By Bola A. Akinterinwa
The main rationale behind the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 was to be able to maintain international peace and security by particularly fostering cooperation among Member States of the organisation. However, the management and conduct of the organisation, especially in the use and management of the right of veto by the Five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and United States) is such that only inter-state conflicts have been prevented since 1945. Intra-state conflicts have not only become the order of the day but have now also been threatening international peace and security.
Put differently, there is nothing like international peace or global peace without peace being allowed to first exist in a member state of the international community. It is only when the Member States are free from conflicts that one can begin to talk about peace worldwide. In this regard, it is noteworthy that June 12 is an interesting date in international relations. It is a day of conflict and peace-making, a day of joy and sadness, depending on which country and issue one is talking about.
In Assam, India, the people there witnessed the most severe quake in history on June 12, 1897. On June 12, 1985 the town of Xintan on the Yangtze was obliterated by a landslide. On June 12 1991, there was the Mount Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines, which began erupting for the first time in 600 years. Again, on June 12, 2000, the worst rains in 20 years began and caused flooding in Santiago, Chile. And more recently, on June 12, 2017 the world witnessed an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.2, which shook western Turkey and the Greek Island of Lesbos, and also injuring, at least, 10 people and damaging buildings. Additionally, on June 12 1881, the steamship USS Jeannette sank under ice during an expedition to reach the north pole and less than half of the crew survived. The import of the foregoing is that critical natural disasters frequently occur on June 12, and more often than not, they occur for the first time. No one has control over this type of occurrence of natural disasters.
However, there are political disasters over which political leadership has control but, which again, has been to no avail in terms of their containment. They are disasters that were consciously caused by people in government and that also took place on June 12. For instance, on June 12, 1937 the Soviet Union executed 8 army leaders as a purge under Josef Stalin. On June 12, 1942 American bombers struck the oil refineries of Ploesti, Rumania for the first time. On June 12, 1976 the military ousted President Juan Maria Bordaberry in Uruguay. It was on June 12, 1964 that Nelson Mandela was convicted of treason in the Rivonia, and moved to jail cell on Robben Island by the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
Without doubt, June is not only about disasters, be they naturally or politically motivated. It is also about geo-strategic calculations, as well as about politics of chimera and chicanery. It was on June 12, 1982 that some one million anti-nuclear demonstrators rallied in Central Park, in New York. On June 12, 2004, Iran made it clear that it would reject international restrictions on its nuclear program and challenged the world to accept Tehran as a member of the ‘nuclear club.’ Again on June 12, 2010, North Korea said it would launch an all-out attack against South Korea and other propaganda facilities, particularly warning it could even turn Seoul into a ‘sea of flame.’
And perhaps most importantly, June 12 is also a day of democracy in many regards.
It was on June 12, 1776 that Virginia’s colonial legislature adopted, for the first time, a Bill of Rights. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was written by George Mason and which granted every individual the right to the enjoyment of life and liberty and to also acquire and possess property, was done on June 12, 1776. And true, it was on June 12, 1999 that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) troops began to enter Kosovo. They reached Pristina and confronted Russian soldiers over control of the airport. In the same vein, on June 12, 2009, the United Nations Security Council agreed to expand an arms embargo against North Korea and therefore passed Resolution 1874, which permitted the search of North Korean ship suspected of carrying illegal arms.
On June 12, 1926, Brazil opted to withdraw its membership of the League of Nations in protest over plans to admit Germany. Was it not on June 12, 1975 that the High Court of Allahabad declared Indira Ghandi’s election invalid on grounds of alleged malpractices in an election petition filed by Raj Narain and that President Reagan, on June 12, 1987 publicly challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Wall of Berlin when he went there on visit? And true enough again, on June 12, 1990 in a speech to the Supreme Soviet legislature, Gorbachev eased his objection to a reunified Germany holding membership in NATO.
In Nigeria and as shown by the North Korea-US Summit held on June 12, 2018 in Singapore, June 12 is more of a day of injustice and source of international insecurity in the management and conduct of global peace and security.
June 12 in Nigeria and Singapore
June 12 in Nigeria is both a day of problem and insecurity, on the one hand, and a day of problem solving and peace-making, on the other. In the context of North Korean relations with the United States, June 12 is essentially a day of peace-seeking to a problem created internationally. What is common to June 12 in Nigeria and to North Korea-US relations is the resultant question of unfairness and injustice to which little or no attention is ever given.
In Nigeria, the injustice is that Chief Moshood Kashimowo Olawale Abiola was elected on the platform of the Social Democratic Party on June 12, 1993. The election was adjudged the most free, the most fair, the most credible, and the most peaceful election ever organised in the political history of independent Nigeria. It was an election in which Chief Abiola, a devout Muslim, also had another Muslim, Alhaji Babana Kingibe, as his running mate. And yet, the people of Nigeria did not see religion as an issue. There was religious tolerance during the election. In the eyes of the international community, it was a major source of commendation for the Babangida regime for organising an election that was violence free.
The system of election was very original. The then Chairman of the INEC, Professor Humphrey Nwosu, described it as Option A4, which required queuing up on a single line behind the photograph of one’s candidate or behind the candidate. The number of candidates is counted on the spot and the results announced on the spot in the presence of all the representatives of the various political parties. It was an election of happiness by which the future of Nigeria, and particularly its unity, was to be defined.
However, it was not to be. As the collation of election results began, there were credible pointers to Chief Abiola’s win or to the defeat of Alhaji Bashir Tofa, the flag bearer of the National Republican Party. By that time, there were basically two political parties. In fact, election results were already being released to the general public. Some newspapers had already even released the presidential election results before the military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, disregarded the election results. It is as from this juncture that the credible and peaceful election became a new source of insecurity in the country.
Nigerians were most aggrieved, especially in light of the excuses given for the annulment. As General Babangida had it, ‘we (Babangida’s government) knew the possible consequences of handing over to a democratic government.’ The consequences were only known to General Babangida and his caucus. The generality of the people of Nigeria did not know, hence the development of animosity vis-a-vis the government and the establishment of various civil society organisations militating against the state. In fact, calls for possible separation and national restructuring also became the new theme of political debate in the country. This is how June 12 became a critical problem in Nigeria.
But again, June 12 is also a day of conflict resolution and tension lessening. The incumbent president, Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari, not only awarded the highest national honour, ‘Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR’ to Chief Abiola, but also changed the date of Democracy Day in Nigeria from May 29 to June 12. According to PMB, ‘June 12, 1993 was far more symbolic of democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29 or even October 1.’ Both the award of GCFR and the change in date of democracy day have therefore raised more fundamental questions in the political governance of Nigeria.
The first question to address is the legality of the award of honour and the change of date of the Democracy Day. Most Nigerians are not against the award of the highest National Honour (GCFR) to Chief Abiola. Many see it as very timely and done for purposes of the 2019 general elections. However, some Nigerians still argued that the award of GCFR cannot be given post-humously as it has to be received in person. As the intended recipient, Chief Abiola, died in very controversial circumstance and suspected poisoning, such honour cannot be conferred. This is the interpretation derived from the 1964 National Honours Act. Another school of thought has it that, for as long as the President has the competence to confer a national honour on any citizen of Nigeria, nothing should be considered illegal about the award of the honour.
In any case, not only was the honour conferred on June 12, 2018, the change in date of the Democracy Day was also confirmed and gazetted. Now that the legal debate over the issues has become a fait accompli, implying that Chief MKO Abiola was, indeed, a de jure President of Nigeria, Nigerians are now asking for the payment of all his entitlements as a president we never had. Many Nigerians have also asked that June 12 be taught in schools in order to sustain democracy in Nigeria.
The change in date of Democracy Day in Nigeria also had its legal impediments. While the members of the National Assembly supported the change, they raise the argument of the need to first amend the provision of the 1999 Constitution on the matter. May 29 is expressly stated in the Constitution as Nigeria’s Democracy Day. It is therefore argued that the President cannot just change the date by fiat without first engaging in amendment of it.
In essence, the issue at stake is the conflict between the rule of law and morality and the need to right a wrong that has militating against national unity, economic development, and national security. Thus, the award of honour and the change of date of Democracy Day were meant to seek peace and ensure the lessening of political tension in the land.
The June 12 US-North Korea summit held at the Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa in Singapore is more peace-seeking but also points to future problems of global insecurity. This cannot but be so because the summit is fraudulently predicated on subjectivity of purpose, insincerity, injustice and unfairness. The summit is seeking to reconcile conflict of national interests on the basis of manu militari and imposition of international law that is selectively and discriminatively respected.
It is important to recall the international politics of nuclearisation and denuclearisation. First, in the negotiations for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, France and China expressed non-preparedness to sign the agreement. And true, they did not sign it. It was after both countries had perfected their nuclear test that they later accepted to sign it. The implication of this is clear: need to first acquire a nuclear power status before signing an agreement that would be detrimental to the acquisition of the status.
A second point is that the 1968 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty allows Nuclear Weapon States to hold on to their nuclear weapons. The treaty defined a nuclear weapon state as a country that had successfully carried out nuclear missile tests before the advent of the treaty, and these countries are basically the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council. None of these countries wants the inclusion of any new nuclear power to the existing ones. One main reason often given for this position is that other aspirants can be rogue states and cannot be credited with the capacity to manage nuclear weapons, especially in the event of radioactive leakages and accidents.
A third reason is that various nuclear protocols require the reduction in and destruction of some categories of nuclear weapons by all the nuclear weapon states. The truth here is that the affected nuclear weapon states have not always complied with their international obligations. They simply want to keep their own nuclear arms but prevent others from developing it. It is in this context that the case of North Korea is relevant.
North Korea initially signed the non-proliferation treaty but later withdrew from the agreement. One main reason often adduced for the withdrawal is the unhappiness with how the big powers treat other sovereign states. In the eyes of North Korea, the United States is its number one enemy who is always bent on undermining its national interests, if not the promotion of its destruction. The withdrawal of membership from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty was to enable North Korea develop nuclear weapon capability, as well as acquire the international status of a nuclear weapon state, which is never given on a platter of gold. One needs to fight or struggle for it before international recognition.
North Korea has carried out many nuclear missile tests. Without doubt, it has acquired the nuclear technological know-how and is now capable of launching intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach American soil. In this regard, as the US policy is always to prevent any enemy country from being able to attack any part of US territory, and as North Korea has acquired the potential power to meaningfully attack the US, and as the US also sees North Korea as its main enemy in Asia, the right and logical thing to do is to develop a new relationship with North Korea as a result of force majeure, especially that the enmity between the US and North Korea is difficult to separate from US relationships with Russia and China, because they are major allies of North Korea.
Besides, since North Korea considers that the fear of the US is the beginning of wisdom, North Korea’s strategy is to always seek the containment of possible US aggression in all its manifestations. For instance, North Korea is opposed to the annual military training exercises by the US and South Korea, as well as the tripartite understanding among the US, Japan, and South Korea. This is why North Korea has been insisting on the need to guarantee the security of his country and government before the issue of complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula can be objectively addressed.
At best, the summit was that of mutual suspicion. If that was not to be the case, there would not have been good basis for Kim Jong Un to go to Singapore with his own portable toilet and bullet-proof limousine for the summit bearing in mind that the Government of Singapore has international responsibility to ensure his security while in its country.
One explanation offered by Lee Yun-Keol, former member of staff of the North Korean Guard Command Unit, before defecting to South Korea in 2005, is that ‘rather than using a public restroom, the leader of North Korea has a personal toilet that follows him around when he travels.’ Why is this so? It is so because the excretions of the leader reportedly ‘contain information about his health status so they can’t be left behind,’ Lee yun-keol has further submitted. Consequently, if Kim Jong Un is much security conscious at home, that is the more reason he should be in Singapore in a meeting with the US leader who had already described him in unprintable words.
As agreed to in their joint statement at the end of the summit, both leaders showed commitment to build a new foundation for US-North Korea relationship in accordance with the wishes of the two peoples. Agreement was also reached to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the same Peninsula, as well as to recover the POW/MIA still remaining to be repatriated. In this regard, both leaders pledged to implement fully and expeditiously the obligations contained in their joint statement.
In light of the foregoing expressed commitments, to what extent is the intention to be committed? North Korea is promoting a policy of unification of the two Koreas. To what extent is this in the interest of the US? North Korea constitutes a buffer zone against any US security threats for China. To what extent will China also want to cope with the implications of such unification? The US is having problems with Syria but Syria is a major ally of North Korea. To what extent will the new found North Korea-US entente be a leverage in the various conflict of interests in the relationships with Syria and even with Russia whose ties with the US are being increasingly defined by tit-for-tat?
Without any shadow of doubt, it can be seen from above how June 12 is really an accessory to many problems simply because the problems took place on that day. At the level of June 12 in Nigeria, election results were annulled. This was unjust, unfair and wicked. Regarding June 12 at the US-North Korea summit in Singapore, efforts were made to hide the underlying untruths about denuclearisation. Powerful countries want to remain permanently strong but make relentless efforts to deny that same right of theirs to others.
Again, this is most unfair, unjust and selfish. This is precisely why there cannot easily be global peace as many countries are only acquiescing to big power politics for now, but without necessarily accepting to do away with the need to protect their own national interest. If America first, why not also Nigeria first? Global peace and security cannot exist and endure on the basis of might is right. World peace can only become a reality if all countries of the world, without exception, are prevented from having any nuclear weapons of whatever type. Allowing the nuclear powers to maintain their nuclear arsenals, while denying others of the same right, is also accepting the nuclearisation of imperialism in its new form and in the emerging New Cold War.