Discordant tunes of Onyema, Dabiri-Erewa expose absence of cohesion in government

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama

The divergent tones of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godfrey Onyeama and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa on the same subject-matter of the humiliation meted out to Nigerians travelling to the United States have attracted reactions from several personalities in the country.

The confusion is coming on the heels of the new immigrations policy of President Donald Trump, which is currently affecting citizens of other countries in the US.

Those who expressed concern over the development concurred that the issue should have been better managed instead of allowing it to portray the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled government as being incoherent in its communication management.

Those who spoke to The Guardian over the issue yesterday include the chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay, former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Lanre Odubote, former National Secretary of Labour Party (LP), Mr. Kayode Ajulo and National Publicity Secretary, Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin.

Dabiri-Erewa had warned Nigerians who had no compelling or urgent reason to travel to the US to postpone their travel plans until the US new administration’s policy on immigration became clear but she was countered two days after by the minister who said he was constantly in touch with the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S. and the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, saying there was no report on Nigerians being denied entry into the U.S.

The minister said: “This is not the case. I am in touch with the U. S. Embassy and the Ambassador said no, there was nothing of such nature. I can tell you to ignore any call or advice to reconsider travelling to the U.S. because there is no basis for that.

“We have absolutely no report whatsoever from the U.S. that people are being turned back from the U.S. or any of our consulate or any Nigerian that any of our people are being turned back.

“If government is speaking on any external relations, it will be heard from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Presidency as any other source is not from the government.”

Sagay, wondered why the minister had been silent all this while that Nigerians were maltreated in countries like South Africa, Libya, Singapore and US, saying: “Onyeama is only interested in asserting his authority as the man in charge of the Foreign Affairs and not interested in protecting the well-being of Nigerians.

He said that Dabiri-Erewa did not deserve the caustic response she got from the minister just because she spoke against the injustice being meted to Nigerians.

According to him, “It is the presidential aide on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora who has been active in protecting the interest of Nigerians in South Africa, Libya and now on the issue of America.

“She never said Nigerians should not go to the United States. She said if you don’t have any urgent or important business, there is no rush going until the situation is clear. It is just an advice.

“The minister chose to remain silent and not act positively to protect our interest and why he is angry because the presidential aide on Foreign Affairs is not silent and is protecting our interests’ beats my imagination.”

Also speaking in support of the SSA, Odubote said by virtue of Dabiri-Erewa’s experience as a three-time member of the House of Representatives, former chairperson, House Committee of the Diaspora, a journalist among others she understood the gravity of what is at stake.

“She cannot be blamed at all. I think the minister should have been proactive to speak on the matter but if he saw anything contrary in what the SSA said, the onus is on him to handle it maturely for the sake of the party and not to have countered her publicly. I don’t think that is good for the image of our party.”

However, Ajulo said it was not in the portfolio of the SSA to speak on such a critical matter when the minister is there.According to him, “This further shows the gravity of incoherencies among our public officers and it doesn’t speak well of us as a nation.”

Ajulo however said that wherever the differences are between the minister and Dabiri-Erewa “what is important is the conduct of Nigerians abroad. I can tell you categorically that Nigerians behaviour abroad is appalling and if most of the nations abroad should reciprocate in likewise manner to which our people conduct themselves oversees, the issue would be worse.”

A socio-cultural organisation, United for True Change, in its view slammed Onyeama over his statement saying that he has shown that he is not in tune with realities and does not care about the interest of Nigerians whom his ministry is meant to protect.

In a statement by the Secretary-General, Ben Omonua, the group that highlighted various cases of Nigerians who had been subjected to humiliation by US immigration officials despite having genuine documents and valid reasons for visiting, flayed the minister for politicizing a serious national issue.

The spokesman of Afenifere said the communication gap between the two government officials has further showed that governance is at its lowest ebb in the country causing two public officers from the same party to operate as if they were in different camps.

He said in the first instance, Dabiri-Erewa ought not to have spoken directly to Nigerians because her responsibility is to advise Mr. President and not giving directives to Nigerians.

“Secondly, talking on an issue that has to do with one of the most respected countries in the World should have been handled carefully and differently. I do not think she has the right to do what she did in the first instance but that also shows the laxity on the part of the minister.”

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) factional Deputy National Chairman, South West zone, Dr. Eddy Olafeso also chided the SSA and the minister for trivalising a critical matter considering the numbers of Nigerians that have important things to do in the US.

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