Why Not an Ojo Maduekwe Foundation for Citizen Diplomacy in Nigeria?

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Vie Internationale with Bola A. Akinterinwa Telephone : 0807-688-2846 e-mail: bolyttag@yahoo.com

Ojo Maduekwe, born on May 6, 1945 as a Nigerian by ius sanguinis, lawyer by training, traditional chieftaincy title holder by conferment on the basis of patriotic behaviour, astute professional politician by choice, unflinching Christian by inheritance, permanently thirsty and hungry intellectually, a completely detribalised Nigerian who is always wrapped up in the glory of objectivity of purpose, died unexpectedly but heroically at the Turkish Hospital in Abuja on Wednesday, June 29 at the age of 71 years.

He returned from the United States on that same day with the hope of coming to supervise the arrangements of the 70th Anniversary of his wife the following day. He refused to slump in the aircraft but waited fully to be on Nigerian soil at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport before doing so and had to be rushed to the hospital. He did not die after a brief illness the Nigerian way. He workrd until the last second of his life and was laid to rest on Saturday, 20th August, 2016.

When he was alive, he was bubbling with development ideas and always living ahead of his time. He was one of the few Foreign Ministers who added value to the articulation of Nigeria’s foreign policy interest. Dr. Jaja Wachukwu, Nigeria’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs, came up with two powerful arguments on exceptions to the rule of non-interference and intervention in international relations that had to be internationally acknowledged.

When President Sylvanus Olympio of Togo was assassinated in 1963, Dr. Wachukwu argued that there must be an exception to Article 2, paragraph 7 of the United Nations Charter which prohibits intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries, particularly domestic affairs over which the countries have exclusive competence.
For Jaja Wachukwu, President Olympio was a very strong and dependable ally of Nigeria, and therefore, Nigeria could not simply fold her arms and be a spectator in the commission of atrocities in Nigeria’s backyard.

A second illustration of the exception to the rule was the apartheid argument. Jaja Wachukwu had it that under no circumstance should apartheid or the subjugation of an African or black man in South Africa be considered as an internal affair of South Africa. In fact, it should be recalled here that it was clearly stated in the inner cover of the back page of Nigeria’s passport in the 1960s and 1970s that every holder of the then Nigerian passport should fight apartheid with whatever means available to him or her wherever he or she may be. This means that apartheid was fought tooth and nail without due regard to the principle of non-intervention.

While Dr. Okoi Arikpo contributed the argument that Nigeria would not accept the use of Africa simply as a source of raw materials for the development of Europe, Professor
Ibrahim Agboola Gambari came up with the need for foreign policy concentricism in the implementation processes of the national interest. Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji pushed the argument further by redefining it as beneficial and constructive concentricism. Put differently, while Professor Gambari underscores operational areas of foreign policy implementation, Ambassador Adeniji emphasises the articulation of the interests to be protected in each concentric circle.

Perhaps more interestingly challenging is Professor Akinwande Bolaji Akinyemi’s contribution. He came up with the Consultation Doctrine which required any partner of Nigeria to first consult with Nigeria before assuming and expecting support from Nigeria whenever such partner runs into trouble in international politics. Additionally, he came up with the idea of Concert of Medium Powers as a possible instrument of self-projection. And true, Professor Akinyemi was also the chief evangelist and technician of the Technical Aid Corps Scheme on which Nigeria’s current international respect is still largely based.

Some Issues in and Rationales for Citizen Diplomacy
Citizen diplomacy, as theorised by Ojo Maduekwe, is a technique for the conduct and management of diplomacy using the citizens but Nigeria is yet to fully appreciate and begin to take advantage of it. Although Ojo Maduekwe was not an academic professor, the vibrancy of his ideas, his knowledge of current affairs, the rate at which he acquires new publications and read them, as well as his ability to compare, contrast and simplify complicated issues qualify him as an extraordinary professor even in the absence of an official conferment. Explained differently, he theorised citizen diplomacy in the context of future scenarios and need. This is precisely on what the leading countries of the world are currently focusing their energy as official diplomacy now appears to be failing to assist in the maintenance of international peace and security. The involvement of the people has become a desideratum in the quest for global peace as at today, and this is precisely why there is need for a centre or a foundation for Citizen Diplomacy in honour of Chief Ojo Maduekwe.

In this regard, one major irritant and challenge to Nigeria’s foreign policy making is how to address the issue of mistreatment of and unfairness often meted out to Nigerians in foreign countries. Recall the task force set up in November 2007 by the Government of Ghana, which sealed up shops owned by Nigerians. Nigerian traders were required to pay $300,000 (three hundred thousand US dollars) to the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre before they could be allowed to continue doing business in Ghana. The Association of Nigerian Traders in Ghana made efforts to get the order reversed but it was to no avail.

The Nigerian traders in Ghana, by virtue of Nigeria’s membership of the ECOWAS, are Community Citizens, and therefore, have the right to reside and establish businesses in the country. Even though this does not mean they should not respect the business code of the country, their host country does not also have the right to make discriminatory and self- protective regulations to the detriment of ECOWAS supranational regulations. This is an area that should be of serious concern for citizen diplomacy, the foundations of which are yet to be laid at the level of the Nigerian people.

Another illustration of unfairness and maltreatment of Nigerians in Africa was the execution of some Nigerians in Libya in 2010 allegedly for various offences. If people commit offences and were found guilty after a fair trial, there should not be any qualms about it. However, when what is considered a fair trial is largely predicated on official unfairness, then there cannot but be a fundamental issue to address.

In Libya, legal proceedings, investigations, as well as prosecutions are all carried out in Arabic language, which most of the accused people standing trial do not at all understand. Interpretations and translations are not allowed and several international civil society groups, especially many members of the Amnesty International have been complaining about this issue for a long time but to no avail. As we do all know, citizen diplomacy is essentially about the protection of the citizens in all ramifications at home and abroad. However, citizen diplomacy is yet to be given the institutional fillip it deserves. It is within the framework of citizen diplomacy that problems of mistreatment of Nigerians can best be treated at the level of people-to-people.

For instance, what really was the outcome of Nigeria’s protest letter when the Mexican authorities deported the Nigerian delegation who went to Mexico to cheer to victory Nigeria’s heavyweight champion, Mr. Samuel Peter? Have we also forgotten the case of a 31-year old Nigerian married to a Belgian, Mrs. Evelyn Uche Amarim, who was strangled to death by her husband, Wim Vanackner, in Bredene in Belgium? Even though Evelyn had children for the husband, she was brutally killed and dumped at the Franco-German border where the French authorities found her dead.

If it is difficult to seek diplomatic protection at the level of official diplomacy, especially in light of the fact of dual nationality of the couple, what about the roles to be played at the level of people-to-people to ensure that the implications of such wicked killings are brought to stay on the discerning minds of the generality of the people?
In 2008, ten Nigerians were travelling from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in a super tug-boat, named Yenagoa Ocean, back home to Nigeria, but were attacked in the international waters by some militant groups in Somalia.

As explained by the Captain of the ship, Graham Egbegi, he and his crew went to Dubai to take delivery of the Yenagoa Ocean via the Pacific route. On their way back, one of the crew members fell ill and had to be rushed to the nearest port for medical assistance. Mogadishu was the nearest port and permission was granted to berthe the vessel there. It was when the vessel was heading towards the Mogadishu port that the vessel was attached, and that the ten Nigerians were abducted and taken into unknown destination for several weeks. The roles specifically played by Ojo Maduekwe were noteworthy, especially in securing their safety and their vessel. The factor of people-to-people was critical in the effort.

We should also not quickly forget the case of another Nigerian vessel, Ocean King 1, a fishing trawler owned by Mr. Kunle Kuteyi of the Ocean King Nigeria Limited. The vessel was sailing from the United States to Nigeria but was in distress in the international waters close to Senegalese territorial waters. Another vessel, owned by a Spanish company, Euskalduna de Pesca of Call Santamane 3-Baj-48370 Bermeo, came to its aid and towed it to the Senegalese port.

As we have once noted in Volume 1 of Vie Internationale Contemporaine, 2007-2012: Reflections on Nigeria in a Pluriverse World of Decline and Incline (Nigeria and the Challenge of Nation-building, pp, 757-758), it was quite clear that the Senegalese authorities were simply interested in acquiring the Ocean King 1 and therefore hid under spurious arguments that the vessel was abandoned on the high seas and not that the vessel was brought to the Senegalese port by a third party. If the vessel had been found by the Senegalese naval men and towed to the Senegalese port by them, the story and the position of the Senegalese maritime authority would have been quite understandable. In any case, the Senegalese smartly took over ownership of Ocean King 1 thus leaving Mr. Kunle Kuteyi to an unprotected fate in Nigeria.

As we have also noted earlier, ‘whenever Chief Ojo Maduekwe talks about citizen diplomacy, he always has in mind the protection of all law abiding Nigerians wherever they may be in the world. The protection includes non-acceptance of mistreatment of Nigerians, application of reciprocity when foreign authorities do not apologise or refuse to remedy wrong doings to Nigerians, promotion of better entente in bilateral relations to prevent hostile attitude towards Nigerians in their host states, as well as re-orientation of Nigerians travelling abroad and creating greater awareness about the rules and regulations guiding international immigration in the various countries of the world’ (ibid., p.756).

The choice of the foregoing examples is to underscore the need for citizen diplomacy. The examples are simply a tip of the iceberg. There are more serious issues in Nigeria’s foreign policy begging for attention but to which attention is hardly paid. State matters have always been given priority attention probably rightly too, but doing so should not be critically detrimental to the interests of the people without who the concept of the Nigerian nation will be, at best, meaningless. This is why the beauty in citizen diplomacy, and particularly any sincere initiative either by the people themselves or by the Government of Abia State or the Government of the Federation has to be taken advantage of. The rationales for citizen diplomacy are many and worth looking into in acknowledging Ojo Maduekwe as an administrator and great thinker of no mean repute.

As regards rationales for a possible Ojo Maduekwe Citizen Diplomacy Foundation, Ojo Maduekwe is a very good party-politics player worth emulating in various ramifications. He is completely de-tribalised in his approach to the management of public affairs. For him, it was always Nigeria first to which all his ministerial appointments clearly point. For instance, as a good party-politics player, he was a Member of the National Assembly in the Second Republic in 1983. He was also Special Adviser to the Chairman, Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the period from 1990 to1992. He was not only elected Senator of the Federal Republic in 1998 but was also elected the National Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party in the period from 2005 to 2007.

His dedication to duty, proactive disposition to any Government he was serving, and particularly his love of and quest for a greater Nigerian nation largely explain his many ministerial and other public appointments. He was a Member of the Constitutional Assembly in 1988-1989 and also Member of the National Constitutional Conference in 1994-1995. He was a Member of the National Boundaries Adjustment Commission in 1997 and also a Member of and Technical Adviser to the Vision 2010 Committee in 1997. He served as Presidential Adviser on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in 2003-2005.

Perhaps most interestingly, he not only also served as Special Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the period 1993-1995, he too was also Minister of Foreign Affairs from July 2007 to March 2010, Minister of Culture and Tourism from 1999to 2000 and Minister of Transport from 2000 to 2003. What is particularly noteworthy about his person and attitudinal disposition to private and official life is simplicity and non-arrogance. He is always ready to accept to serve and always in whatever capacity. When he was Foreign Minister, he was the direct boss of all the Heads of Nigerian Missions abroad. This did not prevent him from accepting to be appointed as High Commissioner to Canada and, by so doing, also accepting to take directives from his former subordinates. This is quite exemplary.

Beauty of an Ojo Maduekwe Citizen Diplomacy Centre
As required by international diplomatic convention, all accredited diplomatic missions are supposed to be located in the political capitals of their host countries, and in this case, Abuja, for Nigeria. In many developed political capitals of the world, there are diplomatic centres where diplomatic activities are held and citizen diplomacy is conducted. However, Nigeria, as a regional and continental leader, cannot boast of any diplomatic center. In fact, in many developed capitals and cities, there are specific shopping centers where diplomatic agents can buy de-taxed goods since they do not pay taxes as representatives of a sovereign.

In this case, thinking of a citizen diplomacy centre that can be named in honour of Ojo Maduekwe cannot but have a peculiar beauty in the sense that it can serve as a meeting, relaxation and citizen diplomacy point for the diplomatic community and the people of Nigeria. The centre, with various indoor games, international restaurants, medium-sized rooms for tête-à-tête discussions, halls for cocktail receptions, and world-standard international diplomatic library will be commensurate with Nigeria’s giant role in Africa.

What Nigeria needs now is not a reactive foreign policy but a very proactive policy of grandeur, leadership by example and, more importantly, a people-driven foreign policy, which means that citizen diplomacy should be given more attention in foreign policy formulation. Ojo Maduekwe died but not with his ideas. So, his legacy of national unity, development, integrity should be sustained. This is how best to honour an illustrious and great Nigerian with an indelible record of nationalism.

May God, in His Infinite Mercy, kindly consider him for a new ministerial position in His Kingdom while sparing the family he left behind for special blessing and protection in the Mighty Name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.