Until she was appointed as High Commissioner to Sierra Leone in February this year, she was Director of Protocol in the State House, Abuja, Nigeria. A career diplomat of immense wealth of experience, Ambassador Gladys Quist-Adebiyi is a woman of enlightened, extensive and extemporaneous discussion. More so, she is widely known to be action oriented. Within a few months as the new High Commissioner, she has rehabilitated the High Commission, as well as the Residence, which had almost been abandoned. This has evidently, repositioned and elevated Nigeria’s image in Sierra Leone. In this interview, she spoke on a wide range of topical issues
What has it been coming to Sierra Leone as the new High Commissioner?
There is a perception of “Nigeria Man” “Oga man” in the Sierra Leonean local parlance.
What are your comments on these?
When I arrived, I heard such callings. It hurts me so badly. I want to appeal to Sierra Leoneans to please, desist from these types of callings. Because we do not do such in Nigeria to Sierra Leoneans. A lot of us trace our roots to Sierra Leone, just as how a lot of Sierra Leoneans trace their roots to Nigeria. In government, past and present presidents are working closely. We see Sierra Leone as a sister country. So when you hear this thing called Nigeria man or woman, it pains us as it does not augur well to a befitting sister or brother. We see you as brothers and sisters. It is quite derogatory. In every society, you have the good, the bad and ugly. So also in Nigeria, in Sierra Leone, everywhere in the world. We have a special relationship with Sierra Leone.
What is the current state of relationship between Nigeria and Sierra Leone?
I must state our relationship is growing deeper and warmer. President Koroma and President Jonathan are good friends and they are partnering together. President Jonathan, working on “Transformation Agenda” and President Koroma, on “Prosperity Agenda”. Both are passionate toward infrastructural developments. Both want to see the people out of poverty. So also the respective First Ladies. We also have the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) programmes in the educational and health sectors. I’m also partnering with UNFPA, in bringing in professionals to build up capacity in their respective fields. Also the SLRTA, we have road safety corps members who come in for capacity-building too. We have the LAWMA working with MASADA in environmental sanitation exercises, to keep Freetown clean. We have our soldiers in ISSAT, we are working with the Police and a lot of other sectors in the country. We stand shoulder by shoulder with Sierra Leone in the process of development. We are looking at the Joint Commission where we will look at various areas like trade and development and the likes, that will result in a win-win situation for the two countries.
What can Sierra Leone offer Nigeria?
In the area of agriculture, like poultry, so also fisheries and mining, Sierra Leone has a lot to offer us, just as Nigeria, too, has a lot to offer. I want a win-win situation for the two countries. I believe, as my President does, we can all team together in various fields, to achieve our desired objectives and goals.
What is the present security situation in Nigeria, particularly the Boko Haram problem?
We are having difficult times in Nigeria. The Boko Haram insurgent are offshoots of al-Qaeda. Terrorism is borderless. They came into the country through the North-East from the Sahelian region of Mali, Niger, Chad, all the way from Somalia. Everybody is pained in Nigeria about what is going on in the country.
How do you assess President Goodluck Jonathan and is he going run in 2015?
President Jonathan has done a lot, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of bringing the people out of poverty. If he is going to run in 2015 is a personal issue. He has a right to it. Every Nigerian president has a right to two terms of four years in office. I think he should be allowed to do his job and leave the issue of re-election aside.
Nigeria is now the biggest economy in Africa, overtaking South Africa. How does this reflect on the ordinary Nigerian?
Like the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said, there is no immediate effect on the lives of Nigerians on the street. It is going to be gradual. It is going to take some time.