French President, Emmanuel Macron, yesterday bluntly said his country cannot help Nigeria and Africa solve the problem of insecurity but would intervene, especially, in the fight against terrorism.
Macron who visited President Muhammadu Buhari in the State House, Abuja, encouraged the Nigerian president and other African leaders to provide enabling economic and political environments for young people.
The French president, who stated this while answering questions on what assistance France could render to Nigeria over the violence being unleashed on citizens by herdsmen, said even though France would intervene in some of the challenges facing African countries especially in the war against terrorism, it is not the responsibility of his country to solve African problems.
According to him, it is very important that African countries organise themselves in the fight against terrorism and get rid of Islamic jihad.
He said: "First of all, I think the main plan is an African plan and France is not the one to solve or fix African situations. So, what we want to do is that we will intervene and make our presence in Africa and Sahel to fight against terrorism especially in Mali and in the region. And we will stay as long as it is requested by our friends especially Mali.
"We discussed yesterday (Monday) about this issue. But what is important to me is how the different African governments organise themselves to fight against terrorism and get rid of these people and especially jihadism.
"That's is why I do accompany and promote the G5/Sahel Initiatives, and I think as far as we are organised, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon are very important against Boko Haram," he said.
Macron also said it was imperative for African leaders to know the reason young people join different terrorist groups and put machinery in place to address it.
"Now, we have better understanding ISIS, why many people are convinced to join these jihadists and these terrorists. That was what we discussed and this is the second part of your question, because sometimes, it is economic and ethnic crisis. And that is why it is very important to build not just the security approach but the stabilisation approach at the same time, to provide new opportunities to these people and convoy two massages.
"Your governments will take care of you. I mean provide security and secondly, your governments can provide opportunities for you. And the best support is not to join crazy people and buy a bunch of guns and do crazy things. It is not opportunity to have any more opportunities. I think is very important.
"That is why I want to accompany different governments and leaders whose main objective is precisely to provide economic projects. I would say inclusive economic and cultural projects, where you provide the way for your young people to get education, jobs as well as to be proud of what you are. I think its extremely important.
"Because in a certain way, what we are experiencing today in Europe is also threatened by terrorism. That is moral crisis. That is cultural crisis. So, not just the issue about security, that for me, is the way to proceed," he said.
In his briefing, Buhari said they discussed issues bordering on security in the Sahel and thanked France for its support in the fight against terrorism.
Meanwhile, President Macron has explained the rationale behind his decision to visit the African Shrine in Lagos last night, describing it as an "iconic place for African people and culture."
The French president disclosed that having worked in Nigeria for about 15 years ago, his return to the country this time as a president which he never imagined at that time, was an emotional come-back for him.
According to him, this visit was a good opportunity to return to the African Shrine, noting that apart from the personal pleasure derivable from it, the African Shrine showcases the importance of African culture.
He said he had fond memories of African Shrine. According to him, Fela and his sons, Femi and Seun, are famous names not only in France but also in the entire Europe.
Macron said: "First, because I wanted to find a good occasion to come back there, I know the place and I have some memories. I have to confess that at a time that there will be no president around, I hope I will not spoil the party.
"First, I think that it is such an iconic place for a lot of African people and African culture. And I think very often, when you speak of the African culture in Europe, those who are successful in Europe and in France, which is different most of the times are not dramatically very famous in Nigeria or in Africa. And there is a bias because you know people are absolutely not the same.
"I mean Fela, Femi, Seun Kuti are obviously very famous in France and Europe, I mean they are big successes but the Shrine is a cultural hub, an iconic hub and it is very important for me, first on a personal level, and that is why I want to say with a lot of humility that I recognise the importance of this place. I recognise the place of culture in this current environment."
Meanwhile, in Lagos last night, Macron challenged African leaders to change the negative image of the continent by providing a new narrative.
This, he said, is the only way the continent can move forward.
"We have to build together a new narrative that is not based on what is important to Europe but what is important for Africa. How the continent want to import their culture," he said.
The French president however, pointed out that to achieve this, Africans must first of all reconcile with their past.
He added that the history of Africa is a complicated one because of the image projected outside.
While not totally agreeing that the image is always negative, he however said that it was possible to correct that image.
"Some people say Nigeria is unique, some other people say it's a place of terrorism. The two messages are true at the same time. Africa is a young continent and I believe it is possible to change. All we need is to let African people speak about Africa. You always use a biased approach to tell your story. What we need is your generation of artists, journalists, civil servants to speak and explain about Africa. This is the way to change and make a new Africa. European leaders cannot lead Africa. Africans have to build their own future here."
The president who has a history with the continent, said he has a different view from other European leaders because he respects the zeal of African youths, especially Nigerian youths
He lauded the Kutis for their commitment in promoting the Nigerian culture through the activities in the shrine.
He, however, encouraged Nigerian youths to be active participants in the politics of the country.
As part of his contribution to rewriting the narrative of Africa, Macron announced the Season of African Cultures 2020, a series of events that will promote the African culture, from arts to entertainment.
He said the event would be financed and promoted by African leaders and businesses.
During his official visit, the president was given a tour of the shrine.
He is the first sitting France President to visit the Shrine.
Responding to questions from television personality, Keturah King, Macron said Europeans leaders should dictate to Africans how to run their affairs, rather he envisaged a situation where African leaders take fresh initiatives to improve the living condition of their people.
According to him two-third of the population in Africa are under 25 years and did not witness colonisation. He challenged African youths in the creative industry, media and civil society to tell the world about their African experience.
Describing the New African Shrine as an iconic centre for the propagation of African culture, he confessed that he had no problem accepting the invitation from Trace Television to an evening of African cultural showcase at the Shrine because it was not in his place to choose where to go or what to see in Africa.
Macron also emphasised that Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, creator of the Afrobeat genre of music who built the original African Shrine, was not just a musician, but a politician and rights campaigner whose message was still relevant today.
Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode described the French President as an inspiration to African youths, saying that Macron was welcome to enjoy the famed hospitality of the Shrine.
He also noted that the spirit and energy in Lagos was not different from what was obtainable on the streets of Paris.