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From Diplomatic Angle, There Has Been Progress

Akinterinwa

Akinterinwa

Economic Gains Of Diplomatic Shuttles Are Difficult To MeasureAfter six months of shuttle diplomacy to different countries, particularly to the G7 meetings and other strategic countries, have you seen any significant improvement?

THE yardstick required for accessing such diplomatic shuttles do not allow for any objective conclusion, because in diplomacy, we don’t deal with tangibles; we deal, essentially, with intangibles. They are not measureable. Diplomacy is about negotiation. The outcome of negotiation does not come readily. It is different from the regular activities, for example, government ministries and departments and agencies. In the case of ministers of works, power, and industry, it is easy to sit down and say we have built 10 roads, 1000 houses and we have provided rail infrastructure. We can then begin to access and say someone is doing either well or not.

But in the context of Nigeria’s diplomacy, we can say, to a great extent, that there is progress from the perspective that President Buhari has been able to take active part in many international meetings. So, the acceptance in itself is a factor of success.

In international politics, there is what we call the principle of isolationism; there is also the principle of reciprocity. When you look at the two, when a country exercises the right not to relate with you as a nation-state, they can boycott you, and if, for other reasons, they want to maintain the relationship with you, they can make use of a third country, in which case, there would not be any direct relationship through the establishment of a diplomatic mission. So, as we have it under Buhari, relationships with virtually all countries of the world have been maintained. No country has expressed any desire to break diplomatic ties with Nigeria. President Buhari has been receiving invitation letters to visit those inviting. That is one measure of progress.

In this light, if you want to measure progress, we must also look at the objective of foreign policy and diplomacy, in which case, we look at the extent to which the objectives have been attained. For instance, Buhari has a three point agenda in terms of national development. The first one is anti-corruption. Where are we in terms of corruption and to what extent has foreign policy been used to limit, contain and prevent corruption? The second objective of the government is security; we want to bring Boko Haram insurgency to the barest minimum. And thirdly, we are also talking about economic development, that is, poverty eradication. The President has traveled the world over, asking for international help in dealing with Boko Haram.

Now, the question is where are we? Many countries have offered help, but have they been doing so?

The question to ask here is, that if Buhari went outside and he was told that Nigeria would be given assistance, but if the assistance has not been coming, are we going to say that Buhari has failed or that nothing has happened? That is why I said the result does not always come on time. Countries have their budget year. Some countries have January-January, some have May-May, and some use their independence day as start date of budgetary year.

So, if someone promises assistance, they must wait until their government puts such things into their budget calendar before it can come. So we cannot say that a debt that has not been honoured has failed.

When we talk about diplomacy of negotiations, we are talking about inviting international investors. They have been coming. The mere fact that Buhari has been elected is considered a factor of success in itself.

Why? What does that translates into?

It is believed that he is going to be very objective. That he is going to fight corruption and he’s going to maintain traditional ties with our major partners. From this perspective, everybody has been inviting him and he has been going.

The issue is that if we look at Buhari in 1983 to 1985, when he was military Head of State, you will discover that one of the major reasons he was ousted from power by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida was that, at that time, he had become anti-West –– our traditional friends, and his regime came up with the idea of trade by barter. People played to the sentiment that he was too hostile to the West and largely supported his ousting from power. Now that he has come back as an elected president, they want to access the extent to which they can come.

Yes, there might not have been many investors coming in as may be desired, but I think they are waiting for more time to access his government and want to see whether he is going to work with them or become very hostile. When you look at it, at the end of the day, Buhari has given the impression that he is a no-nonsense President of Nigeria. He has been talking very firmly and begging for understanding at the same times, which is good for any President of Nigeria. The country should not be taken for granted by anyone.

Many international observers are looking at Nigeria to see where the country is heading. Also, many things have not been coming, particularly from the western world, because they know that Nigeria has opened her doors to Asian countries.

Now we have the Indians and the Chinese competing for space of interest. Nigeria is the most important recipient of Chinese assistance. So, when you look at these and the meetings from Germany to France and America, most countries are looking at Nigeria’s directions, but may not be so quick to yield to the country’s prayers. Looking at all these in totality, there are many dynamics that explain the outcome of Buhari’s shuttle diplomacy.

At the end of the day, some have even argued that Nigeria would disintegrate. Many countries actually want Nigeria disintegrated. There has been many research postulations that by 2014, 15, the present Nigeria would no longer be in existence. One of such arguments has it that in January 1914, when Nigeria was amalgamated, it was more of amalgamation without the consent of the people. The present reality is that as of this day, many people are still talking about autonomy. We have the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State Of Biafra (MASSOB), and they are fighting for autonomy; wanting to breakaway from the entity called Nigeria. And because of the quarrel within that group, another group, Independent People Of Biafra (IPOB) emerged, asking for autonomy of the Southeast. Of course, there are other groups like the Movement for emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), although not tough on Oodua Republic, but the idea has been suggested.

When you look at all these, you may be tempted to doubt the country’s future. There are many international interests technically waiting for the death of Nigeria, only to begin to beat the drum for the funeral ceremony. Some of this thing started with a research-based group in the United States. They said in the light of investigations on the Nigerian-state, January first 2014, when Nigeria is to be hundred years old, the country would have been balkanised along geo-political or tribal lines.

You will recall that during the Nigerian civil war, 1967-70, which I call the war of national unity, many people and countries supported disintegration of the country. The international system is such that a number of countries do not like the power, strength, vitality, and resilience of Nigeria as a nation-state. Nigeria has remained the only country in Africa that has been challenging the major powers of the world. This cannot be in the interest of any major power. Reason why some of them may not want Nigeria to have permanent solution to its problems.

Major powers tend to create tension in other countries so as to come and intervene and offer assistance. The point I am making is that, sometimes those who are predicting the secession of Nigeria could be held responsible for the problems plaguing the country. That’s one of the ways of looking at dynamics and results of these international interactions.
In terms of security, specifically Boko Haram, the President also visited neighbouring countries, in addition to discussions held in Paris. Do you think the interactions have been yielding enough desired goals? Do you think the neighbours might be holding back?

There are two ways of looking at it. The first way is to look at your enemy like a friend. If your enemy is established, why won’t you and I be friends, since we have same enemy. In this case, Boko Haram is a problem to Nigeria and for the immediate neighbours. Therefore, if the neighbours had been fighting Boko Haram, can you say that, it is because of Nigeria’s diplomacy? Or because Nigeria had gone there to speak with them? No. It is because the neighbours also have their vested interests involved; it is not because of Nigeria’s diplomacy. You cannot strictly say that because Buhari had been there. The truth is that we have common interest, common enemy, and then you have to come together and fight.

The second way to look at it is this, apart from Nigeria visiting these neighbouring countries, what led to the French intervention? The meeting, even though we have the Lake Chad Basin Commission, Nigeria could not bilaterally or sub-regionally deal with Chad, Niger, Cameroun, all of which constitute the Lake Chad Basin Commission. The agreement at the level of the Lake Chad Basin Commission is that they will jointly develop and ensure security in their environment or side of the Lake Chad. But this time, Nigeria could not secure their support until the French were brought in. If the French had not spoken to the neighbours, it wouldn’t have been possible to have the discussion that was held in Paris, which prompted the French to talk about giving support and for the neighbouring countries to accept to coordinate anti-Boko Haram strategies.

When you look at the two angles, what the neighbours did was not as a result of the Nigerian intervention, but because their interests were at stake and after proper briefing by France. Nigeria ensured the intervention of France, France conveyed a meeting of all parties, and in this particular case, those who had vested interest had to accept to work within joint framework. So, at the end of the day, one may say it is a successful outing for Nigeria’s security.
Many of the international economic organisations to which Nigeria holds membership, have been advocating consistently that the country should remove oil subsidy and devalue the Naira, do you buy into government yielding to some of these pressures? Would you say they are friendly to Nigeria’s economic interest?

If an International pressure is consistent with national interest, I don’t have any problem with it. However, I don’t accept the micro managing of the Nigerian economy from Washington, London, Berlin, Moscow, Paris or anywhere. I don’t accept that; Nigeria is Nigeria. But the issue is that when you look at it, why should there be oil subsidy? Left to me subsidy is an avenue to stealing public money.

Professor Tam David West was a former minister of petroleum; he is an international scholar of repute, a professor of virology. He came up with the computation of the cost of producing one litre of oil, and this was put at a maximum of about N42. It was N14 per litre, when we did it, I think he did another computation, but all these, put together; it is not more than N50. Now, when you look at how much money went to the oil operators, the transporters, the distributors, you will discover that at the end of the day, the oil marketers are unnecessarily creating problems for the poor people of Nigeria. I am against any form of oil subsidy. If for whatever reason, we don’t have to drive, let us go back to the use of bicycle.



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