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GEJ: Impressing An Empty Hall

The 67th session of the UN General Assembly started on the 18th of September 2012 and is expected to run till December. As usual world leaders converged in New York for the purpose of presenting issues affecting their respective countries, debating, and make policy making. Generally, the U.N General Assembly, provides a forum or platform for multilateral discussion of international issues covered the UN charter or affecting the world at the moment. This event usually commands the attention of the politically minded the world over who are aware of the fast reaching implications of the decisions taken at these meetings.

The U.N general assembly can be a stage for those world leaders who tend towards the dramatic. No one will easily forget how the late Colonel Ghaddafi, making his first and last appearance at the U.N General Meeting in 2009 tore the UN charter during a 90 minute speech which exceeded the usual 15 minute limit, or the walk out staged by the U.S and Canadian delegates in 2011 when president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech questioning the holocaust, among other things. This year has not been without its own drama. There was another walkout by U.S and Canada, with Israel already absent from the hall when Mr. Ahmadinejad took the U.N podium on the second day of the meeting to take his usual swipe against the U.S and Israel, while prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu used a graphic of a bomb to highlight Iran’s nuclear threat. So while we enjoyed the drama of world politics, we waited for our own Goodluck Jonathan to take the podium, and he did. In his speech, President Goodluck Jonathan talked about his administration’s effort in dealing with terrorism and militancy. He painted an impressive picture of progress in tackling this menace. In his words –

“Our response has been multi – faceted, as we seek to address the root causes of these threats, exploring opportunities for dialogue, improving law enforcement to ensure public safety and security. International cooperation has also been a key factor in tackling our security challenges. We have signed agreements with our neighbours, Cameroun, Niger and Chad bilaterally, and multilaterally, on the platform of the Lake Chad Basin Commission. These efforts are aimed at safeguarding the security of our individual countries, and denying terrorists use of our region as sanctuary. We are confident that these measures will stem the floor and access to small arms and light weapons, which have indeed become Africa’s weapons of mass destruction.”

On the issue of Mali and the unrests sweeping the West African region, the president went on to say that –

“In Mali, political crisis stemming from this reality has escalated to insurgency that is threatening the unity of the country. Nigeria and ECOWAS are working in concert to address this threat which has the potential to spill over into neighbouring countries and destabilize the entire region. Guinea- Bissau is another flash point of instability in the sub region in which Nigeria and ECOWAS are engaged. Indeed, the Contact Group headed by Nigeria was set up by the Authority of Heads of States and Government of ECOWAS to help establish a transitional government with a view to returning that country to political and constitutional order. In furtherance of this objective, Nigerian provided the sum of 10 million US dollars to the interim Government in Guinea – Bissau to assist in the stabilization of the country.”

While this was clearly an attempt to show the world that he is a much effective president than his citizens make him to be, or that the tag ‘most insulted president in the world’ was undeserved, I must say the speech revealed once again that our leaders have no idea how to serve the people they govern.

As one of those against the unnecessary big spending done by past and present Nigerian leaders in other African countries in order to continue the big brother lie, the president’s declaration that we had spent 10 million US dollars in Guinea Bissau was a put off. When I hear declarations like this, I am forced to wonder if these men actually think at all. Why do we feel the constant need to satisfy other African countries at the expense of the suffering Nigerian masses? Is it not the height of irresponsibility to leave your citizens living in great despair while you gallivant all over the African continent, doling out huge sums of money to African countries who have no problems collecting your money while subjecting your citizens living in their countries to all kinds of inhuman treatment?

In my article ‘’Charity Begins In Cote d’Ivoire” published in Guardian Newspaper on January 21 2011, I called for a review of the Nigerian foreign policy, following the attempt of the Nigerian government to get involved in the political imbroglio between former president Laurent Gbagbo and in the current president Allasane Outtara, while Nigerians faced insecurity problems and poverty. I quoted the sums of money spent by Nigeria since independence in countries like Congo, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe as financial support to encourage independence from colonial masters, and wondered how that has helped our advancement as a country.

So while President Goodluck Jonathan stood on that podium, reeling out our “achievements” in fine words, most of us noticed something – The world was not listening, and if it was, there was no evidence to back that assumption. Apart from a few obviously bored listeners who sometimes busied themselves with other things, the speech of our dear president was delivered in a near empty hall. Personally, I think this is a huge embarrassment for Nigeria. A part of me hopes that our leaders will sit back and reflect on the lack of interest shown by the world during President Goodluck’s speech and realize that all the big spending in other African countries, political rhetoric and self aggrandization cannot take away the fact that Nigeria is a grossly underdeveloped country caught in the throes of corruption, militancy and terrorism. The advancement of technology has made it possible for the world to peep at your dirty linen before you even take it out to wash, and as such we can deceive no one but ourselves. These days, Nigeria has become everybody’s favourite whipping boy. Countries struggle to outdo each other in a game of ‘who-can-deport-Nigerians-faster’ or deny her citizens visas on the slightest whim.

On a parting note, I call on Nigerian leaders to realize that the world will only respect you when you respect yourself. Until we begin to treat our citizens with the outmost respect, until our relief agencies can respond in a speedy and efficient manner to Nigerians caught up in disaster zones, until the Nigerian government officials are bold enough to take salary cuts like Joyce Banda of Malawi, until legislators are made accountable to the constituencies that voted them into power, until corruption is completely stamped out, until our educational system is completely overhauled, until graduates can find jobs after graduation, until every Nigerian enjoys basic amenities, Nigerian leaders will continue to address uninterested spectators at U.N meetings, or in this case, a nearly empty hall.

 

 

GEJ: Impressing An Empty Hall 

Was Published On Omojuwa.com On October 1, 2012.