreigners every year. If you don't talk or demonstrate the good things you have,nobody will recognise it.
The memorandum of cultural cooperation was signed with Spanish government.As am speaking with you, the Spanish ministry of culture in collaboration with British cultural department,and sponsored by Santander Bank is exhibiting Ife Art culture collections here in Spain.I was at the opening ceremony.The exposition will be on display in Spain till December this year.It will be on display in London in January and February 2010 and in United States of America in March,2010.
Q- What have been your most trying and most memorable experiences as an Ambassador?
Ambassador-My most trying moment was when I got to Spain and met the challenges of the passport issue.Something positive have been done to rectify the problems.
My most memorable event was when the Spanish Prime Minister took off to Nigeria.
Top levels discussion were held and some many issues were discussed.
Q-Your job sounds very demanding.What do you do in your leisure time?
Ambassador-I enjoy sporting activities during my leisure time. I play badminton. Like walking in the park with my children and engage in some exercise at home.
Q-Sir, Any message or word of advice for Nigerians in Diaspora including those in Spain?
Ambassador-All Nigerians should have confidence in their country.They should give full support to the government.Every Nigeria is very important. They should be good ambassador to the country in foreign land.Nigerians abroad should shun criminials activities that keep on tarnishing the image of our great country.We should join hands with our wealth of experience to contribute to Nigeria development. I am appealing to Nigerians to travel home frequently and get familiar with the system..I am proud to be a Nigeria.Everbody should be proud of his country.I believe the future of Nigeria is bright.We should bring ourself together.If we are together,we stand tall.Thanks.
Interviewer-Yout excellency, it's been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much for your time.