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Ex-government officials, politicians allegedly compete for ambassadorial appointments


Ex-government officials, politicians allegedly compete for ambassadorial appointments

Former government officials and political allies of President Bola Tinubu and ex-President Muhammadu Buhari are reportedly vying for positions as Nigerian ambassadors to foreign nations, with intense lobbying efforts in full swing.

This push for ambassadorial nominations notably includes state governors, as well as retired military officers, former ministers, and top members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, marking a widespread pursuit of diplomatic roles.

Nigeria currently boasts a total of 109 missions, comprising 76 embassies, 22 high commissions, and 11 consulates spread across various countries.

The fervent campaign for ambassadorial appointments gained momentum following a directive from the Federal Government, recalling all envoys from their overseas posts as of September 2, 2023, with a stipulated return deadline of October 31.

In an earlier development, President Buhari had sanctioned the posting of 95 envoys, encompassing 43 career and 52 non-career ambassadors, to head the nation’s diplomatic missions, subsequent to Senate ratification of their nomination in the preceding year.

READ ALSO: Tinubu orders recall of Nigerian ambassadors

However, the envoys were subsequently summoned back to Nigeria by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, prompting a wave of speculation and adjustments within the diplomatic corps.

Amid swirling conjecture regarding the recall, Minister Tuggar clarified the situation, emphasizing it as a comprehensive measure impacting both career and non-career envoys, refuting claims of any targeted actions against specific individuals.

Notably, Tuggar underscored that the directive stemmed from the instructions of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, dismissing any insinuations of personal vendettas in the recall process.

The unfolding scenario underscores a significant period of flux and realignment within Nigeria’s diplomatic representation, amid a backdrop of robust manoeuvring and fervent aspirations for key ambassadorial roles within the global diplomatic arena.

The Presidency later clarified that all the country’s United Nations permanent representatives in New York and Geneva were exempted from the recall.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, said the exemption was a result of the UN General Assembly, which was held between September 18 and 22.

However, it could not be confirmed if the recall order had been extended to Nigeria’s UN permanent representatives in New York and Geneva after the UNGA.

Foreign affairs ministry officials had yet to provide information on the status of the diplomats as of the time of filing this report on Friday.

This newspaper had reported that the Presidency had begun compiling the list of new ambassadors.

Following the development, it was gathered that the jostle for the vacant diplomatic posts escalated with politicians and other interested individuals bombarding the President and his Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, with requests for nomination.

According to News Point Nigeria, the foreign affairs minister and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Ambassador Olusola Enikanolaiye, had come under immense pressure from prominent Nigerians seeking appointments.

Sources disclosed that those who failed to get ministerial nominations were at the forefront of the rush for the ambassadorial positions.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official said, “The President’s associates and state governors are intensifying their lobbies for career and non-career ambassadorial nomination.

“They are pushing the profiles of their candidates. They are jettisoning those with a year or less to retire and picking those with longer career years ahead.”

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar; Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Ambassador Olusola Enikanolaiye; and the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, are under intense pressure from the lobbyists, including National Assembly members, APC support groups and party chieftains to be listed as ambassadors.

“Some of these lobbyists include past administrators, politicians, retired military men, unsuccessful governorship aspirants, and those who served as heads of agencies under Buhari, among others.”

When asked about the ratio of career and non-career diplomats that may be appointed, the source said, “Fifty-five per cent to 45 per cent.”

It was also gathered that the majority of the recalled ambassadors had returned to the country, while those who had yet to do so had formally handed over to the most senior officers at their diplomatic posts, while perfecting travel plans to return home as directed.

Confirming this, a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Most of the ambassadors are rounding off their tours of duty and heading back to Abuja. A good number of them have already returned.”

Similarly, a source in the Presidency said while some of the bigwigs in the APC and former governors had started submitting their curriculum vitae, some former ambassadors were also jostling to be reappointed.

While noting that the names of persons to be shortlisted remained confidential, the source added, “The Presidency didn’t extend it (ambassadorial appointment) for them (former envoys). Some of them are returning (to Nigeria) already.

“I don’t know anyone lobbying. I know that they’re working on it but I don’t know the specifics. People are submitting CVs.

“Different party leaders and stakeholders are pushing their interests. Even some of them (former ambassadors) are lobbying to be reinstated, so until the list is made official and published, anything can change.”

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