From Aidoghie Paulinus, who was in New York
The Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama has said that building a third force is no threat to anyone when it comes to the 2023 elections.
Onyeama, who spoke with the Sunday Sun on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, USA, said what is paramount The importance is that the will of the people prevails in the elections.
According to Onyeama, “it is not so much the party, but the establishment of an authentic and responsive democratic framework so that people can freely make their choices and trace their future”.
Onyeama also spoke about the fight against the insurgency in the country, the decision of the federal government to contract an external loan, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the expiration of the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari, among others.
President Buhari delivered his speech today at the 76th session of the UNGA. What are the strengths of his address?
This UNGA has a theme and this theme is “Building resilience through hope, recovering from COVID-19, rebuilding sustainably, meeting the needs of the planet, respecting the rights of people and revitalizing the United Nations”. The President’s speech addressed this topic. He covered Nigeria’s COVID recovery effort and the post-COVID sustainable way forward as well as vaccine nationalism. He spoke about the economy and how to grow the economy in the wake of COVID. He spoke about the issue of human rights. He addressed questions of governance and condemned the manipulation of the Constitution to obtain the extension of the mandate; he condemned violence against women and girls and called for an international treaty to address it; he called for more efforts to promote gender equality; he addressed the rights of persons with disabilities and the issue of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance; He spoke of the need for United Nations reform and also called for a just and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in accordance with UN resolutions and within the agreed framework of a two-state solution. So, the President’s speech was very comprehensive, extremely powerful and touched on all the global points and issues and how Nigeria is responding to them. It was truly a clear call to collective action and to come together. It was a very important General Assembly and also because it is the first for two years – last year it was a virtual General Assembly. It was therefore also an opportunity for the heads of state to meet physically and to have bilateral meetings. The President took advantage of a number of bilateral meetings with various leaders to express Nigeria’s position on the main issues facing Nigeria and the world and to propose solutions.
The president, in his speech, lamented the high debt burden, but back home, he just made another request to take out another external loan. How do you reconcile that?
Yes, we always borrow within the limit that is sustainable. I don’t think there is much of a contradiction there. Of course, no country wants to go into debt voluntarily, but the important thing is to borrow responsibly and I think that is what we are doing in the country in the sense that your debt to GDP ratio has to be in limits, which is the case in our case. We have so many challenges – the COVID that has affected the economy, the price of oil that has gone down and other challenges, but at the same time, you have to build the foundations and the infrastructure that will also allow you to industrialize and to create jobs and jumpstart – jumpstart your economy. And for that, especially with the infrastructure that we need in place, electricity, roads and railways, etc., it takes resources and you have to borrow for that. But like I said, the important thing is to borrow responsibly, which is what we do.
The president also mentioned the efforts to contain the insurgency in Nigeria. What new efforts will the government put in place to win this war?
As the President said, he has put in place a new team of security chiefs to rethink the whole process and we are taking on new weapons which we believe could be a game-changer. The immediate results are the large number of terrorists who surrender. So we hope this is the beginning of the end of terrorists.
President Buhari is about to step down. What kind of APC are we going to see without Buhari?
Well I think it’s worth seeing. I think there is still time; he has almost two years left. He still has the opportunity to contribute a lot to the country in two years, to finish a lot of things he started and to leave a solid foundation for the country, with infrastructure, increased jobs. It has formulated a vision and a strategy to create 100 million jobs and is putting in place the mechanism and framework to achieve it. So after two years he really would have put in place a viable springboard for the APC to build from. He had to start from scratch in 2015 and I think the new government in 2023 will certainly meet a much stronger base and stepping stone to bring the country to a much higher level.
At home, we are already hearing about the coming of a third force to dislodge the APC and the PDP, because many think that the ruling party and the main opposition are the same and have let the people down in terms of governance. Do you see this as a threat to your party?
The important thing is democracy and with democracy, it is ultimately the will of the people that must be respected. Moreover, Mr. President spoke about it today during his meeting with the representative of the American government. It is not a threat to anyone. Where you have a functioning democracy, the goal is for the will of the people to be done and I think that is the most important thing. It is not so much a question of the party as of the establishment of an authentic and reactive democratic framework allowing the citizens to make their choices freely and to chart their future. And I think that is part of the great legacy of Mr. President. He really institutionalized democracy in the country. He bequeathed a real government of the people, by the people, for the people.