Obasanjo openly snubbing African solidarity
By William G. Nhara
The decision by the President of Nigeria, Olusegun
Obasanjo, not to invite Zimbabwe to next week’s
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is
That decision puts to question Nigeria’s foreign
policy, as having the defence of African interests, as
one of its main pillars.
In January 1960, Nigerian Prime Minister, Tafawa
Balewa, affirmed that, "Nigeria will have a wonderful
opportunity to speak for the continent of Africa".
Numerous pronouncements of Nigerian leaders over the
decades appear to point to Nigeria’s consistent
articulation of the interests and aspirations of the
weak nations; national self-determination,
non-intervention, collective security, the peaceful
settlement of disputes, the juridical sovereign
equality of all nations and racial equality are
salient principles and issue areas in which Nigeria
has demonstrated intense persistent interest and
Given Nigeria’s history, how are we to judge President
Obasanjo. Is Obasanjo to go into Nigeria’s annuls as a
president who played to the whims of the West.
Obasanjo’s decision on Zimbabwe and his voltaire face
on his prisoner Charles Taylor comes at a time when
Nigeria is seeking World Bank and IMF support for its
national development and what better bargaining tool
than to deliver the scalps of the two. One is left to
wonder whether Obasanjo is a double dealer in typical
West African style or an imperialist tool at the hands
of the West.
In as much as Nigeria will be prepared to go to war
over its oil, one would have thought that Nigeria
would have understood that the issue at hand in the
white Commonwealth’s fight against Zimbabwe is nothing
more than Zimbabwe’s assertion over its land. When is
one greater than two and when is a majority less than
a minority? The answer to these questions is when the
one and minority is white and when white interests are
at stake. The issues over rule of law, democracy and
good governance are nothing but a smokescreen of the
How does Howard "the Coward" explain his treatment of
Aborigines in Australia and the gross violation of
human rights in New Zealand where the Maoris are not
allowed to walk the streets after midnight. How does
one explain the fact that President Obasanjo is
presiding over the same Commonwealth that recently
pronounced Nigeria’s elections to have failed to meet
that body’s "standards"? Obasanjo lashed out at the
West for failing to understand the notions of
democracy, saying "Nigeria is Nigeria and standards
After Obasanjo’s bark even President Bush kept quite.
Speaking of unflinching African solidarity, one is
brought to remember that in October 1995, Nigerian
military ruler, General Abacha, had intended to put
Obasanjo to the gallows. It took the stature of
President Mugabe as head of an OAU troika, to convince
Abacha to spare Obasanjo — for me that is African
I find it baffling that the Commonwealth is failing to
give Zimbabwe room and an opportunity to present its
case. It is very clear that the Commonwealth observer
group to Zimbabwe’s elections had an over
representation of observers from Australia, Canada and
New Zealand. These countries had already declared, in
advance, the elections as not being "free and fair"
and were already campaigning for Zimbabwe’s suspension
from the Commonwealth.
The decision to exclude Zimbabwe from Abuja sets a
very dangerous precedent, which must be opposed in the
interests of integrity and internal cohesion of the
Commonwealth. It has become acceptable that the
British Government has brought Zimbabwe to its current
predicament by reneging on its historical colonial
obligations. Zimbabwe’s land reform programme is now
history and the country should be allowed to forge
with its developmental efforts. Zimbabwe should be
allowed to chart is destiny. Zimbabwe should be
allowed to be Zimbabwe again.
What is clear from the current goings on is the fact
that the Commonwealth does not stand for the interests
of justice and equity.
It does not stand for development and empowerment of
the majority. It is a paternalistic organisation of
the British and its cousins. One would tend to agree
with the general public feeling that the Commonwealth
is no longer very relevant in today’s diplomacy for
Zimbabwe, the future of Zimbabwe’s engagement in the
organisation is relatively easy to ascertain.
For those member countries that are not inhabited by
people of British descent, the Commonwealth is no more
than an imperial junkyard bordered by strong, almost
invisible, silken threads from which it will take more
than the normal political courage and will power left
in the breasts of the mentally emasculated and
suitably educationally conditioned mind of the
ex-colonial man to escape.
It is only by deliberately deciding to leave the
Commonwealth can we begin to recreate the political
clan with which to move forward under our own steam.
One tends to believe that the significance of history,
language and colonial sentiments are greatly
exaggerated and no longer relevant to development
problems. Perhaps it is time Zimbabwe says good bye to
There are others who are of the feeling that an active
prominent participation in the Commonwealth does not
and will not constitute a liability to Zimbabwe.
They argue that Zimbabwe stands to benefit
economically and especially through technical
assistance through the Commonwealth Fund for Technical
Co-operation. They argue further that participation in
such organisations can provide an invaluable forum for
the examination of common interests and goals and
provide collective solutions to problems.
In the absence of direct and substantial interests, it
seems probable that Zimbabwe will seek a policy of
association rather than isolation, if only to augment
its influence in the international arena.
In the absence of an invitation to Abuja, Zimbabwe
should use the civic and academic society to help sell
the Zimbabwean story outside the halls of the Councils
of the Commonwealth.
Nigeria, when it was in the same predicament as
Zimbabwe, employed aggressive rebuffs to the
Commonwealth and agents of the West. I believe that
sanity will prevail as Zimbabwe prepares for the 2005
General Elections. I believe that there is life after
l The author is the executive director of the Southern
African Institute for Democracy and Good Governance.