The emergence of embassies, consulates and permanent missions in foreign lands has arguably served an excellent purpose for citizens. It has responded to the need for paternal care, serving security and consular needs. It has been dissipating anonymity associated with being in foreign nations, thus, creating a home away from home. Their existence offers the citizens sufficient care to feed their patriotism and enable them to thrive and become enough support to develop and express their gifts. Beyond being representatives and advocates and agents of progress and well-being for their citizens in the host communities or countries, embassies are international and intercommunity image-making agencies and bureaux. To be true image-making agencies, the personnel at the embassies, as much as possible, have to embody the values and images they need to communicate. But, unfortunately, embassies perform these tasks with varying degrees of success.
No wonder cries of broken and dysfunctional systems characterise some Nigerian embassies. Some of them are always in the news for the wrong reasons. It is not that there are no fine officers in these missions, but because of the paucity of their number, their impact offers only glimmers of hope and flickers of light that do not change the cumulative attitude, which spells bad and dysfunction. For instance, when Mrs Nonye Afoekelu was the head of the Chancery at the Nigerian Embassy to Italy, she provided the needed succour to Nigeria’s citizens and friends. Still, one person cannot change an entrenched attitude unless they are the general overlord. And that’s why the appointment of a humane, hardworking, dedicated and patriotic fine gentleman, His Excellency, Ambassador Paul Adikwu is great news not only because of the prospects of his administration but mainly because of the actuality. Since he assumed office, he has envisioned and brought a new spirit in the Nigerian Mission to the Holy See.
This new spirit corresponds to the nature and mission of the Nigerian Embassy to the Vatican. In its context, the embassy to the Holy See, beyond offering consular services like emergency visas, diplomatic assistance to Nigerian religious men and women in Italy and pilgrims who come to the See of Peter, markets a desired brand of Nigeria to the world. Even though a micro-State, the Vatican serves as a centre of a global rendezvous, offering a web of network for relationship building and listening. The whole world gathers at the Holy See for various purposes, including but not limited to religious, leisure, spiritual, political, educational, social and cultural purposes. It offers a peaceful and spiritual ambience to pilgrims, tourists, diplomats, lobbyists and intellectuals, freeing their minds of worries, politics and intrigues. As a supranational entity, the Vatican offers visitors physical and social space to interact and enrich one another. And with its ubiquitous transnational reach, it wields an unequalled moral megaphone and participates actively in global diplomacy.
On account of its active involvement at different layers of geopolitics, Vatican City is a spot an aspiring world power seeks to be Nigerian Embassy to the Vatican and Ambassador Paul Adikwu entrenched. At the heart of these prospective interactions, the embassy has the most significant advantage of being in the most diplomatically engaging centre with its attendant responsibilities for any good diplomat. It offers ground for great diplomatic skills, branding, rebranding and marketing their nations to reap diplomatic dividends. No student of history or International relations forgets in a hurry the role the Vatican played during the crisis in the Balkans. The Holy See was the first to recognize the independence of Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia before Germany and others followed. The recent rapprochement of the US and Cuba facilitated by the Vatican is a study in diplomatic deftness. It takes a skilled diplomat who spells goodness, profound humanity, intelligence, creativity, humility, courage, hospitability and a patriot to make a tremendous impact.
Paul Adikwu has proved himself a round peg in a round hole. In his first meeting with the Pope, who doubles as the sovereign of the micro-state of the Vatican and the leader of about a 1.3billion Catholics and indirect unofficial leader of over 2.5 billion Christians in the world, Ambassador Adikwu requested prayers for Nigeria. Furthermore, he commenced negotiation with the Vatican authorities for the possible visit of the Holy Father to Nigeria. Indeed, he asked for the assistance of the Holy Father in resolving the security challenges of Nigeria and making all necessary contacts and communications that will be to the advantage of Nigeria. Similarly, he is also engaged in discovering the various Nigerian lights, illuminating the firmament of Italy and the Vatican City. It is, undoubtedly, a sign of a great diplomat who seizes any opportunity to promote his nation.
A well-trained nationalist and a Benue-born diplomat, Ambassador Adikwu has shown his preparedness for his new assignment in the Vatican. So far, his actions promise to contribute positively to nation-building, recovering lost opportunities and breaking new grounds. With the cooperation of the sending State, Ministry of Foreign affairs, he is poised and ready to place Nigeria in her rightful stead in the diplomatic community, especially in the Vatican City, the territorial expression of the Holy See. I congratulate Ambassador Paul Adikwu as he plunges profoundly into his new assignment. It is the hope of many Nigerians that he will transform the embassy at the Vatican City to a super embassy, fulfilling its core mandate. Undoubtedly, the embassy’s potential for social capital cannot be overemphasised. Therefore, the embassy to the Vatican should never be seen as a compensatory and complementary embassy that becomes the Christian equivalent of the Islamic counterpart in Saudi Arabia. Somewhat, the hidden diplomatic, social and human riches buried in that diplomatic grounds cannot be overstated. When unlocked, the prospects will offer Nigeria the needed acceptance to attract the goodwill of the world that money does not buy.
• Rev. Fr. George Adimike is a Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Onitsha ([email protected] com).