Dogara’s legislative diplomacy for nation building
SPEAKER of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, recently brought his diplomatic prowess to bear when he pushed Nigeria’s interest before world leaders at the highest level of meetings of world heads of parliaments.
The speaker was one of the heads of parliaments from across the world who converged in New York, United States of America for the Fourth Conference of Speakers of Parliament organised once every four years by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) at the United Nations Headquarters.
IPU is the umbrella organisation of leaders of parliaments with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and such meetings are only held, to underscore its importance, once in every four years.
The summit was a unique forum for dialogue and cooperation between parliaments, with the overall theme of the conference focused on peace, democracy, and development as seen through parliamentary lens. The conference was part of the series of high-level meetings leading up to the UN Summit, which will hold in late September 2015, where new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be launched. It was preceded by the Tenth Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament, which held in August.
Dogara didn’t confine himself to the historic UN General Assembly hall where plenaries took place but went steps further to hold bilateral meetings with Speakers of parliaments of different countries from Africa, Asia and Europe.
The first of such legislative diplomacy held on the eve of the conference as Dogara had a bilateral meeting with delegation of Chinese MPs led by Chairman of the National People`s Congress (NPC) Mr. Zhang Dejian.
The Speaker solicited China’s support for Nigeria’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and the Chinese threw their weight behind the request.
Responding, Mr. Dejiang said there must be a better representation of developing countries in the United Nations and that Nigeria, being an influential country in the world, deserved a seat on the council.
Also, agreements were reached on the establishment of a parliamentary friendship group between Nigeria`s National Assembly and the NPC of China.
The Speaker had appealed to the Chinese government to review its five percent tax on Nigeria’s agricultural exports and the Chinese agreed to take up the issue with their authorities back home, in addition to another promise to attract Chinese investors to Nigeria.
They also pledged to support Nigeria in the fight against terrorism, describing it as a global scourge.
In another bilateral parley, Dogara secured a commitment from the state of Israel in Nigeria’s recent efforts to rout Boko Haram insurgents before the end of the year.
The Speaker of Israel’s parliament Knesset, Mr. Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, gave the nod when he met with Hon. Dogara who had solicited for Israel’s support to Nigeria to help end Boko Haram and other security challenges, in addition to attracting investment in agriculture, solid minerals, energy and tourism.
Edelstein said that Israel will continue to support Nigeria’s fight against terrorism as, according to him, there must be global action against terrorists.
The Speaker further urged the Israelis to invest in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, which has the potential to create wealth and generate employment for millions of jobless youths.
He also solicited for technical support from the Israeli parliament Knesset to enable the National Assembly establish its own security outfit by equipping the Sergeants-At-Arms.
He said plans are underway to transform the Sergeant-At-Arms into a modern and sophisticated security outfit as it obtainable in other parliaments. Again, Nigeria-Israel parliamentary friendship group will be established.
Coming closer to home, Dogara held bilateral meetings with president of Niger’s National Assembly, Mr. Amadou Salifou. Part of the outcome of the talks is the reiteration of the Nigeriens of their commitment to supporting Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram, with Mr. Salifou saying Nigeriens will continue to support Nigeria until Boko Haram is extinct. He said Niger had already won the war on its own side of the border.
Similarly, Speaker Dogara met with his Senegalese counterpart, Mr. Moustapha Niasse, who delightfully informed him that he is half-Nigerian as some of his cousins are from Sokoto State. Dogara lauded Senegal’s smooth democratic transition in recent years as an example for other African countries to emulate.
In the same vein, talks were held with the Second Deputy Speaker of Burundi’s National Assembly, Hon. Nduwimana Edouad, where Dogara called on African nations to look inward and find solutions to their problems instead of relying on foreign nations. He said Nigeria must, as a matter of necessity, maintain an Afrocentric foreign policy because of its commitment to peace and stability in Africa.
An agreement was also reached to establish a parliamentary friendship group between the Nigerian and Serbian parliament.
At the end of the conference, the Speaker extolled President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against corruption and pleaded with the international community, especially Western nations, to help return billions of dollars looted from Nigeria.
The Speaker said Western nations have both moral and legal obligation to Nigeria and other African countries to ensure that monies stolen from Africa are repatriated.
He said the return of such funds will help create jobs for millions of jobless young men and women and ultimately reduce to the barest minimum, the surge of migrants to Europe from Africa.
• Hassan is the Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to Speaker Yakubu Dogara