ORJIAKOR: 90 Percent Of Our Challenges Require Domestic Solution
Dr. Umunna Humphrey Orjiakor, former Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva. In this interview with JOHN OKEKE and CORNELIUS ESSEN, he spoke on the nation’s inability to produce military wares and why ECOWAS cannot check proliferation of illegal weapons in the sub-region
From the eyes of a diplomat how can you rate Nigeria’s foreign policy?
RATING Nigeria’s foreign policy is not a very simple proposition, especially by one who has been part of it for a very long time. The critic would easily say Nigerian foreign policy has not achieved anything, but that judgment would be extremely harsh if not uninformed. The fact is that foreign policy is only a reflection of the domestic policy. The foreign policy of any country is as strong as its currency. If you have a very stable country you will have a very peaceful country. If you have a very strong economy and a country that is focused on pursuing its objectives, which are properly stated and articulated, it will reflect on your foreign policy. But if you have a country at war with itself, like we have Boko Haram threatening the rest of the country or arms proliferation, you may have some problems.
People do not know that those challenges affect the foreign policy of a country because you are perceived the way you are; not the way you wish to be seen. So, what you say may be different from what people see in you. If you are running a foreign policy and you are conducting a foreign policy under that situation then your challenge is a lot more complicated than those who are running their foreign policies from a more stable platform.
The previous government invited the US and Western allies to confront Boko Haram, but at the end of the day they backed out. What do you think was responsible for their action?
Calling in foreign security agents to solve the problem like Boko Haram would totally be out of place in my view. So, if those countries pulled out, probably they pulled out for various reasons. Maybe when they were coming they thought it was an opportunity for them also to learn from things on ground for them to also achieve certain benefits, because nobody goes out to just good. People also expect something in return. If they did not find what they are looking for they might decide to pull out.
However, I am not aware that government actually invited any foreign forces. We use to hear a story on the advise of foreign ministry and stuff like that, but that should be the usual collaboration that goes out there. I think the main issue was equipment. Arrangement of transfer of equipment has existed between the two countries at a time. Probably, President Buhari’s recent visit to the US would have addressed that. But whether it has solved it, we are yet to see. The President made a declaratory policy statement, so it is left for the diplomats, bureaucrats, the civil servants and the minister, to work out the modalities and see the implementation. So, we shall see what is happening in that sector. The President also made a very interesting statement that is reviving Nigerian’s capacity to produce arms and ammunition to become more self-reliant in our security needs.
Already, he has a platform to build on. I understand that the Nigerian Defence Industry Corporation is there in Kaduna. If the President insisted on revitalising the place or really cleaning it up and bringing it to a modern arms military industry, probably Nigeria would have done itself more good than it could get from other countries supplying us all these equipments in the next fifty tears. So, that is one direction that is not fully explored and it should be explored because the very thought of going to China, Russia and every other country to secure basic equipments like armored personnel careers and all the everyday use equipment for military is very preposterous for a country with very talented people. So, we should begin to look inward to develop ourselves, people and our capacity and learnt to also rely to large extent to ourselves before going outside to seek what we cannot have.
How can proliferation of weapons be checked in the West Africa sub-region?
I know that Nigeria under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been trying to address the issue of light weapons, which are flooding into Nigeria and other countries in the sub-region. Some prominent politicians I spoke to few days ago noted that in some parts of the Niger Delta, every young man you meet practically carries guns. How do you hold a national conversation with somebody who is carrying arms and ammunitions? Small arms and light weapons are the weapons of mass destruction. That is the issue we should be focusing very seriously upon. Mostly that is what Boko Haram uses to wage war against the country. It still surprises me how the insurgency get their ammunitions and how it is funded. Is it through banks or institutions? That should be the same kind of question we ought to be asking of this issue of arms and light weapons. We have very porous and extensive borders, but should that not be an excuse for us monitor them properly?
How much should Nigeria rely on other countries?
To be frank, no country in the world has the capacity to stand strictly on its own without the cooperation and collaboration of other countries. However, no country at the same time can actually rely 100 percent on the goodwill of another country to survive, grow its economy and develop. It is not possible. So, when I hear the words like assist us, help us and so on, I don’t take that too seriously because, frankly no country is losing sleep over affairs of another. The only country that can and should lose sleep over its affairs is the country concerned. How do other countries come in? It is the ability to persuade them that what is in your interest is also in their interest too. That if your economic growth, for instance, or your country remained stable, if the state of the insecurity in your country is contained, then their own countries will also benefit in terms of trade and economic collaboration. In terms of other economic cooperation that could mutually be advantageous to all. That is the basis of international collaboration and cooperation.
In the global age, what we also called globalisation where dependence and interdependence is almost a mutual necessity, to talk of doing it all by yourself may be anomalous. It may take a thousand years to re-invent your own will. But again, if it is a global market, as we say, you have to be bringing something into the market and you can go to the market to buy and sell. We should be doing things rather than begging other people to help us. We should also be helping ourselves.
If there is help to be given, 90 percent of that help should be generated domestically, then the rest 10 percent, we need to tie over that which we can solve externally President Buhari reportedly requested the U.S to help repatriate stolen funds by Nigerians. How do you see that?
I have to be very clear on this; that proposition again is something the President could put forward to his colleague the other side. Yes, it is in the absolute interest of Nigeria to have such money brought back here. But the world, in my own experience, doesn’t just run like that. Is it also in the interest of the United States? Is it also in the interest of some of the European countries, whose financial institutions harbour these monies? Is it in their best interest to have such monies repatriated?
In some bizarre kind of ways, we might even play into their hands if we force them to freeze these monies in their economy. The process of repatriating them could be become so legalistic and too difficult, in which case, the money is trapped. It is possible, with appropriate collaboration, cooperation, patience, diplomatic appreciation and full time engagement, to persuade them to cooperate with us in recovering some of the funds taken away illegally.
What are your criteria for appointing foreign ministers?
Frankly, the President himself has clearly stipulated what he wants his ministers to look like. He is looking for men of integrity and I agree with him 100 percent; Nigeria needs men of integrity and character to be in government. The foreign ministry is the mirror of the world into our country and the one, who becomes the foreign minister, should not just be a person, who is knowledgeable in global affairs, but one who is intellectually and academically equipped or someone who had run a complex ministry like foreign affairs. He should also be a man of impeccable character. A man of great integrity and high moral standing. That is important.
What are the challenges of Nigerian missions abroad?
That is very old one. The challenges we face in our country is that somehow they remain constant and that is the pains of those who have to deal with these things. Take a look at the issue of corruption that we talk about, everybody talks about corruption, but I can tell you that since I was a child, corruption was part of the agenda that overthrew some governments. And since then every kingmaker has used corruption as one of the reasons, if not the principal reason for removing a government. And it goes on like that till today. It tells you that in other facet of our lives, like the issues of our foreign policy, the challenges remain the same. To just appoint anybody as a foreign minister, for instance, is a problem.
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