In her former life, Abike Dabiri-Erewa was the Nigerian queen of the screen. Now, she is one of Nigeria’s most popular politicians, a fact that she owes more to her days as the NTA Newsline anchor than her 12 years stint at the Nigerian parliament.
Nothing has changed: Currently the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Dabiri-Erewa still fancies herself as the queen of the screen, still loves the show and gets high on the attention.
She needs rehabilitation and our sympathy but it is time for her to go.
If not for anything the recent happenings involving the uncovering and subsequent burial of 26 Nigerian women in Italy who had been found dead on a Spanish military ship, has once again exposed Dabiri-Erewa’s incompetence and undue crave for attention, escalating a purely diplomatic issue into a free-for-all.
As SSA to the president, she occupies a non-cabinet role and is not involved in any priority decision making – yet she signed a press release on her quasi-official letterhead condemning the government of Italy.
Dabiri-Erewa has become more of a Buhari public relations team embed than an actual assistant who should scarcely be seen while providing technical advice to the president and the federal government. She is not a diplomat and does not have the standing to represent the views of Nigeria or the Federal Government at international level.
Dabiri-Erewa’s uninformed diatribe and twitter meltdown is completely antithetical to the dignity with which the Italian Government has handled the matter of the 26 Nigerian illegal migrants who got no attention from their own government. Typically, as Nigerians took interest in the situation, Dabiri-Erewa could not help but plug herself into the matter despite lacking information. A Twitter user wondered why there was no government representative at the burial of the girls. This was Dabiri-Erewa’s tweet-response: “I hope the mission in Italy was duly informed of time . date and venue. If true , this has to be looked into. FEC , as the highest decision making body, is taking this up cos of its utmost seriousness .”
That response in which she “hoped” and wondered “if true”, shows her utter cluelessness about happenings on the diplomatic front and her complete fixation on the cameras and twitter notifications, perpetually seeking validation and support.
Italy is one of the worst hit countries in the world by the activities of illegal migration and has shown more than enough commitment to combat it as its economy is being crushed by having to bear the burden. Let’s bring this home, Italy has had to deal with much more internal security problems as a result of the activities of the Nigerian crime syndicate running Sicily and else where in their country. Yet, Italy has shown good faith in condemning all forms of wrong treatment of Nigerians by its citizens or anybody else. Remember Emmanuel Chidi? The Nigerian Boko-Haram asylum seeker who was murdered by a racist Italian football fan over a year ago. This was condemned at all the highest levels of government including the Interior Minister, Speaker of Parliament and then Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, who tweeted “Today the government is in Fermo with Father Vinicio and local institutions in memory of Emmanuel. Against hate, racism and violence.” Mancini, his attacker, has been arrested and charged with murder. Chidi has also been posthumously awarded by the Italian government to preserve his memory and combat all forms of xenophobia, racism and hate.
Yet Abike Dabiri-Erewa implies the Italian government is enabling girl child trafficking. In her release she said, “If there is no demand, there is no supply. So while we on our end ensure that we do everything to curtail the supply, they on their end demanding are just as guilty.”
This is utterly irresponsible and it is not the first time she would be throwing Nigeria into needless diplomatic tensions with should-be allies, if we are really serious in the business of tackling trafficking.
Despite known diplomatic channels, Dabiri-Erewa took to Twitter, accusing the Italian government like a road side pundit.
“Why were they (the bodies) hurriedly buried nine days before the date communicated to the DG, NAPTIP by the Italian Embassy without any information to the Nigerian Government? Why the rush to bury the bodies without carrying out a post-mortem to determine the causes of death?”
She can learn a thing or two from her predecessors – Ambassador TD Hart who served the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration and Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole who served the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in similar capacities. Those – by the way – were trained, career diplomats and far less controversial. That is if you have heard of them at all. She should ordinarily be liaising with the Director of the Department of Consular and Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Under-secretaries in charge of Economic and Consular affairs and that of Regions and International Organizations.
An Ambassador who spoke with us in confidence, said, “the problem with these appointees without diplomatic training is that they are making policy statements that are causing embarrassment to the country.”
Ordinarily the diplomatic procedure is for the Italian Foreign Ministry to send a Note Verbale to the Nigerian Mission in Italy. The mission would transmit it via Telex to the Foreign Ministry, copying the Minister, State Ministers and Permanent Secretary. In this case the Undersecretaries in charge of Region & International Organisations and the Economic & Consular Affairs would be copied due to the nature of the issue. These Undersecretaries would then involve the Directors of Consular and Legal and that of Western European Affairs.
As you may have noticed from the above, Abike Dabiri-Erewa does not feature in this loop.
Unfortunately, Dabiri-Erewa appears to be running a parallel and militant Foreign Affairs Ministry. This is typical of the Buhari administration where different power centres sprout in places where cooperation and/or hierarchy should be clear – from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and NNPC GMD feud to the turf war between the EFCC and DSS. The natural order has been turned on its head. Dabiri-Erewa has been accused of hijacking the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO) activities, rendering the NIDO desk in the ministry redundant. She has also managed to endorse a tweet calling for the execution of looters who are somehow to blame for the 26 trafficked women found dead in Italy.
When Dabiri-Erewa’s calibri font almost sparked a diplomatic row with the United States following a preposterous, cynical travel advisory she released concerning Nigerians visiting the US, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama said she should be ignored.
But that is not enough.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa benefits from this weak minister of foreign affairs who has allowed her run riot. In our opinion, she must not be ignored. She should resign, be redeployed or out-rightly fired. It’s time to end this show and go home.