Yesterday, the federal government (FG) through Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), announced that it had begun moves to evacuate and quarantine Nigerians stranded abroad amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
This may have come as a vindication for Rep. Benjamin Kalu, the spokesperson of the House of Representatives. Recall that exactly 3 months ago, on February 4, 2020, Nigerians, at home and in diaspora watched as a mild drama ensued on the floor of the House of Representatives. Via a motion of urgent public importance, Rep. Kalu of Bende Federal Constituency had called for the FG’s evacuation and quarantine of Nigerians stranded in China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. Unfortunately, the House unanimously shut down the motion, refusing to even hear it despite the Speaker, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila’s many appeals to his colleagues to allow the content of the motion be heard before deciding its fate.
Curiously, as the coronavirus pandemic has worsened the world over, all the prayers sought in the originally rejected motion have now been implemented by the FG one after the other in the same manner proposed in the motion.
The rejected motion had sought, among other things, for the FG to set up a Covid-19 inter ministerial task force. The wisdom in this prayer was vindicated as the FG set up a task force shortly thereafter.
The motion also prayed for the conversion of government owned properties to isolation centres; today we have seen the FG do the same.
Finally, the most important prayer of the motion for the evacuation and quarantine of stranded Nigerians is now being implemented by the FG.
Interestingly, Rep. Kalu’s motion was supported by Nigerians in diaspora, including the association of Nigerian students schooling in China who appealed to the government for help in evacuation.
So how come the House or Senate failed to see reason in the proposal of the Benjamin Kalu motion? The prayers in the motion which in a manner of speaking was rejected and has now become the chief cornerstone.
When contacted last night, this is what he had to say,
“Parliamentary decisions or resolutions leans towards the voice of the majority and at all times efforts should be made to get the buy in of the members through efficient and effective lobbying before plenary to avoid your opponents playing under ground politics on your motions. May be I counted on the credibility of the prayers and how timely it was without spending time on the politics of lobbying, so I share in the blames. Having said that, I am sure if the house had allowed the details of the motion to be explained, their reaction would have been different since the prayers were well intended.“
“If you remember during the interview granted by ChannelsTV immediately after the mild drama , I said granted they did not understand the full intention of the motion, I was not going to give up in pushing for the prayers in the motion to be realised. Today, I am happy that the executive arm who watched all the while, took steps in their wisdom to attend to all the prayers serially; the setting up of the COVID -19 inter-ministerial Task force was one of the prayers, the use of government owned properties as centres was there and finally the need to evacuate healthy Nigerians back to Nigeria to be placed in isolation for 14 to 30days was also there. The news of the evacuation gladdened my heart.”
“The fact Nigerians forget is as a nation we must at all times defend our dignity and integrity before the comity of nations, if you lose that you lose your respect in all diplomatic negotiations. Abandoning our compatriots in another land and making ours, their responsibility was not good for our image. I only wished we had done this earlier and closed our borders after the return Nigerians outside the country. We are almost the last country engaging in evacuation but better late than never.”