Nwoke: We Will Be Fooling Ourselves To Rely On America
After meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Washington DC, the US President Barack Obama started what may be his last official Africa diplomatic shuttle as he arrived Nairobi, Kenya, his first visit to his ancestral home. The US President will also make a first time visit to the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Professor Chibuzo Nwoke, Secretary General of the Nigeria Society of International Affairs (NSIA) and Head, Department of International Relations, Political Science and Public Administration, Oduduwa University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, told KAMAL TAYO OROPO that African leaders must not expect the United States to solve any of the continent’s problems, as they have to look inward for solution to challenges of security, economy and corruption.
What do you expect should dominate President Obama’s discussions with African leaders?
ECONOMIC development is certainly going to be the focus of many of the discussions. Also, they are all interested in working together with America to deepen trade and investment ties. There will also be talks on business –– to business partnerships that can sustain development.
Speaking particularly about Buhari’s US visit, from what you have gathered, would you say the visit has proved useful for both countries?
At a first level of analysis, the answer is yes. With the impressive outcome of our recent elections, Nigeria is now able to showcase its new image of a responsible global player; and Buhari, with his presidential poise and integrity profile, has portrayed that image quite admirably.
For America, it will be in a position to nurture its interest to partner with such a player in the African continent.
On a second level of analysis, however, for both sides, we can only talk about concrete values and benefits of the visit in the future. The major issues, security, Boko Haram, economy, that dominated the Buhari-Obama discussions were pertinent and expected.
The whole issue of terrorism, including Boko Haram, is a security threat that concerns both countries. Nigeria is concerned about its weak economy and America is interested in the Nigerian economy and in a secure investment climate in the future.
Tackling corruption was one of the fallouts of the meeting between Presidents Buhari and Obama, can the US be relied upon to help fight this scourge in Nigeria and among Nigerians?
On corruption, I think we will be fooling ourselves to talk about relying on anybody; including America, to fight the scourge in Nigeria.
That is for our government to do. However, one area where America, and other safe havens of looted funds, can help is in ensuring the location, access and return of the several trillions of dollars that were stolen and stashed away in foreign banks by Nigerian leaders.
Generally speaking, has the US-African relations been mutually beneficial?
US-Africa relations have always been tilted in favor of America, for obvious reasons. In reality, no African country can seriously talk in terms of mutuality of interests or of genuine partnership with America in their relations. The balance of power between the two is what determines the direction of the distribution of benefits.
Specifically, what areas give you serious cause of concern?
The specific areas of concern could as well be this asymmetrical distribution of benefits which will unfortunately remain so, until several structural obstacles are addressed and dismantled, such as supply-side constraints, infrastructure deficits, governance, leadership, institutions and so on.
Some have likened the US seeming renewed African interest to concern over China’s increasing activities on the continent. To what extent do share this feeling?
I share the view that most of US renewed interest in Africa in recent times is related to its concern over China’s increasing activities in the continent. First, China, just like the US, has a voracious appetite for critical raw materials, of which Africa is heavily endowed. Secondly, the Middle East is, for America, increasingly becoming too risky as a secure source of critical raw materials. Thirdly, for the US, the huge reserve of raw materials in the Gulf of Guinea alone is an excellent alternative source to the Middle-East source. From America’s standpoint, China must, therefore, not be allowed to establish a stranglehold in that region.
Would you rather prefer Africa having closer ties with China as against the US?
Ideologically, while I would prefer for Africa to develop closer ties with China, this is not to say that China does not have imperialist and exploitative tendencies just like America.
The important thing is that African countries should develop their own strategic plan with a clear articulation of their interests and objectives in engaging China. That is what China has done with its Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the platform of its engagement with African countries.
Is the idea of political and economic non-alignment possible under the current international economic relations?
Political and Economic Alignment is quite possible in today’s world. It is a necessary posture that should be adopted by African countries so that they will not be sucked into the distractions and destructive squabbles of global power blocs.
After the diplomatic shuttles, what options are there left for Nigeria and other African countries?
After the diplomatic shuttles, African countries should get busy to clean up their polities in the following areas: address leadership deficits, governance, corruption, infrastructure decay, poverty, insecurity and so on
Does the African Union have any roles to play in achievement of desired goals, particularly on security and economy?
The African Union certainly has a mandate to play a role in Africa’s development. The challenge remains the lack of political will from Africa’s leaders who drive the AU to put in motion the necessary mechanisms that will ensure the attainment of security and development.
Such mechanisms must include the African Peace & Security Architecture(APSA), the policy and institutional framework and operational structure for effective implementation of decisions taken in the area of conflict prevention, peace-making, peace-support operations and intervention, as well as peace building and post conflict reconstruction.
There is also the Peace and Security Council, which is the engine of APSA and the decision making authority of APSA, which also serves as a collective security and early warning arrangement to facilitate timely and efficient response to conflict and crisis in Africa.
The mechanisms also include the African Continental Economic Integration Scheme. Several regional economic communities serve as building blocks for continental integration and economic development in Africa and eventual creation of an African economic community.
The NEPAD, which is the strategic policy framework of the AU, and whose emergence coincided with a paradigm shift from concern with political independence to the urgent need to establish a new economic order driven by development of Africa’s huge resources and the creativity and resourcefulness of the African people.
In other words, the mechanisms are there. All we need do is grow the political will to effectively and efficiently implement them towards Africa’s security, growth and development.