Africa’s peace initiative in Russia/Ukraine war

All is relatively quiet on the local scene. Breaking news from the presidential villa which is reminiscent of a new government that is expected to start on a new slate has died down as the new occupant Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is out of town. He had been away to Europe for about a week now. 

President Tinubu was first in France(which is proving to be a beloved country for him given the number of times he had been there in recent times) for a global summit organised by that country. 

Thereafter our president headed to London for a private visit in the United Kingdom. On its heels comes the Id-el Kabir festival (big Sallah) on Wednesday and Thursday which implies a rather long holiday that would dovetail into the weekend. 

Thus, it is rather ‘dry’ in the executive, legislature and judiciary arms of government at the moment. Activities would resume in full swing next week during which we shall be having some hot news.

The National Assembly would constitute its principal officers from next week, constitute its various committees from next week and ready to receive official communication from the president who is in turn expected to unfold his cabinet members from next week too. 

For a columnist this is a rather dry period as nothing is happening on the home front as all sectors are virtually on holidays. This is when columnists generally take refuge in foreign issues or digging up some old columns of theirs. Thus I shall today be commenting on foreign matters.

Let me begin with some ‘side shows’ from the France global meeting. Social media was agog with video of the way host president Emmanuel Macron received the Nigerian president – they both embraced, hugged each other, chatted for a few moments as though they had known each other for some time. It was learnt that Macron had worked as a staff of the French embassy in Nigeria(Lagos) during which time he was said to frequent the Shrine (Afro beat legend, Fela Anikulapo’s legacy). So, it is not impossible that he was acquainted with the strongman of Lagos and that their friendship had been sustained since then.

Also awash in social media were reactions to photos posted by our own Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) from the summit. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala posted on her twitter handle, pictures of her greeting some African and non African presidents sans our president who was equally at same event. 

She was ‘lambasted’ by some Nigerians for ‘ignoring’ her own president while fraternising with other countries’ leaders. She was later to post photo of herself greeting President Tinubu at the venue, explaining that she posts pictures in the order in which they are received.

Besides, Madam Okonjo Iweala might have taken to heart, the adage that ‘what concerns us shall be last served’. I believe that from the harsh reactions from her first set of photos, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala must have learnt that on the international scene, what concerns us, our country, our president shall be treated first. 

Also, I believe that like another Nigerian, Dr. Femi Adesina who heads an international organisation too, Madam Okonjo-Iweala would have an opportunity in the near future to tell President Tinubu or his representatives the goodies WTO has specifically for Nigeria because charity should begin at home.

Recently, an African delegation led by South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa comprising presidents of Zambia, Senegal, Comoros(who happens to be president of the African Union) as well as representatives of the presidents of Egypt, Uganda and Congo visited both Ukraine’s President Zelinsky and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to broker peace in the war between the two countries. My first thought on hearing this news was: what makes our African leaders, Little brothers, think they would succeed where Big brother (the European Union) that had tried to prevent the war through talks with both countries failed?

Another thought that arose in me is, given that the head of the delegation, South Africa is biased towards Russia, dating back to the apartheid era when Russia supported the liberation movements in Africa, is South Africa an honest peace broker in this regard? The erstwhile cold war between the West and the East pitched countries into these two camps. And it gave rise to comity of Non-aligned Nations of which Nigeria is one. That is, countries that are neither aligned to the West nor the East.

In truth, the African peace initiative is commendable for war is an ill wind that blows no one any good. There is no harm in trying even if nothing positive comes out of the mediation by way of stopping the war. Africa is as much affected by effects of the war as other continents. So, kudos to the peace team.

However, a third question that welled up in me was, why is the giant of Africa, the most populous black nation on planet earth, Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, not among this peace delegation, leading it in fact? It is perhaps a pointer to Nigeria’s declining stature in the international field. Consider that South Africa is a member of that five nation group of ‘medium power bloc’ comprising of also Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRICS). 

And Nigeria, the giant of Africa is surprisingly left out of it, not a member. The new government led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu should make it a point of duty to reassert Nigeria’s prime position in the world, starting from Africa which has always been the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy. 

I gathered from a Tinubu policy document that the government is considering spearheading an organisation of the five strong nations on the continent, viz, Egypt for north Africa, Kenya for east Africa, south Africa for southern Africa, Nigeria and another country from west Africa or central Africa. We shall see how it pans out.

Ikeano writes from [email protected] 08033077519