Citizen Ambassadors of Nigeria (Book)
By Zacheaus Somorin
The goal of the author of Citizen Ambassadors of Nigeria is to bring to the forefront a theory called track two diplomacy by which non-officials like businessmen, academics, retired civil and military officials, public figures, and social activists engage in ambassadorial works targeted at improving the image of a country.
The focus of the writer, Paul Ohia is on Nigeria.
He wrote on this specific subject in order to encourage those who wish to engage in such move by mentioning the activities of those he already identified as citizen diplomats. In his view, the image of Nigeria is on the low side due to the activities of internet fraudsters called 419ers, drug pushers and those engaged in sundry crimes abroad.
According to the Ohia, bout of diplomatic activities that preceded the 1999 return to democratic rule whereby government went abroad seeking for foreign investors was equally succeeded by equivalent people to people activities in the private sector which went hitherto unnoticed.
In his words, contrasting with the previous years when Nigerians in the Diaspora exhibited a near apathy to issues at home, today they show a lot of interest and long to take part in a new Nigeria.
He sees them participating in development activities in their places of abode and at home though most of the time they complain of administrative bottlenecks which frustrate some of their ideas and intentions at the home front.
He wrote that in the same manner certain categories of Nigerians at home complement government’s diplomacy efforts by contributing a huge quota to promote the image of the country overseas by employing diverse methods.
They comprise big time businessmen, small scale entrepreneurs, business organisations and even students in tertiary institutions as this book explains.
He noted that a common feature amongst these breed in the Diaspora is the love for their fatherland because they do not achieve success abroad and ascribe all to the foreign environment. They always refer to their homeland as a springboard for their attainments.
On the part of the home based ambassadors, they try as much as possible not to succumb to negative images awarded gratuitously to their country by foreign media as they strive to use some economic leverage they have to tell the whole world a positive story of Nigeria
and the continent of Africa. Amongst these compatriots, the writer explained, are corporate citizens who took some giants strides to invest in foreign countries after making their impact in their homeland. Undoubtedly, they fly the flag of Nigeria in these countries and this automatically raises the image of Nigeria.
He enthused that this book will not only try to draw attention to this good phenomenon but will also attempt to encourage the participation of the citizenry in improving the reputation of Nigeria.
“The write-up will also be a testimony that Nigerians are good global players and citizens away from the wrong stereotypical images engendered by some few bad eggs which often afflict others.” he wrote in his introduction.
Citizen Ambassadors of Nigeria is divided into three sections ;personalities, organisations and corporate citizens.The personalities he adjudged worthy of having attained this feat are a London-based doctor, John George, a monorail engineer based in Canada whose company built monorails in Iraq, Dr. Jude Igwemezie, Chairman of First Bank PLC, Airtel and Honeywell, Oba Otudeko, oil magnate, Wale Tinubu, and managing partner of US-based Capital Investment Group, Toyin Dawodu.
Others mentioned in the book are the president of Ade Financial Group of Canada, Wale Adesanya, Coordinator, New Jersey chapter of Nigeria in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), Adedayo Sanusi, founder of La Serene Hospitality Specialists in the US, Miss Blondie Okpuzor , United Kingdom-based entrepreneur listed in the Guinness Book of Records, Alexander Amosu and former minister of education and World Bank vice president, Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili. The largest number of pages was dedicated to Chairman of Leaders and Company, publishers of THISDAY newspaper, Nduka Obaigbena and then came the Chairman of Zinox Technologies, Leo Stan Eken.
Businessman and philanthropist, Fola Adeola came on page 33 while computer genius, Philip Emeagwali came on page 35 trailed by African coordinator of Solicitors International , Olisa Emeka, Chikwendu followed. Some other prominent ladies listed in the book are international model, Oluchi Onweagba, founder of New York-based Afro Heritage Ventures Olutosin Mustapha and US-based scholar, Professor Subomi Macaulay.
A prominent artist who won the United Nations International Art Competition, Ibiyinka Olufemi Alao was also eulogised for his citizen diplomacy works in the book.
The organisations mentioned in the book are, Positive Nigeria International (PNI), African Refugees Foundation, Anyiam Osuigwe Foundation, GEANCO Foundation, New Nigerian Alliance, LEAP Africa, African Business Owners Forum Inc. (ABOFI-USA), Anambra State Association (ASA-USA) and Nollywood.
His corporate citizens list includes, United Bank for Africa, Dangote Group, Zenith Bank, Slok Group, Globacom Limited, Sterling Bank, Skye Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, First Bank, Access Bank, Diamond Bank and Arik Air.
Prior to listing the personalities, organisations and corporate citizens, the writer gave special mention to former foreign minister, Ojo Maduekwe, foreign minister, Olugbenga Ashiru, Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Matters, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa
who wrote the introduction and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The author’s central argument was that the president of the United States from 1953 to 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower saw America’s image going down due to incessant wars and he founded the People to People movement aimed at improving the international perception of the country.
To this end, those he christened Citizen Ambassadors of Nigeria are really performing well in their bid to make Nigeria admired abroad. What makes the book a pleasant reading is free flowing journalistic style but undue prolongation of profiles often makes it a little bit boring that the reader might be tempted to jump to the next paragraph.
Ohia is the Group Foreign/Diplomatic Editor of THISDAY newspapers and must have brought his experience to bear on his work. He did the rare work of unveiling some personalities that are rendering unique patriotic services but not noted inside the country and also defining
the work of those whose fantastic contributions have not been given any specific definition.
Many have seen the forage of Nigerian businesses abroad as just profit seeking but have not seen it from the point of view of contributing to the good image of the country. In the same vein, the NGOs mentioned in the book are rarely seen as being capable of being used as instruments of keeping country’s image clean. Their activities are often viewed in the light of the routine functions of any other NGOs. All told, the book is unique as it might qualify as the first ever in this genre.