On November 15, 1884, 14 mainly European countries gathered in Berlin for a meeting which lasted to February 26, 1885. The aim of that conference was to split the continent of Africa and share it to the Europeans who were scrambling over it.
The countries represented were; Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands. Others include; Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814 to 1905), Turkey, and the United States of America. Of these 14 nations, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, controlling most of Africa at the time.
Russia, though present at the conference, was not interested in the greedy project of acquiring Africa by force of arms. The Russians held firmly to the guiding principle of their policy as advocated by one of their founding fathers, V.I. Lenin who advocated equality and peaceful coexistence amongst all the peoples of the world.
It was this same message of equality of mankind that led Khrushchev (the former Soviet leader) to move a motion to end all forms of colonialism by 1960 at the plenary of the XVth session of the United Nations General assembly. The passage of the motion led to the crumbling of colonialism, and sovereign African states began to emerge one after another. Nigeria took its turn to gain independence in 1960.
The Soviet Union – precursor to Russian Federation – built into its foreign policy architecture a sensitive and positive response to assist Africa in building an egalitarian society for themselves.
In the case of Nigeria, the warm response from Russia was instant. Nigeria became independent on October 1 1960. In less than two months – on November 25, 1960 – the two countries established diplomatic relations.
The founding fathers of Nigeria said the foreign policy of the country was based on Africa as its cornerstone. Ordinarily, this should have drafted Nigeria very close to the Russians who took it on themselves to fight for the decolonization of Africa. Ironically, this was not the case because the first Republic leaders were under the heavy influence of the colonial masters.
The colonial masters induced Nigerian leaders to launch heavy, unfriendly propaganda against Russia in Nigeria during the early and mid-1960s. In contrast to this, nations like the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, Italy, Spain and other countries in Western Europe at large enjoyed positive propaganda which made them seem as ideal and friendly.
The system of governance in most African countries including Nigeria was fashioned after their former colonialists and gave preference to the interests of the colonial masters. With this mindset, the environment was not conducive to friendly Nigeria-Russia relations.
During the early 60’s, the main interest of the Soviet Union was to expand its political influence among the countries of Africa and have more states converted into socialist-oriented nations in the then ideologically polarized world that was popularly referred to as the cold war. Nigeria being a capitalist state was not inclined to change its orientation. Its colonial master and allies were opposed to Nigeria and any of its former colonies having cordial relationship with Russia which they came to identify as a strong iron curtain – not be allowed a space of further expansion in Africa. Any manifestation of or link to the communist ideology was met with censorship and repression.
But there was no let-up on the part of Russia. They seized every opportunity to advertise their goodwill to Nigeria. When the civil war broke out in Nigeria with the Eastern Region declaring itself an independent state of Biafra, it was Russia that came to bail out Nigeria with arms to put down the insurrection. At the time, both the United States and the United Kingdom refused to sale arms to Nigeria. In fact France went a step further by recognizing Biafra as a sovereign state.
The Nigerian Civil War opened the eyes of Nigerian leaders to the reality of world politics. Nigerian youths became eager recipients of Soviet scholarships for higher education in the Soviet Union. This was a major opportunity for the Soviet Union to establish itself in sub-Saharan Africa’s major country.
Immediately after the war, General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s Head of State, paid a State Visit to Moscow in 1971. President Olusegun Obasanjo also visited Russia in 2001 and on June 24 2009, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev became the first Russian President to visit Nigeria.
These top level visits are too far in between and do not reflect the several challenges confronting Nigeria-Russia relations.
For instance, in order for agreements among nations to become operational, they are to be passed by the National parliament and that forms their legal framework. The agreements signed with Russia during these visits are yet to be ratified by the parliament with particular reference to the Abuja agreement of 2009 which covered six critical areas: Viz- Investment, cooperation in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy, understanding in the field of exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes, transfer of persons sentenced to imprisonment, declaration on principles of friendly relations and partnership between Nigeria and the Russian Federation and several other agreements on the eventual establishment of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation (ICESTC) between the two countries.
Adequate knowledge and clear understanding of culture, history, language, mentality, world-view, capabilities and potentials of other nations are crucial to foreign policy making. There is weak indication that the two countries have sufficient and adequate perception of each other. This in part is responsible for the lack of the political will to fully implement their existing bilateral agreements.
We have had serial disappointments with the western world from their refusal to help in the fight to keep Nigeria one and their current refusal to help with weapons to put down the Boko Haram insurgency under the spurious claims that the Nigerian military is abusing human rights. The supply of military equipment and materiel notably the MI-35 attack helicopters by Russia have played a high value addition in our fight against Boko Haram. Unfortunately majority among the Nigeria political elites are under strong influence of London and Washington whose interest is to distance Moscow from the affairs of African countries.
Still, there has been increased trade between Nigeria and Russia since the civil war experience. Dramatically, the Soviet Union became Nigeria’s best friend and ally such that by the time the civil war ended in 1970 Nigeria had opened its doors to other Soviet imports such as consumer goods and industrial manufacture.
The most significant highlight of the growing economic cooperation between the two countries was the award of contracts to Soviet companies for the establishment of the Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Complex and for the laying of oil pipelines across the country in line with the articles form economic and technical cooperation agreed upon by the two countries.
The project was however not completed as scheduled, and has continued to suffer several setbacks over the decades due to what should be seen as a lack of political will and adequate appreciation of the potential of the steel project to radically transform the economy of Nigeria and its capacity to be the foundation for the industrialization of the nation.
Similarly, ALSCON, Nigeria’s only aluminum smelting plant, handed over to Russian aluminum giant, United Company RUSAL PLC was closed down in 2014. Again, nothing much is heard of Gazprom, the Russian national energy giant, the biggest in the world, who signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on the exploration and exploitation of the nation’s huge gas reserves with a new joint venture company to be known as NiGaz Energy Company, which will also take part in several other critical infrastructural development projects, including the training of Nigerians among others. Both companies were expected to invest up to 2.5 billion dollars in the joint venture.
These are very good signs for Nigeria-Russia relations and should be pursued with vigor because they can lead to slow but steady growth of bilateral trade and the promotion of direct contacts between Nigerian and Russian officials and institutions, agencies and companies, opening up of opportunities for further cooperation in the area of energy, metallurgy, oil and gas and promotion of bilateral cooperation in the cultural sphere.
Nigeria needs Russian technology to boost industrialization just as Russia needs Nigeria as a market for its industrial products and military equipment. All issues on the privatization of ALSCON to Russian RUSAL including the legal tussles require diplomatic solutions in a manner that will bring the company to function at its maximum capacity.
The volume of on-going trade between the two countries still remains very low – a paltry $350 million. This is ridiculous given the rich economic and trade endowments of both Nigeria and Russia. Worse still, there is a consistent huge imbalance in favor of Russia.
Inadequate information on business opportunities in Nigeria poses one of the major problems. Foreign investors including Russians have no access to update and reliable information on business prospects in Nigeria. If and when Russian businesses discover, for example, the rich agricultural products that are available in Nigeria, they’d wonder why they had not known about these all along.
In Nigeria, there are exceptional high-quality agricultural products such as oranges, mangoes, citrus, sweet honey that could easily rise to the top of the market demand in Russia.
There are many options available for the two countries to expand and deepen mutual trade and diplomatic ties in the interest of the two countries, world peace and prosperity. These options must be speedily pursued.
Monguno is member, Board of Directors, FCDA-Abuja-Nigeria.
Gov. Mai Mala Buni: Stabilizer of Yobe State @ 52
Isa Ali Pantami, a near perfect fit for 2023 permutations
By Hashim Suleiman
Let me refer you to Uncle Dele Momodu’s Pendulum of Saturday, 26th October 2019 wherein he professed about Tinubu’s destiny over 2019 presidency. He pointed out reasons why he felt Tinubu has a date with destiny regarding becoming the president in 2023. One of the key reasons which I also agree with is Tinubu’s capabilities of identification and management of critical human resource. This happens to be one of the formidable strategies which has eluded a lot of Nigerian politicians who despite their humongous resources cannot command credible followership and loyalty.
We witnessed the examples in how lots of them who hitherto predicted electoral outcomes could not do so in 2019. This therefore makes such suggestion by Dele Momodu a credible one.
Going from the above, every reasonable Nigerian especially politicians, pundits and strategists will understand that the race has begun in earnest and whatever strategies that anyone is willing to employ must have started or should start now.
It is becoming clearer perhaps, that the 2023 presidency for APC will most likely be a South West affair. The only thing that was not detailed in the Pendulum was the ‘How’ of the wishes that Bola Tinubu becomes the president.
Again, while the Pendulum has given us a reason to understand Bola Tinubu has an interest in the 2023 presidency, it is pertinent to note that other eminent people from the APC South West are gearing up to test the waters as it is their rights to do so.
But in all of it, the most important part of the South West strategy must be about how to manage the area of a northern Vice-Presidential Candidate considering that the PDP is sitting at the corner and waiting.
So, me and my friend Jamil Yusuf, were having a conversation over the weekend about the Pendulum, Bola Tinubu, APC, PDP and South West, we both agreed that the choice for a northern Vice President was the critical of the choices any of the candidates had to play if they were to make it through even though the possibilities are pretty high. We mentioned and analyzed a couple of them, but the one that sat most with the analysis was Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami.
Let me then help summarize why the analysis felt his choice was going to be a back breaker. Firstly, the main and first issue would be Muslim – Muslim ticket and we felt that had been demystified a lot since Buhari has not been able to Islamize Nigeria in 5 years and with no iota of intention to do so. Remember also that Deaconess Senator Oluremi Tinubu is a top member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God which makes Christianity to be a part of Tinubu’s home and life.
The other candidates may even be Christians or Muslims who have spouses in similar situations like Oluremi Tinubu. These issues and more could easily surmount that challenge.
Secondly, we know how young Nigerians have been clamoring for a young and digital person who understand twitter, Facebook and the likes to be in the steering for the management of Nigeria and this man has been the first person who has transformed digital from rhetoric to reality through the transformation of the Ministry of Communications to Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. If young Nigerians who constitute over 70% of the voting population are serious, they would quickly latch on to this and even mobilize others to join. He has always and continues to be one of the top people who has acted severally on issues regarding complains on some issues associated with his ministry through the twitter with the latest being the suspension of the planned charges by telecom operators over usage of the USSD service.
Then again, we analyzed the area of capacity and found out that the man had been focused on the digital part of economy which was the most critical tool needed to even be a better Nigeria’s Vice President since it was the primary assignment of the office.
Imagine a digitalized process of economic activity in Nigeria, this would mean increased data and revenues for the utilization of the public good. Analysis of the opinions of the public has showcased him to be the most popular of the Next Level ministers for the most positive reasons related to practical capacity and capability.
Talking about popularity, I am sure even you reading this know about Isa Pantami and especially about his capabilities and ascendances.
Our analysis is usually based on research and you are encouraged to study about the spread in the composition of his allies from time till now. he has grown to command respect amongst people owing to his sociability, integrity, capacity and good PR. Remember that big political names have continued to reduce to matter in the political cycle of Nigeria, sustained strategy and goodwill does lately.
To sum the matter up for now, it is important to write about this in order to emphasize the importance of strategy over our actions and inactions.
The 2023 race has become one that will usher Nigeria into the descent to political maturity and that will mean that every minute from now on matters as far as critical strategy is concerned.
The 2023 presidency will be very difficult to predict up until the day of elections. In view of this, the principals are further reminded about the importance of critical strategy as we edge close and as for my fellow Nigerians, let us brace up for a pretty interesting political game going forward. You will hear from me again.
– Suleiman, wrote from Abuja, Nigeria and can be reached via: email@example.com
Emir Sanusi’s Lamentation, By Abiodun Komolafe
The 14th Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II recently told a moving story of how a mother watched her sick child die while waiting to ask the Emir for financial assistance, because she could not afford to buy prescribed drugs of N3,000.00, which, in context, was less than $10. Since “those who feels it knows it”, the ‘Aristocratic banker’ was overwhelmed, and the croaky, breaking voice of the eminently affable Emir, betrayed his emotions!
Well, Emir Sanusi’s address to the United Nation’s meeting on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been appropriately documented for posterity. However, Nigerians ought to salute his courage for identifying with the downtrodden and appreciating the dilemma and the economic-unfreedom of the poor in the society! Furthermore, that the Emir could muster enough courage to apologize to Nigerians for any ‘unintended consequences’ of the classical, free market policies he pushed during his tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reveals the enormous social capital ascribed to his social status, the purity of nobility, and his sincere love for humanity.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the educated, onetime CBN Governor, ruled Nigeria’s economic firmament, believing in the classical, neo-liberal macro-economic philosophy, only to discover later – after the deed has been done – that those theories were designed to keep us perpetually in the valley of socio-economic backwardness. However, Sanusi has blazed the trail by being blunt in expressing his regrets, and firmly calling for a paradigmatic shift in our applied economic theories, and an overhaul of our Public Administration. This is indeed the dawn of a new era in public leadership. It has not always been like this. At least, that is what a synoptic view of past leadership in the country reveals.
Yakubu Gowon ruled Nigeria, not as a College Graduate; but later went abroad to bag a Doctorate degree in Political Science. He came back to the country, well read, but did not see the need to reminisce about his past blunders. Murtala Muhammed’s regime was short-lived. But Olusegun Obasanjo’s first and second stints at the highest office in the land portrayed him as an ‘all-wise’ leader. As such, he has neither admitted, nor apologised for his misrule or the mistakes of his regimes. Though Shehu Shagari was a “reluctant president”, the economic ruination of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) government under his watch was never accounted for by the Grade II Teacher-President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime attempted critical reforms in a highly corrupt, polarised, and sceptical society but the excesses of the regime were never atoned for. Ibrahim Babangida’s 9-year rule was characterised by widespread conscientization towards deceit and corruption in governance. Unfortunately, Babangida never apologised for squandering our collective patrimony. Sani Abacha never had a clue about civilian public administration but he clung to power, until … power left him. He did not live to regret or apologise for his misdeeds. From Abdulsalami Abubakar, to Umaru Yar’Adua; to Goodluck Jonathan; to Buhari’s second coming, the stories have disturbingly remained the same.
That said, it must not be lost on Nigerians that Sanusi’s argument is how we must seek the prosperity of the average Nigerian for peace that is contingent on the prosperity of the citizenry to reign in the land. It is instructive to note that Sanusi is now an Emir, a royal father. So, he has his domain to worry about! As an Emir, he also has multiple roles to play! He is a respected Islamic scholar and a religious priest whose pronouncements are weighty in religion. In the political spheres, he is the father for everybody in Kano and its environs, no matter one’s political affiliations. He is a banker, nobleman and public analyst. He is a father and a husband. He is an uncle to some people; and a cousin to others. So, the man has a lot on his plate; and uneasy lies the head that wears the crown!
Like Karl Marx, Sanusi has spoken about how deep our challenges are. He has also prophesied what is likely to happen to us if certain things are not done. He has challenged the elites of this country who are currently standing aloof or pretending not to see the obvious fact that the country has for some time been haemorrhaging. He has also drawn their attention to the fact that their being rich is also defined by the existence of the country; and that, if the country is no longer there, the definition of who they are will have to be reconfigured.
Basically, the truth about democracy is that, no matter the politics of the government in power, the people must come first. Again, this is where the current actors on the political scene must learn to be faithful to their calling. It is a shame that, every year, the first thing they fight for is their personal budget or those things that will accrue to them. If they are not careful, it will get to a stage where there will be no budget to fight for. This is not a prediction of doom. The truth is: if those who are privileged now don’t begin to attend to the needs of the society, it will get to a stage whereby the dignity and the honour, which their positions attract, will disappear. For example, a senator is supposed to be somebody who is revered in the society. But, by the time poverty makes the people to look at him with suspicion – as somebody who has flashy cars, owns monstrous buildings and runs a life that is flashy, then, the society is in for a big trouble. So, it’s time the political class keyed into Sanusi’s optimism by locating the algorithms that Nigeria needs with a view to understanding the mechanics of governance in a way that will take Sanusi’s worries seriously before things get worse.
Finally, Sanusi has a word for the recalcitrant leaders: “They call you ‘Rankadede’ now. In a couple of years, they will throw stones at you.” The question is: are we going to wait till people start stoning people, which, of course, can be likened to a point of no return? Well, Sierra Leone (1991) and Ivory Coast (2000) have eloquently spoken to the options before us!
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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