In his first attendance at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) after he assumed office in May this year, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has reaffirmed the leadership role of Nigeria in the African continent.
This is as almost the whole of his speech at the 78th UNGA holding
in New York, the United States projected the interest of the entire black continent and not just Nigeria or the West African region where it belongs.
In any case, Nigeria is referred to as the “Giant of Africa” due to the vastness of its land, the diversity of its peoples and languages, its huge population (the largest in Africa), and its oil and other natural resources.
According to the World Bank, Nigeria accounts for about half of West Africa’s population with approximately 202 million with an abundance of natural resources and the biggest oil exporter in the continent.
Tinubu opened his address with the assertion that poor governance as well as broken promises have negatively affected Africa, and unfair treatment cum outright foreign exploitation have also stunted the continent’s progress.
He tasked foreign countries on abiding by the Summit’s theme of “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 agenda and its sustainable development goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and the sustainability for all,” for a mutually beneficial relationship with Africa.
“Many proclamations have been made, yet our troubles remain close at hand. Failures in good governance have hindered Africa. But broken promises, unfair treatment and outright exploitation from abroad have also exacted a heavy toll on our ability to progress.
“Given this long history, if this year’s theme is to mean anything at all, it must mean something special and particular to Africa,” the Nigerian president said.
Tinubu said presently and for several decades, Africa has been asking for the same level of political commitment and devotion of resource that described the Marshall Plan after the Second World War that gave birth to the United Nations as a symbol and protector of the aspirations and finest ideals of humankind.
“We realise that underlying conditions and causes of the economic challenges facing today’s Africa are significantly different from those of post war Europe.
“We are not asking for identical programmes and actions. What we seek is an equally firm commitment to partnership,” the chairman of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said.
He sought enhanced international cooperation with African nations to achieve the 2030 agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.
Tinubu then made a case for Africa when he highlighted five demands:
First, he said, “if this year’s theme is to have any impact at all, global institutions, other nations and their private sector actors must see African development as a priority, not just for Africa but in their interests as well.
“Direct investment in critical industries, opening their ports to a wider range and larger quantity of African exports and meaningful debt relief are important aspects of the cooperation we seek.”
Secondly, Tinubu said the world must affirm democratic governance as the best guarantor of the sovereign will and well-being of the people and noted that: “Military coups are wrong, as is any tilted civilian political arrangement that perpetuates injustice. The wave crossing parts of Africa does not demonstrate favour towards coups. It is a demand for solutions to perennial problems.
“Regarding Niger, we are negotiating with the military leaders. As Chairman of ECOWAS, I seek to help re-establish democratic governance in a manner that addresses the political and economic challenges confronting that nation, including the violent extremists who seek to foment instability in our region. I extend a hand of friendship to all who genuinely support this mission.”
Thirdly the Nigerian President said, the entire region (West Africa) is locked in protracted battle against 10 violent extremists, but in the “turmoil, a dark channel of inhumane commerce has formed. Along the route, everything is for sale. Men, women and children are seen as chattel.
“Yet, thousands risk the Sahara’s hot sand and the Mediterranean’s cold depths in search of a better life. At the same time, mercenaries and extremists with their lethal weapons and vile ideologies invade our region from the north.
“This harmful traffic undermines the peace and stability of an entire region. African nations will improve our economies so that our people do not risk their lives to sweep the floors and streets of other nations.”
Fourthly, he said important aspect of global trust and solidarity is to secure the continent’s mineral rich areas from pilfering and conflict as many of such areas have become catacombs of misery and exploitation.
“The Democratic Republic of the Congo has suffered this for decades, despite the strong UN presence there. The world economy owes the DRC much but gives her very little. The mayhem visited on resource rich areas does not respect national boundaries. Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, CAR, the list grows.
“The problems also knocks Nigeria’s door. Foreign entities abetted by local criminals who aspire to be petty warlords have drafted thousands of people into servitude to illegally mine gold and other resources. Billions of dollars meant to improve the nation now fuel violent enterprises. If left unchecked, they will threaten peace and place national security at grave risk.
“Given the extent of this injustice and the high stakes involved, many Africans are asking whether this phenomenon is by accident or by design. Member nations must reply by working with us to deter their firms and nationals from this 21st century pillage of the continent’s riches,” he noted.
Fifthly, Tinibu said climate change severely impacts Nigeria and Africa as “Northern Nigeria is hounded by desert encroachment on once arable land. Our south is pounded by the rising tide of coastal flooding and erosion. In the middle, the rainy season brings floods that kill and displace multitudes.
“As I lament deaths at home, I also lament the grave loss of life in Morocco and Libya. The Nigerian people are with you. African nations will fight climate change but must do so on our own terms. To achieve the needed popular consensus, this campaign must accord with overall economic efforts.”
He concluded by reminding the rest of the world that: “As for Africa, we seek to be neither appendage nor patron. We do not wish to replace old shackles with new ones.
“Instead, we hope to walk the rich African soil and live under the magnificent African sky free of the wrongs of the past and clear of their associated encumbrances. We desire a prosperous, vibrant democratic living space for our people.”
As a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) noted, Tinubu’s inaugural speech at the 78th UNGA reflected pan-African agenda.
Agbakoba went to his verified “X” (Twitter) and said: “Never in the history of UNGA has an African President spoken for the entire African continent, asserting that we are not beggars but equal partners with the geopolitical blocs of the world.
“Not since Kwame Nkrumah and his vision for a pan-African agenda for development has any African leader delivered a speech on behalf of the 54 nations of Africa.
“Africa has only itself to blame if it fails to build upon the significant policy speech delivered by President Tinubu at the United Nations General Assembly.
“Let all of us in Africa rally our collective energies and declare to the world that we are awake and not beggars but partners.”