Career badmouthers of Nigeria’s Federal Government have gone gaga over the news that a modest sum of N1.5 billion has been earmarked in the 2009 budget “to fuel generators” in Nigeria’s Embassies and Consulates abroad. Cynics who have made up their minds never to give President Yar’Adua credit for anything have gone to town, running their mouths over the proposition of making funds available for our missions to buy petrol and diesel for their stand-by generators in places like the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, and South Africa. Unable to appreciate the brilliance of this initiative, the editors of Daily Trust leered in their edition of February 24, 2009: “the Federal Government may have confused this country’s epileptic power situation as the norm in other countries because N1.5 billion has been earmarked in the 2009 budget to fuel generators in this country’s missions abroad”.
Not to be outdone, diasporic Nigerians, especially the “internet warriors” among them, have taken typical Nigerian bad belle to the point of insinuating that not a single Embassy will receive the allocated funds. They aver that those who came up with the idea in Aso Rock to earmark generator fuel funds for Embassies located in countries where electricity does not blink are actually not as foolish as their proposal makes them out to be. These unpatriotic elements would have us believe that the N1.5 billion could end up taking a sabbatical in private bank accounts. And these are the most generous comments I’ve heard and read so far.
I beg to differ. President Yar’Adua is spot on with this budgetary provision. I don’t see why he should be blamed for the ignorance of his detractors. The critics miss one crucial point. Diplomatic missions are considered sovereign territories of their respective countries. The moment I enter the Nigerian Embassy in Ottawa, I’m technically on Nigerian soil/territory. I’m not in Canada. If Nigerian Embassies abroad are technically on Nigeria soil, it stands to reason that those missions must mirror conditions in Nigeria. They must show how we are and who we are. Those missions must be Nigeria. Uninterrupted electricity is not Nigerian, hence the Federal Government’s decision to begin the Nigerianization process of our Embassies in that vital area. Besides, why should our Ambassadors be exposed to the dangers of regular electricity in their countries of accreditation while their bosses in the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Aso Rock run the affairs of the country on generators?
I have been to many Nigerian missions in Europe and the Americas and I haven’t found any of them sufficiently Nigerian. Consider our missions in the US and Britain for example. Only their dysfunctional and hardly-ever-updated websites and service that sometimes replicates the atmosphere in a ministry or local government secretariat back home remind you that those missions are on Nigerian soil. Thus, the Federal Government must be commended for this Nigerianization initiative that will certainly move our missions forward towards a more authentic Nigerian-ness. In order to ensure the smooth sail of this excellent initiative, I want to make the following suggestions to President Yar’Adua. Giving our Embassies money to buy petrol for their generators is only a start. We must build on that solid foundation by instructing all our Ambassadors to purchase Yamaha generators for their missions immediately. None of our missions in Euro-America currently has a generator and that is a shame. I hope provisions are also made in the budget for our Embassies to buy drums and jerry cans for storing their petrol.
Once the generators are in place, the Federal government must contact the relevant electricity company in each country and sign a bilateral agreement or a memorandum of understanding that would ensure epileptic power supply to our missions in order to have them operate in Nigerian conditions. For instance, Ottawa Hydro must be told that they have to “take light” at our Embassy on Metcalfe Street every twenty minutes in order to create Nigerian conditions and an enabling environment for the use of the new generator that the Embassy must purchase without delay.
I have equally noticed that water runs from the tap in all our Embassies in Euro-America. I noticed this horrifyingly anti-Nigerian phenomenon the last time I was at our Embassy in Ottawa. I was rightfully dismayed and disgusted. May I suggest to President Yar’Adua that as soon as we are done with electricity and generators, we should move to have our Embassies disconnected from the public water grid in their host countries? This will create the Nigerian condition of dry taps making that “poooooooooooo” sound when you turn them on. We can then earmark money for the digging of boreholes in our Embassies in Euro-America and wells in our Embassies in Africa in the 2010 budget.
Other Nigerianizing measures the President may want to consider in the future include: digging open sewage (gutter) around our Embassies in Euro-America starting with the major ones in London and Washington, erecting gates like we have in Nigeria in front of each Embassy and posting maiguards from home to man the gates. The maiguards must be instructed to sell retail stuff like sweet, cigarettes, biscuits, kolanuts, alabukun, and recharge cards, all displayed on a tray at their duty post. Finally, we must dig respectable potholes on the stretch of road leading to our Embassies. This will involve intense negotiations with the host countries. If these suggestions are taken seriously and executed, President Yar’Adua would have given Nigerians abroad Embassies they can relate to. We’ll be eternally grateful.