On Friday, June 29, Otunba Segun Runsewe took a step to further strengthen Nigeria-Ghana ties at the 2019 Accra Weizo, a West Africa travel and tourism expo, where he was honoured with the award of the sub region’s culture/tourism Person of the Year.
At the event held in Accra’s La Palm Hotel, where those in attendance included executives of Ghana Tourism Authority and tourism officials from other West African countries, the NCAC DG reminded the audience of the two West African countries’ long-standing diplomatic relationship that dated back to pre-independence days. He espoused the view that Nigeria and Ghana stand to gain a lot by evolving informal platforms of collaborations and strengthened sub-regional solidarity.
Holding aloft Nigeria and Ghana flags, he had announced the birth of Nigeria-Ghana Friendship Club, which according to him “is to champion the course for the unity, peace, stability and development of Nigeria and Ghana in particular and the West Africa sub-region at large.”
As Nigeria’s cultural ambassador, Otunba Runsewe is noted for his indefatigable pursuit of a positive image for Nigeria. A much-travelled man, he tells you he knows the kind of damage that can result when a country’s passport is in the wrong hands. Alas, in the past few months, there have been reverberations of misdeeds attributed to individuals or groups purportedly holding the Nigerian passport, in UAE and the UK especially.
In an exclusive chat with TIMEOUT, Runsewe calls such incidents unfortunate but insists there is more to it than meet the eye. His theory: “Probe further and you’d see that some of the culprits are non-Nigerian.”
The NCAC boss, also President, World Craft Council, Africa Region, and chairman, Africa-China Exchange Society (ACCAES), gives a brief but concise viewpoint.
How do you feel each time Nigerians are in the news for the wrong reasons around the world?
It is unfortunate, we need to pass a law that anybody who encouraged or allowed non-Nigerian to have a Nigerian passport should be ruthlessly dealt with. Then that will stop this rubbish. Otherwise, why should anyone allow a non-Nigerian to have our passport? One passport in the wrong hand can destroy a nation. Each time, this issue comes up, when some so-called Nigerian misbehaved abroad, everybody says, there is a huge international outcry, “He’s a Nigerian,” and everybody keeps shut.
Now, I say, we should probe further, and if we found out they are not Nigerians, we have to act. We must trace how they got their passports, and officers found complicit should be dealt with. We cannot continue to be carrying bad names around the world! You would have done your own bit as a patriotic Nigerian and out of the blues comes this one individual to destroy or sully the good names you have made over the years. We need to look into this immediately.
How are you sure they are non-Nigerians?
I have had encounters. Once I was in London and three persons were arrested at the airport, they were found to have in their possession Nigerian passports, but they were non-Nigerians. When I got back to Nigeria, I reported the incident to the Immigration.
A second incident was in the UAE. We were in a Dubai restaurant and there was this young man blabbing that he was a Nigerian. I listened to his accent, and it simply did not jell. I was worried. So, I asked one of my officers to go talk to him and find out where he’s from in Nigeria. It turned out he was not a Nigerian. He was from one of the West African countries. And I said to him: “Why then are you claiming to be Nigerian?”
He said he’s Nigerian by marriage––can you imagine––that he was married to a Nigerian lady. I am sure next time, he would be wary that someone might probe him is he started blabbing again. He must have been doing that act for so long and because nobody challenges him, he became comfortable impersonating as a Nigerian.
Its high time we start to do the needful checks. Individually, we may not have the power to arrest, but we must have the will and the drive to protect the image of our fatherland.