Fellow Nigerians, by the time you would be reading this, our president, Muhammadu Buhari, would have been one day old in the state that prides itself for freedom, the United States of America together with a long list of delegates whose expenses would cost tax-payers some N 2.2 billion on a 4-day official visit which according to the statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Femi Adesina is expected to intensify and strengthen bilateral and International cooperation against Terrorism in Nigeria and West Africa.
According to the statement , the president will meet with the United States Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, General Martin Dempsey and the Secretary of State, John Kerry and the US Congressional Committee on Foreign Relations will also meet with Buhari to discuss political ties with the US and Nigeria.
Our “Supreme Leader” is also expected to address the black caucus in the US House of Representatives with the over three football team size of the delegation as well. Buhari, according to the statement, will also address the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC to discuss investment in the Economy. Before the Road Show comes to an end, the former brass hat will also have the privilege to meet with his colleagues at the American War College, Class of 1980 and will be due back to the country on Thursday, the 23rd of July, ceteris paribus.
Ever since the much publicized trip became public knowledge, it has become a cause cele’bre as expected, and pundits have been evenly divided in questioning the desirability or otherwise of the trip. I happen to be one of those who think this trip at the end of the day would not be worth the effort put into it and have since written it off and have accordingly dedicated this column to discussing why we think so.
Apart from the practice of Nigerian presidents quickly arranging a trip to the City of Liberty immediately after they are inaugurated to discuss exactly the same issues discussed by their predecessors almost becoming a norm here, the energy and preparation expended into those trips before they are made, the expectations of a spontaneous effect on the Nation and the hype that go with it, begs wonder. It is as though, failure of any Nigerian president to visit America within three months of inauguration will warrant sanction from the Americans.
Late president Umar Musa Yar’Adua and his successor, the former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan recall, embarked on similar visits with high hopes after being inaugurated as presidents. They preached reforms, adherence to Rule of Law and all the other regulars that you can surmise. They came back with darling promises from their American friends most of which were observed in the breach and were soon forgotten about, save for the pictures taken on such visits and the souvenirs that changed hands.
In the same manner, I have not the slightest strain of doubt that we would come back from this particular visit as though we never embarked on same. I have harped against this trip from the first day I got wind of it on my Face book page, calling it what I see it to be, and which it is: an exercise in luxury with no vistas for even the slightest cubit of improvement on the way we live here but my admonitions were rebuffed as many respondents came along with their ethnic bias and saw me as one who would never see anything good in the life of this administration, calling me so many unprintable names in the process. While they are entitled to their opinion, it still doesn’t change a thing about the truth told.
What in God’s name would a visit to Obama, Kerry, Biden and an American Congress engrossed in the Iran-Nuclear deal bring to this nation? Why are we naturally a people who love to live in perpetual denial and wallowing in unnecessary grandeur. Is the key to Nigeria’s Eldorado lost in the shores of America? What makes us think America has our interest at heart? Why must we always engage in this mockery of ourselves and a public show of ineptness over the very problems that engulf us?
Did we not at a time invite the whole world at an Economic Forum in our state capital where the leading captains of industries, policy makers, and Economic avatars across the world had time to discuss our Market and the way to nudge it further? What more “bilateral trade” shall we in all honesty be discussing with America that is going to be different with what we have now or that will supersede what transpired at the Economic Forum?
Have we not with our own hands locked our Economic potentials or why have we not unbundled the Agricultural sector to make it viable in accordance with international standards? Must we wait for Godot before we tap into our huge solid minerals potentials? What have we done to our polytechnics and other universities of technology so that they can produce graduates who can produce the basic things we need to re-write our Balance of Payment deficits through reduced importation? Can we conveniently say that our polytechnics are churning out graduates who are skilled in the production of radio sets, televisions, remote controllers, pressing irons, electric bulbs and other hardware which we look up to the outside world for their supply. What steps are we taking to move from being a consumerist nation to a nation that produces enough for its own consumption and yet has surplus for foreign exchange?
Can we not produce all the rice, palmoil, etc we need here? Do we not have the agricultural capacity for them? Why must we import them at the expense of our GDP? What about the moribund textile industries? Has nature suddenly robbed us of our capacity to produce cotton? Or are we just so inept on to how to collect and process them in the factories? Can’t we revive the textile industries? What about our oil? When God bequeathed us with huge oil deposits at the base of this country, was their also an implied condition that you must however, not refine this oil here? What manner of country exports its own crude, and then imports the finished product again? Can there be a better way to describe stupidity?
These are the issues that we should address. They are the wedges holding us back. They are the spanners thrown to our work. They are the inhibitors to our growth and until we sit down to address them holistically, one thousand trips to Obama and his America would be as good as treating the symptoms of a cancerous ailment and giving a blind eye to the causes. It is as good as postponing the dooms day. And who said, if we must address them, it must be before the Americans anyway?
On the issue of insecurity in Nigeria which I know would also be a front burner issue as it was during the Jonathan visit, there is nothing this charade will come back home with in terms of stemming the wave of terror in so far as American boots and intelligence will not be on ground here. Abubakar Shekau and his dangerous army would not just lower their arms and embrace peace simply because we have gone to America for advice on how to annihilate them. To think so, will be as good as living in a Fool’s paradise.
Of what use is the State Secret Service, the equivalent of the FBI in the US if they cannot gather adequate intel to thwart terrorist plans before they are hatched? If the large size of our Military and para-military heavily involved in this war cannot co-operate among themselves to weed out Boko Haram, then let us be prepared to live with it for longer time as America can do nothing about it. History has not recorded where America helped to weed out home-grown terrorism, which is the kind we are up against. Short of assuring and re-assuring us of Intelligence sharing, satellite surveillance and all the other security terms used to convince us of their support, a realistic mind would know that America has more than enough on its hands and would soon go back to solving her own numerous problems. Or is Self-Preservation no longer the first law of nature? Those who know America, know much that she does not go where she does not benefit.
Home grown terrorism and the antidote, lie within and not without. We understand the etiology of this war more than America does, and the solution accordingly, also rests with us and not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which is Obama’s Current address.
The best that could come out of this luxurious ride, is a possible pledge of financial assistance to Baba and his 32-man squad to help in the procurement of military hardware and also to assist in the care and protection of the increasing number of refugees of war. No more, no less. Believe otherwise at your own delusion. What is more, while America may be so magnanimous as to part with a couple million dollars to alleviate our plight, they would not also come down here to oversee how we manage the funds. So at the end of the day, the ball still sits in our own court, as our morality and dignity is still brought to test on how we utilize these funds.
In sum, we do not disprove of diplomacy at any length we must warn. In fact we are aware of the positive consequence to nations. Writing on Diplomacy, International Relations expert─Hans Morgenthau wrote, “Of all the factors that make up for the power of a nation, the most important, however unstable is the quality of diplomacy. It is one of the most lethal weapons a nation can possess. Weak diplomacy on the other hand, can thrust a nation into crises”.
But we know that this trip is not one based on strengthening diplomatic ties as though we have had a frosty relationship with the Americans. Therefore, the argument of building diplomacy cannot fly. We all know that this trip is one of plea. In other words, we are literally going cap in hand to a clime we have uncannily come to believe the solution to all our problems lay.
The United States we like to court, was built into whatever it is today by the Americans, Lee Kwan Yeu, the Singaporean revolutionary leader, looked inwards into a state shortchanged by nature before he was able to transform it into what it is today through discipline. The Gandhi thought Indians the need to build the India they wanted if India would ever be a force in global affairs. Through these uncommon acts of discipline, these nations have been able to distinguish themselves. By syllogism, by the time we have learnt to discipline ourselves, we would rather court the attention of the world and if we would have to go into diplomatic talks, we would be doing so with a high bargaining power and not groveling or wallowing in this present state of sycophancy; the type that subsists between master and servant at the feet of our American overlords.
If a nation is weak and is unprepared and undisciplined to tackle her problems within, constantly believing they lay in another man’s land, it would continue to be a laughing stock with her integrity mortgaged and not even a thousand trip to the tombs of Lee Kwan Yeu, Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela combined, would take it an inch away from its plague.
In sum, we have called this trip, like the ones before it what they are: An exercise in futility, a (mis)adventure in the wrong direction, an unnecessary luxury and a public show for the umpteenth time of our cluelessness and ineptness on the subject of leadership.
We shall come back God’s willing to
find the Naira still at a freefall.
The writer is a Lawyer and a Public Affairs analyst. He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org