How African Union Leadership Positions Eluded Nigeria

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By Uche Enemuo

The election of  officials of the African Union Commission has come and gone with Nigeria losing the last foothold it had owing to lack of preparation and nepotism which has come to be a common denominator in the present polity.

One wonders why highly placed officials rather than place the interest of Nigeria first, prefer to want control and would rather the country lost sensitive positions than it going to anyone outside their sphere of influence, region or even family.

The story of how Nigeria lost out is that weeks after the candidates to be selected for screening and shortlisting had been interviewed based on experience and competence, a dark horse was introduced in at the last moment and with the federal muscle, was against every other consideration, presented.

Nigeria that previously held the position of commissioner of Political Affairs, lost her bid to retain a post in the leadership of the commission when her candidate for the post of Commissioners for Peace and Security Ms. Fatimah Kyari Mohammed lost to the incumbent Algerian candidate Ambassador Smail Chergui.

Algeria has held the same position since 2002 and that Ambassador Chergui is the third Algerian to hold the position.

Although Nigeria’s Ms. Fatimah Kyari Mohammed who worked with an NGO called West Africa Conflict and Security and arm of INCAS Consulting Limited was backed by a well-funded and strong national campaign team which included top ministry officials and former ministers, she lost due to her lack of adequate work experience in governance and international diplomacy.

Information from Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs claim that in mid-August 2016, an interview panel made up of the minister, minister of state, director general NIIA and Presidential Adviser had interviewed a shortlist of potential candidates for the post.

The candidates included a retired Army General who had headed ECOWAS and AU Peacekeeping missions, two serving Directors in the Ministry who had served as Ambassadors, a former three-term member of the National Assembly who had headed the parliamentary organ of the AU and two university professors of international law and politics.

Ms. Mohammed was chosen allegedly, by the powers that be against the recommendation and advice of the ministry which had in its letter to the presidency recommended two other candidates who performed very well in the interviews and had the requisite national and international experience and profile required for such a competitive and elective continental position. Ms. Mohammed emergence was attributed to the pressure from top presidency officials.

It is hoped that after this sad experience, it is hoped that the presidency would in future listen to professional advice when selecting candidates for such competitive and elective positions and that the absence of Nigeria in the leadership structure of the African Union for the next four years would further reduce the influence of Nigeria on the continental level.

 The AU 28th Summit of its Heads of states and Government in Addis Ababa elected the Foreign Minister of Chad, Mr. Moussa Faki Mohammed as the new chairperson of the commission to replace outgoing South Africa’s Dr. Nkossazana Zuma, who did not stand for re-election after her four year term. Dr. Zuma had stayed on for additional six months after the end of her tenure in July 2016 because the Kigali Rwanda July Summit did not produce a winner and the contest was reopened to inject fresh candidates for the position of chairperson.

The 56 years old lawyer, Moussa Faki Mahamat comes to the position with a very rich profile of experience in government and international diplomacy having held various positions in his country and at the continental level. He had served in Chad as Prime Minister.

Minister of works and Transportation and later chairman of the African Unions Civil Society body, ECOSOC prior to being appointed as Foreign Minister in 2008.

He is reputed to be a lead player in his country’s’ anti-islamist efforts as Chad has served as the headquarters of the Joint Military Operations against Boko Haram as well as the French counter Terrorism operations in the Sahel, Operation Barkhane.

During his campaign, Mr. Faki has said that he “dreams of a continent where the sound of guns will be drowned out by cultural songs and rumbling factories” and that “development and security” will top the agenda during his four year team.

Amabassador Kwesi Quartey from Ghana, who also has a rich diplomatic background and experiences both at the national and continental level was elected as the deputy chairperson of the commission.