There were just too many odds against making it to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in the weekend of 27 April 2019. I had committed to moderating a panel discussion on Diaspora Voting and related matters at the plenary of a Nigerian European Global Diaspora Summit there. I had missed Day 1. Missing Day 2 I knew would be unforgivable whatever the excuse. This is because I am expected to deliver the lead paper of the day and lead debate on Nigerian Diaspora Commission and Need for a sustainable United Diaspora Network as the Summit organisers coined it. Whatever the circumstance or situation, I knew that I had to drag myself to the that great Dutch City. And whatever happens I must be back to Ostend home-base same day before midnight.
That is exactly where the problem – at least in part – lies. It is always a sorry case when you have to do a dash in and a dash out of a city you love. This is because you have no opportunity to relax in your favourite café, see your museum, hang out with your pals and visit your high streets and Malls. That was to be my sorry case when I made the quick stop in Amsterdam to present the lead paper at the Summit. The basis of the paper was an opinion piece I entitled Reflections on a Commission for the Diaspora. After laying out a number of provocative pointers, I launched into a most engaging interaction with the audience. As time was always an issue in such occasions, we had to call it off at some point and rather abruptly but in the understanding that the conversation goes on post-summit!
The icing on the Summit cake, which became for me an adequate compensation for the Amsterdam City that I would not see, was a reunion of sort with a father figure and retired but certainly not tired Diplomat of Nigeria, Ambassador Abdul Rimdap. In his recently published Memoir, CONFIDENCE IN DIPLOMACY, the diplomat extraordinaire took his readers on a journey of not only the contemporary issues that shaped our time in history but also a run on comparative world cultures. The book is a clear defence of Nigeria at home and abroad as the subtitle alluded to but it was done in an uncommon candid and intelligent manner. What I found most striking in the narrative style of this brilliant mind was the humble and humane way in which he brings across what would otherwise be a sad or bad incident or episode. A candid writer with uncommon candour, I found for example Ambassador Rimdap’s reference to President Olusegun Obasanjo quite profound. He was clear not just about the fact that he did not like the man but also about why he didn’t like him. Ironically, he had credit for the same man that he disliked for appointing him on merit to, not one or two but, three key diplomatic posts, even without knowing him or having met him in person but simply on positive evaluation of his antecedents. When he recounted the incident that marked a turnaround in his dislike for OBJ, it was with the same undiluted honesty that he justified his dislike.
The Amsterdam – Ostend train journey that takes some 4 hours, looked like a 40 minute trip, thanks to reading my latest autographed gift of book, Confidence in Diplomacy by Abdul Rimdap!