With a few weeks into the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, the Federal Government has directed ‘Political Ambassadors’ in various host countries to start winding down their diplomatic assignments and return home as their appointments have ceased to be following the exit of President Goodluck Jonathan form office as President and the end of his administration on May 29, 2015.
The New Diplomat gathered authoritatively that the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already written to all affected ‘political ambassadors,’ with the exception of a few, who might not be affected by this new directive. The immediate past Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Danjuma Shani, who was recently posted to the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation in charge of Career Management had in a diplomatic minute dispatched to Nigerian ‘Political Ambassadors’ directed them ‘to start winding down in their respective host countries since the President who appointed them has ceased to be President with the swearing-in of a new President on May 29, 2015.’
Diplomatic sources told The New Diplomat that those affected by this directive include the Ambassador to Canada, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Alhaji Dalhatu Tafida, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States, Prof Ade Adefuye, Ambassador Chize Karse, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Argentina, who was at a time the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Benue State and Ambassador Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the widow of late Biafran Warlord, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
It was gathered that this directive has led to an increase in the jostling to fill these plum positions. As at last count, more than 3, 000 persons, including big-time politicians, are said to mounting pressure on the Presidency to consider them for ambassadorial appointments. The New Diplomat however gathered that President Buhari may have promised an ambassadorial slot to each State of the Federation in order to accommodate some special interests who are pivotal in the scheme of things.
Said a diplomatic source in the Presidency: ‘The process of an ambassador winding down is a long-drawn diplomatic activity. That was why the Federal Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had to write to them ahead of time to start even now because there is a new administration in place in the country and they should wind down. The process usually involves having to inform the President or Head of Government of their respective host countries through diplomatic channels that they are now leaving their postings. It involves some other pertinent activities. But I can assure you that most of them have started winding down already. In Canada for example, Chief Ojo Maduekwe who is the current Ambassador to Canada – a political appointee, who was given that position by former President Jonathan – has started packing, preparatory to his return to Nigeria.’’
Investigations reveal that some Nigerian Embassies and High Commissions might not have been be affected by this directive. For example, though China, is quite a big league posting, the acting Nigerian Ambassador there is a career diplomat and is not therefore affected as Jonathan did not appoint a substantive ambassador to China following the appointment of Ambassador Aminu Wali as Nigeria’s Foreign Minister towards the tail end of his administration. Another big league posting that is not likely to be affected is that of Nigeria’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations (UN) in New York because of its sensitive and strategic role in global issues, especially as Nigeria currently occupies a non-permanent membership seat at the UN Security Council and she would most certainly occupy the Presidency of the Security Council on a rotational basis in August this year.
A top source in the Presidency confided in The New Diplomat that the Federal Government is not considering disrupting the diplomatic schedules at the UN which would amount to huge diplomatic deficit for Nigeria if she alters the schedules, hence New York might not be affected by the directive.
The recall of diplomats is normal process once there is change of guard at the Presidency. It would be recalled that following the triumph of former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the second term elections in 2003, Obasanjo gave all Heads of Mission till May 29 to return to Abuja. In a letter signed on the President’s behalf the by then External Affairs Minister, Alhaji Sule Lamido, the government recalled all its envoys, but one. Not a few career Ambassadors tacitly noted their disenchantments as they had thought the election calendar would sound the knell for the homecoming of political appointees and not career envoys.
The recall of Ambassadors serving in foreign missions is a routine exercise especially where there is a change of guard at the federal level. However, pundits highlight that such routine changes should not be extended to career Ambassadors, but should be limited to Ambassadors who are political appointees. This, they argue, will uphold a measure of security applicable to the civil service while also developing the professionalism of the career diplomat.
The administration of President Buhari appears to be in touch with the sentiments evidenced in the foregoing, as The New Diplomat can authoritatively report that the Federal Government has issued a letter of recall to some political Ambassadors serving in Foreign missions. Out of the 88 Ambassadors appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan, 32 were political appointees, while 56 were career Ambassadors. Although the current recall is justified in the light of diplomatic custom and process, since a new President, with an invariably new vision, has mounted the saddle, it is necessary to further balance the need for compliance with diplomatic custom against political expediency.
Thus, some political analysts believe that President Buhari will have to re-examine the notion of a blank recall of all Ambassadors who are political appointees. For example, while some people are of the view that Buhari should necessarily rejig Nigeria’s relationship with the West especially the United States, which most people believe was frosty during the past administration of Jonathan thereby necessitating the recall of Ambassador Adefuye , it should not be straight jacket procedure for the recall of Nigerian Ambassadors serving in foreign missions, regardless of whether such Ambassadors are political appointees or career diplomats.
Analysts told The New Diplomat that such recall should be guided by reason and political expediency, bearing in mind what is in the best interest of the country.