Feb 26, 2009, 4:15 AM
The Nigeria High Commissioner to The Gambia, Her Excellency Mrs Esther John Audu, has added a new dimension to diplomacy. It is called grassroots diplomacy. Being a former council chairperson, a legislator, and a mayor, the new Nigerian chief diplomat in The Gambia recognises that diplomacy is not only about the top conferences in luxury hotels. She seems to reckon that diplomacy is best served when the interests of the people at the grassroots are well catered for.
For the Nigeria High Commissioner to The Gambia, grassroots diplomacy is not just talk alone; she has matched words with action. Recently, she donated 32 litres of herbicides to the women of Sittanunku in the North Bank Region. The gift was meant to support the women in their drive for food self- sufficiency.
She herself is a grassroots person. By this, she means that she understands and empathises with people at the grassroots. Anything done to lift the grassroots people out of poverty to a more secure and sustainable life constitutes grassroots diplomacy. For understandable reasons, her grassroots diplomacy tilts more towards the women. She is therefore saying that women have for too long had a raw deal; it's now time to aspire for a better life and a better way of doing things. Empowering women in every way is an effective way of reaching this lofty goal.
Apparently, grassroots diplomacy requires energy, enthusiasm and the innate ability to connect easily with people at that level. This calls for a lot of empathy and humility, which the Nigeria High Commissioner, the exponent of grassroots diplomacy, seems to have in abundance.
Watching, sharing experiences with the women in the provinces, encouraging women to aspire to higher heights, helping them to solve their day-to-day problems, inspiring them to be helpful partners, it is clear that Mrs Esther John Audu is a diplomat with a difference. She's got forthrightness, dynamism and foresight.
Grassroots diplomacy represents a new way of doing things. Here is a woman who is by any standard highly cosmopolitan, but is at the same time very much at home with both the provincial and the metropolitan women. The ease with which she relates with people of all classes is a big plus for the kind of diplomacy she espouses. Just being with her for a moment, you have the impression of having known her all your life.
This is an amazing woman, the right person to be the standard-bearer of grassroots diplomacy, the sort of diplomacy that gives the grassroots people some visibility at the top level.
We therefore heartily welcome Her Excellency Mrs Esther John Audu to The Gambia and wish her every success in carrying out her own brand of diplomacy.