President Muhammadu Buhari is back in the country after participating in the first Russia-Africa summit in Sochi, Russia, 23 – 24 October 2019. Many of his detractors, especially from the opposition and few public commentators are dissatisfied with Buhari’s rate of oversea trips in his five years in power. They say the president travels too often.
Criticizing the president’s foreign trips has become a tool of the oppositions; notwithstanding if such trips are for diplomacy or to promote Nigeria’s bilateral and multilateral relations. Buhari’s detractors chose to ignore the obvious truth that foreign trips are part of presidential responsibilities globally.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his eight years in power made over 140 foreign trips to 97 countries, he was criticized. But Obasanjo said he travelled extensively, canvassing global understanding and mainstreaming not only Nigeria but the whole of Africa into the ‘New World Order’. Former President Goodluck Jonathan was also heavily criticized for his foreign trips. He was even accused of spending N3.3 billion on 20 trips abroad just in 2012.
Developing countries need to build interactions with the developed world and shuttles by their presidents are vital in this regard. Even in some developed countries, foreign trips are part of the many duties of their nations’ leaders. For example, the US president leads the country’s diplomatic efforts through state visits, meeting foreign leaders as well as attending intentional summits. President Bill Clinton made 54 international trips to 72 different countries; President George W. Bush made 48 international trips to 73 different countries. President Barack Obama made 52 international trips to 58 different countries while President Donald Trump has so far made 15 international trips to 22 countries.
President Buhari’s international shuttles are not for fun or relaxation, rather to negotiate Nigeria’s bilateral and multilateral relations; promote her foreign policy while also sourcing funds for Nigeria’s critical domestic infrastructure. Due to current realities in Nigeria, foreign trips have become necessary for tackling regional conflict and insurgency – especially the threats of Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West Africa Province (ISWAP).
On June 3rd and 4th 2015 President Buhari was in Niamey, Niger Republic and N’Djamena, Chad to seek collaboration with the governments of our two neighbors in defeating Boko Haram. This strengthened the country’s offensive against the insurgents; hence Boko Haram was defeated technically. On 4th and 5th December 2015, President Buhari was in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the China-Africa Summit. Nigeria gained a lot in terms of development and cheap loans agreement from China, especially in the area of the railway development, which Nigerians are now enjoying.
On January 13th, 2017, President Buhari was in Banjul, Gambia, where Nigeria played the leading role in solving The Gambian constitutional crisis. On April 30th, 2018, Nigeria got a major boost in its relations with the United States when the president was hosted by President Donald Trump- many major agreements were signed which are vital for Nigeria’s development in the area of defense, trade, infrastructure and agriculture.
President Buhari’s international trips have helped Nigeria in the area of securing cheap loans, critical infrastructure, agriculture and combating regional and international terrorism including boosting Nigeria’s international image.
On both long and short runs, Nigerians will see the gains of the president’s participation in the Russia-Africa summit. The summit is very important for Nigeria-Russia relations in terms of public infrastructure, improvement in the efficiency of Nigeria’s oil sector, military cooperation, fertilizer production, the Ajaokuta Steel Mill including Russian scholarship to Nigerians and technological and trade exchange.
––Zayyad I. Muhammad, Jimeta, Adamawa State