The overwhelming necessity of effecting a comprehensive reform of the United Nations (UN) in order to make it more responsive to the challenges of the 21st century cannot be underscored. Apart from making the world body to be proactive and convergence of global interests, such a reform has also become inevitable against the backdrop of new dynamics and realities of the post-Cold War order. These includes worrying developments that inform a new world disorder like the rapid rise in rampant nationalism (ethnic separatism, racism and xenophobia) and religious extremism and the attendant ghastly conflicts, the resurgence of terrorism, the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons know-how, the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SA & LWs), trans-national crimes (narcotic peddling, trade in contraband, currency counterfeiting, internet fraud, money laundering and trafficking in persons, endangered species, artifacts and antiquities). Other developments that represent a clear and present danger in the international system are unilateralism in international politics by certain major powers (America and Russia), inequities of globalisation and globalised economy, intense economic rivalries and trade wars that have replaced the ideological East-West tension and confrontation, polarisation between rich and poor countries and threatening monumental environmental catastrophe posed by climate change and the associated global warming.
In the light of the sobering reality of such threats and challenges in the embattled post-Cold War world, Dr Erskine Childers and Sir Brian Unquhart have argued, in their thought-provoking study entitled A World in Need of Leadership: Tomorrow’s United Nations, that: “Only statesmanship and leadership of the highest order can guide the international community through the current period of anger and upheaval and rebuild a more peaceable and just world”. Reassuringly enough, the UN administration, especially under the former charismatic and clear-sighted Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, just as the present scribe, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, has shown to be equal to the arduous task of stabilising the entropic international society that is marked by frequent chaos and disorder arising from sheer display of unbridled national interest and power politics. It would be recalled that part of the laudable measures Mr Annan had articulated in the grand proposal to reinvigorate the world body, as enunciated in a 62-page report entitled In Larger Freedom, is the enlargement of the membership of both the permanent and non-permanent seats of the Security Council – the only UN body responsible for international security issues and whose decisions are binding on member states. Instructively, the only five permanent members of the council, which enjoy the influence and privileges of the veto power, are the United States (US), Britain, France, Russia and China, known as the Permanent Five (P-5) or the Super Powers.
It is noteworthy that since the articulation of that agenda for the expansion of the membership of the UN Security Council several years ago, countries like Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt have put in a claim for a seat in the council. However, the justifications for Nigeria becoming a permanent
member of this most powerful body of the UN are buoyed by geo-political considerations and the country’s national and international credentials.
To begin with, Nigeria is the most populous black state on earth, with a population of more than 170 million people. In this regard, it is estimated that out of every five Africans in the world one is definitely a Nigerian. Considering this and the necessity for delicate balancing act in the UN Security Council, the country is worthy of representing the interests of the black race in the council.
Likely to embolden Nigeria in her claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council are her abundant natural and material resources. For example, the country is the sixth largest producer of crude oil in the world, which, for now, is the most prized and catalysed part of the global economy and one of the indices of measuring international power, hence her major role in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) – an organisation which when it sneezes the whole world catches cold, as demonstrated during the energy crisis sparked by the Arab-Israeli war of 1973.
At the international level, the exploits of Nigeria, which should be a crucial factor in her bid for a permanent seat of the UN Security Council, could be observed from her pan-African nudging and commitments. Regarding this, it should be noted that successive political regimes in the country, from the administration of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa through that of General Murtala Mohammed/General Olusegun Obasanjo to the present government of President Muhammadu Buhari, have made pan-African solidarity and cooperation an unrenounceable goal. This was more explicit in the period between 1960s and 1980s, the era seen as the acme of the struggles for emancipation of states on the continent from colonialism. During that period, Nigeria played her role as a “Big Brother” by giving both moral and material support to guerilla movements fighting for national independence in Guinea-Bissau/ Cape Verde, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and Namibia.
The central role of Nigeria in liberation struggles in Africa could also be seen in her implacable opposition to the inhuman white minority regime in South Africa, which she helped wrestle to the ground. For example, the ferocious campaign of the administration of Prime Minister Balewa in the 1960s resulted in the Commonwealth being prevailed to isolate the racist regime. Besides funding the Organisation of African Union (OAU) Liberation Committee, Nigeria was consecutively given the chance to chair the UN Committee on apartheid from the 1970s until 1994 when the committee was dissolved following the emergence of majority rule in South Africa. This is not to gloss over the inclusion of the country in the hall of fame of the frontline states that stood by Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa in
their darkest hours of liberation struggles, regardless of the fact that she does not have any contiguous boundary with the southern African region.
Participation in international peace-keeping is another crucial area from which Nigeria’s bid for the permanent seat of the action- packed UN Secretary Council should be considered. Being one of the broadly constituted conflict-resolution mechanisms of the world body, the country has played on indomitable role in this regard in different parts of the world, as seen in her contribution of troops to the UN peace-keeping forces in former flashpoints like Congo (between 1960 and 1964), Lebanon, Cambodia, Namibia, Yugoslavia and India’s administered Kashmir. In recognition of her participation in more than 28 peace-keeping operations around the world, Nigeria, which is second to India in contribution of troops to the UN Blue Helmets, was given the opportunity to head the Peace-keeping Committee of the world body for a decade.
In West Africa, Nigeria has not been slow and parsimonious in responding to conflicts that could destabilise the region and in the search for enduring peace and stability there has paid the heavy price with terrible loss of men and materials. For example, in the face of the weakness and inaction of the defunct OAU, the country single-handedly set up ECOMOG, which intervened and restored peace in the 1990s in strife-torn Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, without waiting for the bureaucracy and protocol of the UN forces. On this score, it is estimated, in some quarters, that the universally acclaimed peace enforcement operations of Nigeria in Liberia and Sierra Leone cost her over $14billion, while she lost up to 1000 soldiers in the operations. The impact of the country had also been felt in Cote d’Ivoire, where she assisted foreign powers like France to stop the carnage and suffering unleashed by the bloody sectarian conflict that erupted there in 2002. This is not to mention Nigeria’s pivotal role in reversing military coup de’tat in West African countries like Sao Tome and Principe and Burkina Faso.
In keeping with her unflagging commitment to the search for international peace and security, Nigeria has thrown her weight behind the international disarmament and arms control regimes. In this connection, the country is irrevocably committed to the elimination of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons – seen as weapons of mass destruction (WMD). To this end, Nigeria is a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968, the Biological Weapon Convention (BWC) of 1972, the Chemical Weapon Convention (CWC) of 1989 and the Pelindaba Treaty on Nuclear Free Zone in Africa initiated by the OAU in the 1980s. The country has also identified with various international regimes to stem the tide of illicit flow of small arms and light weapons. In this regard, Nigeria is a leading light in the adoption of the Code of Conduct of ECOWAS Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light Weapons (1999) and the OAU’s Bamako Declaration on Developing an African Common Position on Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons (2000).
– Okechukwu Emeh, Jr
(To be concluded tomorrow)
- Emeh, a social researcher, wrote in from Wuse 2, Abuja