•Insists broken promises, unfair treatment exacting heavy toll on Africa
•Vows to help re-establish democratic governance in Niger
•Says African nations will fight climate change on own terms
Deji Elumoye and Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
President Bola Tinubu, yesterday, urged world leaders to see Nigeria and Africa as equal partners, insisting that the continent neither needs pity nor seeks to replace old shackles from western colonialism with new ones.
Speaking at the General Debate of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, Tinubu stated that the pillaging of weaker nations by stronger ones should stop forthwith.
Since he was elected Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Tinubu, who took over the reins of power in Nigeria on May 29, had been saddled with the responsibility of returning civil rule in at least three nations on the African continent after the military forcibly seized power.
Many of the coup planners had taken advantage of the dissatisfaction with foreign powers, and created the impression that they were heroes on a mission to rescue their people.
Tinubu told the UNGA, “To keep faith with the tenets of this world body and the theme of this year’s Assembly, the poverty of nations must end. The pillage of one nation’s resources by the overreach of firms and people of stronger nations must end. The will of the people must be respected. This beauty, generous and forgiving planet must be protected.
“As for Africa, we seek to be neither appendage nor patron. We do not wish to replace old shackles with new ones.
“Instead, we hope to walk the rich African soil and live under the magnificent African sky free of the wrongs of the past and clear of their associated encumbrances. We desire a prosperous, vibrant democratic living space for our people.
“To the rest of the world, I say walk with us as true friends and partners. Africa is not a problem to be avoided nor is it to be pitied. Africa is nothing less than the key to the world’s future.”
Tinubu, in the first address before the General Assembly, noted that although many proclamations had been made, Africa’s troubles remained close at hand, stressing that failures in good governance have hindered Africa.
According to the ECOWAS chairman, broken promises, unfair treatment, and outright exploitation from abroad have exacted a heavy toll on Africa’s ability to make progress.
He recalled that in the aftermath of the Second World War, nations gathered in an attempt to rebuild their war-torn societies, while a new global system was born with the United Nations being a symbol and protector of the aspirations and finest ideals of humankind.
Describing the period as a high-water mark for trust in global institutions, the president stated that for several decades, Africa had been asking for the same level of political commitment and devotion of resource that described the “Marshall Plan”.
Tinubu maintained that Africa and Nigeria needed firm commitment to partnership, with enhanced international cooperation with African nations, to achieve the 2030 agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He urged the world to see African development as a priority, not just for Africa, but also in their interest as well. He said due to both longstanding internal and external factors, Nigeria’s and Africa’s economic structures had been skewed to impede development, industrial expansion, job creation, and equitable distribution of wealth.
The president noted that if Nigeria was to fulfil its duty to its people and the rest of Africa, it must create jobs and the belief in a better future for the citizens.
To lay a strong foundation for Nigeria’s economic growth and improve investor confidence, Tinubu recalled that he recently removed the “costly and corrupt” fuel subsidy while also discarding a noxious exchange rate system in his first days in office.
The president stated, “I am mindful of the transient hardship that reform can cause. However, it is necessary to go through this phase in order to establish a foundation for durable growth and investment to build the economy our people deserve.
“We welcome partnerships with those who do not mind seeing Nigeria and Africa assume larger roles in the global community.
“The question is not whether Nigeria is open for business. The question is how much of the world is truly open to doing business with Nigeria and Africa in an equal, mutually beneficial manner.”
He said direct investment in critical industries, opening their ports to a wider range and larger quantity of African exports, and meaningful debt relief were important aspects of the cooperation the continent seeks.
Tinubu reiterated his long-held belief that democracy remained the best form of government, and explained that any other alternatives that perpetrated injustice must not be encouraged.
He said, “We must affirm democratic governance as the best guarantor of the sovereign will and well-being of the people. Military coups are wrong, as is any tilted civilian political arrangement that perpetuates injustice.
“The wave crossing parts of Africa does not demonstrate favour towards coups. It is a demand for solutions to perennial problems.
“Regarding Niger, we are negotiating with the military leaders. As Chairman of ECOWAS, I seek to help re-establish democratic governance in a manner that addresses the political and economic challenges confronting that nation, including the violent extremists who seek to foment instability in our region. I extend a hand of friendship to all who genuinely support this mission.”
Stressing that the entire region was locked in protracted battle against violent extremists, he argued that in the turmoil, a dark channel of inhumane commerce had now formed, maintaining that along the route men, woman and children are seen as chattel.
Tinubu maintained, “Yet, thousands risk the Sahara’s hot sand and the Mediterranean’s cold depths in search of a better life. At the same time, mercenaries and extremists with their lethal weapons and vile ideologies invade our region from the north.
“This harmful traffic undermines the peace and stability of an entire region. African nations will improve our economies so that our people do not risk their lives to sweep the floors and streets of other nations. We also shall devote ourselves to disbanding extremist groups on our turf.”
To fully tackle the threat of extremism, Tinubu said the international community must strengthen its commitment to arrest the flow of arms and violent people into West Africa.
He stated, “The fourth important aspect of global trust and solidarity is to secure the continent’s mineral rich areas from pilfering and conflict. Many such areas have become catacombs of misery and exploitation. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has suffered this for decades, despite the strong UN presence there. The world economy owes the DRC much but gives her very little.
“The mayhem visited on resource rich areas does not respect national boundaries. Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, CAR, the list grows.
“The problem also knocks Nigeria’s door. Foreign entities abetted by local criminals who aspire to be petty warlords have drafted thousands of people into servitude to illegally mine gold and other resources.
“Billions of dollars meant to improve the nation now fuel violent enterprises. If left unchecked, they will threaten peace and place national security at grave risk.”
Given the extent of injustice and high stakes involved, the Nigerian president stated that many Africans were asking whether the phenomenon was by accident or by design. He urged member nations to reply by working with ECOWAS to deter their firms and nationals from the 21st century pillage of the continent’s riches.
Touching on the subject of climate change, which he said severely impacted Nigeria and Africa, Tinubu stated that northern Nigeria was currently hounded by desert encroachment on its once arable land, while the south was pounded by the rising tide of coastal flooding and erosion.
He said, “In the middle, the rainy season brings floods that kill and displace multitudes. As I lament deaths at home, I also lament the grave loss of life in Morocco and Libya. The Nigerian people are with you.
“African nations will fight climate change but must do so on our own terms. To achieve the needed popular consensus, this campaign must accord with overall economic efforts.”
The president said Nigeria would build political consensus by highlighting remedial actions, which also promote economic good.
According to him, “Projects, such as, a Green Wall to stop desert encroachment, halting the destruction of our forests by mass production and distribution of gas burning stoves, and providing employment in local water management and irrigation projects are examples of efforts that equally advance both economic and climate change objectives.
“Continental efforts regarding climate change will register important victories if established economies were more forthcoming with public and private sector investment for Africa’s preferred initiatives.”
Although nature had been kind to Africa, giving abundant land, resources and creative people, the president said too often man had been unkind to his fellow man, stressing that the sad tendency has brought sustained hardship to Africa’s doorstep.