By Ubong Samspson
It is not news anymore that some notable bodies in the international system are interested in the 2019 general elections in Nigeria. This they have openly declared and have been making moves to further affirm. Few weeks into 2019 have drawn the elections closer and both the spoken and acted statements made by the international community as regards their interest in contributing to, and possibly influencing the reality of a free, fair and credible polls is currently an issue of contention by political and public affairs discussants in Nigeria. This includes both the resident and non resident citizens.
There is nothing to hide anymore about the fact that this development is not going down well with politicians in the ruling party (All Progressives Congress) in Nigeria and their followers/supporters. Some notable figures in the party have raised concerns, though indirectly, with the most recent coming from the party’s national leader and erstwhile governor of Lagos state, Chief Bola Tinubu, during his party’s campaign rally in Lagos a few days ago, while some of the party’s supporters have taken to social media to do same. About yesterday, I happened on one of the social media posts on the issue by a close lawyer friend of mine sympathetic to the APC course trying to remind the international community that as a sovereign state, Nigeria has the capacity to conduct elections independent of any foreign interference. This got me seriously wondering if Nigeria in 2019 suddenly became independent of foreign aid. Or could this be an indirect expression of fears over what we are unaware of?
Can this be likened to the case of an unserious student whose hope of passing exams through cheating and/or other irregularities is being threatened by the presence of external invigilators with very unfamiliar, unfriendly and uncompromising faces? Or is it that of a stubborn, maybe wayward child who frets at the presence of that strict uncle/aunt, who usually visits with some strict rules and never willing to bend any of them?
What could be the fears of these pro APCists that has struck them with the ailment of forgetfulness that they suddenly forgot that what the colonial imperialists left the third world nations with was only a semblance of independence, and that except for the few of them (China for instance) that made the determination and took genuine steps to lead themselves into real independence, the rest (Nigeria inclusive) have been living with that semblance of independence till date?
Several scholars and their scholarly works on international relations have often likened the international system to the existence of man which Aristotle described as a gregarious animal that exists interdependently with each other. Hence, no country, nation or state can exist as an island, irrespective of the strength of its economy, military, political and other institutions. However, the inequality in the strengths of these nations have resulted in the inequality in their interdependence. Simply put, some countries are more dependent on others. Hence, while a country with less needs depends less on the one with more needs, the former gains less benefits and more losses from its interrelations with the latter.
Drawing an instance from a closer shore, while some of the first world nations depend on Nigeria for raw materials to feed their largely industrialized economies, they in turn pay heavily for it through their numerous intervention aids to us. Not that we have monopoly of these raw materials such as crude oil which several other countries also have in abundance. Hence, patronizing us is just a matter of choice and maybe also due to some overtime strengthened trade ties between Nigeria and the patronizing states, and which can be untied at anytime.
Note that there is no law that compels the stronger nations to give aids to their weaker counterparts. These aids are purely voluntary and mainly based on the theory and principles of interdependence. One of, if not the earliest conception of such idea was the interwar period, when some European countries including Britain, Belgium and France, which were still economically strong after the first world war, and those who had easy recovery routes from the ruins of the war, came together to offer aids to their counterparts within the continent that were almost totally ruined by the war. This led to the formation of the European Economic Council (now European Union). Considering how this conception worked speedily and effectively, the aid providing nations which were in the formative front of the League of Nations (now United Nations) simply extended that idea of economic integration for universal use.
Addressing my lawyer friend’s attempt to clinch onto the non interference policy as clearly expressed in Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter, that article was prompted by the new world order that sought for the equality of states and the protection of weaker states from aggressive invasions by their stronger counterparts. However, the said article seems to be too weak to fully pursue its objective due to an overwhelming quest for world peace and security. In order words, while the article protects a nation state from external threats on the one hand, it, on the other hand, exposes the citizens of the nation to any sort of inhumane treatment that may come from the internal government or its head in power. This means that any government in power in a given state can subject its citizens to inhumane treatment without fear of being reprimanded by external forces through humanitarian intervention because of article 2.4 of the UN Charter.
Therefore, if our APC fellows are planning to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorates in the the forthcoming elections through intimidation and violence and/or other forms of irregularities just to retain power, and hope to be protected by article 2.4, bad news for them is that there is the Law on Humanitarian Intervention which focuses around the notion of human security. This is the concept that the protection of individuals is more important than the national security and sovereignty of the state. The primary purpose of humanitarian intervention is to end human rights violations within the state in which it takes place and prevent the humanitarian crisis from escalating further. After all, one of the requirements of being termed a sovereign state is having a sizeable population and having the capacity to protect the citizens constituting same population. Hence, where a cruel government kills or subjects its citizens to harsh living conditions, it has no basis to claim sovereignty?
This interventions did not begin today. Though it is a mission that must be legalized through approval by the UN Security Council, there are several past events where the UN had to use its NATO forces to bypass a deadlock in the security council and went on missions using the importance of humanitarian intervention. One example is the tragedies of Rwanda and Srebrenica, and another is the case of Kosovo in 1999, when the UNSC refused to take any action to combat the persecution of Kosovar Albanians from the FRY due to continued opposition from Russia. NATO stepped in and began series of aerial strikes in the name of humanitarian intervention. This action by NATO was illegal under international law as the organisation did not have UNSC authorisation to use force charter and it could not be classed as self-defence as there was no record of any NATO member state being attacked. However, it was widely agreed that the intervention was ‘illegal but legitimate’ due to the humanitarian purposes it was trying to achieve.
Even Nigeria, at the level of the African Union has been at the forefront of intervention missions to African states. The most recent was when former Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh disputed his opponent, Adama Barrow’s election victory and refused relinquishing power. It was Nigerian forces that led the military fleet that scared Jammeh out of the presidential house about 24 hours to the expiration of the ultimatum that was given to him. So why will such intervention be strange to us?
Further, of what need is it for my APC friends to sound the rhythm of Nigeria’s sovereignty to people who did the beats. Without trying to undermine my country or sound unpatriotic, have they forgotten that even our national flag, anthem were designed and written by foreigners? Why should a male child remind his mother that he has manhood, when it was the mother who partook in its circumcision and later did the regular ritual of throwing hot water on it?
Closing, when in the 1970s, Nigeria sat among others third world nations to push for New International Economic Order which indirectly begged for transfer of advanced technology, transfer of capital resources, adjustment in rules governing trade and economic relations, among several other things from the first world nations, where was our sovereignty?
When we go seeking loans or intervention funds from the IMF, WB to solve purely internal economic problems, where do we keep our sovereignty?
When the British government sometime last year of the year before, promised us intervention funds worth about 700 million pounds and we accepted with open arms, where was our sovereignty?
Not too long ago, we were begging America to come help us fight our internal insurgency. Did our sovereignty escape as at then?
Have we suddenly remembered our gigantic statue because our usual helpers have offered to come helps us conduct credible elections? If we openly receive their offers to help us build our economy and security, why shouldn’t we receive them with same open arms to help us build our democracy?
Ubong Sampson (08021419939) is a Public Affairs Analyst.