From service chiefs to ambassadors

THE appointment of non-career ambassadors or diplomats by nations is nothing new as it has always been the norm right from time immemorial. Benjamin Franklin, the father of the United States nationalism, a charismatic personality who had succeeded with scientific inventions, printing, publishing and business despite his limited formal education, was appointed as Uncle Sam’s pioneer ambassador to France during the war for independence against the United Kingdom. During the second World War, the then US President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, appointed Joseph Patrick Kennedy Sr. as the country’s ambassador to Great Britain where he brought to bear his vast experience as a securities trader and investment banker who had greatly reformed the stock market after the 1929 crash by banning insider trading. In the heady days of the civil rights struggle, a prominent civil rights leader, Andrew Young, who had served as the Mayor of Atlanta was appointed as the nation’s ambassador to the United Nations.

In all the above cases, the United States put forward the names of their first eleven to represent them as high-powered envoys especially in times of crises.

It was with shock and disgust that I read the nomination of the recently retired service chiefs – Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar – as ambassadors

These were service chiefs who performed greatly below expectations while they held sway. There was an order given by President Muhammadu Buhari, the nation’s supposed Commander-in-Chief to relocate to Borno State so as to better tackle the Boko Haram Insurgency. These chiefs chose instead to stay in their comfort zone in Abuja without any repercussions from Buhari. What contempt! No form of sanction was meted out to them by Buhari. It was established that billions of naira meant for the prosecution of the war against the insurgents was allegedly misappropriated which left the rank and file at the mercy of their adversary. Many of these soldiers weren’t allowed to leave the battlefield even after spending more than the allotted fighting time, many didn’t have their allowances paid to them, many of their widows were left to the elements to fend for themselves with some even immediately thrown out of the military barracks into the cold streets. How callous! Is it a crime to be patriotic and to lay down one’s life for your country? Nigeria is truly a hater of honest labour.

Many political pundits opine that the raison d’etre behind Buhari’s nomination of them as service chiefs was to shield them from any form of prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.

Nigeria boasts of an array of shining stars and talents both at home and in the diaspora who are contributing positively to either the motherland or their second adopted countries. Why can’t he tap from their wealth of experience to launder Nigeria’s image which is currently at its lowest ebb? Why field people not even fit to be on the bench using the football sport as an allegory to represent the supposed ‘Giant of Africa’ abroad? When the Central African Republic, emerging from the ashes of decades-long strife, wanted to shore up its image abroad and attract the much needed foreign direct investment to stimulate the economy, she wisely tapped the services of the late charismatic larger-than-life businessman, Antonio Deinde Fernandez. That move was akin to a successful coup-d’etat as it greatly helped the nation advanced her economic interest – Anthony Ademiluyi.

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