When a nation cuts its nose to spite its face
By John Eche
Nigeria is hurting ECOWAS very badly and it plainly does not make sense.
As a founding member and indeed one of the lead promoters of the initiative to set-up the sub-regional body in May, 1975, many of us are wondering what is going on.
The ECOWAS area has a total population of 340million people. Half of that number are Nigerians.
The GDP of the ECOWAS area is put at a little over $600billion. Almost 80 percent of that is Nigerian.
The ECOWAS Secretariat is headquartered in Abuja and indeed a sizeable chunk of member-state contributions is borne by Nigeria.
So why would this unequivocal sub-regional giant be contributing to undermine Community institutions like the ECOWAS Court that it had helped inaugurate simply because that court gave rulings that it did not consider acceptable? Why would it be boycotting its own party as represented by its absence at the latest summit of the group over the permission granted to the Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu to address the session?
And it was indeed a most auspicious meeting as it was one to, among other things, decide on who succeeds Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the helm of the regional organisation
Many times, Nigerians grumble that Africans do not give the nation credit for its massive support to helping its brothers. But is it more a case of bad politics? Could Nigeria not have lobbied backstage to revoke the permission rather than now make a public show of its political and diplomatic incoherence? Are there no better ways to get things done? And anyways, is there national consensus in-country to give Israel the cold shoulder? Over what? And to whose benefit? Is this the new way in which public and foreign policy are being formulated and executed within the country?
And if no one has told the slumbering giant to its face, does it not know that the entry of Morocco and Tunisia into the ECOWAS arena is a direct indictment of its glaring incapacity over the years to put its house in order and become the real and active economic, industrial and manufacturing powerhouse that its size and endowments have naturally thrust on it? Because it has failed so miserably in this wise, first the Southern Africans, and now the North Africans are coming to fish freely in its backwaters? This is not a case for territorial defensiveness or an attempt to shut out other fellow African competitors, but bumbling Nigeria has to be told the truth: grow up, big boy!
In a sense for example, Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, and outgoing Chairperson of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), owes her emergence as leader of the nation and sub-region to Nigeria which stepped in forcefully to lead a West African and global rally to prevent the disintegration of the former American colony. But at the 51st Ordinary Session of the regional organisation, ostensibly Sirleaf’s finest hour, before taking a bow from the position and also her exit from mainstream liberian politics on account of the forthcoming presidential elections in that country at the close of the year and which she is technically disqualified from standing for, Nigeria was not to be found at the session which was held on 4 June 2017, in Monrovia, Liberia.
Aside the election of the new Chair of their Authority, the West African leaders also examines several very important issues, including Morocco’s application to join ECOWAS, Tunisia’s observer status request and a new Association Agreement between the returnee West African state, Mauritania and the Community.
The Monrovia Summit also marked the signing of the Dakar-Abidjan Corridor Treaty, and the laying of the first stone for a most ambitious regional electricity project, which covers Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, in this first instance.
It was also the first summit that new Gambian leader, Adama Barrow, which Nigeria did a lot to help come to power, attended, even as it equally is the last summit before the critical January flagging off of the All-Africa Passport regime, which is building on the already existing ECOWAS Common Passport Scheme.
So did Nigeria throw all of this away simply because some within the country do not feel comfortable with the fact that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahou, was also to address the participants? Curiously, the last time we checked, Nigeria still has bilateral and consular relations with the State of Israel even as no organ of the Nigerian government has publicly complained of any grouse with the Zionist state. So why is the country now shooting itself in the foot on all fronts?
ECOWAS President, Marcel Alain de Souza