This editorial was first published a couple of months ago. With Ghana’s aggression towards Nigeria and especially her renewed hostile policies aimed at Nigerians and their businesses, we are compelled to publish it again in the hope that it will spur the Nigerian authorities to action.
For those conversant with diplomacy and the attendant protocols, the news that part of Nigeria’s High Commission in Ghana was demolished by certain persons initially sounded unreal. Because it is standard practice in international relations that the precincts of a country’s diplomatic mission is treated as part of that country and must be accepted as such by the host country and others too.
The main issue that led to the desecration of the hallowed grounds of Nigeria’s High Commission is presently shrouded in diplomatese. On one hand, President Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have ordered full investigation into the matter. On the other, the same presidency was also reported to have said that Nigeria will not go into a street fight over the matter.
The Ghanaian government reportedly tendered its apology with an offer to rebuild the demolished property. Part of the story of what happened claimed that some men, armed, had forced their way into the Nigerian High Commission compound in Accra and demolished the property which was said to be under construction.
If that is the case, it says a lot about the level of security in and around the High Commission. Hooligans don’t just stray into a diplomatic environment. They are usually forcefully repelled. Was there no security around the building at the time? Where was the Defence Attaché when the sacred grounds of the High Commission was being violated? That is where we agree with President Buhari that there ought to be a full scale investigation in the matter. It is not enough to blame the host country, Nigerian diplomats in Ghana should explain the obvious lapses that gave rise to that infringement of internationally agreed treaties on the status of Embassies and High Commissions. The immunity of diplomatic staff, the inviolability of a diplomatic mission and its grounds, and security of diplomatic correspondence and diplomatic bags are not toyed with in relations between countries.
The Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations of 1961 is a treaty that describes the framework by which countries ought to deal with each other. It also, specifically, mentions the privileges of a diplomatic mission that allows diplomats freedom to work without fear of intimidation in host countries. In particular, Article 22 of that Convention states that:
‘The premises of a diplomatic mission, such as an embassy, are inviolable and must not be entered by the host country except by permission of the head of the mission. Furthermore, the host country must protect the mission from intrusion or damage. The host country must never search the premises, nor seize its documents or property. Article 30 extends this provision to the private residence of the diplomats.’ When the Nigeria High Commission building was demolished, this law was breached by the Ghanaian government.
For decades Ghana has become comfortable with the obnoxious tendency of poking its fingers into the eyes of Nigerians. We recall the expulsion of Nigerians from that country in the 1960s just because they are Nigerians. Ft Lt Jerry Rawlings, as Head of State of that country, once described Nigeria as a big for nothing country. He apologised and we, the ever tolerant and forgiving big brother, accepted.
In contemporary times, the Ghanaian government has consistently being putting up discriminatory policies against Nigerian businesses and residents even as we, on our part, continue to turn the other cheek. It is that excessive tolerance on the part of Nigeria that emboldened some rascals to develop the guts to move on the High Commission. And we are compelled to ask what happened to Nigeria’s once policy of reciprocity in international relations.
From the attitude of most African countries towards Nigeria we, as a newspaper, are convinced that the theory that Africa is the centrepiece of our foreign policy has outlived its usefulness. It is about time the Salvation Army marched homewards.
We are not suggesting that Nigeria severes ties with Ghana. What we are saying is that the Nigerian government ought to use the occasion of this unprovoked aggression on the part of Ghana to review and overhaul her foreign policy and choose her genuine friends. Diplomacy is all about enlightened self-interest. No permanent friends, no permanent foes. Only permanent interest matters. That is the key ingredient of foreign policy that Nigeria is yet to imbibe.
In our considered opinion, the big brother role of Nigeria, with all its good intentions, have severely been abused. The same thing is going on in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Beyond the fact that the headquarters building is in Nigeria, it is difficult to put a finger on what else the country is benefiting from that organization. Nigerians must learn to speak French language to qualify for a job placement. How ridiculous.