Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and observers were shocked to the marrows yesterday when one ambassadorial nominee did not know the capital of Lagos State while two others could not correctly recite the National Anthem and National Pledge respectively.
The mild drama took place at the commencement of the screening of 47 ambassadorial nominees by the committee in the National Assembly in Abuja.
Upon the take-off of the screening exercise, the nominee from Anambra State, Mrs. Vivian Okeke, who was the first to face the Senate screening committee, was asked to recite the National Anthem but she became nervous and although she started the recitation, she could not carry through the test.
Hence, a member of the committee, Senator James Manager, compassionately came to her rescue by helping her to recite it to the end.
In the same vein, another nominee, Ibrahim Isah, from Niger State, was asked by the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Monsurat Summonu, to recite the National Pledge. Like Okeke, Isah failed the simple screening test as he could not correctly recite it.
During the recitation, Isah had said “…to defend her unity and integrity, so help me God,” instead of “to defend her unity, and uphold her honour and glory, so help me God.”
Besides, another nominee from Benue State, Mrs. Ada Ndem, was asked to mention 12 states in Nigeria and their capitals but when she got to Lagos, she said the capital of Lagos is Lagos.
Failing these simple tests worried some watchers as they wondered how the nation’s ambassadors could be unable to recite the anthem or pledge of the country they are going to represent just as it was viewed to be shocking that an educated Nigerian who rose to a laudable height in civil service did not know the capital of Lagos, the most popular state in the country.
Nevertheless, their failure in the simple tests did not imply that they would not scale the confirmation hurdle as they also correctly answered other questions posed to them before they were eventually asked to “take a bow and go.”
Okeke, for instance, who later put herself together, while responding to a question, said the three major areas where the present government should give priority attention to should include war against corruption, war against insurgency and diversification of the economy.
Meanwhile, of the total 47 nominees whose names were sent to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari last month for confirmation, the committee screened 15 nominees yesterday while the exercise continues today and tomorrow when it is expected to come to an end.
However, Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, while embarking on damage control last night, denied reports that some nominees failed simple screening tests.
In a statement, Enang claimed that the reports were nothing but misrepresentation of facts even though it was common knowledge that Okeke while reciting the National Anthem omitted 11 words in the the last stanza as she skipped “…to serve with heart and might, one nation bound in freedom” before jumping to “peace and unity,” as Isa also did while reciting The Pledge whereas Ndem openly said the capital of Lagos was Lagos instead of Ikeja.
The statement read: “Our Attention has been drawn to report by a section of the media that some Ambassadorial Nominees were unable to recite the National Anthem and Pledge while appearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs for screening today.
”May I state that the nominees were able to respond to questions asked them, and also recited the National Anthem and Pledge when called upon. As such, the report by the media is incorrect.
“Subjecting them to criticisms at this point over a situation which never happened in the first place is most unfair and uncalled for.
“Let me use this opportunity to appreciate the effort of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Monsurat Sumonu, and members of the committee, for the intellectual and thorough manner in which the exercise is being carried out”