I have watched with considerable and intense interest, the international engagements of several high profile Federal and state government officials from Nigeria and I have often wondered the rationale for some of these foreign trips with specific reference to the several foreign trips embarked upon by state governors who always tell their people that they are heading overseas to attract foreign direct investments.
The reason for my scepticism on these foreign trips by these state governors is the dangerous precedence that has been set by their successors who similarly embarked on several meaningless international trips that gulped billions of tax payers' money without any result by way of infrastructural development or indeed foreign direct investments.
Most of these states have remained backward in these two key areas and indices of development mentioned above and this is the reason why poverty has skyrocketed in those states. Another series of meaningless international trips were those that were paid by some state governors to Ghana when the current Ghana's president Mr. John Dramami Mahama was inaugurated.
Most of these governors travelled in their private jets even when they were aware that the President of the Country and the sovereign head of state was also visiting Ghana to represent Nigeria. And I asked, these state governors from Nigeria that attended the inauguration of the Ghana President who did they represent and whose interest?
But this rascality of the state governors did not happily extend to the National Assembly hierarchy because the Senate President- David Mark [GCON]; Deputy Senate President- Senator Ike Ekweremadu[CON]; the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives- Aminu Waziri Tambuwal[CFR] and the Deputy Speaker- Emeka Ihedioha[CON] who are leaders of another arm of the Federal government, have always maintained decorum and respect in matters of foreign trips and have always respected the office of the President of the Federal Republic in international assignments that only require the presence of the sovereign head of government of Nigeria.
Both the Senate President and his deputy have had to represent the President of Nigeria in the inaugurations of the Holy Father- Pope Francis, in the Vatican City, Rome and the swearing- in of the new global leader of the Anglican Church which took place in London, the United Kingdom. These men are indeed epitome of respect for national protocols.
My interest in this week's column is to analyse briefly, the heroic role played so far by the Deputy Senate President in the area of Parliamentary diplomacy which to me represents another branch of the 'citizenship diplomacy' that was mouthed by the Olusegun Obasanjo/late Umaru Musa Yar'adua-led federal administrations that was never kept or implemented to the latter.
Citizenship diplomacy means in short that Nigeria's foreign relations would be guided by the underlying precept that the interest of the people of Nigeria will supersede any other interest in areas of international engagements of Nigeria with other member states in the international comity of nations.
Sadly, many Nigerians have continued to suffer unwarranted horrendous state sponsored physical and psychological attacks in many foreign jurisdictions without the Nigerian government speaking out and/or using the so-called citizenship diplomacy into action to protect these hapless Nigerians in foreign lands from these human rights violations.
Many Nigerians suspected of been in conflict with the laws of their host countries have died in suspicious circumstances while in the lawful detention and custody of the police of these foreign nations and the Nigerian government till date has failed to ensure that these persons did not die in vain.
Unlike almost all the previous Presidents of Nigeria right from the Obasanjo's era till date that have always talked about citizenship diplomacy without taking the process beyond mere rhetoric to the arena of pragmatic implementation of measures in the international community that will compel the different countries of the World to accord respect to the human rights of the Nigerian citizens resident in some of these nations, the Deputy Senate President Senator Ike Ekweremadu has consistently preached respect for the human rights of Nigerians globally in virtually all the international parliamentary meetings in which he has been privileged to head the delegation from the Nigeria's National Assembly.
In the precise word of Mr. Uche Anichukwu, the hard working Special Media Adviser to the Deputy Senate President, "Senator Ekweremadu sees parliamentary diplomacy as a fresh vista/avenue to advance and canvass for radical national development, regional and indeed World peace and development".
I agree with the assessment cited above because evidence abound to show that the Deputy Senate President has not shied away from using his international parliamentary engagements to drum it to the hearing of the foreign nations' national assemblies to always accord respect to the human rights of Nigerians living in those nations in compliance with extant international humanitarian and human rights laws. This is a good sign of leadership by example.
President Jonathan and the foreign minister alongside the Ambassadors of Nigeria in foreign jurisdictions must borrow a leaf from the good patriotic and fearless example of Senator Ekweremadu so that Nigerians in those foreign countries are not treated like second class human beings by their host nations.
Only in April 2013, the Deputy Senate President led a delegation of the National Assembly to understudy and erect formidable synergy with the National Assembly of South Korea and Singapore. With his formidable background as a lawyer; a former law teacher at the Enugu campus of the faculty of law, the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Senator Ekweremadu who would be 51 this Sunday May 12th 2013, who is a third term Senator representing Enugu West Senatorial District of Enugu State has carved a niche for himself as a statesman who has used parliamentary diplomacy to bring some level of respect for Nigeria from all over the World.
A significant input made by the Deputy Senate President as the Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States was the endorsement of the peace effort in the troubled Mali in West Africa whereby the international terrorists from Algeria built their base not until these murderous gangs of terrorists were decimated by the French forces who would be replaced by the African-led International Force.
The Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Parliament, headed by the Speaker Senator Ike Ekweremadu of Nigeria, late last year expressed support for the African-led International Force in Mali.
The endorsement was made known after a meeting with the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and President of Cote d'Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan on Wednesday.
Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Senator Ekweremadu who also doubles as the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate said the Parliament was “happy and satisfied with the efforts of ECOWAS and we have expressed the support of the Parliament on those efforts at resolving the problems in Mali and Guinea Bissau”.
Describing the meeting as “very useful and productive”, the Speaker revealed that the quest for the enhancement of the powers of the Community Parliament had also received a boost as the ECOWAS Chairman had “assured of his support to the enhancement of the powers of the Parliament as the institution needed to do more for the sub-region.”
“This meeting has encouraged us strongly as we are leaving satisfied that we have found a father and a partner in our quest to increase the powers of our Parliament”, Ekweremadu asserted.
As he celebrates 51 years of very distinguished life and times, several members of the human rights community are of the considered view that he would continue to render selfless service to Nigerians through parliamentary diplomacy and other good measures.
Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria, blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com.