Missed reactions have continued to envelop the Nigerian Government’s donation of $500,000 to Guinea Bissau to assist it in conducting its forthcoming legislative elections. In this piece, KINGSLEY OPURUM X-rays these reactions and the underlying rationale behind the financial assistance.
Ahead of the December legislative election in the Republic of Guinea Bissau, the Nigerian government decided to support the country with the sum of $500,000, seven vehicles, 10 motorcycles and 350 electoral kits to facilitate a successful conduct of the parliamentary poll in the country.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, made the announcement in Abuja recently when he received in audience, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to Guinea Bissau, Jose Viegas Filho.
He said, “It is in the framework of establishing peace and stability in Guinea Bissau and starting with the election, Mr President has approved for a substantial number of elections kits to enable them to carry out this election.
“Without those kits which are over 250, it is going to be difficult to carry out the election. The last batch of it is about to be delivered and in addition, Mr President has approved the supply of vehicles with about 500,000 dollars.”
According to the Minister, President Buhari’s gesture was to help the West African country get out of what has been a very difficult situation for a number of years, noting that Guinea Bissau was very important for the ECOWAS sub-region, and President Buhari, as the ECOWAS chairman, was interested in the political situation in the country.
Meanwhile, such donation did not go down well with President Buhari’s main challenger in the 2019 Presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who quickly took a swipe at President Buhari-led Federal Government, describing such donation as wasteful.
Atiku, in his criticism, said that it is one of the ways President Buhari’s administration brought a once thriving economy to its knees.
Atiku, in a statement by his campaign organisation recently in Abuja, wondered why a country that had been officially named as the world headquarters for extreme poverty, would donate her resources to others instead of using them to solve pressing domestic problems.
He stated, “We had cause to counsel the Buhari administration to be more prudent with national resources after the government declared its intention to sell national assets built by previous administrations to fund their business as usual 2019 budget.
“Apparently, rather than give heed to our pro bono patriotic advise, the Buhari administration is persisting in the financial profligacy that has seen them destroy a once thriving economy.
“This is the same government that is so cash strapped that it has so far borrowed 13 trillion in three years putting our economy in even greater peril.
“How prudent is it to go about taking loans from whosoever cares to lend you money and then turn around to give out those same monies even when your own people are suffering the worst forms of poverty they have ever endured?”
The former vice president said that there were over one million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria, saying, “If you cannot adequately support your own people in dire need, what is the wisdom in crossing borders to support others?”
In defence of President Buhari-led Federal Government’s donation of $500,000 to Guinea Bissau, the Oduduwa Vanguard replied the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential candidate over his attack on Mr. President’s financial support to Guinea Bissau.
The group asked Atiku to go for crash course on economy before exhibiting his ignorance.
Oduduwa Vanguard described Atiku’s comment to a strategic act as irresponsible on many levels.
The President of the group, Aare Kunle Adewole, said Atiku was not qualified to be entrusted with making decisions for 200 million Nigerians because he lacked patience to fully understand issues before reacting.
Adewole noted that Nigeria wants to play its big brother role to other Africa nations and there are gains to Nigeria when the donations to Guinea Bissau are well utilised.
“For one, a revived Guinea Bissau or any other African country provides fertile grounds for Nigerians, since we fortunately have enterprising Nigerians that have made marks for themselves in their places of sojourn.
“We believe that helping other nations to stay afloat when we can is a strategic way of ensuring that our country’s huge population is able to spread outwards to these other places and earn their keep. An intelligent person will realize that remittances from the funds repatriated by such Nigerians will go a long way to helping the economy back home.”
Recall that in 2016 when President Buhari received the then Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau, Umar El-Mukhtar Sissoco-Embola, he assured that as the Chairman of ECOWAS Contact Group on Guinea Bissau, he would do his best to ensure lasting peace in the country, to prevent it from elapsing into crisis.
It is against this backdrop that some public commentators believe that President Buhari’s donation of $500,000 to the politically troubled Guinea Bissau is not unconnected to the promise of peace he made to the country.
For over two years, President Jose Mario Vaz has been embroiled in a bitter dispute within his own ruling African Party of the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) that has hobbled the government.
The impasse has sparked regular protest marches and raised fears of instability that diplomats fear could be exploited by drug traffickers, who have long used the turbulent nation as a transit point for shipments between South America and Europe.