Jan 20, 2016, 10:28 AM
The seven years four months she has served in The Gambia has brought “a lot of growth” and development to the high commission, The Gambia-Nigeria relations, the Nigerian community in The Gambia and has also been a fulfilling experience to her.
“My journey has been successful one; a journey of fulfilling experiences that led to growth in different areas,” said Ambassador Audu, who is the dean of the diplomatic and consular corps in The Gambia.
The longest serving Nigerian head of diplomatic mission told The Point newspaper that the relationship between The Gambia and Nigeria is stronger and continues to growth.
“The official two-day visit of the former president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to The Gambia is an attestation to that: if there is no cordial relation, it would not happen because it is not easy for a president to just leave a country to go and visit a sister country,” she said.
“The Gambian leader has also visited Nigeria, and when two presidents visit each other, they discuss issues of mutual concern, issues of bilateral growth and development.Even though there is a new government now in Nigeria, some of the things discussed [between Jonathan and Jammeh] have been transferred; the relationship is already on with new leader,” she added.
Besides, the Nigerian diplomat said the time she came to The Gambia, as ambassador, in April 2008, a lot of things that were not in place then are in place today.
“When I came, we were still using a rented apartment as our chancery, today we are occupying our own building; the Nigerian International School was still in a rented place in Fajara: today they are in their permanent place,” Ambassador Audu recounted.
Both The Gambia and Nigeria marked 50 years of independence within the period of her diplomatic mission to The Gambia.
“This is very symbolic to me,” the Nigerian Ambassador said.
In technical cooperation, the Nigerian technical aid corps members to The Gambia have increased across various sectors: health, (basic and secondary) education, and now agriculture and higher education, which were not part of the cooperation.
Also there were some officers from the Nigeria National Emergency Management Agency to The Gambia to give technical assistance to the National Disaster Management Agency in dealing with natural disasters like flooding, desert encroachment among others.
During the drought that hit The Gambia in 2012, Nigeria, through Ambassador Audu, sent in goods worth US$500,000 to cushion the effects of the disaster.
“There has been improvement even in the air services,” the Nigerian diplomat said.“When I arrived here, I arrived in Bellview Airlines: at that time it was the only airline operating between Nigeria and The Gambia.But during my mission, certificate of landing was given to Air Nigeria and later Arik Air, which are still operating.”
Financial sector boom
Since 2008, a lot of major players in Nigerian financial institutions have opened subsidiaries in The Gambia, thanks to Audu’s leadership and Gambia’s conducive environment.
“We have more banks and insurance companies coming to serve here and this means more employment for the indigenous Gambians,” the diplomat said.“The Nigerians here are contributing to the development of the country; they are directly involved in the development of The Gambia.”
“For me, personally, it has been an experience of learning.I have learnt from President Jammeh, Babili Mansa,” Ambassador Audu said.“If not anything, I have learnt to be a patient person through him; I have learnt to be a very committed and hardworking person; I have learnt to be more Godly, and I have learnt to have more passion for my country.I have seen all these traits in him.”
The diplomat said the Gambian leader’s mass pardon of prisoners, including foreigners, was a shock because “it is not easy to release one prisoner not to talk about releasing almost everybody”.
“This has taught me further to be interested in people in all sectors in life, even those sent to jail.And I have also learnt very much about forgiveness at all level,” the dean of the diplomatic community said.
She also said her stint in The Gambia has been an experience that would help her to continue to build up.
“At the end of the day, I would say I have found myself sent to a country to re-package me, to prepare me, maybe, for greater things back home.So as I am going back home, I am going with new ideas, new experiences and with a better way of thinking than I was when coming,” the Nigerian diplomat said.
Ambassador Audu’s diplomatic successes in The Gambia have not come easily; they were achieved on the backdrop of mainly financial and consular challenges.
“One of my challenges has to do with the resources: the resources that you need to carry out your activities are not always there like you would expect; that is a major challenge,” she said.
“Besides, Nigerians travel every day.So normally you have more of consular problems because nationals go out in search of greener pastures and some of them move without the right documents, some of them move with horrible intentions like those involved in drugs or trafficking in person.There are challenges that you have to address,” she added.
A word for Africa
The Nigerian diplomat shared her take on the way forward for Africa.
“We need to ensure that there is security between our countries and in the sub-region,” she said.“We should be able to do that to move ahead.Every continent is moving ahead and growing technologically every day, why not Africa?We should not be seen going backward by engaging in destruction or pulling each other down; that will only stagnate or even take us back.”
Ambassador Audu said Africans should learn to promote peace in society for the continent to have an atmosphere that is conducive for growth.
She also noted that Africa should go into manufacturing than be producing raw materials for export.
“We should produce materials and work on them to finished goods so that people come and buy from us.We should not be using our foreign exchange every day to buy and become consumers every day,” the diplomat said.
“When you keep consuming and consuming every day, you enslave yourself to the producer because if he doesn’t produce you would not eat.”
She said Africa should invest and invest in technology and judiciously harness her natural resources so that the continent can measure up with other continents.
Ambassador Audu said the most remarkable experience she would go back with to Nigeria “is the peace that I have enjoyed in The Gambia”.
She noted that the Gambian people are very peace-loving; once they believe in you they are ready to work with you.
“So, I got so acculturated to the things in The Gambia because of the way people operate and accepted me,” the outgoing ambassador said.“This is an experience I would say everybody should come and experience; experience the peace and the tranquillity here, experience the conducive environment; that you can rest and think well; a relaxed atmosphere I would never forget. So this is what I would carry along with me as I go,” the outgoing ambassador said.