Wishlist Has Yielded Results, But There Is Need For Balance
President Buhari, after winning elections this year, went with a wishlist to the G7 meeting in Germany, asking world leaders to assist him in a number of issues, ranging from counter-terrorism to anti-corruption to Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), what has been the result of these visits?
THERE has been some reciprocity for the travels. The other time, the British Chief of General Staff came to express his country’s support for Nigeria’s anti-terrorism and counter-insurgency moves. France has also expressed solidarity with Nigeria in the same fight, and so many others have shown desire to assist Nigeria in recovering stolen wealth, as well as supplying arms and ammunition for the fight against terrorism. The shuttle has increased the confidence of the world community in Nigeria and has opened new vistas of cooperation for the benefit of the country. The trips have yielded dividends.
On corruption, do you think there are any major strides so far?
He has boosted confidence in Nigeria. The international community has seen that here is somebody, who appears serious and is sending the correct signals in the anti-corruption fight and ready to recover what has illegally been taken out of Nigeria. They are expressing their cooperation with him. The money involved is staggering, huge. It is in billions of naira and, in some cases, billions of dollars. If the funds were injected into the Nigeria economy, the outcome would be salutary.
But many have argued that the president should rather sit back and get the country in order before calling others to come to his aid
His trips are not excursions; they are not picnics. They are targeted at achieving specific goals. The target of Nigeria has been insecurity, corruption and economic decline, and all these are intertwined. The trips are being targeted at solving these problems. Foreign partners collaborated with Nigerians to loot the treasury. And in some instances, foreign partners also collaborate with terrorists. In insurgency and counter-insurgency studies, external support is crucial to any insurgency movement, because they are inferior to any government they are fighting in organisation, resources, weapon and others, so, they need to collaborate with others outside for them to succeed. Studies have shown that the current challenge that Nigeria is facing is not an exception.
Also, counter-insurgency requires external support to be able to deny insurgents vital ingredients for success. Insurgents, by having external support, would have safe havens, where they run to when they are being pursued. But if the government were in understanding or accord with such safe heavens, that leisure would be denied them. It is also through external support, especially, close to international borders, that they get supplies and assistance from around the world. So, any sensible government fighting insurgency makes sure that it blocks that external source of assistance to insurgents and enlists such for counterinsurgency.
His movement around is not frivolous; it is a time-tested strategy of counter insurgency. The liaison with other part of the world is because he requires equipment and materials with which to fight terrorists. It has also secured understanding. The British Chief of General Staff came to pledge support in materials and resources to Nigeria’s counter-insurgency efforts. Without that, it might be difficult, if not impossible for government to secure such. Then, the expression of solidarity from France is a fruit of his foreign trips.
Even with the President’s foreign trips, there is question of how well he is preparing the domestic front for investments, as the economy has screeched almost to a halt in recent months
Actually, without solving these problems, no external investor would have confidence to come and do business in Nigeria. These are sine qua non to attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). If they know terrorists would blow up whatever they invest in and that government would not be able to protect their investments, they would not come. So, the government is doing the right thing by sending the signal that he is up to the task in countering insurgency and providing the necessary atmosphere of security for profitable investments. The advantages far outweigh the drawbacks of his foreign trips.
But we have had issues with transparency and good governance? He is fighting that in trying to recover what people have illegally taken from the state in various spheres, including aviation, oil and gas and security. He is trying to send the correct signal that if you defraud government, you would face the music.
Many have argued that there should be commiserate domestic realities to support wishes of the President; for instance, he is asking for arms to fight insurgency, but there have been issues of respect for human lives and weapon abuse by our military, a case that has been further illustrated with the clash between soldiers and Shiite Muslims in Zaria recently
So, far there is no evidence that government has abused weapons. Those who were involved in that clash have provided reasons that they acted in the line of duty. It is their duty to protect the Chief of Army Staff and those people constituted a threat to his life and security. They had to respond the way they did. I am not preempting the outcome of the investigations, but from what I have learnt, there is nothing yet to indict the army of wrongdoing.
I won’t hold brief for the state in Nigeria, but we have also seen that Nigeria has gone through a lot, recently. The source of weapons of Boko Haram insurgents is not internal; we do not have a vibrant armament in industry that could field them. We have small arms infiltrating the country illegally and they find their ways in the wrong hands that is what the country is paying for. The seeming high-handedness is part of the efforts to curb these leakages of arms and ammunitions in the country.
Moreover, if we get these weapons from external sources and they go to the right quarters, they would not be abused. They have no empirical evidence. The clash with the Shiites is not enough. The military has provided explanation, which has to be faulted, before they are taken to task on the abuse of their weapons.
Apart from that, how has the country been upholding multilateral agreements that have come as an offshoot from the meetings?
Nigeria has not reneged on its responsibilities in the agreements; the problem of Boko Haram and corruption has discouraged investors. But if these can be corrected, we should fair better. Greater headway has been made over Boko Haram than hitherto. In the recovery of loot, some people who stole money have voluntarily surrendered the monies. I am sure the confidence would be restore.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have insisted that government devalues the Naira, so as to get funding from external sources; what do you make of that position?
Nigeria would have to look at its interest before taking those steps. When you devalue, you limit the purchasing power of the local currency. If you have nothing to sell, which others can buy from you, it means you would be in a disadvantaged position. If Nigeria was an industrialised economy, that would have been another issue entirely. I don’t think it is in the interest of Nigeria.
In keeping faith with the fight against insurgency, Nigeria was recently lumped into a coalition of Islamic States; doesn’t this contradict the constitution, which states that the country is a secular state?
It is not a recent phenomenon. Nigeria has always been a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). All efforts are being made to overcome the challenge of Boko Haram, and this coalition is seen as part of such. So, if Nigeria had already been a member of the OIC and is trying to collaborate with other Islamic States, I don’t see much difficulty in that. We are also a member of the World Council of Churches; that has not detracted from our secularity. We are only interpreting and behaving as it suits us.