Re: Ojo Maduekwe’s “Citizenship Diplomacy”

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

“The way to get on in the world is to be neither more nor less wise, neither better nor worse than your neighbours”. – William Hazlitt

“Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best”. – Max Beerbohm

Nigeria’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who spoke recently at a book presentation by former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, in Abuja, announced a “retaliatory” foreign policy, warning that any country that presents Nigeria as corrupt without showcasing the intellect of Nigerians would be declared a “hostile nation”. He further said that it is geared towards “protecting” the image and integrity of Nigeria and retaliates against countries who are hostile and who brand Nigeria as “corrupt”.

While Chief Ojo Maduekwe’s statement is very commendable, we should look beyond mere rhetoric, as all our leaders and representatives have been posturing over the decades. The problem is that most of them do not mean what they say, and neither do they practice what they preach, not only to their fellow Nigerians, but also to the world in general. In most cases, our rulers come up with great ideas and words to that effect and espouse seemingly noble causes that will make the country’s image, and indeed, the lives of their people better, but end up not doing anything at all. Of course, Nigerians are used to this, but it is our sincere hope that this will not the same way as things have been going since independence.

On the face of it, I quite agree with Maduekwe’s new diplomatic policy – that is, encouraging other countries to promote the positive aspects of Nigeria and Nigerians and not just the negative and derogatory. We are also in agreement that for every single 419 fraudster and corrupt instance, there are hundreds of Nigerians all over the world who should be recognised positively for the positive image they portray of Nigeria and Nigerians. There is no doubt about this.

However, charity begins at home, so they say and should apply. What the Honourable Minister, and the rest of the Nigerian Government should be applying their energy and efforts to, is contributing to this new image by exorcising the devil in their own midst. The fact remains that corruption is still endemic in Nigeria. We still have the cases of the corrupt ex-governors pending and from the antics of our own Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Michael Aondoakaa, SAN, flexing a lot of unnecessary, misplaced and misinformed muscles with the EFCC (This man is definitely compromised and an interested party with another ex-governor’s EFCC case, and should be made to declare his interests) in the Orji Kalu case, it seems they are bent on quashing the case, and letting Kalu go scot-free – and there is a real concern for us about this development. This does not bode well for Nigeria or for the stance of Maduekwe and the government he represents.

Another instance is the shenanigan of the Speaker of the House, Patricia Etteh, a former hair-dresser, who has proved to us that what a Nigerian man can do in terms of corruption, a Nigerian woman can surely do better. Her silence has been deafening on this issue of the house renovation contract scam. If the Number 4 citizen of Nigeria can be involved in such a mess, what is the point of asking the world to have a positive image of Nigeria, and threatening brimstone and fire on those countries that do not?

With several corrupt former Governors still parading themselves imperiously on the streets of Abuja, still on the beck and call of the President, and appear seemingly untouchable, it will be hard to convince the world that we are still waging this war against corruption in government in earnest and with sincerity of purpose. And this renders Ojo Maduekwe’s utterances useless, and unfortunately irrelevant.

Chief Maduekwe explained further: “Our foreign policy has come of age and the age of innocence is over. We remain proud of our track record right from Tafawa Balewa up till now. The country that has the largest black nation in the world could not have done otherwise. A world where every six black man is a Nigerian could not have done otherwise, or where every four Africans is a Nigerian could not have done otherwise. We should ask ourselves some hard questions: to what extents has our foreign policy benefited Nigerians? To what extent has our foreign policy put food on our tables? In other words, where is the citizen in our foreign policy?”

The man is somehow asking the right questions and making the right noises, however, it is unfortunate that he is talking about “track records”. This is arrant nonsense and double speaks. There is no track record to be proud of. Successive Nigerian governments have nothing to be proud of in terms of promoting positive image of Nigeria or tackling corruption. Our foreign policies over the years have been inconsistent or even non-existent as far as putting food on the tables of Nigerians or looking after the interests of Nigerians all over the world. In fact, whatever little policy they have made has only been made to benefit those in government, and not the Nigerian masses.

How helpful have Nigerian foreign missions all over the world been towards Nigerians living abroad, for instance? There are too many instances of neglect to be mentioned, but it is all the same sad stories. Nigerian diplomats have never taken care of either our image or the Nigerians living abroad. In fact, coming to think of it, in generality, how helpful have Nigerian governments been to even Nigerians living in Nigeria not to talk of the ones abroad? Are we going to showcase poverty, sufferings, high mortality, lack of basic healthcare, moribund education, lack of electricity, water, good roads, etc, that our leaders have visited upon us for several decades as a result of their greed, corrupt behaviour and selfishness? How sincere are Maduekwe’s words, no matter how commendable? Are we right to say “We have heard this before?”

We are very high and famous on good intentions, but low on implementations. The former Education Minister, Tunde Adeniran himself, presenting a book; what was his achievement as the education minister during Obasanjo’s administration? What positive changes did he bring about in the education sector during his tenure that warrants him writing a book?

Despite all these, we are glad to know that at least a Nigerian Government is starting to take note and make moves to address the problems of Nigeria’s negative global image. It has long been overdue, but as mentioned above, we cannot embark on such moves without putting our own house in order. It might well turn out to be an exercise in futility. It is generally acknowledged that the Obasanjo Administration spent a lot of money, time and effort on redeeming the image of Nigeria by being the first Nigerian government in recent memory to actually try to tackle corruption, albeit patently unsuccessful and selective, laden with political vindictiveness and without much respect and reference to the rule of law and constitutionality. Also the immediate past administration went on a publicity and charm offensive to persuade the world that Nigeria is not all about corruption. This must be commended, but we are all aware that we have a lot more to do. Not rhetoric and posturing or muscle-flexing against an already, wrongly or rightly, biased world.

So in a way, I agree with the words of Ojo Maduekwe, to the effect that it is an obvious fact that Nigerians are perceived in several ways, – in a negative light – more often than not. However, there is an urgent need to do a lot more, rather than wait for that ‘someone’ or ‘the government’ or ‘the society’ to heal the wounds that we all carry around – our cultural identity as “Nigerian”.

All over the world, it is a known fact that one out of every black person is a Nigerian and every four African is a Nigerian. Our duties towards redeeming the image of the black race is beyond what lip-service can do. A little bit from each and everyone of us counts. Standing out of the crowd for something good, can, and will surely make a difference. We have to start a sharing of responsibilities, positive values and accomplishments, a projection in the positive light – of our heroes past and present and the accomplishments and the potentials of our fatherland. It is time for a positive change. Nigeria, and indeed Nigerians deserve a positive image. We cannot continue to move around the world as a people with the millstone of negative publicity, image and bad reputation or disrepute hanging around our necks everytime.

As our Foreign Minister himself posited, Nigeria carries enormous burden to be the symbol of the success of the black nation and there could never be a black success story, “unless it is a Nigeria success story.”

Yes, Nigeria may, can and should adopt a “Citizenship Diplomacy” approach to the whole world, but we must back this up with the sincerity of purpose and approach to all our problems at home. It is not good enough to know that after almost fifty years as a nation, and blessed with the kind of resources – human and material – that we have, our people are still wallowing in abject poverty and desperation, while our leaders are looting the treasuries all over the country, and living unimaginable expensive lifestyles and spiriting the loot out of Nigeria and depositing it in the countries we are trying to force this citizenship diplomacy on.

In a country where a convicted ex-governor can return to his home state and be given a hero’s welcome, where the same convict has the ear of the President of the country as to what to be done with the Niger Delta problem as a “consultant” and who threw a multi-million Naira, well-attended party to entertain important guests on his daughter’s wedding, it does not bode well for, nor confer any legitimacy or sincerity on Maduekwe’s and the Government of Nigeria’s position on citizenship diplomacy. It is sending out the wrong signals from this government to the world that they want to impress. The government of Nigeria cannot also not eat its cake and have it and must know that it cannot continue to pull the wool over a lot of Nigerian eyes anymore. The people of Nigeria can see through the charade and falsehood and double-speak.

More action, less rhetoric.

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Bimbola Asiyanbola September 29, 2008 - 11:30 am

Wow, this piece is fantastic! I hope this foreign policy doctrine is not merely an old wine in the old bottle?However,please help me with a paper containing the speeches of the Hon. Minister on this “Citizen Diplomacy”.I want to write a paper on it.I could not lay hands on any thus far,not even the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could help me out.Please do get me this.

Olaoluwa September 10, 2008 - 6:38 pm

I think the problem of corruption in within the country, not only the leaders. Although the leaders too are the major cause of the corruption in the Nigeria. Our country is a corrupt one no doubt about that, because of several reasons like: Lets see, say a poor youth has an advantage to go into politics, trust me the parents will want him to ‘chop” too even if he/she has good intentions. But gotta listen to your parents eh!. Do not get me wrong, there are some parents who want best for our country. Look at Chief Ojo Maduekwe, down-grading respected politicians (No names), he is wrong. My main objective is we don’t have the leaders to rule yet. The ones we have now are just figure heads. Although there are some good ones but few. What can a few do among wolves that are ready to devours anytime. The generations to come are the rulers of Nigeria if they are not corrupted yet by there corrupted parents. I remember a quote in the bible; ” behold old things have passed away, for all things have become new”. Old politicians should leave and let the young righteous ones(not just any young, but righteous) rule. Although we still need some old folks to direct Us, cos without them, we will be nothing,but we need the righteous ones like mentioned in the article.

Mr. O. Dada September 13, 2007 - 11:57 am

The truth is bitter but better. We hardly get Nigerian writers who speaks the truth but people who praise liars and are quiet on deception. No matter how far lies go, the truth will catch up with it. My prayer is that the people concerned will not find the truth offensive but will use it as a challenge to serve our nation (our people) Nigeria, so that we can be liberated from this 2nd slavery and command respect from the international world. Well done, keep it up.

kola Aderonmu September 13, 2007 - 10:23 am

Keep it up.l

'Kunle Babalola September 13, 2007 - 9:40 am

How I wish that our leaders have concsience?. They behave as if that they are more patriotic than most of us whereas they are ONLY interested in what they could steal out of our oil money.

The Creator of the suffering masses shall surely jugde. They thought the people are fools but nemesis will soon caught up with them.


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