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WHY NIGERIA MUST GET IT RIGHT AS THE COMPASS OF AFRICA

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The 2001 Kuru Declaration embodies the vision of the Nigerian Government as: building a truly great African democratic country, politically united, integrated and stable, economically prosperous, socially organized, with equal opportunities for all, and responsibility from all, to become the catalyst of (African) Renaissance, and making adequate all-embracing contributions sub-regionally, regionally and globally”. Furthermore, ‘’government is working strenuously to “create a Nigeria that Nigerians will be proud to belong to and grateful to inhabit; a Nigeria that rewards hard work, protects its people and their property and offer its children better prospects than those they may be tempted to seek in Europe or the United-States. ‘’All citizens, regardless of gender, race, religion or politics, should feel that they have a stake in Nigeria’s future and that their loyalty and diligence will be rewarded.

 ‘’GETTING IT RIGHT’’ refers to Nigeria taking her proper place as the leading nation in Africa. The risks involved in failure to ‘’get it right’’ are better imagined than enumerated. For instance, I never knew the implication of a balkanized Nigeria until a few years ago when I listened to a great Nigerian, Dr. Christopher Kolade’s remarks at the University of Buckingham. Dr. Kolade asserted that a fragmented Nigeria means a nation with less influence in global politics.  Nigeria occupies a sensitive and position of undisputed leadership in the African continent. While leading Africa to develop, it is evident that Nigeria, the most populous black nation has a great role to play in leading the African continent to political and socio-economic advancement. We do bear it in mind that leaders and followers might not get it right if they fail to reflect on the past and present, and project into the future. It is important to delve into the past with a view to understanding in practical terms, why certain developments occurred, how they occurred, how these incidents were handled and how they could be improved upon. ‘’Getting it right’’ translates into playing less emphasis on distracting issues like ethnicity, religion and other issues that divide rather than unite Nigerians, as well as politics of bitterness that has called to question the sincerity of the elite and political groups.

RESOURCES:  Nigeria is the engine of the economy of West Africa; and its economy constitutes 76 percent of the economy of ECOWAS. The country, holds 30 percent of the economy of sub-Saharan Africa, and has 21 percent of the economy of Africa. (Okonjo-Iweala;2014). For instance, we all know the implications of shutting Nigeria’s borders for a few days. God forbid, let’s then think of the consequences of a disturbed Nigeria on socio-political and economic situation of West Africa. Predictably, those nations will practically collapse. This shows very significantly the importance if Nigeria to the growth of Africa. This position of pre-eminence also makes it mandatory for Nigeria to lead by example. Nigeria has played this role commendably.  In the past few decades, the country encouraged, and indeed led many African nations to embrace acceptable democratic culture and economic strategies designed by sub-regional and regional organizations.

The Punch Newspaper of October 1, 2014, ran an editorial in which it noted that:”The fortunes of the nation could have been better if the economy had beenbetter managed, and some are actually of the opinion that in comparative terms, theeconomy had deteriorated. ‘’Those that are of this opinion point to the fact that at independence in 1960, the country was able to feed its population.

”There was no need forfood importation as healthy agricultural practices in the regions that made up Nigeriaensured that there was food for everybody.”In fact, given the nation’s weak industrial baseat independence; foreign exchange was earned by exporting cash crops and raw materials.Peasant farmers produced enough to feed the entire population.

INTERVENTIONS: Nigeria intervened in the democratic situation of  Sao Tome and Principe, during the military coup of July 16, 2003, when Major Fernando Pereirci , sacked the democratically elected government of Sao Tome and Principe, saw Nigeria intervening to sort things out. President Fradique de Menezes, who was then in Abuja on a state visit to Nigeria, returned to power, shortly after the successful trouble shooting by international mediators led by President Olusegun Obasanjo. Another instance was the period immediately following the death of President Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo in 2005.  That country’s parliament amended the country’s constitution without following due process. Nigeria knew the implication of this development and, therefore, waded in, leading leaders of other African nations to request for a return to status-quo-ante; a move that was respected by the parties involved. Gnassingbe respected the intervention and stepped down to later contest elections democratically. Other nations in which Nigeria has assisted to entrench democracy include then war-torn Sierra Leone, and Liberia that was torn apart by a Civil War that lasted 15 years. Apart from the Frontline States including South Africa, Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe, the country has also saved countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote D’Ivoire, from totally destroying themselves. Darfur and Sudan have also felt the impact of Nigeria.

Over the years, Nigeria has played the big-brother role, offering aids and assistance to African countries in need. Nigeria has intervened in the affairs of some African nations, patriotically in order to keep the peace and stop these nations from destroying themselves.  For now, Nigeria assists other nations in the African region and beyond to solve their manpower problems through the Technical Aid Corps Scheme administered by the Ministry of Foreign affairs. Again, it is important to highlight the fact that there are thousands of Nigerian specialists in different fields in the Diaspora, contributing their quota to the development of other countries of the world. This gesture is apart from grants and loans occasionally disbursed to African sister-states by Nigeria.

NIGERIA’S STRATEGIC POSITION: Nigeria is playing a critical role in world politics. Therefore, the country must take steps to play its leadership roles in Africa. But before that role could be played to generate empathy and put other African countries on the path of rectitude, Nigeria must put in place a new social and economic order which must necessarily emphasize good governance and a very sound, virile, and viable democratic culture.  Given the strategic position that Nigeria occupies, it needs not be stressed that a problem in Nigeria means a problem for the entire African region, and indeed the whole world, because of the influence of this great African nation. In recognition of this great role, it is incumbent on the emerging political leaders to continue to guarantee stability and create feelings of empathy, especially in the African region.   Whatever affects Nigeria has the attendant possible effect of spreading to other parts of Africa.  It must also be realized that if Africa is not at peace, other parts of the world cannot afford to sleep with their two eyes closed. This is one strong reason why we must embrace peace and peaceful options.

NIGERIA’S NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN ROLE IN DECOLONIZATION: Over the years,Nigeria has evolved robust foreign policies solidification of relations with her immediate neighbours. This step has been gradually followed by the country’s commendable efforts at decolonization and frontal attack on apartheid and racism actions which have given the nation more visibility on the international scene. Nigeria’s Peacekeeping efforts are not restricted only to policing peace through containing armed conflicts.  Nigeria deals with peacebuilding and has contributed most significantly to the pursuit and promotion of peace through diplomatic efforts that have guaranteed several African nations, specifically the frontline states of South-Africa freedom and autonomy. Liberation movements benefited substantially from Nigeria’s donations.

The Murtala/Obasanjo regime pursued a virile foreign policy through shuttle diplomacy.  The regime never mouthed declarations; but appropriate policies and actions were enforced. The primary focus of attention was the problem of decolonization in Southern Africa.  Rhodesia was at the top of the list of intervention followed by Namibia and South Africa. The Obasanjo regime massed all the diplomatic and material forces at its disposal in support of peaceful change of policies in the then existing colonies in Africa. Nigeria established the African Relief Fund, to administer relief assistance to the citizens of South Africa through scholarships, emergency material, social assistance and the amelioration of the conditions of the civilian population. Of these, “the most dramatic leverage was the nationalization of the assets of British Petroleum (BP) on the eve of the Lusaka Commonwealth summit, a move which softened British intransigence over Rhodesia”   (Akinyemi; Bolaji et al -2005),

AS PEACE-KEEPERS:The U.N. Charter assigns the responsibility of saving the future generations from the scourge of war as: ‘’To maintain international peace and security, and to that end to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of peace, and to bring by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace . Nigerian soldiers have been active in the UN’s peacekeeping operations all over the world, and for decades now. On several occasions, Nigerians have held the enviable position of United Nations Military Adviser. The country has also made a mark as one of the nations with the highest level of troop contributors to the United Nations.

COMPETENCE OF THE ARMED FORCES: I was in Liberia in 2004 and felt the pulse of the people of that country. No place was considered safe if Nigerian troops were not in sight during the regrettable disturbances. This goes a long way to show the level of competence of members of Nigeria’s Armed Forces. In Somalia, the Nigerian contingent led by Colonel Olagunsoye Oyinlola (as he then was) in 1993, did what the United States Marines could not do on the difficult terrains and won a United Nations commendation. The Nigerian Armed Forces have taken the lead in Africa in providing assistance in troubled regions. The ECOMOG initiative is a case in point.  Nigeria’s participation in peacekeeping initiatives around the world and its dominant position in the West African Intervention force in Liberia, which she championed, are clear testimonies to our determination to assist in restoring peace in troubled regions of the world.

Nigeria has contributed tremendously towards the achievement of the noble objective of global peace. The country has excelled in activities connected with policing the peace in different parts of the world through troop contributions. For instance, the bulk of the 176,000 soldiers recruited from West-Africa to fight the Japanese during the Second World war from 1939-1945 were Nigerians.  Many of these precious lives were lost in Burma, when Nigeria fought on the side of the British colonialists. One of these is the security and peaceful coexistence among nations of the world. There have been over 50 peacekeeping operations around the world since the UN started it over 60 years ago in the Middle East.  Many have played critical roles in ending or managing conflicts in Africa, Asia, Central America and Europe. Currently, the UN has a total of 17 peacekeeping operations and some 64,000 personnel around the world. The efforts of the African Union and the governments of the West African sub-region in policing the peace since many of them attained independence have been prosecuted through moves largely spearheaded by Nigeria.

ROLE OF NIGERIA AS THE LEADING BLACK NATION: All these positive developments made Nelson Mandela to remark that: ‘’ Yes, Nigeria stood by us more than any nation, but you let yourselves down, and Africa and the black race very badly. ‘’Your leaders have no respect for their people. ‘’They believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people. ‘’They take people’s resources and turn it into personal wealth. ”There is a level of poverty in Nigeria that should be unacceptable. ‘’I cannot understand why Nigerians are not more angry than they are. “What do young Nigerians think about your leaders and their country and Africa? Do you teach them history? Do you have lessons on how your past leaders stood by us and gave us large amounts of money? ‘’You know I hear from Angolans and Mozambicans and Zimbabweans how your people opened their hearts and their homes to them. ‘’I was in prison then, but we know how your leaders punished western companies who supported Apartheid. “How about the corruption and the crimes? ‘’Your elections are like wars. ‘’Now we hear that you cannot be president in Nigeria unless you are Muslim or Christian. Some people tell me your country may break up. ‘’Please don’t let it happen. “Let me tell you what I think you need to do. ‘’You should encourage leaders to emerge who will not confuse public office with sources of making personal wealth.’’

Mandela’s recipe: ‘’You have to spend a lot of your resources for education. “Educate children of the poor, so that they can get out of poverty. ‘’Poverty does not breed confidence. ‘’Only confident people can bring changes. ‘’Poor, uneducated people can also bring change, but it will be hijacked by the educated and the wealthy…give young Nigerians good education. ‘’Teach them the value of hard work and sacrifice, and discourage them from crimes which are destroying your image as a good people.” (Excerpts from a 2007 interview with Mandela conducted by Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed)

WHY WE SHOULD EMBRACE PEACE{ Writing in the Punch newspapers, Niyi Adedokun points out in part that: ‘’Nigerians must take control of their future by how they conduct themselves in the coming elections. ‘’A point, which seems lost on the Nigerian electorate, is that politicians would be politicians no matter what.  ‘’When election approaches,  politicians will do everything to win votes. ‘’They would exaggerate, manipulate, even tell lies and con the voters to maintain their turfs and expand their territories’’. Many schools of thought have posited that people collect bribes in order to vote on account of hunger. But, that very horrible financial inducement is not worth selling conscience of voters and the today and tomorrow of their offspring. ‘’Violence should also never be regarded as part of strategies deployed.

PEACE: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, everyrocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from thosewho hunger, not fed,those who are cold and are not clothed. ‘’The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities’’ — Dwight D Eisenhower an American army general and statesman who served as the 34th President of the United States was apparently an authority in that field, as a five-star general in the United States Army. He served as commander-in-chief of the Allied during the World War 11.

Nigeria’s Dry Bones Shall Surely Rise Again!

May the Good Lord Bless Nigeria.

 

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