Wednesday, August 17, 2005

OBA Obasanjo - Africa's Powerful, Credible Voicefor the Black World


Obasanjo - Africa's Powerful, Credible Voicefor the Black World (2)

Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)

OPINION:
August 16, 2005.

Posted to the web August 16, 2005.

The United Nations has not quite met the full aspirations of its founders. It has not ended wars and conflicts between and within nations. But no one can doubt its relevance in global politics and the conduct of international relations. It has been involved in the onerous task of forging and sustaining global peace and development in virtually every continent of the world. The various organs of the United Nations such as the UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDP, UNHCR, UNIDO, FAO, etc, have been actively involved in policies and programmes aimed at addressing and enhancing human living conditions throughout the world.

Without the United Nations, relations between and among nations and peoples would be characterised by chaos, violence and destruction. Indeed, without the United Nations, the world would be a nastier and more brutish place to live in. Who knows, the world might have been convulsed in a third world war which, given the sophistication and the deadliness of weaponry, would have made the horrors and the killings in World War II look like an urban riot.

Given the circumstances of its birth, the central organ of the United Nations, the Security Council, was structured to reflect the influence of the super powers. Each of its five permanent members, namely, the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, has a veto power. To use a local parlance, the Security Council is really where it happens. No African country is a permanent member of the council. The simplistic explanation is that no African country was a super power when the council was structured. I can almost hear someone ask if an African country is a super power now. My answer is no. However, the concept of super power has become irrelevant in contemporary international politics. The lone super power is the United States of America. So, if we go on that basis, then only that country can remain a permanent member of the Security Council.

International politics have changed considerably in the last forty or fifty years, not least because the fields have been widened with the independence of African and numerous other third world countries from colonial rule. What was fair in international politics in 1945 is no longer fair in contemporary terms. The world has moved on since the end of the war and since the cold w~r between the Western and Eastern block countries ended nearly twenty years ago. The United Nations cannot ignore these changes or remain aloof to them. It must necessarily move with the times in order to continue to be relevant for all seasons. Its old structures can no longer serve its current needs.

The UN effected some reforms in 1965 by increasing the membership of its Security Council from 11 to 15. No change was made to the five-permanent-member structure, perhaps, because as at then, the super powers were still the super powers. The Berlin walls had not come down. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had not unravelled. Communism still believed it could defeat democracy. Socialism was still a credible alternative form of economic management to capitalism. The world was still divided rather neatly between the Western and the Eastern blocs with the non-aligned nations constituting themselves into swing support for one or the other group as circumstances dictated.

All these have changed in the forty years since the 1965 reforms. The time calls for seine fundamental reforms in the United Nations Security Council in line with contemporary global developments. Military prowess or the possession of means and weapons of mass destruction can no longer be the sole determinant of the relevance of a nation to do its duty to the international community. Economic power has become even more relevant. We must not forget that military power was conceived as a means of protecting the economy of nations. Real national power was always in its economy, not in its guns and bombs.

In the past forty years, many countries have moved from third world status to first world status solely on the strength of their economic development. Many more are on the cusp of this development. These countries have earned the right to be authentic regional or bloc voices in their own right in a supra-national body such as the United Nations.

We, therefore, welcome the decision of the member nations of the UN to redress the historical imbalance in the UN Security Council. Part of the current UN reforms is the increase in the number of permanent members of the Security Council. Each region of the world has been allotted one or more permanent seats in the country. Africa has been allotted two permanent seats. This qualifies as a major restructuring in the Security Council. We welcome it. It is evidence of a conscious effort by the leaders of the free world to make the United Nations a democratic association of sovereign nations united by their common desire for a better world; a world in which the swords of belligerence and destruction would be turned into ploughshares.
The two seats allotted to Africa are being competed for by several African nations. Nigeria is competing for one of them. Why Nigeria? The question might as well be asked. It is said that in Nigeria we answer questions with questions. So, my answer is, why not Nigeria?

Nigeria seeks fora permanent seat in the Security Council as a matter of duty to Africans and the black race. My country does not run away from its responsibilities. It cannot run away from this one either. Nigeria has special qualifications for its permanent place in the Security Council. Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world. One out of every four Africans is a Nigerian. One out of every five blacks in the world is a Nigerian. The United Nations put the total population of the world at 6.1 billion in the year 2000. It estimates that 77 million people are added to the world population every year. In the last five years, therefore, 385 million more people have been added to the world population. Africa constitutes twelve per cent of the world population. But interestingly, twenty-five per cent of the world population is black. Based on the UN world population in the year 2000, there are a little over one and a half billion black people in the world. We must not view this as passive statistics. These are living human beings with their individual ambitions, hopes and aspirations. More importantly, they are people who desire that their voices be heard as a distinct racial group in world affairs.
Which African nation, I ask you, qualifies to be the authentic voice of these one and half billion black people? Nigeria.

My country lays strong historical claims to this position. Shortly after our independence, the then Prime Minister, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, enunciated the country's foreign policy in which he declared- Africa as its centre piece. We are proud of our Afro-centric foreign policy because it is a policy aimed at protecting and promoting the interests of the entire black race in Africa and in the Diaspora. Successive Nigerian leaders have faithfully adhered to this policy by words and by deeds.

We could cry over spilt milk and bemoan the fact that in its 50 years, the United Nations has not had a black nation as a permanent member of the Security Council. For 50 years the voice of the black race in world affairs has been muted at best. One quarter of the world population was denied the right to play an active role in how the world is governed and how nations relate to one another. Our task is not to try to put the spilt milk back into the bottle. Rather, our collective task as black people is to give the black race an authentic representation and voice in the Security Council. That is the positive way forward. That authentic representative is, without question, Nigeria.

The political history of Nigeria is the history of a people committed to what it considers to be the best for Africa and the black race. Nigeria attained independence in 1960. But its leaders knew that the independence of our country would be meaningless if other countries in Africa were net free. Nigeria could not afford to be a free island in the sea of other African countries in colonial chains. The country did not wait to be invited to support the United Nations to bring peace to what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire in the early sixties. It is a tribute to our country's commitment to the restoration of peace in that region that the late Brigadier (as he then was) J.T.U. Aguiyi-lronsi, our first military ruler, was made commander of the UN forces in the Congo.
Nigeria has been in all the theatres of African conflict since then. Our over-riding desire has always been, and remains, peace and unity in and among African nations. Nigeria's role in the struggle against that unspeakable system of racial injustice called apartheid in South Africa was so comprehensive that it was numbered among the front lines states with Tanzania and other countries in the sub-region. No single African nation has done as much as Nigeria for Africa and the Africans. It was never for its own gain, it was always for continental benefits. Nigeria has more than paid its dues to Africa and the Africans. Its willingness to take on even more responsibilities as the authentic voice and representative of Africa and the black race as a permanent member of the Security Council is consistent with its belief that the time has come for Africa and the Africans to play a leadership rather than a subordinate role in world affairs.

Nigeria was a founding member of the defunct Organisation for African Unity, OAU and was its strongest pillar. The OAU served its purpose and when the leaders of Africa felt it was time to rest it and replace it with the African Union, (AU) Nigeria again played a pivotal role in the intellectual formulation of the new union. Predictably, President Obasanjo was unanimously elected its first chairman. He was recently re-elected for an unprecedented second term. We can only say that the decision of his fellow African leaders is a loud acclaim of his leadership as an international statesman and a continental standing ovation for Nigeria.

Nigeria is a regional power in its own right. It is a potentially economic giant. With an estimated population of 130 million, Nigeria is easily the largest single market in Africa. It is the fifth largest oil producing country in the world. Current federal and state government efforts to revive its agriculture portend bright prospects for the country's capacity to become the food basket of Africa.
In recent years, parts of the West African sub-region faced internal political conflicts and crises. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d'lvoire were the most affected countries. In each case, Nigeria rose up to its full responsibilities as their big brother through the auspices of the Economic Community of West Africa, ECOWAS. Even its bitterest critics would admit that if Nigeria had folded its arms, the affected countries in particular and the West African sub-region would still be convulsed in violence and mindless destruction of lives and property. Our country has been a stabilising force in the region. Nigeria has always answered the distress cal of its brothers in distress because we know that when the bell of conflict tolls for one country~ it tolls for every country.

We admit that our nation has itself witnessed periods of internal instability because of military interventions in our political administration. The majority of African countries had a similar experience. We look at that period of our history as our own forty years in the wilderness on our sure way to the Promised Land. We have been toughened by the experience. Countries go through different mutes on their way to nationhood. We, therefore, have nothing to be ashamed of our past. But even during the military regime, our country did not turn deaf ears to the cries of other countries in distress. We did our duty to Africa, the black race and the world, just as we do today.

Our country returned to democratic rule six years ago. In only six years, we can see the tree of democracy in full flowering in the soil of democracy. Our country is more stable than ever before. It is, indeed, more stable than some of the older democracies in other regions of the world. We are proud of what our country has achieved so far as a young democracy. We have good reasons to believe that the future is bright for our country. We believe that our country has earned the right to be the authentic voice of the black race. Of all the countries known to have indicated interest in the permanent seat in the UN Security Council, including Egypt and South Africa, Nigeria is the only true black nation that can raise a purely black national flag. No one can deny Nigeria the right it has earned. That right to take its rightful seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We cannot, and we must not, settle for anything less.

Nigeria has been a true, loyal and committed member of the United Nations. No member nation of the UN, save, perhaps India, comes close to Nigeria's outstanding record in participating in UN peace keeping operations around the world. In these operations, our country has made and continues to make valuable human and other sacrifices that other nations and peoples might be at peace with one another. In the words of our president, "for us, no sacrifice is too high to make for peace" anywhere in the world. Our country left its enviable mark on the peace keeping operations in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, the Congo, Somalia, Western Sahara, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is actively participating in the ongoing peace effort in the Dafur region of Sudan. Nigeria's participation in these peace missions has earned it international commendations and brought stability to many countries and regions around the world. Nigeria has consistently met all its financial obligations to the UN. In local parlance, it is a financial member of the world body. We do not view a permanent UN Security Council seat for Nigeria as a compensation for its UN support. We see it as a fair and just acknowledgement of our country's role in ensuring that the UN realises the objectives of its founding fathers and remains relevant for all times and to all the peoples of the world.

Thank you and may God continue to bless our efforts.

Copyright © 2005 Ghanaian Chronicle. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

3 comments:

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I love the new design of the Nigerian Times very much. And I am going to use it on the print version of the Nigerian Times I am launching on the October 1st, 2005.

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