Wth Uche Nnadozie
It should be “take-off grant” to be fair. But let’s leave it at charge. The charge can mean several things; truth is told I mean several things. We have been here before. Yet there is nothing like a new mandate, a fresh start, and a second chance. People treat second chances differently; after all, we are all different like our finger prints. See in international relations or better put foreign policy analysis, the character of the head of state is the most important factor that determines what constitutes foreign policy objectives. The same way it determines what is most critical. We can see it in America, their President, Donald Trump thinks differently from everybody else. In fact a lot of the time, his foreign policy choices are spur of the moment decisions or probably products of his years of thinking. But as commander-in-chief, whatever he says he wants to do must be carried out
I will like to see President Muhammadu Buhari’s foreign policy leaning in a more ordered manner. Yes there are glimpses of them but it will be important if these could be reduced to actionable timelines. His
profound commitment to the Lake Chad re charge is commendable. This commitment has since rallied many world leaders and organizations to begin to think towards assisting in resolving the existential crisis brewing there. Apart from terrorism as represented by Boko Haram, there are other issues. The less economic buoyancy, the place suffers and creates many poor men and women who become willing tools for Boko Haram’s psychological warfare and physical savagery. The shrinking of the lake also means that many have lost their livelihoods over time thereby making way for other kinds of people to occupy including Boko Haram informants and fighters. Also it means that migration, displacement and IDPs will grow.
Also the president is hosting a security summit under the auspices of ECOWAS which he chairs. The security summit will attempt to find sub regional solutions to emerging security threats like herder/farmer clashes, cattle rustling, cross border banditry especially because of illegal mining, kidnapping, armed robbery and terrorism. Recent arrests of syndicates of arms smugglers bear testimony to clear and present danger. Free movement within ECOWAS simply calls for more vigilance. Times have changed but it appears the sub regional body and member states have not taken steps to stem cross border terrorism and banditry. There has to be a better and well coordinated policing system that forestalls the kind of insecurity of the 21st century. These are laudable foreign policy initiatives by President Buhari.
There is a dangerous web of arms smugglers around West Africa that needs to be disorganized in a faster, planned and detailed manner. This danger is even worse when you consider the economic implications. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote alluded to this last week when he spoke at Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN organized event on business. Dangote was direct in describing Benin Republic as a dangerous neighbor and stated that no country can make progress with such a neighbor. I can say this is true. I had once exposed on this page how rice companies from Pakistan, China, Vietnam, Thailand and India have made Benin Republic their centre of operation. They even have the effrontery to attend exhibitions in Nigeria to sell their poisoned chalice. They set up shops in Benin to simply sell smuggled rice to Nigeria through our equally porous borders. This has not helped rice farmers one bit. But it is not only Benin Republic; there is Togo, Niger and Chad too. There is too much smuggling going on our borders with these countries or through other bordering countries. Its like a conspiracy of sorts. It is also through these borders that trans-national crimes occur. Now it is easy to steal cars in Nigeria, move them to Cotonou and bring them back to Nigeria. This is unacceptable.
I strongly recommend that part of the domestic policy that will affect our foreign policy going forward in Buhari’s second term is the establishment of a Border Patrol. This agency should be sourced from DSS, Army, Navy, Airforce, Police, Immigration, Custom and Civil Defence. The officials of the agency must be trained in the functions and be capable to do a combined function of all these agencies. They should be patriots and better paid. Then we should take other actions including building moats or burrows at identified smuggling points.
The border patrol must have helicopters, boats, motor cycles, SUVs, drones, surveillance cameras and any other equipment that will aide their work including arms and ammunition. We have to get serious. We have to identify Nigerians and make a distinction of them rather than the free lunch we currently serve where people from any part of West Africa stroll into the country and blend in. it is dangerous we need to stop.
Therefore, we need a strong minister of Foreign Affairs; a minister that can bark and bite. A minster that will put fire on the president’s fine foreign objective; we can’t simply travel the road we just returned from-the road that Geoffrey Onyeama led. No! That road is too laid back. We need a minister that recognizes that we are Nigeria, big brother yes, but a brother that needs to take care of his own wife and children first. That is his primary responsibility. A minister that recognizes that we are dying slowly because of our oversized self-worth. We need to shake up West Africa in a way that makes other countries wake up to their responsibilities to their citizens too. We will lead the way, but everyone must contribute.