Uzokwe's Searchlight

Igbokwe describes, in vivid terms, an Embassy fraught with corruption, mediocrity, dereliction of duty, snobbery of Nigerian students and even sabotage. He uses actual names and photographs of the “dramatis personae” as he made his case that sharp practices, incompetence, vindictiveness and religious fanaticism basically paralyzed the activities of the staff of the Nigerian embassy in Manila at the time.

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Thursday, April 5, 2012



Alfred Obiora Uzokwe, P.E

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BOOK REVIEW
A BROKEN MISSION - NIGERIA’S FAILED DIPLOMACY IN THE PHILIPPINES AND THE FIGHT FOR JUSTICE AND EMBASSY REFORM

A Broken Mission - Nigeria’s Failed Diplomacy in the Philippines and the Fight for Justice and Embassy Reform Book Review by Alfred Obiora Uzokwe All too often, some Nigerian diplomats in foreign nations arrogate unearned and unwarranted importance to themselves, effectively shutting out Nigerians that they are supposed to represent or serve in those nations. Sometimes it seems as if they think that relating to their fellow Nigerians or taking interest in their welfare sullies their status as important men and women. They relegate to the background or grudgingly offer simple services like passport renewal but give maximum attention to attending “diplomatic get-togethers” convened by officials of the host nations. In these “get-togethers”, you find them bedecked in their ever superfluous regalia, hobnobing with top politicians, including the rich and famous.


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I recall a terrible experience I had when I visited New York to renew my Nigerian passport some two years back. A man that would basically pass for an emperor, because of how he carried himself, sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by Nigerians desperate to get visas or change their passports in time for impending travels. This man barked orders, insulted people and sent some back to whence they came just for silly requirements that they did not even advertise on their website. The shoddy treatment forced me to go back to using my blueback passport.

In the book, A Broken Mission - Nigeria’s Failed Diplomacy in the Philippines and the Fight for Justice and Embassy reform, the author, John M. Igbokwe, who went to the Philippines in 1983 to study and lived there for the next 15 years, weaves a riveting narrative, albeit a depressing one, of what he saw within the diplomatic circles of the Nigerian embassy in the Philippines. He paints a sordid picture of the activities of the staff of the Nigerian Embassy in the Philippines between the period of 1983 and 1998. Incidentally, this period coincides with the time of military dictatorship in Nigeria when several military juntas took turns at pillaging Nigeria, promoting corruption, disregarding individual freedom and liberty and running the nation’s economy aground. The author asserts that while the largest wave of exodus of many bright Nigerians to foreign countries was taking place, because of the economic situation in the country, the staff of the Embassy of Nigeria in the Philippines was treating Nigerian students in the Philippines with disdain.

Igbokwe describes, in vivid terms, an Embassy fraught with corruption, mediocrity, dereliction of duty, snobbery of Nigerian students and even sabotage. He uses actual names and photographs of the “dramatis personae” as he made his case that sharp practices, incompetence, vindictiveness and religious fanaticism basically paralyzed the activities of the staff of the Nigerian embassy in Manila at the time. He does not tarry in renouncing the activities of Nigerians the author believes sullied the name of Nigeria whether as students or embassy officials. He particularly skewers Nigerians who originally came to the Philippines as transients to get visas for onward transition to other places like Honk Kong but ended up staying put in the Philippines. He asserts that, in a bid to get rich quick, some of them delved into untoward activities that brought disrepute to the name of Nigeria, triggering a situation where the staff of the Nigerian embassy painted all Nigerians with the broad brush of criminality.

The book unfurls a sad but telling tale about the suffering that the Nigerian student community, in the Philippines, had to contend with after the December 1983 coup that swept General Buhari into power. The enactment of the decree that terminated remission of school fees to Nigerian students abroad triggered a period of suffering and hardship for Nigerian students. Igbokwe, who actually had a front row seat as events unfolded in those tumultuous years, asserts that inspite of the hardship that Nigerian students were experiencing, the Embassy, which was peopled with callous, corrupt and heartless employees, never lifted a finger to help. The suffering became so extreme, according to the author, that the students were forced to act. Igbokwe gives an eye witness account of the siege on Nigerian Embassy in Manila in 1986 by the Nigerian Community, twelve days after the swearing in of Cory Aquino. He justifies the siege, which amounted to occupying the embassy for many days, as an act of desperation by the Nigerian community fed up by the refusal of the Nigerian Embassy to release relief funds approved for suffering students in the Philippines. He makes explosive charges against Embassy officials whom he believed kept the relief funds in the banks to accrue interest for them.

The book delves into a narrative of the author’s quest and fight for justice in the deaths of some Nigerians resident in Manila and attendant run ins with Embassy officials that refused to act on behalf of the fallen Nigerians. It also chronicles the author’s personal crusade for embassy reform sometimes using unconventional and unorthodox means of obtaining information and evidence.

Much has been said and written about the aloofness and sometimes arrogance of Nigerians in foreign missions towards the Nigerian community they are supposed to represent. But rarely has any writer probed so deeply into this pervasive malaise with examples and eye witness accounts.

This book is a must read especially for old and new appointees to foreign missions from Nigeria. It will ground the diplomats on dos and don’ts in foreign missions. The book is available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Nobles.