By Owei Lakemfa
Lagos, the most cosmopolitan and politically progressive state in Nigeria on March 18, 2023 engaged in the degenerative politics of exclusion. The debilitating disease of campaigning that a non-full-blooded native cannot be governor, is an incapacitating one. Ten days later, a different philosophy of politics evolved in Scotland where the parliament elected 38-year-old Humza Haroon Yousaf, son of first generation migrants from Punjab, Pakistan, as the country’s first minister, or de facto leader.
The Scots were not interested in who Yousaf’s father is, where his wife comes from or the nationality of those he hangs out with; they simply want someone to get the job of governance done; somebody to lead their struggle for devolution of power in the United Kingdom, UK. So, the world would be witnessing the strenuous struggles of Scotland led by Yousaf to negotiate a possible exit from UK, while the latter, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Indian origins, would be fighting to keep the kingdom united. Interestingly, Pakistan and India, along with Bangladesh were a single country under British colonialism. So, while Scotland strives to progress in world politics, Nigeria is in regression.
The Nigeria media also appears not to be patient enough to read the world. For instance, in this week’s three-nation African tour by United States, US, Vice President Kamala Harris covering Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia, they are screaming that Nigeria was snubbed. Some of the headlines read: “US Vice President, Kamala Harris shuns Nigeria”; “Nigeria missing as Vice President Kamala Harris visits Africa”; “Nigeria missing in VP Harris list of countries to visit”; “Again, US shun Nigeria!”
These are clearly presumptuous. We do not know the reasons for the tour and whether Nigeria fits in. We do not know the objectives, and in any case, why must Nigeria, one of the 55 countries in Africa, be included in a tour of three countries. To me, it is logical for the US to visit Ghana because it is the American military base in West Africa; a poster boy of International Monetary Fund anti-people policies and a place where unpopular Western culture can be tested. It is, therefore, not surprising to me that the visit is coming at a time the Ghanaian parliament is debating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, LGBT, bill called the “Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Value.” It seeks to make it a crime to be gay, bisexual or transgender.
Harris had, before her visit, said she had raised the issue of LGBT with Ghana because it is a human rights issue. Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo had tried to pre-empt parliament when he told the American media: “I have no doubt that the parliament of Ghana will show as it has done in the past … its sensitivity to human rights issues as well as to the feelings of our population and will come out with a responsible response to the proposed legislation.”
In Ghana, Harris, accompanied by her husband, Doug Emhoff, returned to the LGBT issue and the Ghanaian bill: “I feel very strongly about the importance of supporting the freedom and supporting the fighting for equality among all people, and that all people be treated equally. I will also say that this is an issue that we consider, and I consider to be a human rights issue, and that will not change.” A second issue about the visit is the US trying to get Africa into an anti-China and anti-Russia alliance. On the latter, Akufo-Addo in December, 2022, in a report to the US, had complained that Burkina Faso was engaging Russia’s private military contractor, Wagner Group, to fight Islamist extremists and violent groups.
In an apparent reaction to this, Harris announced in Accra: “To help address the threats of violent extremism and instability, today I am pleased to announce $100m in support of Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo.” She said in 2024, Ghana would receive an additional $139m.
These are not things that are likely to appeal to Nigeria because the country’s position on LGBT is clear, and a campaign against China and Russia are not likely to succeed as Nigeria has no disagreements with those countries. Also, we do not have a culture of making other countries enemies, our enemies.
Indeed, why should Africa side one international power bloc against the other, more so when world politics is not always logical? For instance, the war in Ukraine threatens to go on for a while with each side digging in. As more lethal arms are being deployed, the UK decided to supply depleted uranium munitions-armour piercing tank rounds – to Ukraine. In reaction, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his country would be deploying tactical nuclear weapons in neigbouring Belarus. Ordinarily, this would seem a tit-for-tat war game. However, the European Union, EU, would have none of it. EU top diplomat, Josep Borrell, bellowed: “Belarus hosting Russian nuclear weapons would mean an irresponsible escalation and threat to European security.”
The US also responded angrily as this may be an escalation of the arms race. But as an African, I ask myself: what am I missing in all these? If the US has, over the years, crossed the oceans to store nuclear weapons in Germany, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, what will be out of place for Russia to store same type of weapons in neigbouring Belarus?
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, described the Russia decision as an “extremely dangerous escalation which makes the use of nuclear weapons more likely…the likelihood of miscalculation or misinterpretation is extremely high; sharing nuclear weapons makes the situation much worse and risks catastrophic humanitarian consequences”.
I agree completely. However, it would be wishful thinking if some countries can deploy nuclear weapons and we expect others not to do same. Generally, why would countries with nuclear arms decide whether others should not be similarly armed? For instance, why would Israel attack Iran in an attempt to stop that country acquiring nuclear weapons when it is warehousing the same weapons?
Generally, it will be unwise for Africa to allow itself to be a pawn in world politics. To me, it is understandable that the US would send our Jamaican-African sister Harris on a charm offensive to Africa, it is left to us not to be as vulnerable as Brother Akufo-Addo.
World politics reminds me of the 1700 British play: ‘The Way of the World’ by William Congreve. The title is based on the dog-eat-dog manner the characters in upper class society employed all means including greed and deception to outwit themselves to protect their interests. Africa needs to learn the way of the world and map out its own path to development.