Eromosele Abiodun and Nume Ekeghe
A former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, has cautioned the federal government that the threat of sanction by the United Kingdom’s House of Commons should not be dismissed out of hand as has been indicated by recent comments that were attributed to the incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama.
Akinyemi dropped the caution yesterday when he appeared on the Morning Show, a breakfast programme on Arise News Channel, a sister broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers.
The former external affairs minister said that even though he rarely comments on activities of current cabinet ministers as a matter of principle, especially minster of foreign affairs where he once held a post, it is important to explain to Nigerians the seriousness of the threat from the House of Commons.
He warned the government to take the resolution of the UK parliament serious because the Prime Minster usually does not go against the collective decision of the House of Commons.
Akinyemi said: “If I was giving lectures to students in a university, I would point out that there are various inputs that confront decision makers on foreign policy or in any policy for that matter. And debate in the British parliament is a very important one. It is true that it is not the ultimate but God help a British Prime Minister who ignores the feelings on the floor of the Commons.
“Many ministers have come to grief by taking a lackadaisical attitude towards the views of the parliament. So, I wouldn’t quite brush off quite likely the debate in the House of Commons.”
He hoped that Nigeria would go back to parliamentary system of government where constant oppositions and debates ensured that policies of government were in the best interest of citizens.
He said: “I think we should go back to the parliamentary system of government. At least the Prime Minister would face questions from the opposition weekly and you would know his point of view. You would know whether he is just reading from a script or he actually has been persuaded. And because the Prime Minister wouldn’t want to be made a fool of, he would have been briefed by officers in his office before coming in to parliament.
“Furthermore, the fact that we have been in two international parliaments and media houses disputing government’s claim of the events at the Lekki toll gate is dwindling the credibility of Nigeria in the international community.”
Akinyemi observed that there is currently a battle for the public image of Nigeria on the internationally arena, stating that “I have always wanted Nigeria to be in the international eye but not in this way and I think that the government ought to reappraise its strategy of dealing not just with the CNN but with the whole issue.
“The President himself keeps being positive about the youth movement and yet there are agencies of government that are condemnatory and negative and I must say persecutory of the youth. Anyone who reads the news knows that the world is on the side of the youth so let us draw the line to look for a positive way to get back on an engagement route not only with the youth but with the international community.”
He called for a peaceful resolution before January 2021 when a new administration will assume office in America.