Nigeria’s Diplomatic Triumphs in Malta and Paris By Louis Okoroma
President Muhammadu Buhari embarked on a grueling one week diplomatic trip that began from the tail end of November to the beginning of December, 2015. The trip took him to Valletta, capital of Malta where he attended the biennial meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM).
Later, the Nigerian leader moved to Paris to join other World leaders representing about 150 nations to attend the Conference on Climate Change hosted by the French government.
The CHOGM meeting in Malta is the first time President Buhari would attend a Commonwealth Heads of States meeting. In fact, the meeting took place at an auspicious time, six months into the four year administration of the President.
The Commonwealth is an association of former British colonies of which Nigeria is one. There are 53 countries who are members of this association which is voluntary in membership. However, the geographical distribution of the membership of the Commonwealth bestows on it the reputation of an international organization whose membership strides all the continents of the World. Thus, the Commonwealth is a veritable arena for international diplomacy as well as economic shopping.
Among the members of the Commonwealth are some very large and thickly populated countries like Nigeria and India, very rich ones like the UK and the Sultanate of Brunei, poor countries like Sierra Leone, Ghana etc. as well as very small countries like Belize and several Island nations who were formerly, ruled by the United Kingdom. Australia and New Zealand, rich counties in the Pacific region, as well as South Africa are also Commonwealth members.
Therefore looking at the diversity in wealth, size and endowment, the Commonwealth is a good place for a country to seek friends or keep in touch with old friends and associates as in the case of Nigeria. In the case of President Buhari, attendance at a Commonwealth leaders meeting is a journey of discovery and awareness and an opportunity for him to be known and seen at first hand by other leaders of the Commonwealth many of whose countries have bilateral relations with Nigeria. This means that at once, President Buhari would have the opportunity to shake hands and rub minds with 53 leaders of countries, and Nigerian officials travelling with him would discuss a variety of political, economic, social, educational and cultural issues of interest to their various countries. From there, deals can be struck on how the countries concerned can move further to consolidate their relationship.
The Commonwealth is not merely a diplomatic and political talk shop. It also caters for the educational, scientific and economic development needs of its members. These economic and development issues are handled by the Commonwealth Foundation, and the Commonwealth Business Council.
At the end of the Malta meeting, Nigeria’s leader, Muhammadu Buhari was selected to speak on behalf of the African countries present. This is an important development and a recognition of the growing clout of President Buhari and Nigeria’s rising diplomatic profile. It is important to note that this feat of diplomatic pre-eminence and recognition has been achieved by PMB in just six months. In about a years’ time or more, Nigeria would have to figure out how to accommodate and utilize the several foreign direct investment that would be flowing into Nigeria; a direct result of President Buhari’s focused and purposeful diplomacy. Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, revealed as much in one of his recent essays titled ‘Buhari’s travels are not for enjoyment’ that as a result of his diplomatic trips, several millions in business deals and uncountable interest in the Nigerian economy will soon bring the much sought after FDI’s into the country.
The Paris Conference on Climate Change was no less eventful and successful. Nigeria was in the midst of 150 countries with the Secretary- General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki- Moon in attendance. Climate Change is a subject that is of importance to all countries because the future of our planet depends on it and the way and manner it is managed. Ultimately, economic development and prosperity of mankind depends to a large extent on how prepared the international community is and the measures put in place to assist the most vulnerable nations that might face emergency situations arising from Climate change like flooding, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis and drought and desertification.
According to the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Femi Adesina, President Buhari without hesitation and equivocation and mindful of Nigeria’s national interest approved the early submission at the Paris conference of Nigeria’s intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). The INDC, commits Nigeria to 20 percent unconditional and 40 percent conditional Greenhouse gases. It underscores President Buhari appreciation of the importance of climate change and that the fact that economic development would take place mindful of the impact of the Green effect.
President Buhari after presiding over the meeting of the Lake Chad Commission, on the sidelines of the conference, called on the Conference to come to the aid of the Lake Chad countries by helping to save the important lake, by ensuring the implementation of the Lake Chad Development and Climate Resilience Plan freely agreed upon by the international community. In the past 20 years, the waters of the Lake has fast receded with the result that the size of the latter has tremendously reduced and water no longer exist on the Nigerian side. The result is that the heavy population and economic activities that use to thrive on the Nigerian side is no more as most of the original inhabitants have migrated. All these are due to climate change!
For developing countries like Nigeria and other third World countries, international agreement on issues like carbon emissions that lead to global warming, waste management and disposal would have a great impact on economic development, agriculture and industrialization. Thus the conference presented an opportunity for leaders of developing countries to partake in the Conference and the follow- up negotiations on the management of Climate Change and what is required from each member state of the United Nations.
Louis Okoroma, a Public Affairs Analyst wrote from Abuja.