For Nigeria, a New Day Beckons [opinion] (allAfrica.com)

It is yet the beginning, Nigeria has found its voice once again in international diplomacy even as Nigerians have also rediscovered their pride and the character traits that separate and underscore the Nigerian spirit – the peculiar Nigerian psychographic – boisterous, confident and adventurous.

The seizure of Nigeria’s $9.3 million dollar in a private jet, ostensibly meant for the procurement of arms for the Nigerian military by South African authorities, landmarked Nigeria’s hitting the nadir in the failure of its foreign relations and policy.

The seizure, at that time, spoke to the unraveling of the hitherto pride of the greatest in Africa, Nigeria! Old friends like the United States of America and all other member countries of the economic super powers in the G7 merely maintained a perfunctory relationship with Nigeria, tolerating the country as a pariah; none was ready to come to its aid despite the horrendous criminality of the Boko Haram sect within its borders.

It was not as if the U.S. had not made any effort at helping out during the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, it had, indeed, sent support troops to help Nigeria in intelligence gathering and the use of technology in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorism. But no sooner had the Americans landed than they screamed sabotage, alleging that their efforts in the fight were being thwarted by elements within the Nigerian forces. Soon after, the American support troops exited the country.

It seems that after that, the gates closed round about Nigeria. No country of substance in the west was willing to supply it (Nigeria) with the needed arms, even South Africa, its African neighbour, treated Nigeria like a leper, one reason the Nigerian government in 2014 had to stealthily get into South Africa with raw cash in dollar with obvious intent at smuggling out arms back to Nigeria.

That was the height. Around the world, Nigerians had become ‘leprous,’ treated with disdain and disrespect at entry points into other countries. A proud people, reduced to objects of ridicule, even the President of Zimbabwe, Mr. Robert Mugabe, a noxious personality by civil standards, publicly derided Nigeria as a country where nothing gets done without someone putting hand into the pocket.

Beyond Mugabe’s balefulness in describing Nigeria of the Jonathan era, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, a country in the second cadre of economic and military ranking of countries in Africa, further made Nigeria an object of derision when, on the proposal of Nigeria helping to secure his country (Uganda) by the United Nations, Museveni mocked the Nigerian military over its failure to contain the extremist sect, Boko Haram, saying he would be prepared to ‘hang’ than surrender his country’s security to foreigners like Nigeria.

It was that bad.

Enter Muhammadu Buhari. Even before his swearing-in on May 29, Nigeria had started experiencing a resurgence of warm heartedness to it by countries around the world, the G7 countries had invited the then President-elect to their usually closed doors meeting where they assured him of their material support. Before that meeting, Buhari had laid the template of the reverence with which Nigeria would soon be treated by countries when he dispatched former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar to South Africa to lobby the government of President Jacob Zuma to support the candidature of Nigeria’s Akinwunmi Adesina for the office of President of the African Development Bank. Adesina is today the President of AfDB, a strong indicator of the influence of Buhari.

The South African authorities would go on to affirm its confidence and respect in the person of Buhari when the country made a public commitment to return the earlier seized $9.3 million to Nigeria once Buhari officially assumes office. That brotherly and trust inspired commitment have since been consummated by South Africa.

Soon after his inauguration, the United States of America officially extended its hands of friendship to Nigeria when it invited President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) to an all expense-taken care of visit, the second of such in the history of Nigeria since independence in 1960.

Barack Obama, President of the United States, overextended himself in the hospitality availed PMB during that visit and was effusive in pouring encomiums on Nigeria’s President, publicly acknowledging that the Nigerian President is a man of integrity, a strong referral for an African leader coming from an American President.

A major take away from that visit was a commitment to arms supply. This was initially stalled by the Leahy Act. The Leahy Act is a Human Rights law which prevents the US State Department and the Department of Defence from selling arms and ammunition to countries whose military are believed to have committed brazen acts of Human Rights violation.

In review of Nigeria’s situation, obviously motivated by the Buhari personae, the US soon waved the implication of the Leahy Act and gave Nigeria a clean bill of health on the so called human rights violations, an apparent huge achievement in the circumstance, shaming some individuals that had noised the failure of Buhari’s trip to the United States of America.

In West Africa, Nigeria is back as the unchallenged leader of the sub-region. In the first few days of his government, Buhari embarked on a shuttle diplomacy that went further to establish the sort of Nigeria in the making under his Presidency. In the immediate, the President re-facilitated the Multinational Joint Task Force of countries sharing same border with Nigeria in furtherance of the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents. These countries are Cameroun, Niger, Chad and Benin Republic. Buhari brought his influence to bear when he insisted the command of the Task Force be handed to Nigeria. Major General Tukur Yusuf Buratai was thereby appointed the force commander, taking over from Nigerien former Commander of the Task Force, Major General Iliya Abba.

On the continent, Buhari was merely two weeks in office when he was invited to chair the Peace and Security Council meeting of the 25th Summit of the African Union, as always the South African President, Zuma, used that opportunity to warm up to the Nigerian President when he famously hosted Buhari at a Private dinner after the Summit, the only African President so treated.

It is yet the beginning, Nigeria has found its voice once again in international diplomacy even as Nigerians have also rediscovered their pride and the character traits that separate and underscore the Nigerian spirit – the peculiar Nigerian psychographic – boisterous, confident and adventurous.

Niyi Akinsiju a Public Affairs Analyst writes from Lagos.

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