Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Before Her Excellency Meets the Nigerian Community

by Hakeem Babalola
Hum, the Nigerian ambassador to Hungary, Mrs Adeola Adebisi Obileye, has finally agreed to meet with the Nigerian community in Hungary. This is a good gesture. Not long ago we were fed with plethora of news about how she reneged on an earlier promise to meet with the Committee members who had paid her a courtesy visit. In response I had argued that the ambassador may have been justified and then backed it up with evidence in form of satire. I had proposed that the best way for Madam was to address the Nigerian community as a whole and not Caretaker Committee or any union in this regard.

In this piece, I shall rationalize by saying certain individuals have relegated the Nigerian Union to the bottom of the totem pole. I shall argue that the embassy should respect its citizens above any union or club or organization. Then I shall enumerate what the embassy could do for its citizens in the host country. I shall offer suggestions on what the embassy should do in order to reach out to its citizens. Are you with me?

Although I don’t know the reason behind the embassy’s change of heart, it’s definitely a welcome development to hear that Madam is not a rigid disciplinarian. Once upon a time not so long, there was this Nigerian Emperor who was so stubborn like a donkey that he shot himself on the foot despite public plea. Therefore I commend Mrs. Obileye’s change of heart. It is indeed a plot of great ingenuity.

But tarry a little. Is this actually a change of heart? I suppose there was never a time that Madam refused to meet with the Nigerian community. Perhaps we have been sending confusing signals like jumble of road signs. We should endeavour not to confound her refusal to meet with the Committee or Union members with meeting the Nigerian community as a whole. The latter is a must while the former is not. I shall expatiate.

The functions of a diplomatic mission include the representation and protection of the home country and its citizens in the host country. A Nigerian Union or Committee or any union for that matter, being a social or pressure group, may not necessarily represent the interest of the citizens in the host country. Hence such club or union or group may represent its interest but not the Nigerian community. Of course this is an assumption. As far as I am concerned, any worthy ambassador would never miss the opportunity to acquaint him or herself with the citizens in the host country. By citizens I mean Nigerian community as a whole and not executive members of a certain club.

Thus far, I have my reservations about social club claiming service to the people. For example, the argument put forward by a former Nigerian Union executive for having a union is to speak with one voice. Another one exacts that only a Nigerian Union can fight the embassy. Since its genesis, the Nigerian Union neither have spoken with one voice nor successfully fought the Embassy. Instead the embassy has manipulated the executive members of the Nigerian Union. An example is when Emperor Olusegun Okikiolakan Aremu Obasanjo visited Hungary in 2001. The embassy tactically used them to organize a befitting reception for a president that should have been pelted with eggs.

Furthermore, suppose there are many Nigerian Unions in Hungary, does it mean that our
ambassador must meet all of them at different times? How would such ambassador get time? What if a union is formed with the aim to destabilize the home country? Do we expect the embassy to embrace such union? The best thing is to meet with the Nigerian community as a whole without prejudice and without an intermediary. How is the embassy going to inform its citizens? See, this is one of the mistakes the Nigerian embassy in Hungary is making. In this era of Information Technology, this shouldn't cause any problem.

For instance, many Nigerians have registered with their embassy. Isn’t it? What the embassy need do is to create a formidable networking like a website featuring newsletter and events like other Nigerian Missions around the world. There is no need for physical contact or presence before the embassy could embolden its citizens in the areas that matter. Such action would invariably undermine any misinformation or unfounded allegations. This would also release the pressure on any Committee Chairperson or any Union President who might want to work him or herself to the limit in an attempt to look good before the members.

Ironically, certain individuals have relegated the Nigerian Union to the bottom of totem pole. These Nigerians prefer approaching the embassy on their own to going through any union. And it has worked for them. These are individuals who have befriended successive ambassadors or Charge d’ affaires. They are ever present at every occasion being organized by the embassy. There is one whom Ambassador Yomi Akintola inappropriately introduced to Obasanjo in 2001 as a successful scholarship student. Till today, I wonder why such high ranking Nigerian official would consider someone who owes his country big time as being successful.

There is another one who read eulogy during the wake keeping for the late Ambassador Gershon Guyit. (Amb. Guyit’s classification of Nigerians living in Hungary into two – the students and the street ones – angered many). Our departed ambassador had zero tolerance for the "street ones". Anyway, these individuals have become avante-garde of sycophants. Permit my use of hyperbole. They have probably sold their compatriots at a cheap price in order to gain popularity.

They are ever ready to prove the difference; they behave in a manner to twist their nationality. Some of them gloat over having Hungarian citizenship and only remember their original country just when it suits them. Meanwhile they embrace Ambassador Guyit’s dichotomy: I belong not to the street ones. Is such braggadocio necessary in the first place? I predict these lads would not attend the meeting. For what? Hum, yours truly might not attend as well, because, of what purpose is such previous meetings.

Guess what? It seems our embassy has fallen for the slickness of these Nigerians in question. Otherwise no ambassador under any circumstances should classify its citizens into two opposed parts or subclasses. The embassy must endeavour to treat its citizens equally in the host country as long as the latter has given them permission to reside. For instance, though as mundane as it is, ambassador’s inauguration get-together should be open to all Nigerians and not selected few. See, this is the advantage of a formidable Information Technology I mentioned earlier.

Consequently, I am not so naive as to believe the embassy is here to solve one’s immigration problem. That's not its duty and any Nigerian who thinks otherwise must be living in a fool’s paradise. The best our embassy could do for us is to implement a procedure of administration assistance at no exorbitant cost in the areas of document authentication; provides logistics in case of emergency; be aware of the numbers of its citizens in the host country; follow up any unjust persecution of its citizens; and other welfare services. The embassy will have rendered any agitating union or club or organization useless should it embark on this, for there would be nothing left to fight for.

And lastly, unlike political diplomats, I trust Madam Ambassador being a career diplomat would do the right thing without necessarily being nice – to preserve the dignity of Nigeria and its citizens studying or working and living in Magyarország. The bottom line is not the meeting but what happens thereafter.

On this I stand.

2007 Copyright

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