If there is one area in which this government is failing in a significant way, apart from its distraught management of the economy and security, it is in its international communication and its responsiveness to Nigerians.
It started with the introduction of a discriminatory covid testing policy by authorities in Dubai, and Nigeria rightly responded by banning Emirates earlier this year. To date, no clear communication on the issues and why Nigeria has responded the way it has. We have not gained any international mileage or citizen support for this mess.
The government’s mismanagement of this Dubai debacle must have partly informed the decision of Canada, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Argentina to impose reckless travel bans from Nigeria, knowing that there would be no consequences or a violent reaction from the international media. Nigeria has not demonstrated such a capacity.
The current travel ban does not take into account the scientific and anecdotal data available. Again, Nigeria is not responding appropriately with solid data and media campaigns.
Two days ago, Emirates airline announced the cancellation of flights to Nigeria following reciprocal withdrawal of landing slots by Nigeria in reaction to the UAE’s decision to grant Airpeace a slot. against a request for three slots. The authorities in Dubai, in complete disregard of Nigeria due to our declining global image and reputation, further ordered other airlines not to send Nigerians to Dubai. Ethiopian Airlines fulfilled the order today.
As we speak, there is no communication with Nigerians stranded around the world waiting to fly with Emirates or transit through Dubai for Christmas. No hotline to call. No information on social media regarding refunds or alternative options.
The Ministry of Aviation’s website and Facebook page publishes articles about the ICAO meeting in Colombia. The latest message from the Ministry of Information on Facebook concerns President Buhari’s condolences to the victims of the American tornado.
The love of this government for Nigeria without the love of Nigerians is legendary. Its strategy of public diplomacy and global engagement is pedestrian, to put it mildly. In contrast, remember how the government of Qatar used international broadcasting and social media to push back the UAE and other Gulf countries during the days of the embargo. They controlled the narrative and came out of the crisis stronger and globally respected.
Apart from instinctive retaliation, what is Nigeria’s strategy against growing isolation and declining global prestige? What should be our response to Dubai’s provocative actions, even days after a presidential visit? The answer has so far lacked strategic and tactical planning. Problem management and coordination appear to be lacking among government agencies. Foreign Affairs does not appear to be responsible for leading our international engagement.
At this rate, this government will be remembered for banning Twitter, placing Nigeria in a mode of isolation and utter disregard for the plight of Nigerians in distress around the world. If you add the insecure situation at home and the severe economic hardship, the deadly nature of this corrosive cocktail can only be imagined.
We need leadership that inspires hope, cares about Nigerians and strategically re-engages the world.