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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Rebuffing the Falsehood Peddled by Africa Intelligence Article about the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry

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By John Okeyson

One of the fundamental principles of a true journalistic enterprise is objectivity and the propagation of truth based on research facts and data which enables the dissemination of concrete information to the public. The representation of facts is not only necessary but strengthens the democratic process in any society as it enables citizens to become aware of the true picture of things thereby eschewing falsehood and unfounded sentiments. However, when a reputable media platform like Africa Intelligence jettisons the ethics of the journalistic profession to propagate assumptions and incorrect, it not only demeans the profession but questions the integrity of the media profession. It is for this reason that this reason that it is expedient to set the record straight with records to the allegations raised, particularly concerning the person and ability of the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Tuggar.

Firstly, the article by Africa Intelligence commences by raising a false alarm regarding the state of affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is a clear pointer to the fact that the writer of the article had no objectivity in mind while writing the diatribe against the Minister and Ministry. The opening of the article reads; “Understaffed, a minister frequently absent from his home country, ambassadors recalled to Abuja… Nigeria’s foreign ministry is in disarray, even though the president has been chair of ECOWAS since last July.” This statement is a clear testament to the unholy motive of the writer of the article as in one sentence it discredits and raises a false alarm by insinuating that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not been under a capable leadership since the administration of President Tinubu Administration by declaring that the “Nigeria’s foreign ministry is in disarray”, the writer also states albeit authoritatively that “a minister frequently absent from his home country” implying that the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Tuggar has not been attending to his obligation not being around to oversee the affairs of the ministry. This portrayal is a careless display of lack of professionalism and dubious intentions on the part of the writer of the article, Africa Intelligence.

It is disingenuous for any follower of the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to suggest that the ministry is in disarray given the proactive disposition of the Minister who has been extremely active since he assumed office in August 2023. Ambassador Tuggar upon assumption of office did not shy away from the ECOWAS crisis he met on the ground, he swiftly engaged in diplomacy to contain the multiple effects of the crisis that threatened ECOWAS’ existence by continually advocating for a diplomatic solution to the impasse rather than the military intervention earlier declared by ECOWAS before he assumed office. Until the recent allegation of sexual harassment against the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, the Minister maintained cordial working relations ensuring that the programmes and activities of the Ministry went on as statutorily mandated by the ethics that foregrounds the operations of the Ministry. There has never been untoward news about any crisis in the Ministry, the erstwhile Permanent Secretary Dr. Adamu Ibrahim Lamuwa discharged his role as the Permanent Secretary in the absence of the Minister even representing the Ministry on behalf of the Ministry while the Minister was attending to other official matters. It is therefore unfounded that Africa Intelligence would write that the Ministry has been in disarray. There is no single piece of evidence advanced to back up such an outrageous claim by African Intelligence.

Secondly, the article alleges that foreign diplomats in Abuja have remained confused as a result of the absence of the Minister to attend to his official engagement with them. This is farther from the truth. The Minister has been very much available to receive and engage with diplomats in Nigeria since he assumed office in 2023. Last year, he held a reception in honour of members of the diplomatic community where he formally met with the diplomatic community in Nigeria at the Ministry’s headquarters in Abuja. Ever since, he has received and welcomed diplomats from around the world and when he is away on official visits, the Permanent Secretary took charge in discharging these responsibilities as contained in the various news reports obtainable in the Nigerian media. Thus, it is false to suggest that the diplomats are confused with regards to their engagement in the country. A simple Google search would have averted this obvious misinformation by the writers of the article. The Minister has been actively involved his duties both at home and away representing Nigeria at critical global events as it were. In 2024, the Minister has hosted the Secretary of State of the United States of America in Nigeria as he has done to other foreign envoys since assumption of office, thus, it beggars belief that anyone would suggest that the Ministers has not been living up to the responsibilities of his office as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is overseen by the Minister and the Permanent Secretary and since assumption of office, Ambassador Tuggar has pursued a collaborative system of administration where the Permanent Secretary takes full charge when the Minister is away on official duties. To suggest a gap in the administration of the Ministry is to insinuate that the Ministry has not structure and is not guided by ethics. This is preposterous to say least that anyone would think that the Ministry suffers because the Minister is away on official duties outside the countries. It betrays a clear lack of research and information on the part of Africa Intelligence. It is appalling to think that Google is just a click away to verify the operations of the Ministry. The Permanent Secretary is the statutory authority that provides oversight in the absence of the Minister and this status quo has not changed since the Minister assumed office.

The article also alleges that the Ministry suffers once the Minister is away on official duties because of the absence of a Secretary of State. One might then ask what the role of the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry if the activities of the Ministry would be halted because of the absence of the Minister the Ministry will function even without the presence of the Minister like it did before the Minister was appointed. Equally, the article insinuates that the “Tuggar is reputed to be less easy to get hold of than is predecessor, Geoffrey Onyeama, thereby suggesting that the Minister is inaccessible and a difficult leader. This is a blatant fallacy invented by the writers of the article to paint Ambassador Tuggar as a difficult and inaccessible leader, almost suggesting him to be some sort of a dictator. This is clearly a manifest display of bias and hate towards a man they have not taken their time to understand. It is sad that the noble profession of journalism has been reduced to a market place enterprise where people write without facts and recourse to the damage that they cause to the subjects of their vile vituperations often guised as social commentary. The sheer comparison of Ambassador Tuggar to Onyeama explains the insincerity of the writers of the article. It is not only a shame but a disregard for the noble profession of journalism.

The article also suggests that the acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Ambassador Ben Okoyen is new therefore does not have the capacity to handle the affairs of the Ministry. This is an indirectly attempt to discredit the rich credentials of Amb. Okoyen who is a season diplomat and civil servant versed in the affairs of Nigeria’s foreign and diplomatic relations. His recent elevation to the position of acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry does not mean that he is incapable or inexperience of discharging the affairs of the Ministry as the sponsors of the article want us to believe. He remains an astute civil servant and diplomat versed in the affairs of Nigeria’s foreign relations. But for people bent on casting aspersions they would go to any length to paint anyone not in their paycheck as incapable of discharging their responsibilities as the tone of this insidious diatribe clearly suggests.  

In conclusion, the article also states that Nigerian embassies abroad have been left without concrete leadership as a result of the recall of former ambassadors without stating the fact that these embassies have been under the direction of chargés d’affaires who are not only seasoned diplomats but who have the experience to oversee the affairs these embassies pending the appointment of ambassadors. The article suggests chargés d’affaires lack the requisite knowledge to hold forth the mantle of leadership pending the appointment of new ambassadors but that is not the case in actuality as it is a common practice for nations around the world to send representatives pending the appointment of ambassadors to such places and the appointed individuals play central roles in maintaining and addressing the issues of their nations until the time when ambassadors are sent to take over from them. The administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been transparent in its dealings ensuring that citizens are able to follow and appreciate the dynamics of governance, therefore to suggest otherwise is to belittle the realities that have led to the delay in appointing new ambassadors which neither the Ministry nor the Federal Government have shied away from addressing.

Perhaps what is most unprofessional in Africa Intelligence is the fact that there is no single sentence or paragraph that lay claims to having contact the authorities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of all the supposed issues they raised in their article. This invariably suggest a deliberate attempt to malign and discredit the persona and office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs whereas the Ambassador has been one of the most proactive and result-driven Minister under the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration.

John Okeyson: A Public Affairs Analyst writes from Lugbe in Abuja.

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