Nigeria’s new envoy in the UK – The judge, gentleman and socialite
Justice Oguntade is certainly not a Career Diplomat but a man who is very well knowledgeable, having retired as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Checking his credentials, one realises that he comes with a wealth of experience, certainly within the legal arena. Engaging with him, one discovers that despite his age, he is a very intelligent and unassuming gentleman who seeks to acquire more knowledge. One is reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr’s quote – intelligence plus character is the goal of true education. Anne-Funmi Fatusin Writes.
In 2010, His Excellency, Ambassador Oguntade, was awarded two of Nigeria’s highest National Honours that could be conferred on its citizens – Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR). It goes without saying that there have been several high profile positions that he has held prior to and post this period.
Consequently, who is better appointed to the highly exalted position of an Ambassador in the United Kingdom – one of the top ranking countries in the world – than this amiable, diligent, agile and exemplary Leader. Indeed, the Nigeria High Commission is the largest and perhaps, the most strategic diplomatic representation of the country overseas.
Few months ago, Justice Oguntade was invited by the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, to the Court of St. James’, Buckingham Palace, to present his credentials, in line with diplomatic practices and tradition. The arrival of horse drawn carriage in front of the Nigerian High Commission in London to ferry the Ambassador and his wife, generated so much publicity and the social media was awash with derogatory comments from several Nigerians both in the Diaspora and Nigeria. Perhaps, they could be forgiven for lack of knowledge.
Nigerians were so pained due to the current state of affairs in the country, characterised by galloping inflation, misappropriation of state funds, unemployment, insecurity and high rate of crime, to mention a few. It was rather unfortunate that people were totally ignorant of the fact that it was just normal protocol expected by Her Majesty’s Government to all High Commissioners – designate on day of presentation of their Letters of Credence to the Queen.
To drop a hint of information on diplomatic protocol – Diplomatic credentials simply means letter of authority – an instrument appointing a suitable person and issued by the sending Head of State to another; and is formally presented to the latter, in this case, the Queen. This is a mandatory requirement by every country.
The Letters of Credence or Letters of Commission contains information on the new Ambassador who is a representative of his or her nation in a foreign country. The documents are also confirmation that the Ambassador is in a position of an authority to speak on behalf of his or her nation.
Once Queen Elizabeth II (as in the case of the United Kingdom) accepts the credentials, Ambassador Oguntade is diplomatically accredited to the UK and thus becomes Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary (full powers).
This means that he has duly been fully accepted and registered. Therefore, the Queen’s invitation to the Court of St James’, by sending a 17th Century carriage, was a traditional gesture.
Hence, for the Nigerians who were either ill informed or had limited knowledge of diplomatic protocol, the horse-driven carriage did not cost the Nigerian Government a penny!
Since Ambassador Oguntade assumed office, apart from his official duties, he has made it his responsibility to engage with the Nigerian Diaspora Community. This is a gentleman who acknowledges his position as a public servant. He knows he is in the United Kingdom to serve the Nigerian Government and the citizens of Nigeria in this regard; to ensure that one of his main tasks is to foster better relationship with the British government. His social skills have definitely been to his advantage.
As we know, he is very popular in the Nigerian social circuit in as much as his legal prowess. He is very open to ideas, approachable and very engaging with diverse groups of people, irrespective of their professional, social status or ethnic groups.
Other attributes to note about the Ambassador were his humility and nobility. Some of us in the Diaspora could be forgiven for misconceptions about him without even giving him a chance to prove himself as Nigeria’s No. 1 Citizen in the United Kingdom.
Notwithstanding, it needs to be said that The Nigeria High Commission needs to redeem itself within the Nigerian Diaspora Community particularly in the area of Passport issuance.
Unfortunately, this has been the same challenge in other countries. Regrettably, Nigeria’s global reputation amongst its citizens needs to change for the better. This should be part of what I would call the G.R.I.N. (Global Rebranding of Image of Nigeria) Project; which the Nigerian Government needs to seriously consider.
The G.R.I.N. project should focus on ensuring that wherever Nigerians are, the image within the International Community should be worthy of noble emulation. I was the Compere at a recent event where Ambassador Oguntade gave a keynote address entitled – Making a Difference’.
It was such an inspiring and thought-provoking speech to make one reconsider that irrespective of abode, positive contributions by each individual will make the desired impact to human empowerment and by extension, to the larger society.
There is anticipation that Ambassador Oguntade will surely make a difference in the United Kingdom. His coming, follows the absence of a substantive High Commissioner in London with the exit of Dr Dalhatu Sarki Tafida in August 2015.
Going by discussions in various groups and his achievements to date within the short period in office, one is convinced that his name will be remembered with the previous positive Game Changers who have had the honour of holding the same office in London. Until then, the Nigerian Diaspora Community in the UK is willing to work closely and effectively with the Ambassador and his team.
In conclusion, in the words of Wage Boggs (American Athlete) – “a positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results“.
• Fatusin is a Freelance Writer, Inspirational Speaker, Social Commentator based in the United Kingdom, & Convener of the Renewing the African Mindset (R.AM.) – a forum for discussing African topical issues.
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