In an increasingly interconnected world, foreign embassies have grown in relevance and importance. An envoy in a foreign nation is nominally a representative of the country and is meant to be accorded a high level of respect. Such person is also a representative of the people of that country, and that is the main point that every Nigerian should remember when reading about the recent attack on a Nigerian diplomat in Jakarta, Indonesia.
To be Nigerian evokes different reactions around the world. It might mean being entrepreneurial, often to the point of annoyance in areas where local vendors feel threatened and overrun. It might mean attractive, again to the chagrin of local men who believe Nigerians are guaranteed to receive the affections of their womenfolk. Regrettably, in other areas, it also means being corrupt and dubious, despite the fact that many Nigerians are honest and hard-working. But, it is important we understand that as a people, we have a responsibility to ensure that this impression, as generalist as it is, is not just promoted by the citizens living in another country, but also by the government whose duty it is to defend and protect our sovereignty.
In ancient times, ‘Civis Romanus Sum’ translated to ‘I am a Roman citizen.’ This meant that when travelling across the Roman Empire, and to a degree the civilised world, a person was protected simply by making that statement. It was because it was expected that the might and power of the Roman Empire would descend on anyone who dared attack any of her citizens. The reason we should be appalled, but not necessarily shocked, that a Nigerian diplomat was manhandled was because Nigerians in Indonesia and around the world are met with demeaning, degrading and dehumanising conditions every day. Social media is replete with the stories of many citizens petitioning for support and assistance and being met with empty responses from government officials. If we don’t respect our own citizens, how can we expect others to respect those we have sent to represent them?
The Foreign Ministry has come out to condemn in the strongest possible terms the attack on the envoy. The Indonesian ambassador to Nigeria was summoned to face the ‘wrath’ of the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama. And the country has recalled the Ambassador back home – which is usually one of the strongest actions a nation can take in reviewing diplomatic relations. But make no mistake, this is only news because it happened to an official that we expect to be above the norm. And if we want to make sure others don’t suffer the same fate, we need to ensure that Nigerians around the world can count on her people, and her government, to defend their basic human rights.
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