Liberal thoughts and Nigeria’s proud hour at UN
One can’t but be proud of one’s land and feel uplifted when a powerful nation recklessly sounded a war drum before a gathering of no fewer than 109 world leaders and your own leader got up and said, no, I disagree. Dialogue is the answer. Compare and contrast: Mr. Donald trump, the United States President said to the 72nd United Nations Assembly: “If (the U.S.) is forced to defend itself and its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. But hopefully, this will not be necessary…Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
Hear the Nigerian President: “The most pressing threat to international peace and security today is the accelerated nuclear weapons development programme by North Korea. All necessary pressure and diplomatic efforts must be brought to bear on North Korea to accept peaceful resolution of the crisis. As Hiroshima and Nagasaki painfully remind us, if we fail, the catastrophic and devastating human loss and environmental degradation cannot be imagined. Mr. President, Nigeria proposes a strong UN delegation to urgently engage the North Korean Leader. The delegation, led by the Security Council, should include members from all the regions.” That was not all. Adding to the foregoing proposal, President Buhari called for the ratification without any further delay the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, “which will be open tomorrow for signature here tomorrow.”
The proposal contained in his address must have taken his audience by surprise. In a situation like that when a message sinks, applause comes spontaneously even from listeners thousands of miles away, but glued to their television or video. Lovers of peace everywhere will unconsciously be moved to tears. In a world that is upside down, that is rapidly sliding to chaos and confusion of unimaginable proportions, a president of a third world country has made a refreshing proposal for peace. Not surprising, therefore, the applause on the floor of the UN Assembly, was louder than that of Mr. Trump whose reputation is fast degenerating as a war monger. It is unlikely the UN will throw Buhari’s speech into the dustbin or spike it. While the so-called developed world is banking on the power of technology rather than the power of the word, Nigeria has lectured them on the imperative and power of jaw-jaw, the power of dialogue.
Trump’s compatriots reacted immediately: Former CIA analyst and expert on North Korea is quoted by Los Angeles Times to have said… “These threats will only increase the hysteria and paranoia in North Korea.” One other commentator is quoted as saying: “They will get him for war crimes. He’s Putin’s puppet who dictated the speech to him. Send Trump’s offspring to fight in North Korea. Trump was mixing wine with his dementia meds which makes him liable to say anything. This crazy old fool!” Vanity Fair publication is reported online as calling Trump’s speech “maniacal” and “warlike” and “one that despite all the president’s bluster and bragging ‘left him looking small’ in front of international community.” Another reaction says, “Unfortunately, Trumps has played into the hands of North Korea regime. He has basically dared them to start to act. This is not helpful. Belligerent scumbags like Trump are exactly why so many other nations feel compelled to develop their own Nukes as deterrent to U.S. aggression.” French President Emmanuel Macron is reported to have rejected Trump’s escalation of issue as it concerns the North Korean just as he disagreed with his stance on Iran nuclear deal struck by Obama.
It was a U.S. senator who captured the mood on the floor of the Assembly. According to reports, Senator Dianne Feinstein said that the United Nations had been founded to promote peace “yet Trump used it to threaten war….the applause for POTUS (President of the United States) when he was introduced was muted at best… It was a polite applause but not rousing or unenthusiastic.” Mr. Trump characteristically went to the UN in a combative mood, criticising the organisation as over-established and calling the leadership of North Korea depraved. He went on to say that for all the noble intentions, “the nation state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human conditions.” Even when Mr. Trump says the correct thing, because of his lack of refinement, as Senator Dianne observed, “most in the room listened attentively but stoned faced.” The North Korean delegates would “see” no evil and would “hear” no evil. They simply walked out when Mr. Trump took the floor to speak.
President Buhari acquitted himself when he told his audience to turn their gaze and look far into tomorrow and that it was time the UN General Assembly was restructured: “…as we say in Nigeria, he who does not look ahead remains behind. Our charge now is to aspire to make this world better for the next generation. We, the generation that knows how the world was before the United Nations was formed must bequeath to those coming behind us a better United Nations that would be in a position to deal with the challenges of tomorrow. To achieve that, we need to fast forward the reformation long proposed in this chamber.
“To restructure or not to restructure is no longer the question—the United Nations must be restructured for it to remain relevant in years to come. How to restructure the United Nations should be our priority number one.” He was not done. “Several ideas are out there. All we need is to get them together and agree on what works for the majority of the people of this world.” President Buhari then went on to emphasise balance, a “balanced outlook to matters of importance to all.” It was at the point he was pressing for one or two permanent seats with veto powers for African countries. “As we have learned in Nigeria, sometimes you need to change in order to remain the same.” He also referred to his address of last year to the same body when he advocated a Palestinian state and observed that no progress had been made on the matter since then. He believes that it was not one of the problems that should be left for the next generation to resolve, arguing: “Any glaring unfairness like the Palestinian case diminishes our moral authority to preach and lecture the world on other cases.”
There are five striking points in the speech which the media is wont to call takeaways and you would think Buhari was speaking to the Nigerian problems. The first is restructuring. The second is the surfeit of ideas floating out there and all that remains is to harness them to move forward. The third is a balanced outlook to all matters of importance to us all. The fourth that is related to the second point is his admission that his generation cannot continue to pretend that conflicts that emerged as a result of our colonial heritage have been resolved. Across the continent they are still there. His generation is managing the challenge with the hope of leaving behind nation states that are less prone to crisis. The fourth is the throwing of his weight to the demand for a Palestinian State as a panacea for the much sought-after peace in the volatile Middle East.
The controversial aspect of the takeaways is when he said his generation was managing the challenge of conflicts as a result of our colonial heritage in the hope of leaving nation states that were less prone to crisis. The question that arises is, yes his generation is saddled with the problems not unconnected with what the colonialists bequeathed and more, self-created by Africans themselves, but how well? This is a thread that runs through the remaining four takeaways. Of course, a majority of Nigerians would not want to see Nigeria dismembered. All they want is for it to be restructured. As he said to the UN, “To restructure or not to restructure is no longer the question…” It is elating that President Buhari shared these liberal thoughts with his fellow world leaders at the United Nations, and his brandishing his liberalism credentials, it is to be hoped that the lofty thoughts, will be domesticated so that Nigeria can make progress. How unassailably true, “As we have learned in Nigeria, sometimes you need to change in order to remain the same. It is the first principle of renewal!” Welcome, the President with new liberalism credentials!
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