President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to take the flak for his frequent foreign trips. Since he became Nigeria’s president in May 2015, Buhari has visited no fewer than 18 countries and padded hefty bills in travel expenses.
The president has visited the United States, the UN General Assembly, South Africa, Niger, Chad, Cameroun, Germany, Ghana, France, India, Iran, Malta, Kenya and Ethiopia. Again, Buhari last week departed the country to visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia, including observing the Lesser Hajj in Medina.
To critics, President Buhari’s foreign trips suggest fecklessness and display insensitivity akin to 54 AD Emperor Nero’s – who played violin while Rome burnt. Majority considers the president’s repeated foreign trips ill-purposed and occurring at a time of economic haemorrhage.
Buhari’s cabinet ministers Lai Mohammed (Information) and Amina Mohammed (Environment) responded that the trips would ultimately benefit the country’s struggling economy. Characteristic of Lai Mohammed, he added for good measure that Nigeria had almost become “a pariah state” before Buhari’s emergence as president and his ‘personal presence in many of these (international) fora is important”.
While the Information minister’s allusion to Nigeria sliding into a pariah state was fallacious, it is undoubted that Buhari inherited a polity deeply sunk in political, economic and moral quicksand.
The troubling revelations from the various ongoing corruption investigations and prosecutions have shown how a rapacious infinitesimal political and economic ruling class superintended one of the biggest heists in the country’s history. The official banditry and impunity of public servants in the immediate past administration was a perfect remake of obnoxious gusto displayed by Nigeria’s 1980’s king of the underworld Lawrence Anini.
The otherwise public servant culpable in the primitive thievery couldn’t give a hoot and were so impatient that they bolted with the vault’s key even after stealing what would have lasted five generations.
On this score, the country requires some in-your-face redemptive efforts both at home and abroad. We need to regain the confidence of the international community, as much as the trust of Nigerians.
All through the Goodluck Jonathan presidency, Nigerians were serially lied to on the exact shape of the economy. Officials of the last government cooked figures and regaled the citizens with fake international financial ratings worthless than toilet papers. The figures meant nothing at home and absolutely incongruous with the actual living standard of the toiling masses.
It is regrettable that Nigerians seem not to have learnt anything from this grotesque past and unwilling to walk their faith to political and economic salvation. The groundswell of international goodwill that greeted Buhari’s emergence must be optimally exploited.
Nigeria’s foreign policy is not isolationism, but one that reflects an ideological disposition to regional and continental cooperation in varied matters. Nigeria, more than ever before, needs international cooperation on trade and investment, free market, health, security and military, democratic sustainability, to mention but a few. As a country menaced by terrorists in the north-east and blighted, intermittently, by threats of implosion owing to ethnic and religious agitations, Nigeria needs every support it could get from both super-and-supranational institutions and foreign countries.
More so, Nigeria’s population, geography, size of economy and mineral endowment, e.t.c will continue to spur it active participation in international affairs. It is invaluable that the Buhari goodwill magnets needful Foreign Direct Investments, FDI, and help to open up untapped or underused mineral endowment. It is an opportunity to wean the Nigerian state off its robust dependence on oil-run economy and deliver it from the vagaries of the global market. It affords us a chance to open up the untapped or underused mineral resources, build industries and resuscitate dying ones to create jobs and back up this recovery with moderate protectionist legislation.
The current experience favours the strengthening of the institutions of government, and not the personalisation of governance. Only an irresponsible father sits idly at home, while his offspring squirm and writhe in lack. It is also an opportunity for President Buhari to demonstrate a more modernist view on local and global issue, instead of being a prototypical leader.