Maurice Archibong 3-time winner, travel & tourism reporter of the year
This ambassador will succeed –Nigerians in Togo
On September 27, the Nigerian Embassy in Togo hosted our compatriots resident in that neighbouring land as well as captains of industry, top brass of the diplomatic community and very important government officials of the host nation to a party in commemoration of Nigeria’s 52nd independence anniversary.
The event, though decidedly modest, went down well; according to Ambassador Matthew Sunday Adoli, who is President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s envoy in Togo. Speaking with Travels in his office within Nigerian Embassy on Rue des Hydrocarbures in the Togolese capital, Lome; Amb. Adoli recalled the celebration offered an excellent opportunity to also hail the enviable ties between the two West African countries.
A former Ambassador of Nigeria to Senegal, Amb. Adoli had used the occasion to, among others, remind everyone that; despite all the challenges currently facing our dear nation, Nigerians are lucky to have a thoughtful patriot like Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as president. “I can authoritatively tell you that Nigeria is not doing badly and that our country is making tremendous progress under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan,” the top-flight diplomat declared. Speaking further, Adoli, who assumed duty as Nigerian Ambassador to Togo on June 27, this year; added: “Nigeria and Togo share many ties that bind, which have helped to ensure that the excellent relations between them are easily sustained”.
The Nigerian Ambassador intoned that successive Togolese Governments have helped to foster the enviable ties that bind the two nations. Hear Amb Adoli: “From the beginning, as soon as both countries gained independence from colonial rulers, Nigeria and Togo have enjoyed brotherly relationship. In fact, since the days of President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who maintained excellent ties with Nigerian leaders; to the present day; President of the Republic of Togo, HE Faure Gnassingbe, is like a brother to President Goodluck Jonathan.
So, we have no problems here”. Paradoxically, however, 52 years after shaking off the shackles of colonialism; Nigeria and Togo have not signed one Bilateral Agreement, despite their cartographic proximity, the ancestral affinities among their ethnic nationalities and membership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as African Union (AU), among others. A country of deservedly proud and fiercely nationalistic citizens, Togo lies immediately beyond Benin Republic, Nigeria’s next-door neighbour to the west.
A vital part of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor, Togo is important to Nigeria and vice versa in many ways. Countless Togolese live in different parts of Nigeria, especially in the South-West geo-political zone; where Ewa Agoyin has become like indigenous cuisine. Many Nigerians also have their ancestral roots in Togo and the same applies on the obverse side. However, the level of official documentation on the nationals of either country resident in the other’s as well as their balance of trade has been vague for decades. For example, through several visits by this writer to Nigerian Embassy Togo over the years, we have gathered from various envoys that, “the population of Nigerians in Togo is about 1 million”.
In fact, Alhaji Bayo Yusuf, Nigerian Ambassador to Togo between 1999 and 2003, actually told this writer that “as many as two million Nigerians” could be living in that country. To echo Nigeria’s incumbent Ambassador to Togo, “The conservative estimate is about one million”. Why is it so difficult to have a more reliable figure of Nigerian immigrants in Togo? Amb Adoli helped to put things in perspective, thus; “Currently, because of the huge volume of human traffic, facilitated by the proximity between our country and Togo as well as the informal conduct by the traders; it would be hard to keep accurate track of what the volume of trade is.
“If you go to some of the markets in Togo, Like Azinganmey, for example; you would think you were inside a Nigerian market. This is how deep the interaction is. Many of our people are also highly mobile. Some arrive in Togo by morning to do their shopping and by evening they are already on their way back to Nigeria. Some get to Lome by night. Do their trading the following morning, and by the next afternoon they are outside Togo.
“This should give you an idea of how difficult it is to have the exact number of Nigerians in Togo at any particular time. But, there are plans to ensure that very soon, this issue would be addressed to some extent; as we begin to have some of these activities formalised”, Adoli disclosed. Although the Nigerian envoy enjoys smooth sailing, when it comes to diplomatic matters; this is not to say that it is all a bed of roses for him. In deed, even if it were, roses come with thorns, don’t they? Nigerian Embassy Lome faces various challenges.
This could be gleaned from the fact, that; the mission has had to succour more than 60 Nigerians in the less-than four months that Adoli has been ambassador here. Also, some 400 Emergency Travel Certificates (ETC) have been issued to facilitate the return or repatriation of Nigerians home between January and September, this year. Many of those for whom emergency travel papers were raised were victims of human trafficking, we gathered. “After the rescue of such victims from their predators, the embassy had processed papers and provided funds to pay their way back to Nigeria, where they were handed over to officials of NAPTIP (National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons)”, Amb Adoli told us. Fiercely patriotic, Amb Adoli believes Nigeria has everything any citizen could want.
He understands that in today’s Global Village, which the world has virtually shrunken into; some people are wont to migrate. “I have nothing against anyone going outside Nigeria in search of greener pastures, but I strongly believe that any citizen is better-off in Nigeria. Nigeria is a blessed country and whatever you think you can find living abroad, you will find in Nigeria. So, wherever you find yourself, never forget where you are coming from, because; East or West, home is still the best”; he mused. Amb Adoli also sets great store by loyalty. And, he is also very strict, when it comes to discipline and work ethics. He finds sloppiness distasteful and cannot stand dereliction to duty. To him, “Every embassy is an embodiment of our country.
The ambassador represents The Presidency, while every other ministry is also represented in various ways. So, there’s always a lot to do. Therefore, to me; there’s nothing like 99.9 per cent loyalty. You are either 100 per cent fit and loyal or you don’t deserve to work with us because our work cannot afford any weak link in the chain”. Despite being something of a workaholic, Amb Adoli listens to music and prays a lot to unwind. “Yes”, he mused; “I have these as my hobbies”. Truly, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Adoli is also a very affable and welcoming person, which is why he finds betrayal intolerable.
He is open to everybody, but the moment he discovers that, that access was abused or taken for granted; the traitor is likely to see another side of this naturally genial person. Over some 20 years travelling across West Africa and interacting with Nigerians in Diaspora, we had encountered innumerable instances, where our diplomats were berated for not rising to the occasion, when stranded compatriots went to their mission in search of succour. Cheeringly, the situation has been changing for the better since President Jonathan assumed office and Dr. Olugbenga Ashiru was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.
So, how do Nigerians living in Togo rate their country’s incumbent ambassador? We searched out several elders and youths for their impression, and such respondents included Pa Peter Iduh, Pa Gabriel Oluwatade Ajayi, Alhaji Audu Hamid Saliu, Mr. Abdul Ganiyu Suleiman and Mallam Salisu Abubakar. On his view of Nigerian Embassy Togo, Pa Peter Iduh, who hails from Agbor in Delta State; had this to say: “The new ambassador here, I believe will do well”. Speaking further, Pa Peter, who is almost 80 years old and an Adviser to President of Nigerian Community Togo; added: “From the way he has started; I believe Ambassador Matthew Adoli will do well because he has a listening ear.
And, he is also very compassionate; I’ve seen him use his personal resources to facilitate the repatriation of stranded Nigerians home”. For a man, who has been living in Togo since 1980; Pa Peter should know what he is talking about; having seen generations of Nigerian diplomats come and go. With regard to words of wisdom for southern Nigerian minority elements hoping to come to live in Togo, Pa Peter warned: “My advice to anybody from the South-South planning to come and live in Togo is: I would not advise any of my people to come here hoping to get a job. Unless you have a lot of money to set up a tidy business in Togo, I would not advise you to come here, based on my experience”.
Next, we spoke with Mallam Salisu Abubakar, Provost of Nigerian Community Togo (NCT). Mallam Salisu, who is also Speaker of the Hausa Community in Togo; explained: “We in the Hausa/Fulani (Arewa) Community, which is for every Nigerian from the 19 Northern States of Nigeria; have no problem with the embassy. We also believe the new ambassador will succeed because he runs an open-door policy”. On his part, Eze Igbo (King of Igbo Community) in Togo, Chief Ukachukwu Ezenwata; had this to say: “We are lucky to have an ambassador like HE Matthew Adoli, here. We have been praying for a man like this, and; we have been blessed with Ambassador Adoli, who is not only a very good diplomat but also a very sentient human being. “Amb Adoli is a special soul, he attends to our needs any time.
Day or night, you can count on him to respond to your calls. He is the first ambassador, I’ve encountered that has made our embassy people-friendly. Before, few Nigerians ventured near the place. But, today, most people get positive attention, once they go to the embassy”. Born in Ideato North Local Government Area in Imo, Chief Ezenwata, who has been living in Togo since 1976; added: “My advice to Igbos hoping to come to Togo is that, they should first of all be sure of the capital layout of any business they want to do. They must be ready and have all relevant documents, including passport and health papers, otherwise they will add to the number of people that just wake up one day and come here only to create problems and spoil the name of Nigeria.
“As far as Igbo Community in Togo is concerned, if we suspct that anybody from our ethnic group is likely to pose a problem to those of us that are law-abiding and doing legitimate business here; we bundle the person to his community and hand him to his Eze with strict warning that we do not want to see such a character in our midst in Togo”. When we spoke to Mr. Abdul Ganiyu Suleiman, Vice Secretary of NCT; he observed: “I can vow that Ambassador is God-sent.
All that you have been told about this ambassador is true. If you hear any complaint against Amb Adoli, it would mean that the complainant is not a law-abiding person. I have seen many ambassadors come and go and most Nigerians in trouble report to us. And, from the way the man has started, we can tell you that he is special”. During his encounter with Travels, Ilesa-born Pa Gabriel Ajayi, a money-exchanger living in Togo since 1979; said: “My advice to any Nigerian dreaming of coming to Togo is for the person to remember that he/she is in another man’s land.
So, whatever misconduct you got away with in your own country; you have to leave them at home before you set foot here”.