Monday Philips Ekpe writes that government must demonstrate prudence in its efforts to market the country

The power and possibilities of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) are not in doubt. It’s the epic gathering of the countries on the planet where issues affecting humanity are discussed, at the least. As a direct follow-up of the Second World War and one borne out of the need to keep the monsters of mass destruction in check, global peace remains its primary goal. Whether this self-given task has been adequately prosecuted over the nearly eight decades of its existence is another matter.

Anyways, UNGA has been a congregation of nations – strong, weak, progressive, retrogressive, repressive, developed, developing, underdeveloped, those advancing towards the conquest of existential limitations and those racing inexorably towards doom. Unequal, strange bedfellows, actually. It’s remarkable that these contradictions haven’t hindered the institution from being, arguably, the world’s hugest platform. The prospects for having international deals and turning points proceed from there haven’t also diminished, in spite of the obvious inequalities that have defined the relationships between individual countries for ages.   

The question of the desirability of Nigeria’s presence at the 78th UNGA, as in the previous editions, therefore, doesn’t arise. The theme makes it even more relevant: “Rebuilding Trust and Reigniting Global Solidarity: Accelerating Action on the 2030 Agenda and Its Sustainable Development Goals towards Peace, Prosperity, Progress and Sustainability for All.” Good President Bola Tinubu was on that august podium to address the world, like his predecessors, as leader of Africa’s most populated nation. His other position of Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was an additional tag on the shoulder. He took his turn well. His scanty physical audience last Tuesday in New York, the leanest for any Nigerian head of state on that stage if my memory serves me well, is open to conjectures. But that’s beside the point here.

The president made a compelling presentation and anchored it on an equally fitting conclusion. “Nigeria’s objectives accord with the guiding principles of this world body: peace, security, human rights and development,” he declared. “In fundamental ways, nature has been kind to Africa, giving abundant land, resources and creative, industrious people. Yet, man has too often been unkind to his fellow man and this sad tendency has brought sustained hardship to Africa’s doorstep. 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 beautiful, 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.” Urbane rhetoric that would have aided its own credibility if it had included a strong word for the continent’s sit-tight rulers and its many jaundiced democracies, factors that increasingly make military coups appealing, unfortunately.

Justifiable as that trip is, it would be difficult to ignore its yawning loopholes. Just look at the entourage’s roll-call: Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State, Uba Sani of Kaduna State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State, Hope Uzodimma of Imo State and Mohammed Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State, and also Chief of Staff to the President, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Ministers Yusuf Maitama Tuggar of Foreign Affairs, Wale Edun of Finance and coordination of the economy, Abubakar Badaru of Defence, Doris Uzoka-Anite of Industry Trade and Investment, Mohammed Pate of Health and Social Welfare, Dele Alake of Solid Minerals Development and Betta Edu of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. The National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu and Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and some other senior government functionaries are not left out. A crowd indeed.

As part of the information that should gladden the serially broken hearts of Nigerian citizens, they’re told of the participation of Tinubu and his team in top-level dialogues on the restructuring of the global financial architecture, funding for development, pandemic preparedness, prevention and proper response, universal health, and the UN Secretary General Climate Summit, most of which have direct and lasting implications for the country. Planned exclusive meetings between Tinubu and some leaders of other countries and global companies are in order but these reasons are not likely to persuade the people, many of whom have become wary of endless conferences that have no commensurate impact on the citizenry. 

The government should also spare Nigerians the excuse of seizing the opportunity to woo investors and strike business deals that could end their perennial predicaments. Why not put the entire cabinet on the plane since virtually all the ministries have valid dealings in one form or the other with the outside world? It won’t be easy to convince the people that the outing isn’t yet another jamboree or that estacodes and other perks are not the overriding motivations. For an administration that vowed not long ago to prune official delegations to programmes abroad, there can hardly be any validation for Nigeria’s contingent to the 2023 UNGA.

I can bet that most of the countries Nigeria and Africa look up to for what Tinubu calls friendship and partnership are not in the annual Assembly with any number of participants near that of Abuja. And those clearly more dynamic nations are not blind to the mindless institutional profligacy. It instantly puts a dent on the sincerity of purpose of a country that craves for help desperately. It’s worse for a nation sweating profusely and gasping for breath under the multiple yokes of massive unpaid loans, decrepit infrastructure, anemic investment profile and inexplicable capital flight. Besides, the high cost of governance is one fundamental hurdle on our path to true progress. Just when will we start rectifying this self-sabotaging practice? Unless the president brings back tangible and measurable outcomes from the United States, this year’s UNGA will be added to the record of doubtful diplomatic shuttles in four months since his inauguration. Yes, he returned from the recent G20 meeting in New Delhi, India with investment pledges worth $14billion. May they materialise soon. A Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed with Indorama to develop largescale gas utilisation industries in the country. Sadly, these commendable efforts have been overshadowed by the miscommunication that has trailed his stopover in the United Arab Emirates earlier in the month. His government announced to Nigerians that visa restrictions to UAE had been lifted and that Emirates and Etihad would resume their flights to Nigeria without conditionalities, only for the Emirati government to debunk the claims on CNN. Nigerians haven’t recovered from that spectacular disgrace.

Any further underachievement in these areas would compound an already painful situation. It’s an insult and a waste of energies for any president of Nigeria to constantly travel around in the name of looking for investors. If a quarter of former President Muhammadu Buhari’s numerous external trips had yielded the promised results, this country would have changed significantly. In the name of decency, decorum and discretion, let Mr. President be reminded that ours is one market that can’t be disregarded. Stay at home more and be a quarterback to the elected and appointed foreign-oriented agents of state.

Dr Ekpe is a member of THISDAY Editorial Board 


Government should spare Nigerians the excuse of seizing the opportunity to woo investors and strike business deals that could end their perennial predicaments. Why not put the entire cabinet on the plane since virtually all the ministries have valid dealings in one form or the other with the outside world?     

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