TWO YEARS OF PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI’S DIPLOMATIC SHUTTLES

BY ADOBA ECHONO

President Muhammadu Buhari at the 71 UN General Assembly.

President Muhammadu Buhari left no one in doubt when he assumed office on May 29th 2015 of his foreign policy thrust.

The major foreign policy direction of his administration is aimed at boosting the country’s image globally. This is to attract foreign direct investment which was at its lowest ebb when he was elected president.

The new administration of President Buhari found itself in a hostile environment characterized by terrorism by Boko Haram, dwindling oil prices and corruption at all levels of governance which required urgent and pragmatic diplomatic engagements.

In a rare diplomatic move, President Buhari assumed the position of Chief foreign policy officer of his Government and embarked on a number of diplomatic shuttles that took him to the US, Germany, France, South Africa, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries.

The aim was to push Nigeria’s interests and shore up support for Nigeria’s fight against terrorism which had engulfed the North Eastern part of the country since 2009, killing over 20,000 people.

In confronting insurgency by Boko Haram, a major challenge at the time which dealt a big blow to Nigeria’s image and economy, President Buhari went into strategic alliance with Nigeria’s neighbours. Their engagement led to the strengthening of the Multi National Joint Task Force, MNJTF based in Ndjamena, Chad Republic, and the dislodgement of Boko Haram cells in their axis.

Today, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin Republic, along with other nations support Nigeria through the MNJTF, in tackling Boko Haram.

That coalition in the MNJTF framework also, completely reversed the situation by combating the menace of terrorism, restoring peace and promoting the reintegration of the people displaced.

The diplomatic shuttles by President Buhari paid off as many of the countries he visited now partner with Nigeria in various sectors of the economy.

Of particular interest is his visit to China during which he signed six agreements with the Asian giant on key areas such as the provision of critical infrastructure and agriculture.

The President’s attendance of the G8 summit in Berlin, Germany opened new vistas in Nigeria-G8 relations, with the world’s most powerful countries providing Five Million dollars in assistance to fight Boko Haram.

On a larger scale, through the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, President Buhari ensured a formidable security system that managed the security challenges in countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and recently the Gambia.

The mediatory role of President Buhari along with other West African leaders, resulted in  former President Yahya Jammeh, relinquishing power after losing to incumbent Adama Barrow, who won the presidential election there by ending the political stalemate in that country.

No doubt Nigeria’s commitment to peace and security in Africa, has improved Nigeria’s international ratings in the past two years.

As the  largest contributor of troops to the peace-keeping missions in Africa and the 4th around the world,  Nigeria has continued to promote the establishment of a rapid deployment force ; a standby force that can be drafted to any troubled spot at short notice in Africa.

President Buhari’s desire for greater economic integration in Africa and intra-Africa trade led Nigeria and Morocco to strengthen business relation by signing two strategic agreements on Joint Initiative on Morocco-Nigeria Regional pipeline.

The Africa pipeline project designed by Africans will impact on three hundred million people, through the speeding up of electrification projects in West Africa, as well as create a competitive electricity regional market.

The list of Buhari’s diplomatic successes is endless; suffice it to say that his strategic visits to the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia raised the falling oil prices, launching Nigeria as a significant negotiator among OPEC member countries.

One of the landmark achievements of the diplomatic shuttles of President Buhari is the signing in 2016, of an Agreement on the identification and repatriation of Illicit Funds to Nigeria with the United Arab Emirates, and the UK as well as the establishment of a Global Forum for Asset Recovery to be hosted by the US and UK this year.

The President’s diplomatic shuttles have boosted the country’s image abroad and attracted direct foreign investments more than any other leader before him.