Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi appeared Monday on The Morning Show programme of Arise television and commented on a number of issues arising from President Muhammadu Buhari’s address Friday at the 76 sessions of the United Nations General Assembly.
The foreign relations expert differed on some of the positions of the president. ” I don’t welcome two positions. One is the Covid vaccine. I don’t like Africans portraying themselves as victims and looking forward to being rescued. I remember there was an Institute in Yaba, Lagos manufacturing vaccines for yellow fever and smallpox. We don’t use our money to produce vaccines but we have enough money to fund Presidential fleets. Instead, we join in accusing high-income countries of vaccine diplomacy or apartheid. I would have liked a speech committing Nigeria to produce vaccines in the next one or two years not only for covid but others for the country and the region”.
And on the President”s comment calling for debt servicing initiative and saying Nigeria spends a huge sum of her earnings to service foreign debt, Akinyemi said, ” I don’t agree on that part of speech asking for debt forgiveness or rescheduling. We are wreckless not only on the money we make but loans we get from abroad. A nd we then stand there and ask for debt rescheduling. But it is time the foreign countries punish us by refusing to give us loans. I’m not comfortable with the position because we shouldn’t be in it in the first place.
Akinyemi said it’s better to act than to talk. He disclosed that about 600 billion dollars have been illegally transferred outside the country since independence. According to him, there has not been any concerted effort by Nigerian governments to recover those illicit financial outflows. What I will like to see is that as you are pursuing Nigerians, also pursue foreign companies plying their trade in Nigeria. If we are going to ask for debt relief, we, first of all, have to make sure that loans are not stolen or misapplied. Borrowing money in order to pay the inflated salaries of National Assembly members is dumb.
“I expected the position he took on terrorism but I don’t think we are on top of the situation. Yesterday I understand one of our barracks was overrun. Our military barracks are not soft targets. We are still in the military norm where soldiers retire after 35 years. Why are we retiring our personnel after 35 years when we need more boots on the ground. I served on Boko Haram committee in Jonathan regime. We did not publish the result because it was damning. There was a lack of support for the president’s action then. The North-East governors kicked against the administration’s proposal to declare a state of emergency on security in the region. There was a presence of foreign troops based on the arrangement by the government which pushed back and rescued occupied territories but when the current government came in they cancelled the arrangement.
The former External Affairs Minister and political scientist however thumbed up for President Buhari’s position on coups in the African continent. Akinyemi said he was struck by the comment of the president who rather than rehearse the ritualistic condemnation of coups by Nigerian Presidents at the UN, refrained instead to specifically attack sitting Presidents who tinker with the constitution to extend their tenure in office. He said ECOWAS should be alert when sitting presidents undermine their country’s constitution. ‘He said this is an indication to Nigerians that President Buhari will leave after his second term.
Akinyemi is a political scientist and renowned expert on foreign relations. Hei was the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs from 1975 to 1983 and Nigeria’s Minister of External Affairs from 1985 to 1987.