|Fashola and Buhari.|
Well,the Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Babatunde Fashola, has defended Buhari's travelling and written an article on the advantages of Buhari's recent Foreign trips. Read below
In making this public intervention, I seek to highlight the benefit of global relationships and cooperation in a world that is changing daily as a result of globalization and transborder economics, social and even criminal activities where no one is safe, except all are safe, and to leave the dispassionate observer his opinion after deep reflection on the value, or lack of it, of the President’s foreign trips.
|Buhari going on a foreign trip.|
That was when Buhari declared at a meeting in Lagos during his campaign in 2015, that if elected, he would make us proud about our country again. Proud to be Nigerian again. That is the context in which I view his foreign trips and the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Foreign Relations which promised to: Make the Nigerian national interest the overriding factor in its foreign policy and international relations. Work to reform global governance in multilateral institutions and agencies. Work to strengthen the African Union to become a more effective organization on global affairs. Engage the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the basis of equality. Play a leadership role to develop a MINT (Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Turkey) as a counterforce to BRICS.
I will limit my takeaways to 4 (Four) trips that I attended with the President namely: the G7 Summit in Germany, the Oil and Gas Summit in Iran, the Renewable Energy Conference in Abu Dhabi and the State visit and Business Forum in China; and 2 (Two) trips that I did not attend, but whose deliberations I followed, namely: Paris for the COP 21 and USA for the Nuclear Energy Summit. G7 in Germany This is a club of eight of the most industrialized, economic and technologically advanced nations. For the benefit of those who do not follow international politics it was originally the G8 comprising the USA, Britain, Germany, France, Canada, Japan, Italy, and Russia, who were later suspended and had sanctions imposed on them to make it G7 as a result. It was formed in 1975 as a club of 6 (Six) before Canada and Russia were admitted. They look after each other, and the rest of the world to put it simply. They have gone to war together if you remember Iraq and Libya in recent memory and they are all largely collaborating to fight terror. (Most recently the FBI was rendering assistance to Belgium in the aftermath of the terror attacks in that Country). Why G7 one might then ask? Answer: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as host, invited PMB on his inauguration to be their guest along with some three or four other African countries.
Their agenda was global security, global economy and global health in the aftermath of Ebola, which was still raging in some African countries. Apart from the personal aides of the President, Governor Shettima of Borno, General Dambazau and myself were the only ones who accompanied PMB. I recall that upon our arrival in Germany they expressed surprise that our delegation was small and asked if others were still coming. In the pre-departure briefing, in addition to highlighting how the security and economic agenda of the G7 coincided with 2 (Two) of his campaign promises, security, (corruption) economy, PMB stated the reasons 3 of us were invited. Governor Shettima was in the front line of terrorists and criminal activities in the north east; General Abdulrahman Dambazau, was a former Chief of Army Staff, and also a faculty associate of Harvard University Weatherhead Center for International Affairs; I had run the single biggest economy of a state within Nigeria for eight years and was in the frontline of Ebola. Without ministers, one week after taking office, he felt we were the ones best suited to assist, if he needed it, on the issues of security, economy and health on the G7 agenda.
They pledged support for Nigeria on Terror and the Economy. Importantly, I learned that their scientists were worried about increasing resistance of strains of infections to antibiotics; and that they were committing enormous resources into finding out why and what to do. They highlighted the difficulty of time and resources that it will take to develop new antibiotics and the risk to global health. If we all appreciate how vulnerable we can be without effective antibiotics, especially our children, and if we remember how low life expectancy was and how poor global health was before the discovery of Penicillin after the World War, we will appreciate the seriousness of the platform to which Nigeria was invited. I was proud that our President was there. If the seven most powerful nations stand with you, who can stand against you?
PMB’s logic was different. Hold your volumes, steady the price, and don’t let us hurt one another. Recorders of history will recall that the Venezuelan government suffered a major political defeat in Parliament, while PMB’s logic has at least steadied oil prices. It might interest you to know that all European nations sent their oil ministers, except Russia, where Vladimir Putin came in person, because having been suspended from the G8 and facing sanctions, this was the meeting where his country’s interests were best served. For the record, Russia pledged a $5 Billion state support to Iran, and if the purpose of this is lost on anyone, I interpret it to mean, “Take cash, don’t pump out your oil. It will hurt me.” This is the reality of international politics. Finally on Iran, PMB told us, how when he flew to Iran in his days as Petroleum Minister, he noticed how much gas they were flaring and now he returned as President, all the flares were gone. We found out that all the gas had been harvested and piped to every home for heating, cooking etc. His mandate: “If they can do it, we must do it.” I am proud to be led by a President who sees good things outside and seeks to bring them to his people. Abu Dhabi Renewable Energy This is reputed to be the richest of the Emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
We are currently working on the Energy Mix for Nigeria which is the implementation process of the energy policy that will take us there. Hopefully we will soon be signing the first set of solar deployment agreements for Nigeria. In this way, more solar and hydro will be used in the North, more coal and hydro in the Middle Belt, and more gas in the South; so that we take power generation closest to the most prolific source of fuel to bring down the cost and make it more affordable. On the trip to China (which I will comment on) we met a few Chinese solar manufacturers (who recognized us from Abu Dhabi) who want to set up business of manufacturing solar panels in Nigeria. China Investment Forum and State Visit This is the visit that provoked this write up, because I had bottled what I knew. But it was time, I believe, to share some of it. China is the second largest economy in the world with a per capita income of $8,000 which they are planning to raise to $12,000 by 2020. By her own assessment, according to President Xi Jinping, they are still a developing nation seeking to achieve what he described as “initial prosperity” by 2020. If you look at the back of your phone, your TV, your watch, your I-Pad, your Mobile Charger, many other accessories that you use, you are likely to find these three words “Made in China” printed somewhere.
For such a nation, (with trillions of dollars in reserves, that plans to spend $2 trillion on imports in the next five years and earn $100 billion annually) who still sees itself as a developing nation, such modesty in the face of success, assiduous hard work and productivity is a destination to seek cooperation in the pursuit of economic development. This is where PMB led an array of Nigerian investors including Erisco Foods, (who now makes our tomato paste at home and employs people locally including farmers who supply the tomatoes), Power operators (DisCos and GenCos), and the Dangote Group, to meet with and address their Chinese partners. During the meeting with the Chinese President, 6 (Six) collaboration agreements were signed including for agriculture and food production improvement techniques, rail and power infrastructure development, for funding the Dangote group to continue to expand and create jobs at home and keeping some of our reserves in the currency of the richest nation in the world. This last mentioned agreement was a legitimate coup by PMB because the intelligence was that some West African countries were going to sign before us. PMB seized the moment. Of course he had to apologize for our previous failures on our agreement made to part-fund 4 airport projects in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt and Abuja-Kaduna rail project.
|Buhari in China.|
” If this was not initiative I doubt what is? As for the trips to Paris, COP 21 and the USA, Nuclear Security Summit, I will only say this: a) The threat of climate change, global warming, desertification in the north of Nigeria and coastal erosion in the Atlantic (Bar beach in Lagos) and in the south, affecting Rivers, Bayelsa and other coastal states, the clear scientific evidence lays the blame at the door of the world’s most industrialized nation for their pollution. b) Since the Kyoto protocol they have paid lip service to remedying the situation, which unfortunately affects developing nations more adversely. c) COP 21 was the first serious commitment that these leaders made to ensure that global temperatures do not rise above 2°C and indeed are reduced to 1.5°C. I am proud that Nigeria was not missing at this historic moment. When the planet is saved, the next and future generations of Nigerians will recall that PMB was present, when all of the world leaders were present to save the planet. d) In the aftermath of COP 21, the commitment of these nations is to increase production and technology for renewable energy and to reduce the use of carbon fuels. One way they plan to achieve this is increased deployment of nuclear energy. e) These nations are at the cusp of sharing safe nuclear technology for peaceful uses with developing nations for power generation.
|Buhari and President Obama.|
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN