The 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, USA, has come and gone with feelings that are, at once, pleasant and disappointing. For President Bola Tinubu, whose participation at the global meeting of the world’s leaders was his first, it must have been an exhilarating experience even with the absence of Vladimir Putin of Russia, Emmanuel Macron of France and Xi Jinping of China among other leaders.
But for campaigners of climate change and even Ukraine, there are bound to be reservations as expectations fell so short regarding firm decisions on how to control the depletion of the ozone layer or for that matter, putting Putin on the spot regarding the disasters he is causing in that east European country.
In his speech and interactions, the president relaunched Nigeria’s voice on the world stage. Tinubu did not just speak for Nigeria alone; he spoke for the entire continent.
In his very Afrocentric message, he went on to list Africa’s, and in particular, Nigeria’s, contemporary challenges under five themes.
First, President Tinubu identified poor leadership, aided by foreign exploitation, as drawing Africa back and called for mutually beneficial economic and trade cooperation. He called on the world to commit to a sincere and deliberate effort to develop the continent, pointing out that international economic structures were skewed to impede Africa’s development, industrial expansion, job creation, and the equitable distribution of wealth. He also spoke about the need for debt relief for African countries who are yoked with debt overhang from Bretton Woods institutions and other world powers.
Here, Nigeria comes to mind. With the country spending about 95 percent of its national income to service debts, there is little hope of real development. The same applies to many African countries.
President Tinubu’s second point is the recent threat to democracy on the continent. With a background in fighting against military rule in Nigeria, Tinubu reaffirmed his democratic credentials by rejecting the recent military coups in Africa, exemplified by his, and ECOWAS’, tough stance towards Niger Republic junta that ousted President Bazoum. Tellingly, as well, he declared that civilian regimes that perpetuate injustice were equally as undesirable as military coups. This point speaks to some sit-tight African leaders who have breached term limits and manipulated their countries’ constitutions to remain in power for decades and turn state power into a family affair, against the will of the people.
His third point was on Africa’s battle against violent extremists and the illegalities that come with it in terms of human trafficking, arms smuggling and drug trafficking, many of which have a channel to and from the western world. Allied to this is the illegal migration of young Africans seeking the proverbial greener pastures abroad and risking their lives, with many of them dying, trying to cross the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea. He called on the international community to commit to checking the flow of arms to Africa with which these religious extremists and terrorists undermine the peace, security and development of the continent.
Tinubu’s fourth point delves into the vexatious issue of theft of African natural resources by foreigners. He sought global solidarity towards securing the continent’s mineral rich areas from pilfering and conflict. He pointed out – and rightly so – that much of the decades-long conflicts in Africa are linked to the mineral resources of the affected countries where foreign entities, abetted by local criminals and warlords, have recruited thousands of young people in oil theft, and illegal mining of gold and other resources, with the billions of dollars meant to improve the nation now fueling violent enterprises.
He called on world leaders to work with Africa to stop their firms and nationals from this 21st century pillage of the continent’s riches.
The president’s final point was on the issue of climate change, which is causing natural disasters in Nigeria, Africa and across the world, the latest being in African countries of Morocco and Libya where nearly 15,000 lives were lost recently to flooding.
According to him, African nations will fight climate change on their own terms in a way that aligns with their overall economic realities.
As a newspaper, we are persuaded to say that Tinubu struck the right notes, both in the substance and delivery of his speech to the world leaders. He made specific demands for sincere, just and equitable economic relations between Africa and the rest of the world, which has no room for the continued pillage of African resources by wealthier nations.
We, however, are constrained to remind the President and his team after such a good showing at UNGA, that they need to match words with actions to stem Illegal oil bunkering and mining which are carried out by the high and mighty who may have political connections.
Also, while the president declared that Nigeria was open for business with the world, and implored Nigerians in Diaspora to return, the domestic policies aiding ease of doing business, stemming insecurity in the country and improving the socio-economic climate in Nigeria will be key in their deciding whether or not to heed his call.