By Bola Akinterinwa
Contemporary international relations is increasingly characterised by errors in policy making, terror in implementation, and horror in strategic outcome. There is neither world peace nor shooting war in the world of today. Even in the context of the emerging new Cold War that is being manifested at the level of the United States and the People’s Republic of China, global governance is largely characterised by unbelievable, but true, denials. Nigeria cannot be said to be an exception either.
Many countries are secretly developing nuclear capability but openly denying the plain truth. This is an expression of a policy error. The Nuclear Weapons States want to remain an exclusive club, and therefore do not want any new member. This is another policy error in judgment. Countries aspiring to have a nuclear status are always terrorised in the mania of order and counter-order amounting to disorder. The case of North Korea in its relationship with the United States and South Korea is one good illustration of this point. Another good illustration, which is more interesting, is the Iran Nuclear Deal or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which Germany and the European Union, as well as the Five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, generally referred to as the Nuclear Weapons States, did with Iran in Vienna, Austria on July 14, 2015.
The case of the Iran Nuclear Deal is more interesting because all the signatories to the deal, with the exception of the United States, do agree that Iran has been very faithful to the agreement as done and required since 2015. In fact, the United States has been terrorising Iran in different ways and thus sustaining situations of order and counter-orders. The resultant effects are that the world has been denied a secure global environment. It is a world in which re-colonisation is being technologised, but generally denied because of the many positive advantages of ICT. It is still the same world in which there is climate change but the US President, Donald Trump, still submits that there is nothing like that. We are still talking about a world in which racism is quite manifest institutionally but denied, thanks to political rationalisations.
Put differently, problems begin somewhere as a result of policy error. Terror is used to correct the problem elsewhere, but generally to no avail. The resultant horror is manifested everywhere in the world. And yet, everyone denies the horrific effects. Everyone behaves as if the implications for the future is not grave, particularly for Nigeria, which is seeking to protect Africa and black dignity in international relations.
Policy Errors and Impending Terror
Many are the cases of policy errors and pointers to future use of terror, but to which little attention is being paid internationally. For instance, the international politics of the crisis in Hong Kong is one critical issue. Many countries try to aid and abet the separation of Hong Kong from mainland China, a situation that appears to be more of a dream, mainly because the likelihood of the Beijing authorities accepting such a separation is, at best, very remote. Many reasons have been adduced by Beijing for the non-tenability of such a separation. At the epicentre of the reasons is the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the return of Hong Kong to China and on which Mainland China is largely capitalising.
In a conversation between the Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister, Mr. Wang Yi, and the UK First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Dominic Raab, on June 8, 2020, Mr. Wang Yi made it clear that, ‘at the moment, international peace and strategic stability are disrupted and damaged by unilateralism… Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and brook no outside interference. Maintaining national security in Hong Kong concerns China’s core interests, thereby a major issue of principle that must be adhered to.’
More important, he said ‘while the central government authorises the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HGSAR) to enact laws on its own to safeguard national security through Article 23 of the Basic Law, it does not change the fact that safeguarding national security is within the purview of the central authorities.’ The Chinese are simply saying that if anyone truly wants ‘One Country, Two Systems’ to go a long way, or for peace and stability to reign in Hong Kong, the new legislation being proposed by Beijing for Hong Kong must be accepted. Western countries are generally not well disposed to the proposed legislation.
But, as explained by Beijing, the legislation will not affect international investors, but will protect them better. Beijing drew attention to the case of Macao Special Administrative Region’s security law passed in 2009 under Article 23 of the Basic Law of Macao SAR, and noted that the GDP of Macao grew by 153 per cent between 2009 and 2019 and that the number of inbound tourists increased by 81 percent in the same period.
In the eyes of Beijing, law and order cannot be enjoyed by the Hong Kongers if there is no national security. Besides, it argued that “one country’ is the precondition and the basis of ‘two systems’, while ‘two systems’ is subordinate to and derived from ‘one country.’ One country is the foundation. Should the principle of one country be undermined, two systems would be impossible to practise.” Thus, the non-compromising position of Mainland China is quite evident. This is the current order that is further justified by the provisions of the Sino-British Declaration.
In this regard, the main problem and policy error can be gleaned from the counter-order emanating from the attitudinal disposition of Western countries, against which Mainland China is complaining. In the words of the Chinese government, ‘the Sino-British Joint Declaration is an important document concerning China’s recovery of Hong Kong and relevant arrangement during the transitional period. It consists of eight paragraphs and three annexes. Paragraph 1 is about China resuming the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong. Paragraph 2 is about the UK restoring Hong Kong to China. Both paragraphs were fulfilled with Hong Kong’s return. Paragraph 3 and Annex1 are declaration and elaboration of China’s basic policies regarding Hong Kong. Paragraphs 4 to 6 and Annex II and III stipulate arrangements during the transitional period. Paragraphs 7 and 8 are about the Joint Declaration’s implementation and entry into force. With the return of Hong Kong and the completion of follow-up matters, all UK-related provisions have been fulfilled.’
And perhaps more importantly, the Chinese also have it that ‘the Joint Declaration does not assign the UK any responsibility over Hong Kong nor give it any right to intervene in Hong Kong affairs after the handover. The UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or “right of supervision” over Hong Kong after its return. The Joint Declaration is a bilateral instrument between China and the UK. It does not involve any other country or has anything to do with a third country. Sovereign equality and non-interference are enshrined in international law and are basic norms of international relations. Other countries and organisations have no right to meddle in Hong Kong affairs on the ground of the Joint Declaration’ (vide News Digest on China, vol. 26, June 12, 2020, pp. 6-9).
The implication of the foregoing cannot be far-fetched: horror in the foreseeable future. Hong Kong has been largely westernised in many ways: lifestyle, business hub, educational system, etc. This is one major rationale for the adoption of the policy of ‘One country, Two systems’ to allow for Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong politically and Hong Kongers’ capitalist economic system. The political lull in this case is that Western countries do not want any communist infiltrations into Hong Kong. They see Hong Kong, more from security strategy, than from economic, perspectives. Whereas Mainland China is not prepared to have perceived enemies as neighbours. Consequently, any forceful attempt to influence political developments in Hong Kong against the interest of the Beijing authorities has the potential to generate a serious conflict. The effect also has the potential to be horrific.
As noted in the report, ‘with continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century – more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many US states.’ Besides, the report says ‘without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.’ In essence, the report is simply advising that if the society works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changes that occur as a result of the climate change, the threats to US national security could be mitigated.
Donald Trump said climate change was ‘a hoax’ during his presidential campaigns in 2016. He even pledged then that he would withdraw, if elected, the US membership from the Paris Climate agreement, which seeks to reduce temperature rises well below 2 degrees and to strive to keep them under 1.5 degrees. The major concern of scientists, however, is that ‘currently, global temperatures have risen about 1 degree above pre-industrial levels and they are rising by around 0.17C per decade,’ and there is the need to have it controlled.
When Donald Trump was elected, he still did not believe in climate change. What he believed is that climate change is human and political making. As he put it: ‘I don’t believe it… You’re going to have China and Japan and all of Asia and all these other countries, you know. It (report) addresses our country. Right now we’re at the cleanest, we’ve ever been, and that’s very important to me. But if we’re clean, but every other place on Earth is dirty, that’s not so good. So I want clean air, I want clean water. Very important.’ This statement is a manifestation of denials per excellence.
Earlier in October 2019, Donald Trump had accused scientists of having a political agenda. In fact, Philip Bump of The Washington Post noted on December 3, 2019 ‘it’s possible that Trump doesn’t actually understand what climate change is,’ because when Trump was asked again questions about climate change, he said it is important to him and that he had done ‘many environmental impact statements over my (his) life’ and that he believes in ‘very strongly, very, very, crystal clear, clean water and clean air. That’s a big part of climate change.’
To the extent that Trump is right or wrong in his understanding of what climate change is all about, Philip Bump submits that ‘climate change is a function primarily of the release of gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, largely from fossil fuel combustion or extraction. Those gases enter the atmosphere and absorb heat, preventing it from escaping into space or even radiating it back toward earth.’ He cannot be more correct on this point. This is the reality that Donald Trump does not truly understand climate change, but which he is ignorantly making a mockery of and denying. The horrific implications of not cooperating with other countries in adapting to climate change are not only for the people of America, in particular, but also for the global community in general. It is therefore not surprising that world leaders have argued that ‘Donald Trump’s denial is a major threat to the planet and that there is the need to step the plate’ (vide Dominic Waghorn’s report, “Sky Views: CLIMATE change is not fake -world leaders need to confront Trump’s denial,” in Sky News, Sunday, 1 September 2019). If Donald Trump’s denial is funny, what about the self-deceit of other countries which believe climate change is not a ‘niche’ as Donald Trump and his team describe it?
On the fires in the Amazon rainforest, some of the most powerful countries in the world met in Biarritz to take action. The devastating outcome of the meeting is summed up by Philip Bump thus: ‘twenty million dollars was all some of the richest nations on earth could come up with, in total to the astonished derision, no doubt, of people back home. I mean really? You serious? 20 million? Come on!’ The questions raised by Phillip Bump are simply to suggest that the world leaders are most unserious and worse than Donald Trump. We are still in a world of increasing denials.
One more illustration of the world of deceit and denials is the issue of COVID-19.
The case of the United States as a leading world power is again noteworthy. On 26 November 2018, President Trump told the whole world that he did not believe there was anything like climate change when he was told about the report of The Fourth National Climate Assessment, which outlined the potential impacts of climate change across every sector of American society. The report has it that unchecked global warming would wreak havoc on the US economy, and particularly that climate change would cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars and also damage health.
The truth in this case is that, grosso modo, COVID-19 appears to be killing people in peace time more than in a war situation. It is also more politicised in handling than in the quest for scientific and enduring solution. In fact, it raises more questions than answers. For instance, what really is the origin of the coronavirus? Is it man-made or wildlife? There are competing schools of thought on this matter: one arguing in favour of the virus being a resultant of human undertakings and the other, the scientific school, supporting the wildlife theory. The man-made theory traces the origin of the virus to 1981 when a book publication talked about it and noted that the virus would be a reality in 2019. And true enough, the virus was talked about in 2010 and in 2015. In 2019 and 2020, the virus is a reality.
Now that it is a reality and that it is assumed that it could have been man-made, is the making of the virus by and from China? What role has the United States played in the making of the virus? In 1981, the virus was referred to as coronavirus Wuhan 400 in China. in 2020, the Corona virus was described as an epidemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and later as a pandemic. The change in designation was to reflect the widening scope of the virus, especially in terms of its very devastating and fatal effect on humanity.
In the United States, President Trump gives little attention to the wearing of face masks… He gives the impression that it is an Asian saga and it is only meant for them. On Wednesday, 17 June 2020, he said in a television interview that COVID-19 ‘is ‘dying out’ particularly in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was to have his re-election campaigns. This was a very blatant denial of the situational reality, because, in Tulsa, the infection rate was on the increase by that time.
Besides, as he also remarked in a Wall Street Journal, ‘coronavirus testing was “overrated” because it reveals large numbers of new COVID-19 cases, which, in turn, “makes us look bad,” and suggested that some Americans who wear masks do so not only to guard against the virus, but perhaps to display their anti-Trump animus.’
Without any jot of doubt, more than 120,000 people have lost their lives in the United States and President Trump is still pretending that COVID-19 is not a big deal. This is more than a self-denial and denial of the truth. The most disheartening aspect of the COVID-19 saga is that, when President Trump was asked about the security of the people invited to participate in his presidential rally, he said whoever was to come to the rally was on his own. This is most unfortunate.
In the words of Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), former Health Secretary under the Clinton administration, ‘the president of the United States is dangerous to the health of the people of my (her) district, because he is giving out misinformation and false hope. For those that believe him, they’re putting themselves and their families at risk.’ But how is Nigeria directly affected by international leadership denials? What are the lessons for Nigeria?
Nigeria is another terra cognita for official denials, but let us espy just one aspect of the most critical: threats to national survival as a nation-state. Nigeria is moving faster than ever before on the path of national disintegration, but Government is behaving as if it is not a big deal. In the manner racism in the United States has been a critical issue for a long time, but taken lightly and the main victims, essentially the African-Americans, have not only been protesting but to no avail, it is also in the same mania the racist killings reached its crescendo with the very brutal killing of George Floyd and the whole of the United States was cut unawares that Nigeria might also be cut unawares. Nigeria may be thrown beyond unexpected nationwide protests and faced with a new war. Today, many motorcycles with Miyetti Allah registration numbers are plying on Lagos roads. The Southerners not only see the Miyetti Allah group as an instrument of Fulani herdsmen atrocities in the South, but also as a catalytic agent of Fulanisation of the country. With motorcycles registered as Miyetti Allah, even if legal, Government may also be reaching its own crescendo of denials while the hostility vis-a-vis the Fulanis is also quietly mounting. There is need for caution and need to balance the evils of error, terror and horror in the political governance of Nigeria.