PRESIDENT BUHARI'S THREE UNNECESSARY FOREIGN TRIPS
While Mr. Buhari's integrity seems to remain beyond reproach, one fact that is becoming clearer to me by the day is that honesty is required but not sufficient to deliver our beloved nation from its subsisting conundrum. In popular Nigerian lexicon, one may ask, “na honesty man go chop?” In other words, besides a change agent's commitment to transparency, which is very important, there has to be effective execution capacity as well.
Any reader of my recent articles cannot but discern my obvious admiration for President Muhammadu Buhari and the tremendous opportunity his accession to power portends for Nigeria. Thus, in accordance with the real ethos of democracy and effective followership, I am obliged to constantly hold the General's feet to the fire to ensure that he succeeds, in the collective interest of all Nigerians.
Accordingly, I have to say that the President's three foreign trips since his inauguration appear to be nothing more than an attempt to be seen to be taking some action geared toward dealing with the resurgent activities of the terrorist gang, Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda' Awati Wal-Jihad (more commonly known as Boko Haram) in the northeastern part of the country.
Precisely, the President visited his Chadian counterpart, General Idriss Deby Itno, on June 3rd 2015 and met with Niger Republic's President Mahamadou Issoufou the following day. Thereafter, Mr. Buhari jetted off to the Bavarian alps in Germany for discussions with the so-called G-7 club of the world's leading nations, that is excluding Russia and China.
Before I am misunderstood, let me state clearly that the rationale for regional collaboration (i.e. with Chad, Niger, Cameroun, etc) is well founded, based on the fact that Boko Haram's operational camps, logistics network and recruitment apparatus are located right across these very same countries that comprise the multinational task force.
What is highly questionable is the timing of these recent presidential junkets. If the objective was to familiarise himself with these two very strategic West African neighbours, did President Buhari not already have that opportunity during the pre-May 29th 2015 inauguration visits of both dignitaries to felicitate with him at Defence House, Abuja?
While Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno came on May 11th 2015, Niger Republic's President Mahamadou Issoufou visited on May 21st 2015. Moreover, both leaders attended the inauguration proper and thereafter had private audiences (or quasi-summits) with President Buhari.
Given the preliminary discussions with these 2 leaders as highlighted above, there was, in my humble view, ABSOLUTELY no imperative for the reciprocal visits to these same countries without the President first putting his house in order. One imagines the Chadian and Nigerien leaders were expecting more substantive discourse on the counterterrorism roadmap going forward.
The Francophone (i.e. French-speaking) leaders would probably have been very disappointed because not only did the President not have anything concrete to bring to the table, he also travelled without any principal aides such as the National Security Adviser, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) , etc.
Why did Mr. Buhari travel without his key advisers? Well, the answer is that the President has not appointed them yet. Considering that national security is the Administration's obvious priority, why have the appointments for the offices of the National Security Adviser and other tri-service Armed Forces heads not been decided?
As far as I know, the President's request for clearance to nominate advisers was expeditiously approved by the 7th National Assembly before their tenure lapsed on June 4th 2015. Which means new appointees such as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President, Principal Secretary, etc, should already have been named.
Meanwhile, besides the absence of any urgency in his recent trips to the above named Francophone countries, the President should be very circumspect in his dealings with them, especially Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno. After all, it was Mr. Idriss Deby Itno who, at various times in the recent past, disparaged Nigeria, claiming that Chad could and would vanquish Boko Haram single-handedly.
It was this same Idriss Deby Itno who, touting his links to the highest level of Boko Haram's leadership, announced a phantom “ceasefire” on October 17th 2014, which he had personally negotiated with an impostor Boko Haram “commander”, Danladi Ahmadu. In the process, Nigeria was reportedly fleeced of several millions of dollars.
No sooner was the deal announced than the intensity of hostilities escalated. Two weeks later, when Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, disclaimed Danladi Ahmadu as a fraudster and repudiated the alleged truce as utterly false, Idriss Deby Itno claimed that it was Nigeria's immediate past President, Goodluck Jonathan, who originated the entire caper.
Again, sometime in Novemebr 2014, Idriss Deby Itno purported to have access to such credible intelligence that he claimed to know precisely where the elusive Abubakar Shekau was hiding. Recently, when he visited Abuja on May 11th 2015, he denied any knowledge of the terror masterminds's whereabouts.
The same argument against the Francophone junket also applies to the President's whistle-stop visit to Germany, perhaps even more so given the very recent betrayal by the United States of America (United States) and some key G-7 nations when Nigeria needed their support most. The pretext for their action was spurious human rights violations allegedly committed by our armed forces. Using their proxies e.g. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International; leading media platforms such New York Times, Voice of America (VoA), Cable News Network (CNN), etc, these hostile nations have since sought to smear Nigeria at every turn.
While not condoning any atrocity under any circumstance, these hypocritical foreign accusers have forgotten that Boko Haram militants are known to frequently carry out their own savagery using uniforms and weapons belonging to Nigeria's regular forces. Does it not stand to reason, therefore, that most of the egregious abominations attributed to Nigeria's brave armed forces could actually have been committed by the depraved members of the murderous sect?
At this point, I have to re-emphasise that President Buhari really ought to adopt utmost caution in his dealings with the United States and these so-called allies whose agenda is purely dictated by their national interest, which is understandable. Mr. Buhari's recent public statements and actions suggest that he believes the United States and the United Kingdom are dependable allies. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Though these self-acclaimed foreign allies of Nigeria promised to provide robust security assistance, it not only failed to materialise but the United States, on one occasion, actually blocked the sale of Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters by Israel to Nigeria. That is to say Israel was ready to deal but was over-ruled by their 'big brother' – AMERICA.
Shunned by the United States and core European countries, Nigeria turned to Russia, Israel, China, Pakistan and others who supplied the required weapons systems, intelligence platforms and ammunition that helped turn the tide against Boko Haram. In fact, when the Americans discovered that the Nigerian Air Force had acquired armed surveillance drones, they were very ashamed indeed.
Apparently, it was Pakistan and Russia that provided the training that has resulted in our gallant forces being the ONLY African military with the capacity to operate armed drones. So I was very embarrassed to hear President Buhari gushing at the inaugural dinner about seeking military support from “America and Europe”, when he should rightly be seeking to consolidate the existing relationships with reliable allies such as Russia, Israel, Pakistan, etc. IS A FRIEND IN NEED NOT TRULY A FRIEND INDEED?
There is another reason why President Buhari should urgently reconsider his fixation with the United States and the United Kingdom. His predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan, was also generally tolerated by both the White House and Downing Street until President Jonathan signed the anti-homosexuality legislation in January 2014. From that very moment, as far as these strange people were concerned, it seems Goodluck Jonathan could not do any thing right.
I am ready to wager that the apparent effusive support for Buhari by the United States and the United Kingdom certainly has strings attached. After the anti-gay law came into being, these unfriendly friends continued to pressure Goodluck Jonathan to undo what had been done, right up till his last day in office on May 28th 2015. I won't be surprised if this matter suddenly turns up very soon, as a precondition by these foreign undertakers for the consummation of certain critical tansactions in Nigeria's interest.
Mr. Buhari should observe how other even more traditional allies of the United States, nurtured viable alternative arrangements at very important moments when the former were disappointed by the Americans.
In 2013, after the seemingly unconstitutional removal of immediate past Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi, the United States suddenly suspended its annual US$ 1.3 billion defence aid, which it had delivered unfailingly for almost 40 years, as Egypt's reward for the historic peace accord with Israel, i.e. the iconic Camp David treaty.
Did Egypt go begging the United States? No way…!!! Egypt simply turned to Russia, which promptly commenced engagement. The moment this happened, the United States began courting Egypt to resume defence cooperation. President Abdel Fattah Al Sissi promptly received a standing invitation from President Obama to visit Washington. To date, President Al Sissi has ignored the overture to visit the White House. Eventually, on Tuesday 31st March 2015, the United States announced that it had resumed military ties with Egypt. SO PRESIDENT AL SISSI SHOWS HOW TO RELATE WITH THE AMERICANS.
Iraq experienced an even more frightening incident. In June 2014, the renegade terrorist entity known as the Islamic State captured the very strategic town of Mosul and confiscated a huge arsenal of advanced American-manfactured military hardware that had been supplied to Iraq's armed forces. From that base, the Islamic State
launched a daring advance toward Baghdad.
Terrified, the Iraqi authorities made several desperate appeals to their 'godfather', the United States, requesting supplies of vital aerial platforms. Unfortunately, the United States, which had become Iraq's defacto security guarantor since the 2003 invasion, procrastinated. In Nigerian parlance, one would say, “the United States was blowing grammar”.
Who did Iraq turn to in this critical hour of need? You guessed right: Russia. Within a few days, Russia had delivered several Sukhoi-25 attack jets accompanied by Russian fighter pilots and technical advisers. Fortunately, some Iraqi pilots were already proficient in operating Soviet Union (now Russian) military aircraft. That is the story of how Iraq was rescued from being over-run by the Islamic State.
With all due respect, President Buhari needs to quickly assemble his team of technocrats and commence work earnestly. The impression one gets today is of a nation that is just drifting. Already, local media have recently reported incidents of potentially dangerous conflicts by rival security agencies amidst the lacuna created by the President's either apparent indecision or undue tardiness in constituting the critical organs of his government. Again, my fervent prayer is for the President's success, to the overall satisfaction of all Nigerians and the glory of Almighty God.
Written by Dr. Kolawole Kayode.