In President Bush’s one man political calculus, and in a highly sophisticated country of 284 million, many of whom are among the smartest you will ever find in this planet, the only candidate best qualified to represent the only super power at the UN is no one else but John Bolton.The nomination is not only absurd, but ludicrous, if you really think about it. Why John Bolton of all Americans for God’s sake? Because George Bush wants to prove one more time he is as tough as a nail, as a leader, and that he truly meant business when he told the UN he was going to force reform down its throat just because he can. He sees John Bolton, a straight-talking gadfly as his lightening rod for that job. The whole scenario smells very much like what the Republican Senate is right now doing to the American Judiciary by openly criticizing and threatening Judges who dare write a ruling they don’t like or appreciate. To hell with separation of powers, and the notion of the checks and balances deliberately crafted by the founding fathers to make America the leading bastion of Democracy it has become.
Before anyone starts wondering about my qualifications or competence to dabble into the Bolton debate, a word or two on my long held interest in the Foreign Service and Diplomacy may give readers some insight as to why I am feeling so concerned about the Bolton nomination.
As a young man growing up in Akure and as an undergraduate major in History and International Relations at the great Obafemi Awolowo University, way back in the early 60s, all I ever wanted to do on graduation, was to seek employment as an Ambassador. I did not realize, at the time, that the job of an ambassador was not an entry level position. My earliest contact with any career Diplomat had come, first of all, from an uncle of my late wife, named Victor Adegoroye, the first Ambassador to ever come from my town, now the capital of Ondo State. I was opportune as an in-law to frequently meet with him in my mother-in-law’s house on a many occasions he had visited home on vacation from his overseas posting, accompanied by his no nonsense, beautiful and charismatic wife, auntie ‘Duti Adegoroye nee Elegbe Ogbo who was one of the trail blazers for women in Akure in those days, and I was very proud to later know her as a distant niece of mine from her mother side.
The couple and the kind of life style I believed they led, at the time, was so attractive to me that I silently reassured myself, I was going to be nothing else but an Ambassador like him when I grew up, and find myself a wife like auntie Duti who spoke English like no one I have known at the time. She also smoked cigarette like a man which I thought was cool. Up until then the women folk I know, only chew tobacco. Smoking at the material time in my judgment was reserved only for men That passion had informed my decision to later enroll for a combined Honors Degree in History and International Relations at Ife University. I became so obsessed with the idea that I nicknamed myself “Your Excellency” without knowing the etiology of that title, and why ambassadors or Governors, Presidents or Heads of Government, in much of the third world, can kill, if they are not so addressed, even at informal settings, like when they are home with their family.
I still recall with nostalgia, the late Honorable Olaiya Fagbamigbe, my Secondary School teacher at Oyemekun Grammar School, and one of the most beloved and admired Akure politicians and statesmen of all times who never stopped pulling my legs by calling me “Your Excellency” every where he saw me, and up until he was mercilessly assassinated in the aftermath of the 1983 Omoboriowo election rigging in Ondo State.
After my graduation in June 1966, my first appointment into the Federal Public Service was secured on January 3rd 1968. I was recruited direct from my graduate teaching job at Igbobi College Lagos as a Foreign Affairs Officer grade V111 in the then Foreign Affairs Ministry located at the Republic Building on Marina Lagos, next door to Obisesan Hall. Two of my colleagues or contemporaries in that recruitment exercise, as I still recall, were Isaac now retired Ambassador Ayewah and Pius now retired Ambassador Ayewoh. The three of us were all seconded to the Home Service on temporary basis, on the presumption we would all transfer back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as soon as the Biafran War was over. We were told Nigeria was reducing the number of her overseas Missions abroad while the War was on.
Isaac and Pius had found their way back into the Foreign Service several years later while I stayed put in the Home Service where my first posting was to the Ministry of Defense in the same building with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time. That was how I came to be closely associated with a few distinguished members the Nigerian Military I had been privileged to work with in Defense. I actually served as Assistant Secretary (Army) under the late Murtala Mohammed as a Lieutenant Colonel, while the then Major now late Agbazikah Innih was Military Secretary and then Captain I.O.S. Wachukwu was Deputy Military Secretary Since the two Ministries, External Affairs and Defense were both housed in the same Building, it was easy for me to shuttle in and out of the two Ministries while picking up information on what the foreign service was all about, and how ambassadors were supposed to act and behave. You hardly find any of sharing the kind of temperament that John Bolton is so notorious for.
I took a profound interest in the Foreign Service and the profiles of people who often get named as career and non-career Ambassadors in most countries. From 1978 to 1981 I was privileged to serve as Director representing Nigeria on the Board of Governors of CAFRAD (African Training and Research Center in Administration for Development) located in Tangiers, Morocco, first with Dr Kariuki of Kenya as Director-general, and in my final year with Harvard Professor, Thomas Kanza of Zaire as Director-general. I again served as a
local staff at the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the UN from 1987 to 1989 working for the late Major General Joseph Garba as Permanent Rep. I had met Joe Garba through the good offices of the then Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Oluyemi Falae, my former teacher in Secondary School, and later my senior colleague in the Federal Public Service.
My time at the Nigerian Mission had offered me some unique perspective on the operations of the UN. I made it a point of duty to go far beyond what my pay grade at the Mission would normally have afforded me, at the time, because deep inside me, I saw myself as “His Excellency” of a kind and I operated at that level, familiarizing myself with all I needed to know, and using my previous extensive experience as a senior administrator in the Federal Service and a CAFRAD trustee to get to know the UN in ways that few of my locally recruited colleagues in the Mission could have dreamt of. It was during that time that I got to know the current Secretary-general, Kofi Annan who was, at one point, the Permanent Representative of Ghana to the UN. I am sure the gentleman may not remember me today, but I came to know him very well and several others I would not mention in this write-up.
I underscore my background in Foreign Service as a backdrop to this article, and because I happen to think that President George Bush had made a horrendous mistake by pretending that John Bolton is about the best American diplomat he can name to represent America in the UN in the aftermath of 9/11 and the ongoing Iraqi quagmire which has long become a pyrrhic victory for America, all things considered. It would have been fine if Mr. Bolton as Undersecretary for Arms Control is being nominated to succeed Mr Wolfowitz the outgoing Deputy Defense Secretary who is going to the World Bank, or if he is being nominated for a job that does not have to go through a Senate confirmation process. I dare predict that by the time Mr. Bolton is through with the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the full Senate, his credibility would have been so damaged beyond repairs, even if he gets confirmed. That is not the kind of person you want to send to reform the UN. Mr. Bolton is definitely going to create more problems for America in that body because of his views on that Institution which are very well known and documented, and because of some flaws in his character regardless of what his supporters may be saying to the contrary.
Mr. Bolton’s pick was a senseless nomination by a President who claims to have learnt something from his adventure in Iraq and the Middle East in particular. For a President who had campaigned for elective office as a uniter and not a divider, the nomination of Mr. Bolton stands out as a profoundly reckless and insensitive mistake that this President ought not to be making at this point in time.
It was clear to all objective pundits that this President did not have a mandate in 2000. It was true that he was reelected, this time around, by a narrow margin. If we consider the comparative performance of John Kerry, nationwide in the last election, it would be a stretch for this President to claim he had an overwhelming mandate to be acting the way he is doing now. He is more or less thumbing his nose at the international community telling the other countries they could go to hell. He appears to be stretching his luck and his good fortune too thin by seeing America as the only super power in the world who can literarily take the other countries for granted, any time. The President does not have to flaunt his powers and the limitless power of the United States to get the attention of the rest of the world. He is only going to intensify the resentment the rest of the world feels towards America under this President.
A cross section of the world is already regretting the weakening and the dismemberment of the Soviet Union as a counter force to the United States. They realize that the whole world wins when America and the Soviet Union of old compete. By the same token, the world loses when America becomes the only dominant power in the world.
The current move led by France and Germany to nurture Europe into a counter force before the emergence of China as the unstoppable giant of the future is therefore seen in many quarters today, as a step in the right direction. America under George Bush is slowly and progressively boxing herself into a corner, as can be seen from the recent selection of the Pope where none of the several American Cardinals was considered fit to be Pope because America already dominates the world, and picking a Pope from America was simply inconceivable. The feeling is gaining consensus around the world, especially with the attitude and behavior of this President to always give the impression that America is number one, and the rest of the world taken together, is a distant second. Therefore America cannot then be sole military and economic power and still be allowed to assume the moral and religious authority that the papacy confers on any part of the world the Pope comes from.
If American leadership currently symbolized by George Bush is sensitive to such sentiments, he will be a lot more careful in the way and manner he flaunts American Power around the world. Period. Nominating an abrasive hawk like John Bolton to go and complete the nasty campaign he had started by lambasting the entire UN, should be seen as a step in the wrong direction. Mr Bolton’s transgressions and criticisms have included intimidation of colleagues, mishandling of intelligence and manipulating facts to fit his opinion and cooking the book of Intelligence to please his boss and to get his way. There was also his patent failure as a team player.
The Senate must not abandon its oversight responsibility to act as a check on the power of the Executive. It must resist the temptation to vote along Party lines, remembering that the interest of America as a nation is totally at stak
e on this nomination. America would be sending the world the wrong message by sending John Bolton to represent. America which, has, in the past, nominated eminently qualified diplomats like Adlai Stephenson, the late Pat Moynihan, Senator John Danforth, Madeleine Albright and Governor Richardson of New Mexico, all of whom have left their mark in the UN.
John Bolton has forfeited his right to be considered a serious candidate for the UN. He has insulted whole Organization and will be going to the UN to complete the job he has started, as “agent provocateur” and the alter ego of his boss in the White House. If the UN is going to embrace Reform, which most people agree is needed, there are far better qualified candidates to lead that effort than John Bolton who is nothing but a persona non grata to the UN at this point. John Bolton is damn too controversial and polarizing a candidate to lead that effort and earn any respect from all of his colleagues.
He will be going to the UN as the Lord of the Manor who is out to dominate and intimidate the other members telling them in brutal fashion just like his boss who had once told the world body before, “You are either for or against America” If the rest of the world does not act, America will damn the consequence, and go it alone. Leaders or Governments that talk that way scare the hell out of most members of the UN, and they are least likely to get the UN co-operation on issues that matter.
I think Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware spoke for the majority in the Senate and the world at large when he rightly described John Bolton as “a bull in a China Store”. That was really an understatement. John had already burnt his bridges before setting out. Any efforts on his part to take back all he has said against the UN could only compound his problem as many can easily figure it out that a leopard does not so easily change its skin. The Bolton Leopard is never going to change as alleged and articulated by many of his staff who know him the best including Colin Powell by the way. Those staff are not out to do him in, they are out, as concerned Americans, to make sure the wrong man is not sent to the United Nations to represent their country.
John Bolton’s nomination is so insulting and offensive to the UN if you consider all the factors I am looking at in this write-up, but which the President and his supporters in the country and the Senate seem to be overlooking. In normal circumstance when an Ambassador is being considered for posting to a country, the first thing the sending country does, is to seek the concurrence of the receiving country by opening up the complete profiles of the candidate, ever before an announcement is made public. That vital due process was skipped by President Bush in the case of the UN, just like it was also skipped in the nomination of the next President of the World Bank who is the current US Deputy Defense Secretary. Why? Because George Bush believes America must lead while the rest of the world must just follow sheepishly. Because America pays the piper, he must therefore call the tune at all times. It is possible for the President to get away with such condescending attitude to the rest of the World. It is wrong for him to presume that somebody acting in his name like John Bolton should be able to do the same and get away with it. The US Senate must not condone that.. The President sending Mr Bolton to the UN at this point in time is no less egregious than nominating Congressman Frank Bernie of Massachusetts or the President of Nigeria nominating Tai Solarin as the pleni potentiary Ambassador to the Vatican That would be considered a silly affront and a sacrilege for those who are fully aware of the antecedents of the two gentlemen. I see the nomination of John Bolton in that context quite apart from any character flaws and shortcomings he is currently facing today at the Senate Hearing from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Mr. Bolton is an unrepentant “ass kisser” with a flammable temper who will do anything to please his boss in anticipation of more favors and promotion, even if it means selling out or sacrificing his other peers and colleagues. Now that such character flaws have been made public, how does anyone expect his fellow ambassadors at the UN to trust his leadership role as the leader of the delegation of the only super power who strongly believes that without her support, the UN cannot survive. America needs at the UN a healer and a bridge builder not a divider and a loose canon who will make more enemies than friends for the greatest country on Earth.
I rest my case.
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