President Bola Tinubu in the early hours of today made his inaugural address at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), with a call on world leaders to serve African countries a better deal of international politics.
Mounting the rostrum on the opening day of the 78th UN General Assembly, President Tinubu highlighted five key points for global attention. First was the importance of a developed Africa to the world; democratic governance to end military coups on the continent; protracted battle against violent extremists in the region; global trust and solidarity to secure the continent’s mineral rich areas from pilfering and conflict, and lastly, the devastating effects of climate change on Nigeria and other African countries.
In reference to the wave of military incursions into governance in Africa, President Tinubu affirmed democratic governance as the best guarantor of the sovereign will and well-being of the people.
He said military coups are wrong, as is any tilted civilian political arrangement that perpetuates injustice, but the enabling factors of political and economic instability must be addressed by all.
He said: “The wave crossing parts of Africa does not demonstrate favour towards coups. It is a demand for solutions to perennial problems. Regarding Niger, we are negotiating with the military leaders. As Chairman of ECOWAS, I seek to help re-establish democratic governance in a manner that addresses the political and economic challenges confronting that nation, including the violent extremists who seek to foment instability in our region. I extend a hand of friendship to all who genuinely support this mission.
“This brings me to my next crucial point. Our entire region is locked in a protracted battle against violent extremists. In the turmoil, a dark channel of inhumane commerce has formed. Along the route, everything is for sale. Men, women and children are seen as chattel. Yet, thousands risk the Sahara’s hot sand and the Mediterranean’s cold depths in search of a better life.
“At the same time, mercenaries and extremists with their lethal weapons and vile ideologies invade our region from the north. This harmful traffic undermines the peace and stability of an entire region. African nations will improve our economies so that our people do not risk their lives to sweep the floors and streets of other nations. We also shall devote ourselves to disbanding extremist groups on our turf. To fully corral this threat, the international community must strengthen its commitment to arrest the flow of arms and violent people into West Africa.”
Speaking on Nigeria’s economy and its delicate balance as Africa’s most populous nation, President Tinubu noted the longstanding internal and external factors of Nigeria’s and Africa’s economic structures, which has been skewed to impede development, industrial expansion, job creation, and the equitable distribution of wealth.
“If Nigeria is to fulfill its duty to its people and the rest of Africa, we must create jobs and the belief in a better future for our people. We must also lead by example,” he said.
Citing bold steps undertaken since assuming power in May, this year, he said: “As part of efforts to foster economic growth and investor confidence in Nigeria, I removed the costly and corrupt fuel subsidy, while also discarding a noxious exchange rate system in my first days in office. Other growth and job-oriented reforms are in the wings.
“I am mindful of the transient hardship that reform can cause. However, it is necessary to go through this phase in order to establish a foundation for durable growth and investment to build the economy our people deserve.
“We welcome partnerships with those who do not mind seeing Nigeria and Africa assume larger roles in the global community. The question is not whether Nigeria is open for business. The question is how much of the world is truly open to doing business with Nigeria and Africa in an equal, mutually beneficial manner. Direct investment in critical industries, opening their ports to a wider range and larger quantity of African exports and meaningful debt relief are important aspects of the cooperation we seek.”
The president, however, bemoaned the ongoing pilfering of the continent’s mineral resources, encouraging conflict across the region. Calling for Member States’ solidarity to stop the trend, President Tinubu noted that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had suffered the exploitation for decades, despite the strong UN presence there.
“The world economy owes DRC much but gives her very little. The mayhem visited on resource rich areas does not respect national boundaries. Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, CAR, the list grows. The problems also knock Nigeria’s door. Foreign entities abetted by local criminals who aspire to be petty warlords have drafted thousands of people into servitude to illegally mine gold and other resources. Billions of dollars meant to improve the nation now fuel violent enterprises. If left unchecked, they will threaten peace and place national security at grave risk.
“Member nations must reply by working with us to deter their firms and nationals from this 21st century pillage of the continent’s riches.
“As I close, let me emphasize that Nigeria’s objectives accord with the guiding principles of this world body: peace, security, human rights and development. To keep faith with the tenets of this world body and the theme of this year’s Assembly, the poverty of nations must end. The pillage of one nation’s resources by the overreach of firms and people of stronger nations must end. The will of the people must be respected. This beautiful, generous and forgiving planet must be protected.
“As for Africa, we seek to be neither appendage nor patron. We do not wish to replace old shackles with new ones. Instead, we hope to walk the rich African soil and live under the magnificent African sky free of the wrongs of the past and clear of their associated encumbrances. We desire a prosperous, vibrant democratic living space for our people.
“To the rest of the world, I say walk with us as true friends and partners. Africa is not a problem to be avoided nor is it to be pitied. Africa is nothing less than the key to the world’s future.”
While the opening address is called a “debate”, it actually consists of a series of 15-minute speeches delivered by world leaders on topics of their choice. The General Debate is therefore one of the most hotly anticipated – and widely watched – events on the UN calendar, with speakers discussing whatever topic they choose.
Each year’s event is defined by a loose theme. This year, the theme is “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity”. In its subheading, the theme prompts world leaders to consider the UN’s agenda for 2030, which includes the deadline for its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It calls for “accelerating action” towards those goals, with the aim of promoting “peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all.”
Opening the debate, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres painted a very grim picture of the state of the world. He pointed to the situation in Derna, Libya, which was hit by deadly flooding this month that has killed over 10,000, and said residents were “victims of conflict, victims of climate chaos and victims of world leaders who are not doing enough.”
He said: “The world is in a mess with regard to conflict, with regard to poverty and inequality – and yet the world is not coming together. There is a fracturing of world leaders gathering in different blocs. The situation in Libya is a sad snapshot of the state of our world. The catastrophe in Libya represents the flood of inequity, of injustice, of inability to confront the challenges in our midst.”
United States president, Joe Biden, in his address, voiced support for the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as they push against recent coups in Niger and Gabon.
“We will not retreat from the values that make us strong. We will defend democracy, our best tool to meet the challenge that we face around the world,” he said.
He further stressed that Russia alone is responsible for the war in Ukraine, and it alone can end the conflict. The U.S. president also renewed Washington’s commitment to support Ukraine against the Russian invasion.
“Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalise Ukraine without consequence. If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?
“If we abandon the core principles of the United Nations to appease an aggressor, can any member state in this body feel confident that they’re protected? If you allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?” Biden asked. “I’d respectfully suggest the answer is: no.” (Guardian)