By Pat Utomi
Recently there's been news reports in the Nigerian media to the effect that the President, Umaru Yar'adua, boycotted the U.N general assembly as a way of paying back the Obama administration for it's diplomatic stance on Nigeria which the Yar'adua administration regards as unfriendly. This reaction is however counter productive to Nigeria's interests for various reasons.
First, the U.N is not the U.S and the two should be separated. Even administrations that have received a colder shoulder from this administration are able to make a distinction between the two. For instance, Nigeria's relations with the United States is certainly warmer than that between the U.S and Libya, or between the U.S and Iran, but both Col. Muammar Gaddafi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were both present at the U.N General Assembly to push for their country's interest. And more importantly, even at the height of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and The U.S, Soviet Premiers still came to the U.N General Assembly, because The U.N is not the U.S and acting like it is is not an intelligent display of diplomacy.
The Yar'adua administration needs to understand that The U.N is a world body and ideally every nation has a stake in it and boycotting such an August meeting as the U.N general Assembly to spite the U.S is akin to cutting your nose to spite your face. Who has lost in this venture? Certainly not the U.S. With or without Nigeria's presence the event was a success. I wonder what this administration would do if the president of the World Bank should act in a manner they consider unfriendly? Considering that Nigeria is again a debtor nation under this administration after escaping the debt trap under the previous administration, perhaps we should pray that the World Bank president should cause some offense to this administration. Perhaps the administration will return all the loans they have taken from the World Bank?
Those surrounding the president should find the courage to tell him that these types of reports portray the administration as petty and immature because it will be seen to be reacting to its conditions instead of creating the conditions it would like to exist in. In fact if the administration felt slighted by the U.S, the U.N General Assembly is precisely the place to take the battle to as was done by several nations who had a bone to pick with either the U.S or some other major power.
Nigeria's foreign policy has to be seen to be driven by intelligent analysis of the issues and not some knee jerk reactionary force. This situation reminds me of the action of the Federal Government in the 70s. As a result of the 1973 Egypt-Israeli war (otherwise known as the Yom Kippur war), the Federal Government in sympathy with Egypt had severed diplomatic relations with Israel. However, after Egypt and Israel had reconciled and that great peace maker, Anwar Sadat, had even gone to the Israeli knesset to address Israel's government and extend an olive branch in 1980, Nigeria continued to maintain a severed diplomatic relations with Israel. It was not until 1992 that Nigeria restored diplomatic relations with Israel, 9 years after Egypt (in sympathy of whom we had severed the relationship in the first place) had restored relations with Israel. It appeared to the world then that Nigeria was crying more than the bereaved and in truth we were.
There were several blunders of the Obasanjo era, but one thing he bequeathed to President Yar'adua was a vibrant foreign policy which has plummeted under the present administration. As I wrote in my last article ‘Where are Nigeria's elders?', smaller African countries appear to have sensed a weakness in Nigeria and are taking advantage of it. I was watching an analysis of the Guinean crisis on CNN and one of the commentators ( a defense analyst) opined that with the manner ex president Obasanjo managed the coup in Sao Tome and Principe in 2003, and the Liberian impasse also in 2003 (leading to Charles Taylor's exit from power), it would have been unlikely that the Guinean military would have attempted the coup that brought them into power in the first place because they would have been afraid of some consequences from Nigeria. This does make sense because children hardly fight each other when an elder is present, but what happens when they sense that the ‘elder' is too feeble? Of a truth, power and intelligence are worthless if the possessor does not know what to do with it.
President Yar'adua must be told that a nation's standing in world affairs is not judged by her population, nor her land mass, but by the uses to which its government puts these resources to use in advancing the civilization of the world. That is the true measure of the worth of a country in world affairs. Nigeria will not increase in diplomatic influence by selling more oil. No! It is what we do with the proceeds how we plant these seeds that will yield a bountiful harvest or a lean one diplomatically. Nigeria can only project her influence in World Affairs when she takes her rightful place on the world stage rather than succumbing to faulty logic. Now if this is the case, President Yar'adua would be advised to do well by putting Nigeria's resources to good use by living up to the expectations of Nigerians of a country that pulls its weight internationally otherwise we would lose out ( or have already lost out) to smaller African countries who are already doing just that.
Once again, God bless Nigeria.