Thursday, February 26, 2009

Washington diplomacy and the apologies of the General

By Emma Okocha

The principle of equality within a community is difficult to define. Equality is never Great Britain, the principle would be infringed, and the community broken, if people with blue eyes were less favorably treated than people with brown.
The importance attached to the idea of equality in international politics is shewn by the number and insistence of the demand based on it.

‘Most-favored nation’ treatment, the ‘Open Door’ the old German claim to ‘a place in the sun’, the recent German claim to Gleichberechtigung or equality of status’, have all been demands for the application of the principle of equality.’’
—Hallett Carr, The 20 Years Crisis 1919-1939, An Introduction to the Study of International Relations, London: Macmillan 1939 Page 163.

"Some executives go through their careers bemoaning the lack of quality people. Others actually seek out second rate associates to enhance their stature . T

he best leaders, of course, surround themselves with the best people, and in this regard Jefferson is a role model par excellence...His associates, men like James Madison and Albert Gallatin, were gifted leaders in their own right....independent, responsible competent. Jefferson chose colleagues who were equal to him intellectually, morally and circumstantially, he abhorred Yes-men and intellectual weaklings.’’
—Prof. Garrett Ward Sheldon.

"Two issues - Oil and Terrorism have combined to compel the United States to accept Africa and African countries as strategic partners beyond ‘’HUMANITARIANISM’’.

The US needs the cooperation of African countries to effectively combat and contain terrorism world-wide, as well as ensure regular supply of crude oil and lessen her dependency on crude oil from volatile Middle East region.’’
—Ambassador George Obiozor, Nigeria And The World, New York: Triatlantic Books 2007 Page 164.

"When Alhaji Ali Akilu, the then Secretary of the Northern Nigerian Government learnt that I was an associate of his good friend Sule Kolo, he ordered that my accommodation at the Hotel be canceled, so that I would be his personal guest.

This brief visit introduced me, for the first time, to the home and heart of a Hausa /Fulani aristocrat. I, like other southerners, often saw them as stereotype, yet they are the kindest and the most generous Nigerians.

Of course, they know their interests, which they protect and advance. I could not think of his counterpart Chief Secretary in the South offering this type of hospitality to a younger officer....With us, Igbo relationship was stratified. It was not expected of an Igbo Minister to visit his subordinate Igbo officer; he was so distant and aloof.

The Hausa /Fulani knew better, interacted harmoniously and planned together .It was no surprise that they always acted in unison, whilst we were so disorganized and disparate.....

The Ambassador did not take kindly to this and, in his response, accused the civil service bureaucracy of sabotaging the political class. Sir Abubakar, sent another message, in his name recalling the Ambassador,and instructing him to hand over (the Washington DC) mission to me.’’
—Ambassador G. A. Onyegbula, The Nigerian-Biafran Bureaucrat, Ibadan: Spectrum Books 2005 Page102

"I have the privilege and honor to serve under distinguished and gallant senior officers of different backgrounds in my service to the Nigerian army. God almighty has blessed me with children whose mother is half Igbo and half Yoruba.’’
—Outgoing Nigerian Ambassador to Washington, Brigadier, Oluwole Rotimi.

The news room was in furious stampede. The news editor had lost control. The commotion and the celebration from the top floor of the This Day’s Ikeja temporary offices, had found chorus, understanding and hilarious linkage with the rabbling street urchins who had instantly taken command of the city’s major highways. Not to be caught unawares I rushed into the safety of my friend’s office.

Emmanuel Efeni, a Director of the Newspaper, was the first to explode the news in my face. Ibrahim Abacha, the son to the late Head of State ‘’is dead!” He had been killed in an air crash, near the approaches of the Kano airport.

He and his fiancee, a young lady whose beauty was the type that caused civil wars among men, went with the ball. In total shock, and in tears I tore to shreds my completed Sports column and there, paid my last tribute to a friend, and a benefactor, who had flown me and the Jacksons’ family advance party, from New York to Nigeria.

Under our auspices the family was to undertake a visit to Nigeria. Now why should I join this unnatural ululation, celebrating the sudden and violent passage of a young man. Ibrahim, in my very short memory of him had showed me friendship, kindness and had recently, taken my US delegation to his family home in Kano, where, he led me right inside his mother’s inner chambers. We were to do many big things.

I find myself in the same dilemma, as the news of the recall of the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States hit the waves. A lot of diatribe has been unleashed on the former Ambassador but the fundamental questions are yet to be addressed. How far have the events leading to his recall and the recall itself, moved to affect the US/Nigeria relations?

Indeed, what are the landmarks of the US/Nigeria relations? Finally, what are the consequences of the General’s apologies; for those retired military top brass, who after their retirement are still angling to be in government? What happens to those who are already in government?

And of course, what is going on with the general reconstitution of power within the Yar’Adua axis as these forces consolidate to face the other serious contenders in a the nation that is bracing up for the impending political tussle of 2011 and beyond?

What about the Governors’ powerful emerging lobby, and who can predict the movement of the other external PDP players?

Whether the AC and the ANPP? Will the opposition merge or continue to confront the PDP separately? How safe are the Obasanjo’s insiders, since the widely promoted stop over in Otta of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar?

In his irregular weekend banter, with select African and Nigerian professionals in the Washington area, consummate diplomat, Dr. Obiozor was often enthused with his own description of the power relations between the United States and Nigeria.

He would go, ‘’If the Number One wants to talk to Africa, Number One will call on Africa’s Number One.

So I go there as Number One, talking with Number One! Our job according to him, was to maintain that number one position in Africa, so that the world’s number one would continue to respect our position especially in those issues that bother on our African policies.

Understandably, the appointment of a retired military top brass to the US was therefore a negative signal and to the United States a reminder of the unsavory days of the locusts, when the military ruled against democracy in Nigeria.

It will be recalled that on the General’s arrival, the first diplomatic faux par was recorded, when the President without the right advice or the correct timing, visited the White House during the twilight days of the George Bush’s presidency.

A very bitter Washington winter weather embraced that jejune Federal delegation of no purpose.

President Yar’Adua’s feet, soiled after the controversial elections, managed on the visit to swallow the bitter pills, promised to reform the process and with a straight face in the White House put his hands forward.

The Number One who was equally debilitated by his wars and moribund legacies, stretched out in welcome, but greeted his August guest with naked hands.
Nothing was demanded, nothing was his, to give. That delegation returned with a lot of sand in their pockets.

Meanwhile, the Ambassador assumed duties with the determination of selling Yar’Adua’s incoherent policies.

But unlike his predecessor, he is not a man with the gift of the garb.
Not schooled in the language of the diplomatese, we knew he was courting trouble when he refused to grant interviews to reporters. At his age, he was also not very interested in organizing events or working long nights.

Like a good old soldier, we loved the few times His Excellency, glowed before the limelight. I tell you, we loved his impeccable touches, his imperial carriage.

His ‘’half Igbo and half Yoruba’’ wife and daughter Tokumbo could match the Obamas pound for pound, inside any beauty contest arena anywhere. He is leaving the scene not because he frightened the international community with the way he dressed or by the way he spoke.

Oluwole Rotimi will be remembered by Washingtonians for his belief that cultural outfits are necessary abutments of the diplomatic wardrobe.

They would be used, and when the occasion demands, worn with elan, sophistication and with little apologies.

The Nigerian Embassy in Washington is only second in importance to the Nigerian House at the James Court, London.

Replete with its own histories of perfidy, betrayals and internal administrative feuds by officers against each other or against politically appointed ambassadors, this embassy since the pioneer Ambassadors, Matthew Mbu, J. Edochi (from the Niger Delta region) have had its share of distraction from its stated mission.

Ambassador Edochi, a former politician from Edo State, was in fact the first Nigerian Ambassador plenipotentiary to be recalled by the late Prime Minister.

I was in school, when our affable Ambassador of the late 80’s was sent packing, following his involvement with a beautiful bar tender. He was caught on tape, red handed!! But for his diplomatic immunity and the quick intervention of the Babangida government that Ambassador could have gone to jail.

We have had others, most of whom were like Rotimi were retired officers posted here by military fiat. All the same, we believe that the principal reason for the good old Brigadier Rotimi ouster, may not be unconnected to his loyalty to General Obasanjo. Look at the horizon, the hangings have commenced, and for all the Obasanjo disciples, the noose can not be tighter.

The whole of the West once the sure Baronage under the Otta General, have all been wrestled from him. In Ondo, his nemesis, Governor Mimiko has been consecrated and not surprisingly returned.

From Ekiti to Ibadan, all the former states of the Oyo empire, including Ogun his home state, where Daniel is giving him and his fence jumping daughter a blind eye, all are moving away from his control.

His alliance in the unresolved Edo conundrum, is the PDP faction, that is on the receiving side. So why should a greater tomorrow, contending President, risk keeping an old soldier loyal to the Emperor, at the second most important embassy at this critical time of the game?

For those Igbos, who reason from their anus and come in without invitation to support or to congratulate their ‘Igbo Foreign Minister’ on the recall of the Ambassador, we ask the question; Where is the one, Igbo interest promoted in this latest joker from a very smart man who has continued to serve both mammon and God to remain with the arbiter of the time?

This is not a Yoruba Igbo face off. Under his watch, as the Foreign Affairs Minister, a Northerner is now the acting Ambassador in Washington. In London, Alhaji Dalhatu Tafida is our Envoy. In South Africa, Brigadier Marwa a northerner is our Ambassador. Who is the Ambassador in Germany and Saudi Arabia?

For the first time in our diplomatic history Northerners are posted to the most powerful seats without the Foreign Minister batting an eyelid. Whereas nobody worries about Jordan, Yemen, Indonesia, Egypt, Morocco etc. (On account of the Islamic inclination of the aforementioned countries.)

Why are Northern Ambassadors posted to Ireland, and Belgium? For those of you fighting the war of handkerchief, notice that when Igbo Ambassadors are nominated, over fed politicians who have failed their constituencies, like Kema Chikwe etc, are posted to Europe. Beautiful Kema cleaned the Lagos and Abuja Airports.

As the Aviation Minister, she expanded and designed the modern Lagos airport and put Abuja on the standard line. It was after she left office that her own Imo airport started functioning.

All Imo airport needed was just one tiny Ministerial memo and Imo airport and the state could have come alive! Under the Foreign Minister, the US embassies facilitate immigration visa, operate libraries, educational programmes etc. in the West and the North, where the US embassies are situated. The Eastern and the Midwestern regions have been neglected.

To come down to Lagos or to go up to the north, takes some few days of pain and a lot of costs for those other Nigerians who travel down to Lagos Abuja, or Kaduna to be part of the American Dream.

What has been the reaction of the Foreign Minister to this anomaly?
To dominate External postings of foreign service personnel by one group in the Nigerian federation is a dangerous defect of the federal law and practice.

It becomes unacceptable, when these often incompetent officers who had their first assignment and test on the job, are hoisted into civilization after serving as a messenger or chief clerk in one of the triage nations of the Sahara.

Come to think of it, who is the Acting Ambassador, Who is the Head of Chancery in the Washington Embassy of Nigera? Who is the Accountant? Who is the Military Attachee? Who are the Nigerian Embassy Consuls? Over 70 percent of the Washington Embassy staff from the veil wearing receptionist, up to the acting Ambassador are Northerners.

Before we lose our sleep, fighting other peoples war, The Foreign Minister came from the same stable as the recalled Ambassador.

They were Obasanjo’s hitmen before any thing else. But in the Machiavellian school where power and the naked absolute rush to acquire more and exercise unlimited authority over other players, dictate the modus operanda, strident students of this school take no prisoners.

The Foreign Minister was with Abacha, made it with Obasanjo and now he has to show credence by knocking down another old mate who is not a card carrying disciple of Machiavelli.

Finally, we can never forgive Muritala Mohammed, T. Danjuma, Black Scorpion, Benjamin Adekunle for the genocide the former committed in Asaba, and for the manner the last two conducted the war against the Rag tag army.

Brigadier Oluwole, has apologized, like General Gowon did at Asaba in 1998.Hence we shall plead and ask the Rag tag army officers and men, to forgive the disgraced general.

The war and who actually won it (there was serious depopulation of the males in the Middle Belt. The area that supplied the foot soldiers for the Federal army, immediately after the war) is a matter best left for scholars and historians.

Whatever, the war is another issue. The fallout of the recall of Ambassador Oluwole Rotimi is rather exigent. Who is the President posting to Washington and for what purpose?

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