It was indeed a dramatic scene on Tuesday at the parliament when two longstanding Nigerian diplomats nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari failed to recite the national anthem and pledge, leaving lawmakers and journalists at a senate hearing in laughter.
The two diplomats, Vivian Okeke and Ibrahim Isah, who failed to recitals taught at elementary stage in primary school, were nominated alongside 45 others as prospective envoys to different countries, where they would promote Nigeria’s culture, ideals and values.
At the dramatic session Tuesday, members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, vetting the diplomats’ qualifications, unexpectedly asked Mrs. Okeke and Mr. Isah to recite the national anthem and pledge.
While Mrs. Okeke mumbled the words of the anthem, Mr. Isah floundered and could not proceed with the pledge after introducing himself.
Mrs. Okeke was later aided by James Manager, a Senate committee member, as she murmured through the second stanza of the anthem.
Both nominees have been in the Nigeria’s Foreign Service since 1983 – already raking in 33 years of experience each.
Mrs. Okeke currently serves at the Nigerian embassy in Washington, United States. In 2013, she was the minister (trade and investment) at the mission. She is from Anambra State.
Mr. Isah, who began his career as Third Secretary in the African Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, currently serves in Ankara, Turkey, as Charge D’Affairs of Nigerian mission in the country.
He had headed the chancery at the Consulate-General of Nigeria in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, and was also Chief Airport Protocol Officer responsible for seeing off and receiving foreign leaders who visited Nigeria.
Mr. Isah told the screening committee that Nigeria must block foreign goods from entering the country “like China” to come out recession.
It wasn’t the first time a would-be envoy would fail the national anthem test.
In March 2011, Ijoma Bristol failed to recite the anthem and could not also name the capital of Jigawa State during her screening before Jubril Aminu-led Foreign Affairs Committee of seventh Senate.
She was however cleared, with then Senate President, David Mark, saying “her case is a case of poor pass”