I am embarrassed to say that for the very first time in my life as a Nigerian, I visited Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) website. But I take solace in the fact that there are also millions of Nigerians out there who do not know that such a site exist!
The reason I wanted to view the site was because I was curious to know if there was an official national statement from Nigeria debunking the recent US-based National Intelligence Council (NIC) report that predicts that Nigeria will end up a failed state by 2030 due to the potential for conflict and environmental ills.
In addition to that, I was perturbed that there was no official national statement from Nigeria (I only read about an official statement from Edo State Government condemning the advisory) regarding the December 21st, 2012 contemptuous US Travel Advisory for Nigeria.
For the sake of those who missed both reports, here goes the seventh paragraph of the US Department of State Travel Advisory for Nigeria published December 21st (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5739.html) referring to Nigeria:
“Crime is a risk throughout the country. U.S. citizen visitors and residents have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglaries, car-jackings, rapes, kidnappings, and extortion. Home invasions also remain a serious threat, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by scaling perimeter walls, following residents or visitors or subduing guards to gain entry to homes or apartments. Armed robbers in Lagos have also accessed waterfront compounds by boat. U.S. citizens, as well as Nigerians and other expatriates, have been victims of armed robbery at banks and grocery stores and on airport roads during both daylight and evening hours. Law enforcement authorities usually respond slowly or not at all and provide little or no investigative support to victims. U.S. citizens, Nigerians, and other expatriates have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and during encounters with Nigerian law enforcement officials. Traveling outside of major cities after dark is not recommended because of both crime and road safety concerns. Attacks by pirates off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea have increased in recent years. Armed gangs have boarded both commercial and private vessels to rob travelers. The Nigerian Navy has limited capacity to respond to criminal acts at sea.”
The NIC report states that “15 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East will become “failed states” by 2030, due to their potential for conflict and environmental ills. The list of countries in the December 2012 NIC report includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, DR Congo, Malawi, Haiti, Yemen.”
Whether you agree with both reports or not, there is no doubt that it places Nigeria in an awfully bad spotlight in the international arena (maybe there is nothing new about this anyway!). But any sensible country will issue a statement after such reports to protect their national interest, attract investors and encourage tourists’ activities. You do not need a PhD in International Relations to understand the impact of such statements in the broader scheme of things.
I navigated through the MFA site several times over several days and found absolutely nothing referring to those reports. What took me aback most was what I noticed on the site that I was not looking for.
The MFA site actually has a “Travel Advisory” page. But guess what? That page does not have any content. It simply states “coming soon”. I went to the “Foreign Policy Issues” page, same thing “coming soon”. Under the “Trade & Investment” page, there is no exciting content that I think will spur the interest of potential investors.
To me, the content of the MFA site is just too amateurish for the purported “Giant of Africa” and for a Ministry that gets billions of Naira from Federal Budget. The only thing I learned is that Nigeria has Minister of State I, Minister of State II and four Under Secretaries in the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
What do these Secretaries and Minister of States do on a daily basis? The MFA site only shows their photos and titles. I have not read, heard or seen anything from them that added value to Nigeria. Do they formulate new policies? If yes, what have they formulated in the last couple of years that added value to Nigeria? Maybe that is a good content to state in the site.
What does it take to update MFA site to provide Nigerians travel advisory that there is civil war in Syria? Less than one minute? A friend joked by saying that MFA officials are too busy calculating the amount they will siphon from the annual federal budget for them to be thinking of updating their site to inform Nigerians about foreign policies or issues!
On the other hand, I visited Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs site to see what they published in there. I was shocked. The site was robust with detailed information about their Bilateral Diplomacy relation with all the continents of the world. Well documented foreign policies and even a historical perspective of how their policies and diplomacy have evolved over the years. Yes, Malaysia!
They even have Hurricane Sandy and Nor’Easter advisory for their citizens living in the US. Before I whine too much here, let me stick to my point.
President Jonathan addressing the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), a group of leading American businessmen and investors, at a dinner they organized in his honor in New York last year stated that his administration foreign policy is “anchored on the realization of this Transformation Agenda through the attraction of Foreign Direct Investment. Under the new policy thrust, our Diplomatic Missions abroad have been directed to focus more on attracting investment to support the domestic programmes of government with a view to achieving not only our Vision 20:2020, but to bequeathing an enduring legacy of economic prosperity,”
The above statement by President Jonathan is well articulated and shows his foreign policy vision. However, that statement is meaningless if the country is labeled like the NIC report and the US Travel Advisory indicated. Most Americans listen to those advisory to make their investment and tourism decisions.
Matter-of-factly, an American friend told me that she will not be making her planned visit to Nigeria anymore in summer 2013 because of the “travel advisory that was published by the US Government”.
You see, this also ties to Nigeria tourism business right? We do not think about the interconnectedness of things in Nigeria because “oil money” has incapacitated our ability to think and engage in value creation from a macro perspective.
This is a call to the Nigeria MFA to ensure that the bloated staffs do their jobs instead of idling around day-after-day. Every morning, they should read world news and update the MFA site when necessary. If taking five minutes daily to think and work for Nigerians is too difficult a task, simply clone Malaysia’s site. Isn’t that simple?
I am even willing to volunteer five hours a week to help update my beloved country’s MFA site with the appropriate contents just in case all the employees in the Ministry are too busy with thinking about how much they will go home with when the government releases the next budget fund to the ministry.
Ambassador Olugbenga Ayodeji Ashiru should please take notice and sprint into action because the planned CCA Investors event in Nigeria on January 14 – 17th will be inconsequential and a waste of time and resources. May God bless Nigerians and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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