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On the theme of a new world order – Part 2

By Bolaji Akinyemi
01 November 2022   |   2:39 am
While one aspect of the parameter believed in multilateralism, Trump believed in unilateralism. While one aspect of the parameter believed in pacta sunt servanda— the sanctity of agreements

(FILES) Trump. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

Continued from yesterday’s Back Page

While one aspect of the parameter believed in multilateralism, Trump believed in unilateralism. While one aspect of the parameter believed in pacta sunt servanda— the sanctity of agreements, Trump believed in tearing up multilateral agreements. Hence, Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Paris Climate Change Accord, and the US-Canada-Mexico Accord. Perhaps of equal if not more significant importance was the perversion of foreign policy language.

Every country dresses the marketing of its foreign policy goals in positive terms while hiding the real 10 egocentric nature of the policies. Hence, foreign aid, marketed in evangelical robes as designed to promote the development of the global south, masks the fact that 80-90% of the funds are spent on payment of the salaries of donour citizens, buying of equipment from donour countries and other charges of consultants from donor countries.

And yet, they are marketed on United Nations and other international platforms as contributions arising from the generous propensity of donour countries. Trump on the other hand was prepared to and did strip American policy of these pretensions by proclaiming that under his administration, it would be “Make America Great Again”.

“America First” was another variant of this refrain. The point l am making is that every American Administration has always promoted the United States while masking it under humanitarian pretensions. Trump was having none of that. He was going to tell it like it is.

The result was to make enemies for the United States all over the World and make himself the most despised American President in living history. If this was the limit of the damage, it probably would have been tolerable. But the United States was and still is the most powerful global power.

The disruptive United States was bound to have global repercussions. The consequences of this Trumpian factor have outlived the administration. The continuing popularity of Donald Trump is a problem the world has to contend with.

The net result will be the reluctance of countries to enter into long-term agreements with the United States. Even if it is not Trump per se, the fact still remains that the precedent has been set that any agreement or understanding with the United States is as good as the time span of the Administration.

The second factor which I did not foresee was the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. What that pandemic was and still is, is well known to everyone and the details need not detain us here. But I want to focus on the effect on the world order.

As of the time that the pandemic struck, the world order had manifested itself into an interweaving global market where parts of one product were sourced from different parts of the world and transshipped to other parts. The net result was that no country felt the need to be self-sufficient for any product.

When the pandemic struck, the immediate response of every country was to close its borders and shipping ground to a halt. World trade came to a halt. Frankly, given the rapidity of the rate of infection and the mortality rate among those infected, no country can be blamed for its panic reaction. We have gone into a relaxed mode and l think this is regrettable because we still don’t know where the virus came from and we know that it has not gone. Its variant, omicron, is still with us.

Frankly, what we have now is a victory of business over health. But that is a topic for another day. When the world trade ground to a halt, all countries found themselves short of basic medical equipment like syringes, gloves, medical gowns, PPE etc. Citizens descended upon their governments like a ton of bricks, wanting to know why there were these shortages.

Governments learnt their lessons that their citizens were not interested in the niceties of global economic affairs. They wanted goods, especially strategic goods in the medical field, to be available on demand. Governments, therefore, decided on investment in the domestic production of goods and not just medical goods.

So, the second victim of COVID-19 was global trade, the first victim being human lives. Of course, as was to be expected, the government’s reaction went beyond what was to be rationally expected as the reaction became irrational. Investment and access to vaccines also became nation-driven. Nations who had the resources invested in factories that could mass-produce vaccines in their countries.

Under Trump, the United States undertook some unethical behavior like buying up an entire three months of production of anti-COVID-19 vaccine from a German company, bribing a German company to secure its research data on anti-COVID-19 vaccine; the United Kingdom imposed anti-export regulations on the anti-COVID-19 drug; China was supposed to have developed a vaccine which it was using on its military but was not sharing the details, and there were allegations that Russians were hacking into Western industrial medical facilities to secure vaccine data.

Even countries that lacked global industrial capacity but had medium industrial capacity also embarked on import-substituted goods production, and value-added goods production. The net effect of all of these was the weakening of the world order as we knew it in the pre-pandemic period. The world had become less united essentially.

The COVID-19 epidemic also had weakening effects on functional international institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO), World Trade Organization (WTO) and United Nations Conference On Trade And Development (UNCTAD) to the extent that the global North would resist anti-trade policies which are supposed to underpin development in the global south.

Within a few months of the advent of the pandemic, David Cameron, a former British Prime Minister, was proposing the setting up of a new world health institution to deal with epidemics. Given the fact that an Ethiopian is the head of the WHO, and no case of inefficiency was made against him at this stage, Cameron’s suggestion is suggestive of racism.

Given the fact that the cause of the virus was suspected to be a cross-over between animals and human beings, eventually, one would expect the new world order to have new Institutions devoted to environmental concerns with enforcement sections on encroachment on animal habitat as well as addressing malfeasance in animal husbandry. The third factor which I could not have foreseen is the Diasporan syndrome.

In 2015, when I gave my lecture, President Muammar Ghadaffy of Libya had been dead for 4 years, assassinated with the aid and connivance of Western powers. Before he died, he had warned the Western leaders that he was the one who used Libya to keep refugees from flocking into Europe and that if he was overthrown, Europe would not be able to cope with the influx of refugees who would use Libya as the gateway into Europe.

Ignored before his death, his warning has proved accurate. The influx of refugees into European countries had led to a strengthening of the electoral right with the consequence of a weakening of civil rights and global multilateralism as each country seeks to bring the issue of refugees, social and economic rights and immigration under national control. A classic example of this was the issue of Brexit which saw the exit of Britain from the European Union.

A weakening of multilateralism and internationalism is one of the unforeseen consequences of the Diasporan syndrome. And yet paradoxically, black politicians have migrated to the front benches, some finding places in the cabinets in various countries. This paradox could be explained by the fact that the black politicians had embraced and some might say embraced right-wing ideology in order to become relevant. The fourth unforeseen factor is the Russian-Ukrainian war which broke out on February 24, 2022.

This lecture is not about the rights and wrongs of the war. I am sure that vicariously, the issue dealing with judgement about the war will surface. But the core of the lecture is the factorial consequence of the war for the creation of a new world order. Before the war started, there have been grievances against the American-dominated old world order. Even the United Nations as an institution was not spared. Pressure had mounted for the expansion of membership of the Security Council.

The International Financial Institutions that arose out of the ashes of the Second World War such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are under the permanent leadership of the United States and France, a situation that has led to much resentment.

The use of the dollar as the currency of world trade has led to problems. However, the most galling issue was the American freezing of the dollar account of any country that is out of favour with the US. All of these were already issues boiling before the Ukraine war started and the pushback had already started manifesting. In 2009, Brazil, Russia, India and China met in Yekaterinburg, Russia and formed BRIC as an association to promote economic cooperation, development and peace.

In 2011, South Africa was added and so the acronym became BRICS. The interesting thing was that BRICS as a concept was actually conceived and mooted by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs in 2001. No sooner was BRICS formed that it became obvious that it was not encompassing enough. Countries that should be members on economic and developmental grounds were excluded.

So, in 2011, Fidelity Investments, a Boston-based asset management firm coined the term, MINT, an acronym signifying an association of the economies of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. O’neil popularized the acronym but the association did not take off politically. However, Goldman Sacks continued to draw attention to the growing group of developing economies such as Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam. However, BRICS marches on.

A BRICS Investment Bank was put on the table as an alternative to the World Bank and the IMF. So far no further progress has been made. The critical message is that all these developments predated the on-set of the Russian-Ukrainian war. What the war had done is reinforce all the tendencies, spur on new ones and consequently point the world down uncertain paths. When the invasion of Ukraine took place, it posed an existential challenge to the old world order in a very fundamental way. Under the old order, before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was an understanding that maintained that order.

The West under the leadership of the United States was free to operate and dominate within its sphere of influence which included South America, Canada, Africa, Western Europe and the Middle East. So, the United States can invade Panama and kidnap its President, it can sponsor the overthrow of democratically elected Presidents in Chile, Brazil and other countries, and it can organize the invasion and blockade of Cuba. The European countries and the United States could overthrow governments in The Middle East and African countries such as Iran, Togo, Ghana and recently Libya.

The Soviet Union under Russia could invade Hungary, Eastern Germany, Georgia etc. Then you have middle areas like Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, Syria etc. where both superpowers could fight vicarious wars. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, like the avalanche of independence in Africa in the 60s, there was an avalanche of independence of Eastern European states which were formerly satellites of Russia.

A combination of the economic collapse of Russia and the independence of the satellite states left the United States as the sole superpower even though Russia was still a nuclear power. The first consequence of the world order was to destroy the equilibrium mechanism of the old world order as the world faced the spectre of the arrogance of power by the United States.

Shakespeare dramatically in Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene II had Cassius speaking to Brutus, “Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves”.

Secondly, while the focus was on the rivalry between the United States and Russia, China had stealthy started climbing on the ladders of economic and nuclear power and by 2017, the United States was pinpointing China as its powerful rival. It was under the Trump administration that China in the 2017 National Security Strategic was described as a “strategic competitor”

The significant factor was not that the United States had a new rival. The significant factor was that the new rival was one which can surpass the United States. All through the period of the Cold War, there was no possibility of the Soviet Union catching up and surpassing the United States.

This is not to insinuate that the United States was capable of defeating the Soviet Union. In fact, what maintained the equilibrium and the peace was the equilibrium of terror sustained by the fact that each side was capable of delivering a second round of nuclear capability.

Of more significance was the fact that under the old order, there was no sustained alliance between the Soviet Union and China, and the tactical alliance was not sufficient to change the nuclear balaTajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. India and Pakistan became full members in 2017.

In September 2022 Iran applied to join. In October 2022, the global North also pushed back. 44 European countries made up of 27 European Union members, Turkey, United Kingdom, Israel, Ukraine, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia held a summit titled The European Political Community.

According to the EU foreign policy chief Josep Burrell, the Summit was to “rethink and reform the wider European order, beyond the work of the EU and NATO”.There are three factors relevant here.

The first is the absence of Russia from the list. This is understandable as the formation of the group was driven by the Russia-Ukraine war and those present at the Summit were all opposed to Russia. The second factor was the absence of the United States from the list even though the United States had been the lynchpin of European security since the end of the Second World War.

The implication of this is that at the negotiating table for a new world order, Europe wants to speak for itself rather than as an adjunct to the United States. Thirdly, the elasticity of the definition of Europe which now includes Israel. It is instructive that Morocco, Algeria, Egypt etc. which are physically closer to Europe are excluded.

The prime mover of the idea is President Emmanuel Macron of France who since Brexit has not hidden his desire for France to lead a new Europe, especially after the retirement of Chancellor Markel and the irascibility of President Donald Trump on foreign policy issues.

The Ukraine war while energizing NATO, has also made its agenda of Macron more compelling. Two weeks ago, President Macron and the Finnish President openly took President Biden to task with Macron telling Biden “We must speak with prudence when commenting on such matters”.

The public put down of one President by another underlines fundamental disagreement. There are many other organizations, regional and global in nature which are in existence but which are not relevant to the theme of this lecture. However, this is the beginning and not the end of this development. The war in Ukraine for example turned what normally passes as a routine economic exercise into a political quagmire.

On October 5th 2022, OPEC announced a cut of 2m barrels of crude oil only for the United States to launch a blistering attack on OPEC for siding with Russia. Attacks such as these are bound to widen the gap between the United States and the global South.

Recently also, at the current session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Emmanuel Macron of France lashed out at the nonaligned countries for not siding with the global west on the Russia-Ukraine war.

President Macron said “ I also know that some countries here have remained neutral in the way with regard to this war, but what I want to say to you very clearly today: those who would like to imitate the cause of the nonaligned movement by refusing to express themselves clearly are mistaken and bear a historic responsibility.

The cause of the nonaligned was the cause for the sovereignty of states and for the territorial integrity of each of them. That is what the cause of the nonaligned was. In spite of themselves or secretly with certain complicity, those who are silent today further the cause of a new imperialism, of a modern cynicism that breaks up our international order without which peace is not possible.”

In my Twitter response, l pointed out that it is western policies like the French invasion of Libya, the Colonial Pact, and the continuing economic exploitation of Africa by the West that is all responsible for the African position.

The Indian and South African Foreign Ministers were even more poignant in their public positions that the West could not even point out the last time the West identified with Issues that are of primal importance to the global south.

Even at the recent meeting of the 51session of the United Nations Human Rights Council held between 12 September and 7 October 2022, the United Kingdom, the United States and Ukraine voted against a resolution to take action against racism. countries that voted against the resolution include the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Montenegro, the Netherlands and Poland.

The immediate evidence is that the global south has refused to be corralled into the Western camp on the specific issue of the war. What we should focus on now is the need for Africa to promote a common position on issues that will form the 23
agenda of the new world order.

Firstly, Africa must ensure that it speaks with one voice, on its own steam rather than as an adjunct of any power. I am aware that this is going to be difficult. France is still embedded in Africa and through its surrogates could influence the direction of African policies and who claims to speak for Africa. The position of France in global politics is dependent on the African countries that it controls. President Jacques Chirac, the 22nd French President said in 2001 “ we drained Africa for 4 1/2 centuries.

Next, we plundered its raw materials. After that we said the Africans are good for nothing. In the name of religion, we destroyed their culture and now, as we have to act with elegance, we are picking their brains with scholarships.”

Furthermore, in March 2008, the same Chirac said “ Without Africa, France will slide down into the wrong rank of a third world power” France will not easily give up this position of control and power. France with its control of 24 countries out of 55 members in the African Union has a formidable block. France has military bases in ten countries.

The second foreign influence in Africa is the United States acting as the arrowhead for the global west. The United States has established the United States Africa Command. Although its headquarters is in Stuttgart in Germany, the US has an East African Force presence in Kenya and Djibouti, forces in Somalia and the Sahel.

In total, the United States has twenty-nine known military facilities in fifteen countries. The United States has a military drone base in Agadez, Niger, near Nigeria. There is an American 24

The proposal for the Ghana-United States of Forces Agreement has proved very controversial within Ghana itself for fear that it provided for the establishment of a military base.

The increased American military and strategic interest in Africa is related to the increased presence of China in Africa. Hence the competition is not even hidden. Djibouti has military bases in Germany, Spain, Italy, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Saudi Arabia, Russia and India.

The United States is not going to be indifferent to who represents Africa in the Security Council as a permanent member. This is the most opportune time to resolve the thorny issue of the expansion of the membership of the Security Council of the United Nations. The dispute revolves around four issues.

Firstly is the issue of the veto power. Secondly is the issue of expansion of the ratio between permanent and non-permanent members. Thirdly is the issue of distribution of the expansion among geographical zones.

Finally is the issue of who occupies the new seats. Right now, there is no consensus on any of these issues. However, a speculative position is that Africa will get representation on the permanent seats without veto power.

The African Union is not united on which African state or states will occupy the seat or seats. The African Union should be aware that there are external forces. which are prepared to choose for Africa. While I have already dealt extensively with the position of France which is likely to sponsor Senegal, the West is likely to be more inclined towards South Africa. South Africa is a member of BRICS since 2010 and has been a regular attendee at G20 meetings.

Another issue is the evolution of currencies for global trade. Before the war, the dollar has been the currency for global trade with a lot of resentment in attendance. Any attempt to challenge this has been regarded as a hostile act by the United States.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on record that one of the reasons for the overthrow of Ghadaffy was his plan for the evolution of gold for OPEC trade and the basis for an African currency. Before the war, BRICS had been planning the development of a New Development Bank, Contingent Reserve Arrangement, BRICS payment system and BRICS basket reserve currency.

Africa has not been indifferent to the need for a common currency. I am not going to be concerned with a common currency like the CFA used in French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa which is tied to the French Franc and controlled by the French Central Bank. Shades of the Colonial Pact. Our concern is the efforts by authentic African organizations to evolve an African currency.

ECOWAS as far back as 2003 has decided to adopt Eco as a common currency in West Africa. The adoption was postponed to 2005, 2010 and 2014. In 2022, the spoiler of African UNITY, France got its French-speaking West African countries to adopt Eco tied to the French Franc as its own. This development led to a lot of disagreement within ECOWAS.

The compromise was reached at the JUNE 2021 Summit meeting of the Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which agreed to the launch of “Eco” in 2027. It remains to be seen whether “Eco” will be the ECOWAS version or the Francophone version.

There is a proposal for the creation of The African Monetary Union to be administered by the African Central Bank. This would entail the creation of a common currency to be called Afro or Afrique.

In 1991, the Abuja Treaty was signed which created the African Economic Community which called for the adoption of a single currency by 2023, and the creation of an African Central Bank by 2028. Nevertheless, the important message is Africa has been seized of the issue. The war hopefully will refocus Africa on the issue. But if the experience of ECOWAS is to be educative, expect France through its main surrogates to try to derail it.

The new world order: The Nigerian factor. I cannot overemphasize the need for Africa to be present at the table where the design of the new world order would take place and where the African agenda will be autochthonous. To achieve this, the role and status of Nigeria as a primus inter pares cannot be overstated.

We must admit that in the past sixteen years, the voice of Nigeria on Global Affairs has been irritatingly, embarrassingly and glaringly silent. This is a period that covered the administrations of Yaradua, Jonathan and Buhari. This has provided the opportunity for the marginalization of Nigeria and the absence of a force to drive the African role in global affairs.

The reasons for the Nigerian silence are multiple. The first is the illnesses of Yar’ Adua and Buhari. The second was the lack of interest in foreign affairs by Jonathan and Buhari. However, l must emphasize that the issue goes beyond this.

The Foreign Ministers of Brazil, Russia, India and China met in September 2006 in New York to lay the foundation of BRIC which later became BRICS with an invitation to South Africa. The Nigerian President at that time was General Olusegun Obasanjo. Why was the Foreign Minister of Nigeria not present at that meeting? This was during an administration that was active in global affairs.

My suspicion is that we had a President at that time who usually was not interested in anything he could not lay claim to authorship. By the time South Africa was invited to join in 2011, South Africa’s GDP was $375.3 billion while Nigeria’s was $361.5b. The difference of $14b was not sufficient to have explained the non-inclusion of Nigeria.

By 2020, Nigerian GDP was $432.3b while that of South Africa was $301.9b. By 2022, Nigerian GDP is the first in Africa at $510.588b, Egypt is second with $435.621b and South Africa is third with $426.116b. Nigeria is in more trouble than we perhaps appreciate.

I have served on several committees dealing with security issues. I have come across documents which indicate that the security problems such as the Boko haram, the so-called issues of kidnapping, banditry, and clashes between Herdsmen and farmers have external manifestations. I have interrogated villagers who have no interest in lying swearing by their local Deities that they saw helicopters at night dropping weapons, food and supplies to some of these terrorists and taking off in the middle of the night.

As of that time, the Nigerian Air Force insisted that they were not involved as they did not have helicopters with night capabilities. So who are the forces who were involved in these night operations to destabilise or to even destroy Nigeria? This was before the Buhari administration came into power. Therefore it cannot be billed fully to the present administration.

But the present administration has its share of the responsibility. The global isolation at BRICS and G20 levels cannot however be laid at the doors of the global community. Even though fingers have been pointed at this administration as the most corrupt that Nigeria has ever had, what with 500,000barrels of crude oil stolen, what with secret pipelines to steal crude oil laid nine years ago which was just discovered by NNPC after it was pointed out to them by a non-state actor who had just won a security surveillance contract.

What the Nigerian GDP would have been if the leakages on the Executive and legislative levels have been substantially reduced is better imagined. The blame does not lay at the door of the Buhari administration alone. We have not had a corrupt free
administration since 1979 except for the period of 1984-1985, during the first Buhari military administration. Now we are faced with three candidates running for the office of the President who lacks integrity and credibility.

Well as Cassius said to Brutus in Shakespeare in Julius Caesar “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings”. Nelson Mandela in a famous interview expressed his disappointment with Nigeria, pointing out that unless and until Nigeria sorts itself out, Africa and the Black race will remain where they are at the bottom of the global ladder.

The exact words of Nelson Mandela are “the world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The Black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence” Yet he was a former President of South Africa, leaving in South Africa. He did not identify South Africa but Nigeria as the authentic African personality.

Nigeria need not be worried unnecessarily by the priming up of South Africa. Turkey was not brooding when it was excluded from BRICS. She simply hunkered down and built up its industrial capacity. Now, Turkey is a powerhouse in Europe that can call the shots when and where it wants. Nigeria needs to clean up her act. She needs to become a less corrupt country.

She needs to practice an inclusive form of governance and not a patent form of governance that emphasizes incompetence, square pegs in round holes and turns Nigeria into the exclusive property of one nationality thus breeding secessionist agitation. This state will not help Nigeria achieve its manifest destiny in the world.