A lot of political spanners are in the works these days. One of them is the new ambassadorial list that the President has just sent to the Senate for scrutiny and confirmation. It is a highpoint among political appointments that have to be made and, even though it has taken this long, it has finally come.
The immediate thoughts that sprang up in my mind at the news of this list is my first-hand experience of one of our embassies in Europe. I had gone to this embassy to get some service for the first time. Right from the entrance one could sense that ‘anything-goes-here’ sort of feeling.
Whereas in many other embassies in the same country, a curt and official-like security officer would welcome and put you through the necessary security necessities, in our embassy there was this unruly, oddly-dressed ruffian doing his own thing and giving a truly-worrying but wrong first impression of Nigeria to anybody from that part of the world. Or “is it indeed a wrong impression?”, someone might ask.
Whereas in this said European country just like many other in the occidental world, you simply pick a tally or press a simple machine for a ticket so as to order services and prevent unnecessary chaos, in our own embassy there were people in the crowded office shouting “give me number”, “na me be next person!”. It was an utter spectacle of an unorganized people.
Whereas in several countries, including the European country in context, a number of the issues one needed to come to the embassy for could be resolved easily via online enquiries, my country’s embassy had a most unresponsive and non-dependable website. Again someone might even say “thank God there was a website at all”.
Maybe nothing paints the picture of our average embassy better than the experience of a Nun who was also present in the embassy I visited that fateful day for a visa. This Nun, a Westerner, was all huddled up in one extreme space of the embassy watching, apparently with incredulity, the whole commotion in a national office which was indeed meant to be representative of the country she was about to visit. It was so embarrassing. I am sure she must have wondered to herself what sort of life attended her in Nigeria.
Now take all the aforesaid information in and let’s get back to the incipience of this article: a new ambassadorial list is in the making. With the other forty seven career ambassador designates submitted by the President to the Senate for confirmation in June this year, the present list of forty six non-career ambassador designates brings the whole list to ninety three. The most interesting thing about that whole list is the sort of eminent people it features. There are many unknown names included yes, but most of those on that list are real eminent, accomplished persons you may add.
The fearful question that comes to mind therefore is “what really used to happen after these eminent and accomplished persons are finally appointed?” How come these apparently decent and very savvy people end up running embassies that look like shackles of some tag-rags which the smallest of any organization will be so ashamed to own? And that is our country’s embassy?
Well, it is time to speak to the conscience of the Senate which now has the duty to confirm such appointments to go beyond the disgusting test of “recite the national Anthem” and the likes, and approach such confirmation with the reality painted above in mind. We cannot afford to vividly present our country as a nation of unordered people and yet when it comes to talking about the nation, present same country as some ideal nation. It is very contradictory and actions, they say, speak better than words.
There is no better time to embark on a proper sanitization of our embassies worldwide via a choice of capable Ambassadors of the country who would indeed be true Ambassadors and showcase the country in better light with decent embassies. The eventual Ambassadors have no better means to key into the change-begins-with-me moral campaign of the government than with their new mandate with which they could make a difference.
It is about time we ended that schizophrenic division between a choice of apparently capable and exposed Ambassadors on the one hand, and an eventual shoddy job of managing our several embassies abroad by these same people on the other hand.
This is another reason why the clarion-call for strengthening all our institutions, one of them being ambassadorial position, is a major test of our other rather loud albeit necessary war on corruption.