Farewell interview with H.E. Dr. Eniola Ajayi, Ambassador of Nigeria to Hungary

Your Excellency, Your diplomatic mission in Hungary ended in March 2021. How did You feel and work here?

I start by saying thanks to the extraordinary Diplomatic Magazine in Hungary. I am grateful for the support I received during my term. My journey has been quite fulfilling since I set foot here in Hungary on 23rd October 2017, the Remembrance Day of the Hungarian Revolution. The beauty of this great city, Budapest, immediately captivated me. It was the beginning of a unique discovery of gorgeous sights across the country.

The work within the Diplomatic Corps has been very successful, especially due to the easy bonding, made available by the informal group of Lady Ambassadors and the periodic meetings hosted by Ms. Márta Mátrai, Deputy of the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly and Mrs. Szilvia Szíjjártó-Nagy, spouse of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. These meetings provided the opportunity to interface with several leaders of the Hungarian government and to see different regions of Hungary. I am also grateful for the deliberate efforts of the Hungarian government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to involve ambassadors in various programs and projects in the country. This was really well structured until the pandemic broke out.

I am particularly grateful for the audience I received with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, affording me the privilege of discussing bilateral issues. I feel good about my entire tour of duty and I am also excited about the opportunity to tackle new challenges as the principal envoy of my country to The Hague, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

How would You summarise Your achievements during Your term and what makes You proud? With Your extended experience, what do You see as the key growth driver for Nigerian-Hungarian business relations?

In international diplomacy, this path has been guided by three I-s: Inclusion, Investments, and Image Building. I’m glad to have been able to make substantial progress in all. Inclusion for Nigerian citizens meant giving everyone unhindered access in and out of the Embassy. Our primary presence here is to serve them. We also provided avenue to attract investments at every opportunity we got. This has particularly motivated us to produce our first brochure in 2018, Nigeria: Land of Opportunities. I have paid a lot of effort at projecting a real and positive image of Nigeria as well. I could achieve this by keeping very vibrant and informative social media handles for the Embassy. In 2019 and 2020, two other publications secured the engagement: Arts, Culture and Tourism in Nigeria, and Food, Culture and Cuisine in Nigeria. We celebrated our National Day in 2018 and 2019 with programs that were well attended within and outside the diplomatic corps, prior to the global pandemic. We were especially blessed to appear in three diplomatic magazines in Hungary, on Hungarian TV, Croatian TV and Bosnia and Herzegovina TV, which are also in countries of my concurrent accreditation.

I am most proud of the additional 50 scholarships my country has received under the Stipendium Hungaricum programme by the Hungarian government. This takes the slots up to 100. I am also happy that I could obtain a similar increase in scholarships to 10 from the Serbian government under the World in Serbia Programme, being my 3rd country of concurrent accreditation.

I was able to get my government to establish an immigration post at the Embassy in Budapest. Our consular services to our citizens in our countries of concurrent accreditation were also made easier.

The key growth driver for Nigerian-Hungarian trade relations must be agriculture. Hungary has done well in being able to feed itself and still has enough left for export. We would benefit from their experience in developing our value chain in the agricultural sector.

Do You have favourite subjects in diplomacy?

My favourite topics in diplomacy are peace-making and conflict resolution. I sincerely believe that the whole world can live in peace if we could only take the time to listen to each other. The truth is that even wars are resolved via dialogue at the end of the day. My vision is to see a world without wars and conflicts. We can achieve this by respecting and considering one another in our decisions that directly or indirectly affect others. I believe in making friends. I believe in justice, equity and fairness. I believe that all human beings are created equal and deserve to live in liberty with their rights preserved.

What memories will You keep about Hungary? What was most missing from Your country?

The memory I will preserve from Hungary is the beautiful landscape. I am particularly impressed by environmental protection. I also like that almost every region in Hungary produces something valuable. I love Hungarian culture and the value they place on the family, as well as respect for the rights of minorities living in Hungary. Hungary is also very deliberate about its citizens living as minority groups in neighbouring countries. Hungarians are very proud of their country.

The other outstanding memory I keep is the Hungarians’ love for music and their commitment to elevating and supporting art and artists. I think the Hungarian National Anthem is one of the most beautiful in the world. It is so soul-lifting even without knowing the meaning of the words.

Living away from home, my immediate family was most missed. My husband is a medical doctor, who runs a hospital, while my adult children are on the path to self-actualization in different parts of the world. They just breeze in and out to see me. The other thing I missed about Nigeria is the exhilarating liberty and hospitality. Our culture is so warm and accommodating, even of strangers. I missed that feeling of absolute acceptance. I come from a group of people who would always find a reason to celebrate, no wonder the Yoruba are tagged the happiest people on earth.

To bid farewell, what would be Your message?

I would like to thank the entire Nigerian community, my brethren at the International Baptist Church of Budapest and my colleagues at the Embassy for their tremendous and unflinching support during my tenure in Hungary as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia. It was very fulfilling to know that in one way or another I could make a difference. I couldn’t have done this without my embassy team and the support of my citizens and friends at home and abroad. I am grateful for the unique help of my spouse, children and family.

I thank the President, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and all government officials who contributed to my successful outing in Hungary and all three other countries of concurrent accreditation. I am indebted to you all.

I sincerely appreciate H.E. Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, for the immense support I have received in carrying out my duties. I rest on the shoulders of many giants. I am grateful to the Governor of my state, H.E. Dr Kayode Fayemi and the people of Ekiti State for nominating me to represent them. My gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari is immeasurable for giving me the opportunity to represent him not only on this mission, but also in my new posting in The Hague. I must also say that I am grateful for the conviviality and camaraderie within the diplomatic corps, especially the Lady Ambassadors, which helped me tremendously. I appreciate the support I’ve received directly and indirectly from each ambassador. I can only pray that they will all succeed in every area of their lives. I came in as a rookie diplomat, but being redeployed as an experienced diplomat I still have a lot to learn.

Finally, my utmost thanks and gratitude to God, the author and finisher of my faith. As they say in Hungary, this is not goodbye, but ‘Viszontlátásra’! I hope to see you again!

Anna Popper

Source: Diplomatic Magazine