THE SEARCH FOR A UN SECURITY COUNCIL PERMANENT SEAT - A CASE FOR NIGERIA
Text of a Speech by His Excellency, Dr. Abdullahi Adamu (Sarkin Yakin Keffi & A'are Obateru of the Source), Executive Governor of Nasarawa State, Nigeria at the Public Presentation of a Book on President Olusegun Obasanjo at Accra - Ghana, Saturday, August 13, 2005.
Our gathering here is to honour a great son of Africa and leader of the largest black nation in the world, President Olusegun Obasanjo. The two events at this occasion, the lecture on Nigeria's quest for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council and the public presentation of the book, Obasanjo and the New Face of Nigeria's Foreign Policy, are really all about the celebration of Chief Obasanjo's place in contemporary African history and world affairs. The book showcases his foreign policy initiatives to reconstruct and burnish the battered foreign image of our country and restore its integrity and pride of place in the international community. It is a task in which he has been singularly successful. The lecture is about his struggle for an authentic voice for the black race in world affairs through the Security Council of the United Nations.
It is by design that this truly historic occasion is taking place here in Accra, Ghana. It is particularly gratifying that the president of the Republic of Ghana, Mr. John Kufuor is the chief host of this august gathering. Permit me to say a special thank you to him. His presence with us is a demonstration of the special and mutual love that Ghanaians and Nigerians have for one another. I believe his presence also reflects the special place that he and other African leaders have for Chief Obasanjo in their hearts. Nigeria and Ghana have a lot in common. The bond of brotherhood between the two nations is an old bond but it remains strong for all time. Ghanaians are well known for their warmth and hospitality. We have been thoroughly overwhelmed by this. We cannot thank them enough.
It is no mean feat for Green Forest Research and Communications Services Limited, and the author of the book being presented to the public, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, to have assembled this very august gathering for this event. I congratulate them.
Here, in the historic Ghanaian capital more than fifty years ago, the great Pan-Africanist, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the Ghanaian president of blessed memory, preached the gospel of pan-African unity and planted in the black race the seeds of black pride. In his time, the struggle of the African peoples was for independence from European colonial rule and self-identity. Dr. Nkrumah urged his fellow African leaders to first seek the political kingdom and all other things would be added unto them. Our nationalists down the length and breadth of Africa took up the call. Some fought in the bush; some fought at the negotiating table but in all cases, they won. That phase of our continental struggle is now over. The peoples of Africa have overcome. The last walls of colonialism have come down. Africa is free.
But Africa and the peoples of Africa face new struggles and new challenges. The challenges of illiteracy, health care delivery system, poor communications, unemployment, rural-urban drift and, of course, poverty, are enormous. The struggle for economic development and the challenges of restoring peace to several theatres of war, racial, ethnic and internecine conflicts on the continent are as critical to the African peoples as the struggle for independence. These monumental challenges are, to put it mildly, daunting. The famine in Niger Republic is killing tens of people and destroying their means of livelihood. It is the ugly face of the challenges that I am talking about. The fragile peace in the Sudan has more or less snapped with the death in a helicopter crash of the new vice-president, Dr. John Garang. The parties may, perish the thought, return to the killing fields in which over two million people have died in the last twenty years. That is the ugly face of the struggle to overcome our internal problems that I am talking about. Journalists are fond of saying that no news is good news. Bad news is good news to journalists. Africa is a continent of bad news. It is not something we should be proud of as Africans. Contemporary global developments put enormous pressures on African leaders and their people to give Africa a new face and a new image. We run from this challenge at the continued peril of Africa and the Africans.
At times like this, fate throws up a leader who becomes the rallying point for the people. Africa's independence struggle threw up such leaders as Dr. Nkrumah in Ghana, Herbert Macaulay in Nigeria, Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya and Dr. Nelson Mandela in South Africa, among other illustrious and dedicated sons of Africa. In our current struggle, Chief Obasanjo has emerged as Africa's rallying point. He is the voice of courage and of encouragement. He is the unmistakable voice of this new continental struggle. He, unquestionably, symbolises the new face of committed and focused African leadership in the new phase of Africa renaissance in which the light of modern development and technological advancement banishes the darkness of underdevelopment and continental retrogression and the fire of unity burns down the forces of disunity. The admission of two African countries as permanent members of the Security Council will be the icing on the cake of his foreign policy initiatives and the crowning glory of his determination to rescue Africa and the Africans from their long season of anomie. I can find no place more fitting than Accra, Ghana, to present to the world the man who rules one country but devotes himself to the service of every African, nay, every third world country. It is both right and proper for us to celebrate this uncommon African leader, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the first and current chairman of the African Union. We are privileged to participate in this event.
I have made the preceding comments in order to situate our discussion at this forum. My own assignment here is to speak on "The search for a United Nations Security Council Permanent Seat --- A Case for Nigeria." I readily accepted this important assignment for one very good reason. I am privileged to serve on the Presidential Committee on United Nations Reforms set up by President Obasanjo and headed by one of our former heads of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar. The presidential brief to the committee is to enlighten Nigerians on the imperatives of these reforms and why Nigeria is fully qualified to take its rightful seat as a permanent member of the Security Council. This is a good opportunity for me as a member of that committee to also try and enlighten our brothers and sisters in other African countries on the reforms and solicit their full support for our country's quest. Our country's quest is the quest of the entire black race in Africa and in the diaspora.
Late in 1944, as the killing fields of the Second World War were drenched in the blood of opposing military forces, representatives of 50 nations gathered in San Francisco in the United States of America to deliberate on a mechanism for bringing about and sustaining a peaceful world. For nine weeks, they toiled night and day in endless debates and negotiations to produce the World Security Charter which they signed on February 26 that year. The United Nations was born. President Harry Truman of the United States said the charter was "a solid structure upon which we can build a better world." The charter was a document of pious hope that the mind of man in which the germs of tyranny flourish and the plans of war are hatched would become a beautiful field in which the delicate flowers of peace and brotherhood grow.
That hope has brought together the 191 member nations of the United Nations from every continent and every land and clime. Nigeria joined the United Nations in 1960, shortly after its independence from British colonial rule on October 1 that year. Rich nations and poor nations; developed nations and developing nations are all equal in the General Assembly of the United Nations. No other world body approaches the reach and the influence of the United Nations. It is the greatest gathering of the peoples of the world, all united in their hope for world peace, justice and fairness.
The United Nations has not quite met the full aspirations of its founders. It has not ended wars and conflicts between and within nations. But no one can doubt its relevance in global politics and the conduct of international relations. It has been involved in the onerous task of forging and sustaining global peace and development in virtually every continent of the world. The various organs of the United Nations such as the UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDP, UNHCR, UNIDO, FAO, etc, have been actively involved in policies and programmes aimed at addressing and enhancing human living conditions throughout the world. Without the United Nations, relations between and among nations and peoples would be characterised by chaos, violence and destruction. Indeed, without the United Nations, the world would be a nastier and more brutish place to live in. Who knows, the world might have been convulsed in a third world war which, given the sophistication and the deadliness of weaponry, would have made the horrors and the killings in World War II look like an urban riot.
Given the circumstances of its birth, the central organ of the United Nations, the Security Council, was structured to reflect the influence of the super powers. Each of its five permanent members, namely, the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, has a veto power. To use a local parlance, the Security Council is really where it happens. No African country is a permanent member of the council. The simplistic explanation is that no African country was a super power when the council was structured. I can almost hear someone ask if an African country is a super power now. My answer is no. However, the concept of super power has become irrelevant in contemporary international politics. The lone super power is the United States of America. So, if we go on that basis, then only that country can remain a permanent member of the Security Council.
International politics have changed considerably in the last forty or fifty years, not least because the fields have been widened with the independence of African and numerous other third world countries from colonial rule. What was fair in international politics in 1945 is no longer fair in contemporary terms. The world has moved on since the end of the war and since the cold war between the Western and Eastern block countries ended nearly twenty years ago. The United Nations cannot ignore these changes or remain aloof to them. It must necessarily move with the times in order to continue to be relevant for all seasons. Its old structures can no longer serve its current needs.
The UN effected some reforms in 1965 by increasing the membership of its Security Council from 11 to 15. No change was made to the five-permanent-member structure, perhaps, because as at then, the super powers were still the super powers. The Berlin walls had not come down. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had not unravelled. Communism still believed it could defeat democracy. Socialism was still a credible alternative form of economic management to capitalism. The world was still divided rather neatly between the Western and the Eastern blocs with the non-aligned nations constituting themselves into swing support for one or the other group as circumstances dictated.
All these have changed in the forty years since the 1965 reforms. The time calls for some fundamental reforms in the United Nations Security Council in line with contemporary global developments. Military prowess or the possession of means and weapons of mass destruction can no longer be the sole determinant of the relevance of a nation to do its duty to the international community. Economic power has become even more relevant. We must not forget that military power was conceived as a means of protecting the economy of nations. Real national power was always in its economy, not in its guns and bombs.
In the past forty years, many countries have moved from third world status to first world status solely on the strength of their economic development. Many more are on the cusp of this development. These countries have earned the right to be authentic regional or bloc voices in their own right in a supra-national body such as the United Nations.
We, therefore, welcome the decision of the member nations of the UN to redress the historical imbalance in the UN Security Council. Part of the current UN reforms is the increase in the number of permanent members of the Security Council. Each region of the world has been allotted one or more permanent seats in the country. Africa has been allotted two permanent seats. This qualifies as a major restructuring in the Security Council. We welcome it. It is evidence of a conscious effort by the leaders of the free world to make the United Nations a democratic association of sovereign nations united by their common desire for a better world; a world in which the swords of belligerence and destruction would be turned into ploughshares.
The two seats allotted to Africa are being competed for by several African nations. Nigeria is competing for one of them. Why Nigeria? the question might as well be asked. It is said that in Nigeria we answer questions with questions. So, my answer is, why not Nigeria?
Nigeria seeks for a permanent seat in the Security Council as a matter of duty to Africans and the black race. My country does not run away from its responsibilities. It cannot run away from this one either. Nigeria has special qualifications for its permanent place in the Security Council. Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world. One out of every four Africans is a Nigerian. One out of every five blacks in the world is a Nigerian. The United Nations put the total population of the world at 6.1 billion in the year 2000. It estimates that 77 million people are added to the world population every year. In the last five years, therefore, 385 million more people have been added to the world population. Africa constitutes twelve per cent of the world population. But interestingly, twenty-five per cent of the world population is black. Based on the UN world population in the year 2000, there are a little over one and a half billion black people in the world. We must not view this as passive statistics. These are living human beings with their individual ambitions, hopes and aspirations. More importantly, they are people who desire that their voices be heard as a distinct racial group in world affairs.
Which African nation, I ask you, qualifies to be the authentic voice of these one and half billion black people? Nigeria.
My country lays strong historical claims to this position. Shortly after our independence, the then Prime Minister, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, enunciated the country's foreign policy in which he declared Africa as its centre piece. We are proud of our Afro-centric foreign policy because it is a policy aimed at protecting and promoting the interests of the entire black race in Africa and in the diaspora. Successive Nigerian leaders have faithfully adhered to this policy by words and by deeds.
We could cry over spilt milk and bemoan the fact that in its 50 years, the United Nations has not had a black nation as a permanent member of the Security Council. For 50 years the voice of the black race in world affairs has been muted at best. One quarter of the world population was denied the right to play an active role in how the world is governed and how nations relate to one another. Our task is not to try to put the spilt milk back into the bottle. Rather, our collective task as black people is to give the black race an authentic representation and voice in the Security Council. That is the positive way forward. That authentic representative is, without question, Nigeria.
The political history of Nigeria is the history of a people committed to what it considers to be the best for Africa and the black race. Nigeria attained independence in 1960. But its leaders knew that the independence of our country would be meaningless if other countries in Africa were not free. Nigeria could not afford to be a free island in the sea of other African countries in colonial chains. The country did not wait to be invited to support the United Nations to bring peace to what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire in the early sixties. It is a tribute to our country's commitment to the restoration of peace in that region that the late Brigadier (as he then was) J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, our first military ruler, was made commander of the UN forces in the Congo.
Nigeria has been in all the theatres of African conflict since then. Our over-riding desire has always been, and remains, peace and unity in and among African nations. Nigeria's role in the struggle against that unspeakable system of racial injustice called apartheid in South Africa was so comprehensive that it was numbered among the front lines states with Tanzania and other countries in the sub-region. No single African nation has done as much as Nigeria for Africa and the Africans. It was never for its own gain, it was always for continental benefits. Nigeria has more than paid its dues to Africa and the Africans. Its willingness to take on even more responsibilities as the authentic voice and representative of Africa and the black race as a permanent member of the Security Council is consistent with its belief that the time has come for Africa and the Africans to play a leadership rather than a subordinate role in world affairs.
Nigeria was a founding member of the defunct Organisation for African Unity, OAU and was its strongest pillar. The OAU served its purpose and when the leaders of Africa felt it was time to rest it and replace it with the African Union, AU, Nigeria again played a pivotal role in the intellectual formulation of the new union. Predictably, President Obasanjo was unanimously elected its first chairman. He was recently re-elected for an unprecedented second term. We can only say that the decision of his fellow African leaders is a loud acclaim of his leadership as an international statesman and a continental standing ovation for Nigeria.
Nigeria is a regional power in its own right. It is a potentially economic giant. With an estimated population of 130 million, Nigeria is easily the largest single market in Africa. It is the fifth largest oil producing country in the world. Current federal and state government efforts to revive its agriculture portend bright prospects for the country's capacity to become the food basket of Africa.
In recent years, parts of the West African sub-region faced internal political conflicts and crises. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire were the most affected countries. In each case, Nigeria rose up to its full responsibilities as their big brother through the auspices of the Economic Community of West Africa, ECOWAS. Even its bitterest critics would admit that if Nigeria had folded its arms, the affected countries in particular and the West African sub-region would still be convulsed in violence and mindless destruction of lives and property. Our country has been a stabilising force in the region. Nigeria has always answered the distress call of its brothers in distress because we know that when the bell of conflict tolls for one country, it tolls for every country.
We admit that our nation has itself witnessed periods of internal instability because of military interventions in our political administration. The majority of African countries had a similar experience. We look at that period of our history as our own forty years in the wilderness on our sure way to the Promised Land. We have been toughened by the experience. Countries go through different routes on their way to nationhood. We, therefore, have nothing to be ashamed of our past. But even during the military regime, our country did not turn deaf ears to the cries of other countries in distress. We did our duty to Africa, the black race and the world, just as we do today.
Our country returned to democratic rule six years ago. In only six years, we can see the tree of democracy in full flowering in the soil of democracy. Our country is more stable than ever before. It is, indeed, more stable than some of the older democracies in other regions of the world. We are proud of what our country has achieved so far as a young democracy. We have good reasons to believe that the future is bright for our country. We believe that our country has earned the right to be the authentic voice of the black race. Of all the countries known to have indicated interest in the permanent seat in the UN Security Council, including Egypt and South Africa, Nigeria is the only true black nation that can raise a purely black national flag. No one can deny Nigeria the right it has earned. That right is to take its rightful seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We cannot, and we must not, settle for anything less.
Nigeria has been a true, loyal and committed member of the United Nations. No member nation of the UN, save, perhaps India, comes close to Nigeria's outstanding record in participating in UN peace keeping operations around the world. In these operations, our country has made and continues to make valuable human and other sacrifices that other nations and peoples might be at peace with one another. In the words of our president, "for us, no sacrifice is too high to make for peace" anywhere in the world. Our country left its enviable mark on the peace keeping operations in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, the Congo, Somalia, Western Sahara, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is actively participating in the ongoing peace effort in the Dafur region of Sudan. Nigeria's participation in these peace missions has earned it international commendations and brought stability to many countries and regions around the world. Nigeria has consistently met all its financial obligations to the UN. In local parlance, it is a financial member of the world body. We do not view a permanent UN Security Council seat for Nigeria as a compensation for its UN support. We see it as a fair and just acknowledgement of our country's role in ensuring that the UN realises the objectives of its founding fathers and remains relevant for all times and to all the peoples of the world.
Thank you and may God continue to bless our efforts.