Janefrances Chinwe Iwuchukwu
The nepotistic tendencies of President Muhammadu Buhari has again manifested in the preference of non-career diplomats ahead of those, who have invested so many years in this career field.
Since he came into office in 2015 as the democratically elected President, Buhari has abandoned the dictates of Nigeria’s foreign policy to appoint his cronies to head the country’s mission abroad.
Over the last five years for instance, there have been numerous reports of discrimination, racism and ill treatment of Nigerians in countries such as Ghana, South Africa, India, Ukraine, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia etc, all of which point to a fast disappearing international clout.
This might not be unconnected with President Buhari’s administration ‘systematically’ eroding the ethos of professionalism in the Nigerian diplomatic service in favour of his cronies.
According to the Nigeria’s foreign service rule, non-career ambassadors should not constitute more than 25 per cent of Nigeria’s envoys at any point in time.
However, like several others, this rule have been totally ignored by the Buhari government.
To add credence to this argument, on May 12, the President transmitted the names of 42 career ambassadorial nominees to the Senate for screening and subsequent confirmation.
But 18 days later, he sent the names of 41 non-career ambassador nominees to the Senate.
The President subsequently renewed the appointments of 12 non-career ambassadors on July 3.
When these numbers are added to the five ambassadors appointed in 2019, a total of 100 ambassadors would be expected to be sent to Nigeria’s 83 foreign missions.
With this, 17 career ambassadorial nominees would be expected to serve as deputy ambassadors.
It therefore means that career officers, who have been trained for 30 years and above would be made to serve under political appointees with all the resultant ramifications.
Also, two of the three non-career ambassadorial nominees from Oyo State come from the same senatorial zone.
In the same vein, the new non-career nominees from Katsina State hail from Katsina central senatorial District.
This is the zone where the retained ambassador in the United Arab Emirates comes from.
“The truth need to be told that Nigeria will continue to be ridiculed and humiliated for her self-inflicted wounds. Do we need to be reminded of the diplomatic humiliation the country suffered when a certain inexperienced Fatima Mohammed Kyari was presented as a candidate for an African Union position contrary to the advice of the Foreign Ministry to field an experienced career diplomat? The country also lost international positions to other African countries due to the fielding of chosen candidates in place of competent and experienced persons.
“At a time when the world is witnessing tremendous changes and transformations, what is required is adjustments and realignment of forces to face head-on the emerging challenges. Every professional, no less our trained diplomats would be required to spearhead global engagements through the embassies and high commissions. This is no time for amateurism and playing to the gallery. The stakes are too high and consequences too grave.
“In this regard, Mr President should as a matter of urgency withdraw from the Senate, the list of non-career ambassadors unilaterally compiled by a certain dark horse presidential aide, Mallam Ya’u Darazau (Senior Special Assistant to the President, Special Duties). The list is too large and lopsided. Whereas some states have three nominees, other states such as Abia, Kebbi, Niger and FCT have no nominees. As it became apparent after the list was read at the floor of the Senate, the names were compiled without consulting the key political actors in the states.
Many state governors have kicked against the nominees from their states. A sizeable number of senators have also come out to complain that they were not consulted. Yet they are expected to confirm these appointments.
“Worse still, the loopsidedness was also reflected in the list of 12 serving non-career ambassadors who were undeservedly retained at their duty posts. It should be pointed out that both Ambassador Baba Madugu (Switzerland) and Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar (Germany), hail from Mr. Yau Darazau’s state, Bauchi State. Although the duo are to remain at their duty posts, a new nominee from Bauchi State was also forwarded to Senate for confirmation as ambassador.
“Rather than send these unprofessionals abroad, government should consider utilising their experiences at home to improve on Nigeria’s failing politics,” a diplomat said.
Many Nigerians are now suffering visa restrictions and travel bans from a growing number of countries as a result of this nepotistic practice.
The situation has also led to a loss of political prestige by Nigeria as it longer controls as much respect in the diplomatic circle as it used to in the past.