interviewBy Victoria Ojeme
Ambassador Sulaiman Dahiru is a retired diplomat who served Nigeria in many capacities, including being the Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Consul General in Karachi, Pakistan, and the Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan. He speaks on the significance of Nigeria's election into the United Nations Security Council.
How do you react to Nigeria's election into non-permanent membership of the U.N Security Council?
It is true that Nigeria was recently elected by the U.N General Assembly to be a member of the U.N Security Council on a two-year rotational non-permanent membership. Nigeria scored 186 votes from the 193 voting members of the General Assembly. This is certainly an overwhelming victory for Nigeria in spite of the futile attempt by the Gambia and Senegal to go against the endorsement of Nigeria by ECOWAS and the African Union (AU). The implication of the futile attempt by these two countries to challenge Nigeria is that even in our sub-regional organisation Nigeria cannot be sure of getting support of members. To me, this is plain mischievous and embarrassing. Yet, Nigeria bears the brunt of maintaining the ECOWAS secretariat in Abuja and also was to all flash points to settle any problem at great cost-financially, materially.
However, I am inclined to look at the issue of Nigeria's membership of the U.N Security Council from two angles. First, that Nigeria got elected is an eloquent testimony of the capacity of Nigerian diplomats who mounted a relentless campaign to get the support of the rest of the world. This supports my long-held view that professional job should be left to the professionals. Second, that the Gambia and Senegal fruitlessly tried to challenge Nigeria's endorsement goes to show that Nigeria is no longer the undisputed leader which it used to be. It is a mark of dwindling political profile of Nigeria even within the sub-region. It is also a warning to Nigeria that it will face unexpected fierce competition when the bigger issue of permanent membership of the Security Council eventually comes up. The good thing about Nigeria's non-permanent membership of the Security Council is that it has a competent and indefatigable permanent representative in New York, Professor Joy Ogwu, who will do Nigeria and Africa proud. She is vastly experienced in international affairs. What Nigeria should do in order to lighten the heavy burden of Professor Joy Ogwu is to tackle the chaotic and uninspiring domestic situation. Let there be no illusion about it, Nigeria is an elephant with clay feet and a big disappointment to the black race.
People talk about democratisation of the UNSC. How does this happen?
United Nations was formed at the end of the Second World War in 1945 with the mandate to ensure peace and security of the world. The forces that defeated Germany formed the Security Council and added China to make the P5. The others are U.S.A, France, Great Britain and Russia. These P5 countries decide what happens around the world. Each one of them can veto the decisions of not only the General Assembly but even fellow members of the Security Council. Africa, Latin America and the Far East are not permanent members of the Security Council and this means that their voices can only be heard during the U.N General Assembly or if they happen to be part of the U.N Security Council where the positions of their countries or regions are voiced out. There are ten-member non-permanent members.
Nigeria's voice can be heard globally on any issue before the U.N Security but that voice may not influence or change anything if the P5 are adamant on going ahead with their wish, no matter how wrongly viewed by the rest of the world. Therefore, Nigeria along with the rest of the world should not only mount a vigorous campaign for the democratisation of the Security Council but to change its composition as a result of the realities the world faces now. The United States should, in the foreseeable future, remain the leader it has been because of the massive size of its economy, undisputed military and technological strengths. China, an emerging giant and with its huge economy which is billed to overtake that of the United States of America within a decade and with its 1.3 billion population, it should naturally represent its own interest in the Security Council. Russia, with its third world economy remains in the Security Council, with the added responsibility of representing the interests of the former members of the U.S.S.R, Eastern Europe and the Caucasian. France and Great Britain have no business being in the Security Council as part of the P5. They have since lost their glory and aura, clinging only to the claim of being dominant colonial powers before. Both of them should be replaced by Germany currently the undisputed leader of Europe. Does it make sense that France and Great Britain are members of the P5 but rich and powerful countries like Germany, Japan, Brazil and India are not? Brazil's economy is larger than that of France or Great Britain and has a land mass that in huge. Nigerians may not know that Brazil is almost ten times the size of Nigeria.
It is my view that after democratisation and change of membership, the P5 should become P10 with the following countries as members and with veto power. The U.S.A, representing the Americas and the Caribbean Islands, Germany, representing Western Europe, Russia, representing the former U.S.S.R and Eastern Europe, China, Japan, representing Asia, Brazil, representing Latin America, Nigeria and South Africa, representing Africa and Egypt, representing the Middle East and the Arab world. These ten countries should constitute the new P10. Therefore, Argentina should stop its opposition to Brazil and Pakistan to India. India with 1.1 billion population and a booming economy and stable democracy is more than qualified with this set up.
Saudi Arabia was elected to non-permanent membership of the Security Council but a day later it withdrew its membership citing some reasons for doing. Is it that Saudi Arabia felt that position was too small to it?
I found Saudi Arabia's posture funny. First, it accepted its nomination by the regional group. Second, it contested the election and won. When it accepted the nomination and contested and won the election, was it not aware of the issue it raised? On the surface, the reason adduced by Saudi Arabia may appear unassailable. But a closer look will reveal a diabolical mischief. Everybody, who is not religiously or politically biased, knows that the Palestinian quagmire has lasted for so long because of the Western world, especially the United States of America which has become a tool in the hands of Israel. The Arabs themselves, who cannot speak with one voice, have failed the Palestinians. Israel, under arrogant Netanyahu, has spurned all efforts to find solution to the problem, even spurning Security Council resolutions. Israel has become law into itself and is contemptuous of the world opinion.
Saudi Arabia also raised the issue of the failure by the Security Council to solve Syria political imbroglio. The position of Saudi Arabia is hypocritical. All that it is after is regime change in Syria because it loathes the minority Alewite Shiite clique ruling over the majority Sunni population. But it is the same Saudi Arabia which sent its troops to crush the demonstration by the majority Shiite population of Bahrain against the minority Sunni ruling monarchy. Saudi Arabia wants to see the back of Bashar Al Assad in Syria but it is propping the tottering minority Sunni ruling family in Bahrain.
However, I agree with Saudi Arabi that the Security Council has become an ineffective body, pursuing their narrow selfish interest or looking the other way when some parts of the world are burning. The Security Council failed the Muslims of old Bosnia when they were being exterminated and it also failed the people of Rwanda during the genocide in that country. The Central Africa Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been on fire for so long but the will to frontally confront the problem is lacking. One can also talk about the recalcitrant attitude of Morocco towards the people of Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic, with the connivance of France, an ineligible member of the P5 in the present world. Therefore, Saudi Arabia is lambasting the attitude of the P5 in tackling the problems facing the world.
What is your position regarding the proliferation of light weapons and small arms, especially in the ECOWAS sub-region?
It is nearly worrying that there appears to be unhindered proliferation of arms and ammunition around ECOWAS or what you call light weapons and small arms. Concerned, the United Nations passed a resolution, condemning it. Member-states were enjoined to institute effective measures to control it. Regrettably, the ECOWAS is awash with these weapons which are daily smuggled in. The civil war in Libya must have greatly contributed. Even before the civil war in Libya, Colonel Gaddafi had trained and armed dissidents to take up against their countries. It happened in Chad, Niger, Liberia and Sierra-Leone. The issue is that these weapons are manufactured mostly outside Africa. These arms manufacturers are only interested in getting markets for their weapons and not concerned about the issue of morality. For example, how did Nigeria receive a disproportionate share of these weapons? It is through smuggling through our porous borders and by sea, despite the best efforts of the Nigerian Navy. Every country that wants to live in freedom and stability must make concerted efforts to control the smuggling of weapons whether light or heavy.