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AU Summit: Between Buhari’s and El-Sisi’s speeches

Though to a much lesser degree compared to Nigeria, Egypt struggles with terror-related security challenges. However, apart from the military dimension of their respective struggles, there is practically no other basis of comparison between the two countries’ approaches in this regard. Because while Egypt’s approach suggests a realistic understanding of the underlying politics of handling such type of security crisis, Nigeria’s suggests gross and indeed inexcusable naivety.

Of course, this explains why while Egypt has been able to keep its security challenges largely contained, Nigeria appears to have exhausted all its military and intelligence capabilities to no avail as the wave of indiscriminate massacre of people, banditry, kidnapping armed robbery and other organized crimes continues to unleash misery across the country and indeed threatens its very survival.

While President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria inadvertently betrayed that naivety in his speech during the African Union Peace and Security Council on the state of peace and security in Africa at the recently concluded 33rd AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, his Egyptian counterpart, Abdul-Fattah El-Sisi, displayed such realistic understanding in his speech. For instance, in his speech, El-Sisi called for the formation of an African anti-terror military command; and even offered to host an African summit in Cairo for that purpose; and indeed tacitly offered to host the command headquarters in Cairo as well, claiming that his call and offer were out of Egypt’s sense of responsibility and commitment to maintaining peace and security in Africa.

However, while he indeed sounded committed to African security project, he was actually never that interested in African interests; after all, though Egypt is a major African country, its interest in African affairs, which climaxed during the era of President Jamal Abdun-Nasir, began to decline following his resignation in 1967 and has been on a decline ever since then.

President El-Sisi, therefore, was in reality only trying to mobilize and manipulate African military, diplomatic and intelligence resources in his country’s struggle to maintain control over its porous desert borders with Libya, which facilitate the movement of armed groups and weapons into Egypt that fuels terror activities in the country. He also seeks to manipulate the sheer diplomatic weight necessarily associated with a continental military alliance of such size to gain the diplomatic advantage over Egypt’s rivals, especially Turkey and Qatar, in their struggle for influence in shaping the Libyan political destiny and direction.

Of course, if President El-Sisi decides to follow through with his plan, he will almost certainly achieve his agenda while Nigeria and other member countries struggling with existential security challenges remain constrained by their simplistic approach to the complexities of international politics of interests among countries.

On his part, however, President Buhari only called on the member-countries of the AU to “look for new strategies that would be helpful in effectively preventing, managing and resolving conflicts on the continent.” He also maintained that “trends and emerging challenges on the continent call for a better approach to resolving conflicts.  He, therefore, “called on the AU to strengthen its own mediation tools and develop a new intervention road map that would promote national dialogue, reconciliation and social cohesion.”

By the way, this line of thought has always been the fundamental feature of Nigerian leaders’ and diplomats’ speeches in this regard in various international events since the eruption of the Boko Haram insurgency a decade ago. They have always sounded helpless apparently to attract the sympathy of the international community in hopes of attracting its commitment to assisting in ending the terror insurgency in the country.

As I observed in a previous article, Nigerian leaders’  “approach to diplomacy has always suggested inexcusable cluelessness of the simple fact that the real business of diplomacy is, in reality, practised contrary to what the relevant theories contained in academic books teach. They have acted as though oblivious of the fact that in diplomacy nothing is given or achieved for free, hence a country’s ability to get what it wants or secure its interest in a bilateral or multilateral engagement depends on its ability to deploy and leverage whatever coercive or persuasive tools it possesses to extort compromises and concessions from the party (ies), and/or entice them with tempting incentives.” (Nigeria’s toothless diplomacy, Daily Trust, Friday, September 13, 2019).

Anyway, while President Buhari’s speech has almost certainly been archived in the AU’s archives, Egypt is almost certainly already working towards achieving its actual interests, which are cleverly disguised in President El-Sisi’s purported solidarity speech.

Besides, while diplomatic engagements do indeed enable countries to achieve their legitimate and even illegitimate interests, it takes more than official visits, attending international events and pity-arousing rhetoric to get real benefits from those engagements. Therefore, as I recommended elsewhere, “…the federal government should, for a start, identify its potential, assets, circumstances and whatever can be used as an advantageous tool to push for appropriate global recognition of its war against Boko Haram as a war that the world simply can’t afford to ignore. This is quite achievable by, for instance, engaging relevant leading international consulting firms, international pressure groups and influential lobby groups with unhindered access to the corridors of, say, the Capitol Hill and the White House in Washington, the Palace of Westminster and 10 Downing Street in London, the Élysée Palace in Paris and the European diplomatic and military institutions headquartered in Brussels, to pursue this agenda on behalf of the federal government. (Impediment to decisive victory over Boko Haram, Daily Trust, Friday, November 30, 2018).

One wonders how on earth these basic facts and measures elude Nigerian foreign policymakers and diplomats, as also one wonders what the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) and the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and other relevant institutions do exactly produce in terms of policy recommendations to guide the country’s foreign policy and diplomatic engagements.

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