In his address to the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly last Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari came across commendably as a world statesman through his reflections and pontifications on crucial issues of international significance, such as the dangerous situation in the Korean Peninsula, the protracted Middle East crisis as well as the human rights and human rights violations in Yemen and the Rakhine State of Myanmar.
It could, of course, be rightly argued that Nigeria’s perspectives on these global challenges can amount to no more than inefficacious moral preachment given Africa’s grossly marginal role and influence in the world. Yet, this most certainly does not preclude us from being a voice for moderation and sanity in a world that has become a global village, with no part being totally immune from the consequences of developments in far flung places.
Thus, President Buhari rightly warned about the dire repercussions of failing to peacefully resolve the escalating tensions arising from North Korea’s stubborn determination to acquire nuclear capability and the United States’ no less firm resolve to prevent the actualisation of what it considers a grave threat, particularly to its allies in the Pacific region. He advocated urgently engaging the North Korean leader through a strong UN delegation led by the Security Council and comprising representatives from all the regions.
While noting the continued suffering of the Palestinians and the blockade of Gaza by Israel, President Buhari regretted the non-implementation of several UN Security Council Resolutions on the Middle East since 1967. He was particularly forceful in condemning the ongoing large- scale forced emigration of refugees from Myanmar as a result of alleged persecution and oppression.
In Buhari’s words, “The international community cannot remain silent and not condemn the horrendous suffering caused by what, from all indications, is a state-backed programme of brutal depopulation of the Rohingya inhabited areas in Myanmar on the bases of ethnicity and religion.
We fully endorse the call by the Secretary-General on the Government of Myanmar to order a halt to the ongoing ethnic cleansing and ensure the safe return of the displaced Rohingya to their homes in safety and dignity”.
Given Nigeria’s enduring influence in Africa, even though her persistent economic crisis has prevented the kind of foreign policy activism on the continent associated with the country in the past, President Buhari was right in speaking up for Africa on such crucial issues as the promotion of democracy, good governance, enthronement of the rule of law, corruption and the threats posed by terrorist groups in the region.
It is, however, regrettable, in our view, that the President did not seize the critical opportunity provided by the global forum to elaborate on the laudable efforts of his administration to contain the scourge of corruption in Nigeria and what roles it has become imperative for the international community to play in helping the country effectively and permanently tame this monster.
He only said cursorily that “Through our individual national efforts, state institutions are being strengthened to promote accountability and to combat corruption and asset recovery. These can only be achieved through the international community cooperating and providing critical assistance and material support”.
While the Buhari administration has recovered humongous amounts of stolen funds as well as physical assets through its anti-corruption effort, enormous sums of criminally acquired loot remain trapped in foreign banks, particularly in western countries, as a result of complex repatriation procedures.
He should have stressed the need for the affected countries to urgently ease the process of returning Nigeria’s stolen funds stashed abroad to our national coffers, to facilitate ongoing efforts to resuscitate the economy, accelerate growth and alleviate the debilitating poverty that is at the root of such crimes as drug and human trafficking, as well as terrorism.
No less urgent is the need for the favoured foreign destinations for stolen funds to further tighten their financial systems to make it more difficult for funds of suspicious provenance to enter their jurisdictions.
The passion and loftiness with which President Buhari condemned what he described as ethnic and religious inspired persecutions in Myanmar draws attention, unfortunately, to his administration’s baffling unenthusiastic and cavalier response to the havoc wrecked by killer Fulani herdsmen in various communities across the country. Thousands of lives have been lost and valuable property destroyed by these lawless herdsmen with the security agencies seemingly incapacitated from reacting decisively to ensure the security of all Nigerian citizens, irrespective of tongue or faith.
It is this kind of perceived bias that fuels negative reactions when the administration legitimately deploys maximum force to contain separatist or militant agitations in the Niger Delta or the South East, for examples.
The kind of international statesmanship displayed by Buhari at the UN must be replicated back home in the interest of his administration’s credibility. He should be as sensitive to the feelings and apprehensions of Nigerians at home as he so obviously is to global nuances and perceptions.
This editorial article was originally published by the Nation.