The Senate on Tuesday kicked off the screening of the 47 ambassadorial nominees sent to it by President Muhammadu Buhari for legislative approval. The President had on June 9 sent to the Senate 47 names of Nigerians to be screened and confirmed as career diplomats.
The President, in the letter personally signed by him and dated June 6, 2016, requested the Senate to approve the list at the shortest possible time.There was, however, drama during the exercise as some of the nominees, who were drilled by members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs chaired by Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, could not recite the national anthem and the national pledge smoothly.
The nominees were asked questions ranging from diplomatic issues to the names of the senators representing their states, their geopolitical zones and the states in them, how many local government areas in their states, how many lawmakers in the Senate, among others.
While some of them stuttered while reciting either the anthem or the pledge, others missed their lines in the process.
Vivia Okeke (Anambra State), who was asked to recite the anthem, murmured when she got to the second to the last line of the first stanza, “One nation bound in freedom.” The panelists however came to her rescue.
Ibrahim Isah from Niger State, who is currently serving in Turkey, was asked to recite the national pledge. When he reached the third to the last line, he said, “To defend her unity and integrity,” instead of “to defend her unity and uphold her honour and glory.”
Hakeem Balogun from Lagos State, who currently serves in the United States, recited the old national anthem to a point and was asked to start again and he got it right.
Jane Ndem from Benue State, who currently serves in Japan, got the number of lawmakers in the Senate (109); she also got the names of senators representing her state but when she was asked to name 12 states in Nigeria and their capital, she got 11 but named Lagos and Lagos as its capital instead of Ikeja.
Shakirat Ogundero from Oyo State was able to name two out of three presidential candidates in the 2015 election – Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari.
Baba Garba, while reciting the pledge, skipped the “to serve Nigeria with all my strength” line, he returned to it and skipped “to defend her unity” again.
Janet Bisong from Delta State, while apologising for not being able to state the number of local government areas in her state, was interrupted by one of the panelists, Senator James Manager, who is from Delta, saying, “You know it; it’s 25.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, who led the nominees before the panel, after the exercise was postponed to Wednesday, however, said the reports of nominees not been able to recite the anthem and the pledge, which were already trending online, were not true.
But a senator in the panel, in a chat with journalists after the session, said Enang lied on the performance of the nominees.
“That was a lie. Everybody saw what happened. We were there; journalists were there; the cameras and the tapes were there. How can diplomats not know the anthem and the pledge of their country? If it were lawmakers now, he (Enang) would come for us,” he said.