Monday, 11th December 2023

Reconnecting to the global radar

By Eric Teniola
20 November 2023   |   3:00 am
For a nation to achieve concrete foreign policy objectives, two key actors are required: an active President and an active foreign Minister. Of course a buoyant economy will also be required. We had all these in the past. Suddenly, we got lost on the global radar.

President Tinubu

For a nation to achieve concrete foreign policy objectives, two key actors are required: an active President and an active foreign Minister. Of course a buoyant economy will also be required. We had all these in the past. Suddenly, we got lost on the global radar. All these, could be traced to our internal problems or maybe our poor economy.

We have to think now whether to become part of the world and make our presence felt or we withdraw from the world and let the world move on without us.

Sadly in the past few years, we have not been lucky in terms of leadership.

We have had outstanding foreign ministers in the past that helped us achieve concrete foreign objectives and they made us proud. With the likes of Dr. Jaja Wachukwu (1961-1965), Nuhu Bamali ( 1965-1966), Dr. Okoi Arikpo (1967-1975), Major General Joe Nanven Garba (1975-1978), Major General Henry Adefowope (1978-1979), Professor Ishaya Audu ( 1979-1983), Chief Emeka Anyaoku (1983), Professor Ibrahim Gambari (1984-1985), Professor Bolaji Akinyemi (1985-1987).

Others are Major General Ike Nwachukwu (1987-1989), Babagana Kingibe (1993-1995), Professor Joy Ogwu (2006-2007), Sule Lamido (1999-2003), Ignatius Olisemeka (1998-1999), Ambassador Olugbenga Asiru alias Asa (2011-2013) and others, we could be proud of our foreign policy objectives.

We also took part in global peace efforts. From 1960 till 2000, Nigeria took part in United Nations Operations in the Congo (ONUG), 1960-1964, United Nations Transition Assistance Group in Namibia (UNTAG), 1989-1990, United Nations Angola Verification Mission II (UNAVEM II) 1991-1995, United Nations Angola Verification Mission III (UNAVEM III) 1995-1997), United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA), 1997, United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), 1991- and United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) 1993-1995.Others are the United Nations Operations in Mozambique (ONUMOZ), 1992-194, United

Nations Assistance Mission of Rwanda (UNAMIR), 1993-1996, United Nations Aouzou Strip Observer Group (UNASOG), 1994, United Nations India-Pakistan Observer Mission (UNIPOM), 1965-1966, United Nations Security Force in West New Guinea(UNSF), 1962-1963, United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTA), 1992-1993, United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT), 1994-, United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFR), 1992-195, United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia (UNCRO), 1995-1996 and the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force in Macedonia (UNPREDEP), 1995.

The lists included the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH), 1995-,United Nations Transitional Administration or Easter Slovenia, Baraja and Western Sirmium(UNTAES), 1996-1998, United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka (UNMOP), 1996-,United Nations Civilian Police Support Group, 1998-1991, United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UN IKOM), 1991-, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), 1978 and the United Nations Peace Keeping Mission in Sierra Leone, 1999.

There was a desk office in the then CABINET office, Lagos manned by Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar from Kaduna state, Permanent Secretary, CABINET office, Dr. Niyi Adedeji from Ilesha, Osun state, Ambassador Timothy Ayodele Olu Otunla also from Ilesha, Mr. Bisi Ogunniyi from Iree in Osun state and others, established purposely by Generals Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo, for the sole purpose of assisting African states in their liberation struggles.

With the approval of the then Supreme Military Council then, Brigadier Ibrahim Ahmed Bako (N/548) (5 March 1943-31 December,1983), from Kaduna state trained freedom fighters in Libya and Somalia.

Brigadier Ibrahim Bako led the Nigerian Army contingent that facilitated the transfer of about 100 former guerrillas from the Zimbabwean bushes (after the liberation struggle) for selection and training at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna in 1980.

Those 100 former guerrillas formed the pioneer corp of the post independence Zimbabwe National Army, leading Nigeria’s assistance to other Southern African countries like Angola and South Africa in their fight against apartheid and colonialism.

There was the South African relief fund, an offshoot of the Federal Government, established by General Olusegun Obasanjo, first headed by Dr. Aina from Kwara state and later by Evelyn
Omawunmi Urhobo, which provided assistance to freedom fighters of South Africa.

At that time, every Federal Civil Servant was obliged to donate to the fund. Nigeria donated four rooms at the National Theatre Iganmu, Lagos to serve as operations centres for the liberation struggle in South Africa. Both the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) and the African National Congress (ANC) shared the offices then.

Dr. Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki (81), who later became the President of South Africa from June 16, 1999 to September 24, 2008, used one of those offices at Iganmu. He was then the head of the African National Congress (ANC) in Nigeria. At that time Lagos was like the capital of freedom fighters in Africa. It is no exaggeration that we carried Africa’s burden.

In fact, a commercial street in Freetown, Sierra Leone, is today named after the late Head of
State, General Sani Abacha GCFR (September 20, 1943 – June 8, 1998)

Listing the assistance that Nigeria has given to some African countries from independence to date, is like counting the planes that land daily at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia, USA-too numerous.

My late cousin, Dr. Ayo Akinbobola(11th December 1942-19 th April, 2008) JIMEKENLA from Idanre in Ondo state, attempted it in his book titled, REGIONALISM AND REGIONAL INFLUENTIALS-The Post Cold-War Role of Nigeria in African Affairs. Dr. Akinbobola was a Ford Foundation Fellow at Howard University, Washington D.C., U.S.A.; a research fellow at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Lagos; a visiting scholar to the University of Oxford, 1979 and to the University of Michigan.

In 1972, Nigeria and Benin Republic embarked on a N7m cement project. The Nigerian Government provided a N2 million 35 years interest free loan with 30 per cent equity. Both countries also have a joint sugar project.
The Nigerian government has 45 per cent equity shares in the project while Benin Republic holds 49 per cent with expatriate companies’ enjoying 5 per cent of the shares.

Both projects are based in the Benin Republic.
The Nigeria government also invested in uranium mining in Niger and petrochemical concerns in Senegal.

In September 1972, Nigeria signed an agreement with Guinea to invest $350,000 (5 per cent of the shares) in the Mifergui Nimba and Simandou Company of Guinea, which is charged with the exploitation and sales of the country’s iron ore resources. Under the agreement, Nigeria was guaranteed one million tons of quality ore yearly for its steel production at Ajaokuta.

Nigeria provided electricity to Niger from Kainji Dam. She also granted Dahomey (Benin) $2 million to pay for imports from country. Nigeria entered into agreement with other African states to contruct a 6,530 kilometre trans-Africa highway running from and Kenyan port of Mombassa to the Nigerian port city of Lagos and passing through Uganda, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), Central African Republic and Cameroon.

To be continued tomorrow
Teniola, a former director at the Presidency, wrote from Lagos.

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