During the just concluded 5th AU-EU summit held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire from November 28 to 29, President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrated the pivotal role Nigeria plays in continental affairs and in the relationship that Africa must forge with other regions of the world.
Discussions at the conference were productive and frank. This was due in no small measure to the interventions of President Buhari. Others who attended the summit described President Buhari’s contributions as cogent, timely and highly perceptive.
The theme of the summit was: “Investing in Youth for a Sustainable Future.”
At the summit, the President declared that the single most important investment we must make is to grow and develop our economies in ways that will provide jobs for our youths. While we also must invest in education and in other social areas, he emphasized that it is upon our economic maturation that the future of Nigeria and Africa will hang.
Without jobs, even educated youth become vulnerable to forms of extremism, ranging from joining the ranks of terrorists to risking their lives migrating to Europe through the “sea of sand that is the Sahara and the unforgiving waters of the Mediterranean.”
He said we must declare this the era of African industrialization for this must be the primary goal of all AU members. President Buhari said this and future AU-EU summits must be dedicated to this goal unit it I achieved.
Regarding trade and investment, President Buhari said Nigeria was not opposed to trade reform but said reform could not be indiscriminate. Trade reform should only occur within the context of the push to industrialize. He also said that direct foreign investment that produces jobs and creates tangible wealth must be encouraged.
With regard to peace and security, President Buhari stressed the need for greater cooperation to halt human trafficking and the need to act to curb the deaths of desperate migrants. He focused attention on Libya. He said the once stable nation had become a house of chaos where northbound migrants were often sold into slavery and the means of violent terrorism were transported southward to upend political stability and peace in the Sahel. He called on the EU to work more diligently with the AU to bring normalcy to Libya and for the EU to be more forthcoming with humanitarian aid to those directly affected by terrorism.
He said that the exit of former President Mugabe closed chapter in Zimbabwean and African history. Mugabe symbolized a good dream gone badly awry. Now, the rebuilding of that nation can become a symbol of how Africa and Europe can work together to develop a society based on justice, democracy and shared prosperity. If this is to be the case, we must be careful not to disregard the aspirations of the common person in Zimbabwe.
On the developing situation in Togo, President six other West African leaders with one form of stake or the other to sit down with President Fabre Gnassingbe Eyadema to press for an urgent agreement between the country’s President and the coalition that has been opposing him. You must talk to each other and avoid political explosions, insisted the President.
President Buhari made clear that a crisis in Togo will have a destabilizing effect on her neighbors given social and ethnographic ties that bind their peoples. Here in Nigeria we are already reeling under the weight of displaced millions from the Boko Haram in the Lake Chad basin. We have more than we need.
Others, including Ghana are almost nervous about the prospects of a refugee crisis.
In side meetings with nations such Germany, President Buhari has set a process in motion for the negotiation of a new agreements that may open doors of migration and also lead to the curtailment of illegal migration.
Under this, thousands of scholarships may come the way of Nigerian and there will be skills and vocational training for illegals before they are brought back.
Credit must be given to leaders including our president who fought back attempts by some of the Europeans to push the issue of forced repatriation.
This was a successful summit as Nigeria joined with other Africa nations in plainly and clearly stating Africa’s interests and in seeking ways to cooperate with the EU in mutual benefit. The relevance of President Buhari’s foreign policy speaks for itself because it speaks to the best aspirations of the Nigerian people and of all of Africa.
. Shehu is the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity.