President Muhammadu Buhari‘s address on September 24, 2021 during the last United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, United States of America, was a whole package that contained reports, analyses/assessments, declarations, complaints, admonitions and solicitations. He duly rendered accounts of his performances to the peoples of the world, analysed some policies/programmes of his government and assessed their impact, declared Nigeria’s position on some fundamental regional, continental and global issues, complained about some leadership problems, admonished leaders on the need for exemplary conduct and openly solicited for some kinds of help from the bigger partners in the international community.
The delivery, content and structure of the 58-paragraph address as well as the clear context in which it was presented obviously met some of the basic expectations of the world’s best and most curious audience. His fast journey through all the issues of utmost concern to the participants and the various peoples they represented showed that he appreciated the significance of the fact that UNGA is the rarest of all opportunities for leaders to create or correct impressions about their respective countries.
In fact, President Buhari’s delight over the adoption of “Building Resilience Through Hope” which was about the development and implementation of strategies for an effective recovery from the Corona Virus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19) as the theme of the event was an indication of Nigeria’s readiness to collaborate with other countries through the world’s apex body in all the efforts towards the mitigation of the effects of the disease and, on a much broader scale, the attainment of many other fundamental objectives. It was without even the slightest equivocation that he expressed the support of Nigeria for the United Nations’ specific resolve to not only halt but also reverse the COVID-19 incidence.
By describing the pandemic as “the first truly global emergency of our time”, the president simply attempted to estimate the devastation to which the entire humanity was subjected with the sudden outbreak of the disease. The series of the counter-measures adopted by the governments of various countries with total lockdown as the first of them all and which marked the beginning of the countdown to hardship situations which were characterized by shutdown of almost all places of businesses and other activities, knockdown of a lot of engines of growth in several countries and the resultant meltdown of several national economies as well as a showdown between employers and employees because of a cutdown of rights and privileges largely considered as a letdown turned the whole world into a very unfriendly space.
What was clearly not for the consumption of the participants at the 76th Session of UNGA was the large-scale mismanagement and diversion of palliatives during the prolonged lockdown which generated harsh reactions from the public. As a leader who lays claim to integrity, Buhari would definitely not want outsiders to hear that ordinary citizens of Nigeria suffered worst hardships while the citizens of most other countries were offered huge help that enabled them to comfortably pass through the period.
The absolute concern he expressed over the escalation of terrorism at international and national levels was tremendously encouraging, especially having come from him as the leader of a country that features quite clearly in the Global Terrorism Index [GTI]. Already, mainly because of the perpetration of insurgency by the Boko Haram [BH] and its sister terror group, Islamic States of West African Province [ISWAP], violent attacks by bandits and the persistent abduction of people by ransom-seekers, which are all clear manifestations of terrorism, Nigeria is being classified as one of the most unstable country in the world.
All the accounts he rendered on the efforts of government towards the control of terrorism, even with the enumeration of certain challenges, were such that indicated overwhelming victory of the military over the violent criminals. He, in fact, struggled hard to create a lasting impression in the minds of the delegates that the rate of the terror acts is fast declining which he attributed to the strategies adopted by the security agencies and defence forces.
But while some of the points contained in his submission on this issue are valid, certain realities of the security situation in the country have continued to show the persistence of some threats and the appearance of others. The high vulnerability of a lot of communities to violent attacks as well as abduction and killing of innocent people is continuously re-enforcing the doubt over the efficacy or applicability of the government-approved solutions to the problem of insecurity in Nigeria.
It is perhaps most interesting that since his entry into partisan politics about twenty years ago, Buhari has been relentlessly trying to carry himself around as a true democrat whose commitment to the observance of democratic principles is total. He is, by always putting himself forward for a struggle towards the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general, behaving in a typical manner of a repentant militocrat and coup-plotter.
His open denunciation of not only the recent military take-overs in Guinea Conakry and Mali but also the attempted or actual alteration of constitutional provisions by the leaders of some African countries to pave way for self-perpetuation in power must have excited the UN leaders and the delegates to the General Assembly all of whom are, in their own respective rights, champions of the system. All lovers of democracy across the world must have therefore lauded the disposition of the Nigeria’s President to such condemnable acts which have constituted a setback to democratic rule in Africa.
However, results of the various assessments of governance in a lot of African countries including Nigeria have shown that even though elections are conducted as and when due in those countries, the quality of their democratic systems is being eroded by certain misconducts of the elected leaders. The apparent refusal of some of the so-called elected leaders to deliver the required quantity of democracy dividends at the right time and the consequent deterioration of the living standard of the people has raised a lot of questions about the devotion of leaders like Buhari to the sustenance of the system.
His request for debt reduction, suspension and cancellation which was followed by the call for a balanced trade relations amongst nations was probably made at the right place, but certainly not at the right time. Many Nigerians wondered how President Buhari who had, just a few days to UNGA, sought the approval of the National Assembly for the collection of another loan to add to the already existing ones against vehement opposition from some critical components of the citizenry decided to seek either reduction, suspension or cancellation of debts.
Well, it was good that he was not only there but he also presented such a lengthy address. The world is now, at least, more knowledgeable about the government’s versions of most of the stories about Nigeria which can always serve as a basis of possible further inquiries into the various narratives that seemingly depict a confusing picture of the country.