By Isaac Asabor
It is not an exaggeration to say that the responses given by the then Indonesian Ambassador to Nigeria in 2015 to questions posed by Abosede Busari in an interview published by the Guardian newspaper, after he officially resumed duties in the country on March 3 same year explanatorily explain the depth of the cordial diplomatic relations that existed between both countries.
As gathered from the interview that was published on the online edition of the Guardian newspaper of April 13, 2015 with the headline “In Indonesia, we stem brain drain with industrialization, says Purwanto”, he was asked, “As a new ambassador in Nigeria, what will be the focus of your country’s relations with Nigeria?” In his response to the foregoing question, he partly replied, “In my assignment, I will like to reach out to Nigerians and I’m looking forward to working with this country. To meet Nigerians from all walks of life so I can learn the challenges and hear their success stories. Now, in this modern world, you can’t do everything alone. It has to be in cooperation. Indonesia is sharing some similarities with Nigeria and I hope this will promote our relations”.
In a similar vein, the current Indonesian Ambassador to Nigeria, Usra Hendra Harahap, after the presentation of his Letter of Credence to President Muhammadu Buhari, assured that his country will be willing to have stronger relations with Nigeria on security, trade and crude oil importation. He said, “Nigeria’s oil is top quality, with less Sulphur content, so we are deeply in need of supply”. At the time, the ambassador congratulated the president for winning a second term in office, promising to push bilateral relations with Nigeria to “new levels’’.
Against the backdrop of the foregoing, there is no denying the fact that the assurances toward cordial diplomatic ties with Nigeria made by the two representatives in different political dispensations, were mere rhetoric. Yet, they were mere oratory!
The reason for the prior viewpoint cannot be farfetched as there have been over the years one diplomatic mess too many between both countries despite the fact that “Bringing countries together above their conflicts require great minds and great hearts” as quotably postulated by Amit Ray; an Indian author.
There is no scintilla of hyperbole to opine in this context that diplomacy is the backbone of all international relations which requires that officials involve maintain a status of diplomatic immunity. Unfortunately, to Indonesian immigration officers, diplomacy need to be disparagingly attacked as far as a Nigerian is involved; irrespective of his status.
For instance, as gathered, a top diplomat working at the Nigerian Embassy in Indonesia, Abdul Rahman Ibrahim was unjustifiably harassed by immigration officers in the country last weekend for not possessing a visa. As conveyed by a communique released by a group known as Stakeholders of Nigerians in Asia (SNA), Ibrahim had gone out on shopping for his family when four officers, who had laid siege on his apartment, arrested him and demanded his travelling papers.
Kingsley Nwankwo, the Coordinator of the group added in the communique that Ibrahim, however, told them that as a diplomat he did not use a visa and instead showed them his Diplomatic Identity Card, but the officers were not satisfied and asked that he follow them to their office, to which he obliged to avoid creating an unnecessary scene in the area.
“On their way, the officers ordered for a car with tinted glasses and Ibrahim told them politely that the car was not an official one. Yet, he agreed to follow them in it, thinking they were going to the Indonesian Immigration Head Office in Kuningan, Jakarta,” the statement said.
After driving for a while, Nwankwo said it became unclear to Ibrahim where he was being taken to and his attempt to call the attention of passersby infuriated the officers to assault and handcuff him.
“The development resulted in him sustaining a lot of injuries on the neck, hands, and chest,” the statement added.
The SNA through the communique titled, ‘The Continued Harassment, Intimidation and Unlawful Arrest of Nigerians in Asian Countries and The Need For President Muhammadu Buhari’s Urgent Intervention,’ joined other Nigerians to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to put an end to the growing xenophobic tendencies against Nigerians in the diaspora.
Nwankwo, who lamented that many Nigerians were currently languishing unjustly in many prisons across Asia, also urged the Nigerian government to urgently set up a high-powered delegation to examine the continued harassment of Nigerians in the region.
“We want the Nigerian government, especially the Minister of Foreign Affairs and President Muhammadu Buhari to write the Indonesian Government on the need to sanction the officers involved in the maltreatment of the Nigerian diplomat,” the group added.
At this juncture, it would be recalled that Nigerian nationals living in Indonesia attacked the Nigerian embassy in Jakarta on Thursday, June 25, 2021. The embassy was reportedly stormed and vehicles inside the compound were vandalized. The protests were carried out amid discontent from Nigerian nationals towards their alleged maltreatment by Indonesian immigration officials with particular reference to an incident where a Nigerian reportedly fell from a building while escaping from immigration officials.
Applaudingly enough, Geoffrey Onyema, the minister of foreign affairs, has confirmed the video of the molestation of the Abdul Rahman Ibrahim that had gone viral at the weekend. The minister has unarguably on the strength of the abuse depicted by the video, recalled the Nigerian ambassador to Indonesia over the maltreatment by Indonesian immigration officers.
He said: “When we saw the video on social media, we immediately contacted our Ambassador to Indonesia, who gave us a further account of what happened. He also confirmed that the video was indeed that of a Nigerian diplomat in the office. Apparently, this took place during a random search by Indonesian immigration of illegal and irregular migrants in their country”.
During the attack, Ibrahim repeatedly screamed, “I cannot breathe … My neck, my neck”. And one of the Indonesian immigration officers, adorning a mask, was seen putting his hand on the diplomat’s head while pushing him against a seat.
It is germane to say that the diplomatic relationship between Nigeria and Indonesia has been under stress from the steady rise of xenophobic attack against Nigerians coupled with prejudiced perception of Nigerians to be drug dealers. While many of these attacks did little damage in the eyes of Indonesian Immigration officials and their security agents, they all currently affect the climate for cordial diplomatic relationships between both countries. Worse still, the attacks make nonsense of all the promises Indonesian diplomats, particularly of ambassadorial cadre, have made concerning the friendly relationship between both countries. After all, an African proverb says, “You can’t profess to love a mother when you hate all her children”. Interpretatively put, representative of Indonesia cannot claim that cordial diplomatic relationships exists between both countries when Nigerians are maltreated in Indonesia.