Nigeria’s 60th independence: In search of a strong, united country – Part 2
60th Anniversary Lecture on the platform of Association of Retired Career Ambassador of Nigeria (ARCAN).
Can mutually acceptable forms of worship be crafted by divinely inspired religious scholars and leaders to promote increasing religious harmony, leading to peace, love, and national cohesion? Would the Almighty God, Allah, whom we all serve or profess to serve, reject our joint common unified veneration, adoration, and prayers? Must we be perpetually stuck to the past in borrowed foreign garbs and forms in worshipping the Everlasting, Almighty, All-Merciful God? Must we be more popish than the Pope on both sides?
I know it is an extremely difficult goal to attain. Believe me, it is absolutely far from my intention, to trivialize the depth, purity, and transcendent issues of faith. I hope I am not hovering at the fringes of blasphemy on both sides of the divide; but let us, at least, try – try, try again for the sake of the country.
Now, a peep into the area of our foreign policy. We should work towards a balanced, co-ordinated approach, and harness the instruments of foreign policy to build a strong, united country. There is hardly any need restating the obvious about the complementarity of a nation’s domestic policy and its external efforts. The two are inextricably interwoven and impact one on the other. Our external image needs to be refurbished and reinvigorated. Could we have, for instance, done more when, recently, we were presented with the unique opportunity, as the most populous black nation on earth, to add our voice to the protestation of the ‘Black Life Matters Movement’? Why did we remain docile, frozen, and bogged down by our own inertia, whatever the reasons?
The castration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has led to its systemic weakening. Is this responsible for its underperformance? Should this be a source of concern for us? Yes, it should. While some see it as reflecting the current state of our nation, I see it, as a combination of both the state of the nation and the crumbling weight of a conceptual and structural deformity.
To halt and reverse this, I suggest, we look seriously into the establishment of a Nigerian Diplomatic Service that will take charge of our external interests, just as we already have a Home Service that takes care of the domestic front. The Nigerian Diplomatic Service should be driven and led by very carefully selected and well-trained men and women knowledgeable in the theory and practice of international relations. This will enable the nation to promote a robust wholesome external image of our country and best serve the national interest. The Domestic and Diplomatic Services should both work harmoniously and seamlessly up to and under the direction of the Head of State. Of course, there could, occasionally, be a conflict of beneficial ideas.
Many have talked about the pivotal role of leadership in the transformation of a nation. I strongly believe in the lofty vision of a strong, disciplined, inspirational leadership that will drive the democratic process forward, cleanse it, stabilize it, and unite the nation. I believe in leadership, which embraces, all in equal terms. As an advocate of a strong, united country, my vision of leadership cannot be myopic; does not have room for nepotism, and cannot tolerate parochialism. Such practices wear and tear down the very fabric of a nation. It is manifestly unfair. It is wrong. It is morally wrong. It is corruption in its most reprehensible form; akin to the looting of public funds by those entrusted with it for the welfare of the citizenry; or the denigration of the temples of justice; or the betrayal of trust in the hallowed places of worship in the land.
Finally, taking all these into consideration, I remain hopeful that we can still fly as an eagle; and be the giant we are destined to be as a nation. God save Nigeria. God bless our country. Happy Independence Day.
Olisemeka (CON), Ambassador and former Minister of Foreign Affairs.