Nigeria’s UN Assembly participation: Another jamboree?
Nigeria’s participation at the General Assembly of the United Nation is an annual ritual. This participation can be positively explored for the socio-economic good of the country, if delegates would table a strategic agenda at the forum, otherwise, it would be tantamount to mere attendance and wasted resources, which could have been better channeled for positive use, such as, providing some cushioning effect to the biting economy hardship in the country.
Little wonder there was uproar about wastage of taxpayers’ money, when pictures of President Buhari’s daughters at the General Assembly hit the social media. Many were curious about the importance of their presence at the Assembly and what role they would be playing at the forum to the benefit of the country. Though the President’s media handler made a statement to the effect that the ladies went on their own bill, it was still greeted with skepticism on the social media.
At this year’s meeting, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the head of Nigeria’s delegation to the Assembly, had the opportunity of addressing participants and he raised a number of issues on Boko Haram, Climate change, corruption, youth empowerment, need for Africa to be represented on the permanent membership of the Security Council and aids for rebuilding northeast of Nigeria.
Though there would be other meetings that the Nigeria delegates would attend on the sidelines, the president’s speech, no doubt set the tones for the other issues that would be tabled at such discussions.
One thing, which participating in such a forum provides, is goodwill, but such could be temporary in this present world, where the social media provides people across the world with information on what is happening at home.
Professor Solomon Akinboye, a professor of International Relations at the University of Lagos, said the president’s presence is a highly significant and momentous one, especially as Nigeria is considered a giant nation in Africa.
He said: “His presence is important at such a high profile meeting. Of course, in his speech, he raised a number of issues relating to various aspects of our national life. He talked about the issue of corruption, economy and security.
“These are critical issues germane to our national lives. Now, to show the seriousness he has committed to these issues, he had taken them to the floor of the United Nation, which means his intensions were showcased.
“For instance, on the issue of the country’s economic downturn, there is need for it to be resuscitated, including seeing if foreign investment could be attracted to the country.
“It is also the reason he placed emphasis on security, because it is a critical consideration, as you cannot attract investment in the midst of insecurity, though the issue of insecurity is not limited to Nigeria.’
On the third critical issue of corruption, which is something that has eaten deep into the nation’s socio-system, the university teacher said what is needed is the political will to confront corruption and as somebody perceived as a man of integrity, which is the reason he is loved, “President Buhari is confronting corruption frontally and that is what he has preached to his colleagues at the meeting.”
Although the president talked about the need to have Africa represented on the Security Council as a permanent member, the professor argued that Buhari should have called for the need to democratise the membership of United Nation’s Security Council.
This, in his view, is because democracy is what even the United Nations is currently promoting worldwide, and its impact is not just known, but is felt across the world.
“If the United Nations processes are not democratised, then it does not speak well of the body, especially as a group, which asks its member nations to democratise its processes,” he said.
Akinboye further said it is when the expansion of the permanent membership of the Security Council is raised that talk of Nigeria taking the slot should have come up. “And Nigeria has all it takes to stand in for Africa, as a giant on the continent. But the emphasis should have been the democratising the process.”
However, Dr. David Aworawo, a senior lecturer in the Department of History and Strategic Studies, University of Lagos, felt it might be too early to talk about the gains of participating in the 71st United Nation’s General Assembly.
“Except if one is to assess the previous participations and what the gains were,” he explained.
According to him, though Nigeria signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement at the ongoing Assembly, but the country is known to have signed so many agreements and protocols without making concrete steps to promote the philosophies of such agreements.
He said: “Let’s hope this is not going to be so. Even if it is not implemented to the letter, it will draw attention to the need for sustainable development and environmental protection.
“For instance, in the north, desertification is encroaching aggressively and in the Niger-Delta region, gas flaring and other activities relating to the exploration of oil and gas are serious issue.”
He said also that with the president’s call for aids for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in the Northeast, hopefully a couple of millions of dollars would be realised.
He was of the opinion that the country’s participation at the Assembly would build a little goodwill.
“There would be informal discussions and meetings not visible to people that did not attend and there would be outcomes.
“We also hear a lot about anti-corruption, but I do not know how much the international community can still do in assisting with that. May be they would continue to make commitment to help track Nigeria’s money they find anywhere and repatriate it home for us.”
Aworawo said what should be of utmost concern to the country are issues relating to insurgency.
The university teacher observed that the president should have advocated an environment that would promote conducive atmosphere that would enhance trade between Africa and the rest of the world.
“A lot more needed to be said about that. Africa’s population is about 11 per cent of the world’s, but its contribution to global trade is less than three per cent. A great deal of that arises from the nature of the global international socio-economic environment.
“So, there is a need for a new international economic order that would allow Africa access to greater approach to global market, which at the end of the day, enhances Africa’s development.
“Africa needs to develop, as it is presently lagging far behind other continents. Of the 47 poorest countries in the world, about 33 are in Africa. So, one would expect calls for more assistance for Africa to develop. I am surprised that the issue is not pushed forward forcefully.”
On the non-mention of the need to help Africa realise its single passport project, since it is expected to boost Africa’s economy and development, Aworawo said if the president had spoken generally about support for development, that would have been better and even taken care of the infrastructure deficit and the issue of single passport.
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