From Aidoghie Paulinus, who was in New York
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has said that the coming together of a Third Force is not a threat to anybody as far as the 2023 elections are concerned.
Onyeama who spoke with Sunday Sun on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, United States, said what is of paramount importance is that the will of the people prevails during elections.
According to Onyeama, “it is not so much the party, but putting in place a genuine and a responsive democratic framework for people to freely make their choices and chart their future.”
Onyeama also spoke on the fight against insurgency in the country, the move by the Federal Government to take external loan, the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure, among others.
President Buhari, today, delivered his speech at the 76th session of UNGA. What are the highpoints of his address?
This UNGA has a theme and this theme is “Building resilience through hope, to recover from COVID-19 , rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of the people and revitalize the United Nations.” Mr President’s speech addressed this theme. He covered Nigeria’s COVID recovery effort and the sustainable way forward post-COVID as well as vaccine nationalism. He talked about the economy and how to grow the economy in the wake of COVID. He talked about the issue of human rights. He addressed governance issues and condemned manipulation of the Constitution to achieve tenure elongation; he condemned violence against women and girls and called for an international treaty to address it; he urged greater effort to promote gender equality; he addressed the rights of the disabled and the issue of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance; he addressed the need for reform of the United Nations and also called for a just and peaceful settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict in conformity with UN resolutions and in the agreed framework of a two-state solution. So, Mr President’s address was very comprehensive, extremely powerful and touched on all the points and all the global issues and how Nigeria is responding to them. It was really a clarion call to collective action and for coming 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. So, it was an opportunity also for heads of state to meet physically with one another and have bilateral meetings. Mr President took advantage to have a number of bilateral meetings with various leaders to articulate Nigeria’s position on the major issues confronting Nigeria and the world and proferring solutions.
The president in his speech lamented over high debt burden, but back home, he just made another request to take another external loan. How do you reconcile this?
Yes, we are still borrowing within the limit that is sustainable. I think there is no contradiction really in that. Of course, no country wants to willingly be in debt, 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 should be within limits, which it is in our case. We have so many challenges – the COVID that affected the economy, the oil price that has come down and other challenges, but at the same time, you need to build the foundation and infrastructure that will permit you to also industrialize and provide jobs and kick-start your economy. And for that, especially with the infrastructure we need in place, the power, the roads and rail and so forth, it does require resources and you need to borrow for that. But as I said, the important thing is to borrow responsibly which we are doing.
The president also mentioned efforts made to contain insurgency in Nigeria. What new efforts will the government be putting in place to win this war?
As the president has said, he has put in place a new team of security chiefs to restrategize the whole process and we are taking supply of new weapons that we believe could be game changers. The immediate results are the large numbers of terrorists who are surrendering. So, we are hopeful that this is the beginning of the end of the terrorists.
President Buhari is on the verge of leaving office. What kind of APC are we going to see without Buhari?
Well, I think that is to be seen. I think there is still some time; he has almost two years to go. He still has the opportunity to contribute a lot to the country in two years, finishing a lot of the things that he has started and leaving a solid foundation for the country, with infrastructure, increase in jobs. He has articulated a vision and strategy to create 100 million jobs and is putting in place the mechanism and the framework to achieve that. So, by the end of two years, he would have really put in place a viable springboard for the APC to be able to build from. He had to start from the scratch in 2015 and I think that the incoming government in 2023 will certainly meet a much more solid foundation and spring board to take the country to a much higher level.
At home, we are already hearing about the coming of a Third Force to dislodge APC and PDP as many believe that the ruling party and the main opposition are the same and have failed the people in terms of governance. Do you see this as a threat to your party?
The important thing is democracy and with democracy, it is about the will of the people ultimately that we have to respect. In fact, Mr President was talking about that today during his meeting with the American Government representative. It is not a threat to anybody. Where you have a functional democracy, the objective is that the will of the people is what is being carried out and I think that is the most important thing. It is not so much the party, but putting in place a genuine and responsive democratic framework for people to freely make their choices and chart their future. And I think that is part of the great legacy of Mr President. He has really institutionalized democracy in the country. He has bequeathed a true government of the people, by the people, for the people.