Nations show strength, depth and advancement in times of crises.
Capability and maturity are proven when faced with difficult tasks, decisions and complex organization of resources.
Nations that hit the mark regularly earn the reputation of great nations.
The war in Ukraine presents such a moment, during which the success of India highlights the indolence of Nigeria.
India, although like Nigeria by most yardsticks, presented the image of an efficient and effective government while Nigeria scrambled to figure out governance.
As the Indian government evacuated its citizens from war-torn Ukraine in a timely, orderly and organized manner, its Nigerian counterpart gave an exhibition of amateurs who could not even grasp the basic principles of a modern state.
The government of Nigeria proved, not surprisingly, that it has not acquired necessary skills to deliver critical services to the Nigerian people when it matters, in its response to the war in Ukraine.
We must accept that the core of governance is tottering when the Foreign Ministry and the Diaspora Commission are run by unmotivated, unimaginative and sterile officials, who sit on their butts stunned while the rest of the world moved fast.
The face-saving reaction through the airlifting of Nigerians who managed to escape from the war in Ukraine notwithstanding, the government failed to protect citizens at risk and erred in its most sacred duty.
The administration mismanaged emergency response and waited for Nigerians to compare their own government with India’s before it would act. It was as if Nigerian lives did not matter.
It wasn’t until Nigerians lit the social media with stories of official inaction that the administration mustered any effort to help thousands of Nigerians, mostly students, who were at the mercy of Russian bombs.
An estimated 10,000 Nigerian students were stranded in the theater of war in Ukraine, trapped because when others left in a hurry on the advice of their governments, Nigeria asked our people to stay.
Even when the US embassy in Ukraine thought it was expedient to move westward, our own government just acted on the assurances of Vladimir Putin, the Russian President.
That Nigerians were left high and dry in spite of the preponderance of information about the movement of Russian troops is evident of incompetence resulting in the absence of service to the Nigerian taxpayers.
There was hardly any doubt that war was imminent. Most nations saw this danger instructed their citizens in Ukraine to leave.
It wasn’t until Nigerians lit the social media with stories of official inaction that the administration mustered any effort to help thousands of Nigerians, mostly students, who were at the mercy of Russian bombs
When the Russian forces advanced, the Nigerian Foreign Minister, Dr. Geoffrey Onyeama, was in a fool’s paradise.
“The advice we were getting was that Nigerians in Ukraine should not panic.” Onyeama said on NTA on February 24, adding that “the Russian government itself was saying they will not invade.”
Nations have intelligence officers in their foreign missions for this exact purpose – to sense danger and avert it. Nigeria trusted the Russians instead of its own intelligence and common sense. That’s inept.
It is the same type of incompetence in the administration of education in Nigeria that has caused parents who can afford world-class education to send their kids to Ukraine instead of the broken Nigerian universities.
Ukraine has, in recent years, become a Mecca of sorts for those seeking to study medicine, engineering and other STEM courses. For this reason, the war in Ukraine has significant impact for many Nigerian families.
A friend, whose daughter studies medicine in Ukraine, listened to the government, instead of my humble plea for him to get his poor girl out of Ukraine urgently.
It turned out, I had better intelligence and common sense than the Nigerian government by just following the news.
A few hours after the pronouncement by the Foreign Minister on public television, Putin did what he was expected to do – he attacked Ukraine from multiple fronts.
Nigerian students, caught in the war, scampered for options of escape. They headed hurried to the borders of Moldova, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Romania. There are new reports that many students have been cut off within Ukraine.
My friend’s daughter found her way into Romania and eventually to Nigeria, as worried Nigerian parents continue to make frantic efforts to bring their children home.
On social media, videos juxtaposing the responses of Nigeria and India went viral.
On one hand, a set of videos showed Nigerians in dire conditions as refugees depending on private assistance to survive.
On the other hand was a video of an Indian official addressing citizens inside an aircraft chartered by their government.
The citizens listened as the official assured them of the commitment of the Narendra Modi administration to their safety and well-being after being rescued from Ukraine.
Yet, a third video exposed the wives of Nigerian state governors at a needless and wasteful birthday party for the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, in Dubai, UAE, while Nigerian students were under siege in or around Ukraine.
The contrasting shame must have smacked the administration hard in the face.
Reactively, it decided to spend $8.5 million to bring 5,000 stranded students back to Nigeria. It would also hand out $100 to each student.
While the change of heart is welcomed, it is too little too late. The students have already rescued themselves and the government’s response could not have saved their lives when it mattered the most.
Besides, all the government is doing is to ask the citizens to help themselves out of the war zone, when they are in trouble, in the first instance, because of an error of judgement by careless officials.
This should be a time of inquisition and reflection.
What was the thinking and logic behind asking Nigerians to stay when others hurried out of Ukraine?
Upon what intelligence did the Foreign Minister act when he put Nigerian citizens in harm’s way?
The National Assembly, instead of giving Onyeama a pat on the back, should be interested in investigating his bungling. So far, it does not appear that legislators think Nigerians in Ukraine could have been better served.
Even after the failure, the Minister has neither apologized nor recanted. Instead, he has tried to rationalise.
According to him, “80 per cent to 90 per cent” of countries and people did not believe that Russia would indeed invade Ukraine. “I was in touch with our ambassador early enough and he assured us that there was no need for evacuation.”
Onyeama must list the countries that account for his 90 per cent, so that he can complete his cycle of stupidity. He is a classic case of a square peg in a round hole, so unfit for public office.
This is also an opportunity for Nigerians to demand an end to the shabby treatment of Nigerians in the diaspora by their government.
The National Diaspora Commission, headed by Mrs. Abuke Dabiri, was unskillful as the Foreign Ministry under Onyeama.
She implored Nigerians to evacuate after they were already in trouble. Dabiri should not have sat on her heels for distress to unfold.
A classmate, commenting on the situation, remarked that the Nigeria government has been unable to understand that its first duty to citizens is to protect them, adding that it is a bit too much to expect a government that is apathetic at home to be sympathetic abroad.
That observation, while true, is not acceptable. Nigerians must demand for a change. India is not much wealthier or more sophisticated than Nigeria and the service delivered to Indian citizens should not be superior to that of Nigerians.
We spend too much time fighting to make black lives matter, even as we complain about the mistreatment of the black race.
In Poland, there are already sensitivities around the unequal treatment of black Africans trying to escape from Ukraine.
But we should realize that others will not value our lives more than we exhibit for each other.
When our government behaves in a manner that shows that Nigerian lives are dispensable, foreigners are less likely to protect us.