By Olayinka Ajayi
Olufunso Olumoko is a former Career Ambassador to Thailand with accreditation to Myanmar. In this interview, Olumoko decries the appointment of Non-Career Ambassadors as against trained ambassadors. Excerpts:
What is your view on United State’s new policy on LBGT and pushing to other countries like Nigeria for bilateral relations?
It is within the prerogative of the Biden administration to articulate whatever social policies that are in tandem with the Democrats’/Liberal philosophy in the US. However, Biden should not try to force any other country that does not share the same outlook to follow the same doctrine.
Biden should respect the different cultural, religious and social systems of other countries and not willy-nilly tie them to US preferences. To try to sanction Nigeria over her policy on LGBT will be wrong-headed and Nigeria will resist it to the hilt as same-sex marriage and other LGBT peculiarities are anathema to the basic grains and mores of the Nigerian society.
It will be a wrong start and will definitely strain US/Nigeria relations that otherwise promise to be resurgent and robust under Biden administration.
On Okonjo-Iweala election as DG of WTO
Her recent confirmation is not only a pride to Nigeria and Africa but also to womanhood. Ngozi, in terms of intellect, sagacity and bravura, is a lady who can stand her own any day and anywhere; she has amply demonstrated this in the course of her high wire campaigns and the subsequent global politicking that only delayed her confirmation. It’s impossible to cover a shining star!
This brings up an important issue. Nigeria should always put her best foot forward. If she puts on her best candidates she’ll always excel. Just imagine if Nigeria had not wisely substituted her original candidate for this position and fielded a more formidable and better qualified Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala?
Nigeria is currently undergoing a new wave of resurgence and limelight internationally because she’s fielding her first teams and it is yielding results. A few examples will suffice: Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General (UN D/SG), Akinwunmi Adesina at the African Development Bank(AfDB), Benedict Oramah at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political, Peace and Security and now Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the WTO!
As for the performance of Okonjo-Iweala, there’s no doubt she’ll acquit herself creditably in her new position. She comes well prepared, intellectually and with very good experience both internationally and nationally being twice Nigeria’s Finance Minister.
Both in her campaign debates and acceptance speech, she has set the tone and clearly outlines her priorities at WTO. Given her track records, I have no doubts at all that Ngozi will do impressively well and make Nigeria exceedingly proud that come 2025 when her current term ends, she’ll be re-elected for second term. Mark my words!
But some people are of the view that Joe Biden’s administration support for Okonjo-Iweala’s WTO election could give a soft landing for reconsideration of LGBT in Nigeria?
Such perception is puerile and it underestimates the quality of Nigeria’s foreign policy decision makers and Nigeria’s stature in the comity of nations.
Agreed, Nigeria may have its internal problems but she cannot be taken for suckers by the US. Support for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for soft landing for reconsideration of LGBT?
As I already stated, the issue of LGTB is so basic and fundamental and an anathema to the two major religions systems in Nigeria it is laughable that a go-ahead by the US for Ngozi is in exchange for Nigeria softening its LGBT stance!
Ambassador Olumoko, how would you describe the proposed appointments of retired Service Chiefs as non-career ambassadors?
It is extremely saddening that in Nigeria, the political class continues to dump political appointees on the Foreign Service. These political appointees are often offered plum diplomatic postings at the expense of Career Officers who, through their entire career, have been professionally trained with a view to attaining the rank of Ambassador as the nadir of their careers.
A couple of months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed initially 53 Non-Career Ambassadors compared to only 40 Career Ambassadors. The sadder aspect is that about a quarter of these Career Ambassadors are being sent out as Deputies to political appointees! Now, with the appointments of the ex-Service Chiefs as Ambassadors, the ratio of political appointees to professionals is 58 to 40.
It was even worse under Obasanjo’s first term when the ratio was 80:20! For me, whether the appointment of the ex-Service Chiefs as Ambassadors was justified or not is not the issue. I perceive it within the larger context of using the Diplomatic Service as a political dumping ground to the detriment of the Foreign Service, not only in terms of denial of opportunities for deserving Career Officers but also in terms of quality of representation.
Let me be clear. Agreed, many countries have political appointees as Ambassadors but they appoint just a handful. In fact, some countries such as Italy do not have political appointees as Ambassadors at all! It’s also my view that Nigeria’s key Missions like the UK, USA, France, Russia and China should be manned by Career Ambassadors.
It would be recalled that in the golden years of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy, our key Missions were headed by top-notch Career Ambassadors like Ambassadors Olu Sanu, Olujimi Jolaoso and Ignatius Olisemeka at different times (Washington, DC), Aminu Sanusi (Beijing, China), George Dove-Edwin (London, UK), Hamzat Ahmadu (Moscow, USSR) and P.L Udoh (Paris, France).
We should revert to those heydays and let fewer political appointees head important but not strategic posts. All these key posts, especially Washington and London, have consistently been headed by political appointees whose performances have often been subpar!