In the address, the president urged the international community to support Nigeria’s candidacy. Making an impressive showing by getting more than the two thirds of the votes required,186 out of 193, is a testimony to the fact that, in spite of the country’s shortcomings, the enormity of which should not be underestimated, Nigeria still counts for something in Africa and the world at large.
Nigerian officials did a good job in persuading members of the international community, particularly on the sidelines of the General Assembly session in September. The fact that The Gambia withdrew its candidacy helped in leaving Nigeria as the sole contender from West Africa. This is not to be taken for granted.
In 1977, a bruising row between Nigeria and Niger over their rival bid for a UN Security Council seat almost caused a diplomatic incident. In what turned out to be a keenly contested election, Nigeria was finally elected after five rounds of voting. The last contest however presented no such dilemma for Nigeria, thanks to the effectiveness of the diplomatic moves made by the government in securing international support.
The UNSC is the most powerful UN organ consisting of the five permanent members – the US, Russia, China, Britain and France, and ten non-permanent members. It conducts its business through resolutions. Charged with the responsibility of promoting international peace and security, the UNSC is empowered also to impose sanctions, order military action and, if necessary, send peacekeeping forces to trouble spots around the world.
Nigeria’s greatest selling point in canvassing for membership of the UNSC has long been its enviable role in peacekeeping operations across the world including Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Aside from the prestige that comes with sitting at the UN’s high table, it can also afford member states the opportunity to promote issues which are of concern to them and their regions in the UNSC. Given its pivotal leadership role in Africa, it falls on Nigeria’s shoulders to champion African causes at the UNSC, and avoid doing the bidding of the Big Powers, especially where these are clearly at variance with Africa’s core values and interests. It is expected that Nigeria should use this opportunity to seek solutions to African conflicts such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
A major cause for concern in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general is the continuing threat of terrorism, and the expanding theatre it has become for extremists. It is therefore necessary for Nigeria to continue to engage with the international community in tackling such concerns.
Following the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall in which many people were killed, President Jonathan led the call on the UNSC to prevail on the International Criminal Court (ICC) not to try any sitting African president, asking for the particular cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and his deputy William Ruto to be deferred. With Nigeria’s re-election into the UNSC, it can follow up on that call by trying to persuade the permanent members to heed Africa’s points view on the frosty relationship with the ICC.
Nigeria should also use the window of opportunity presented by its membership of the UNSC to continue to canvass for wider UN reform. There is a longstanding need to democratize membership of the UNSC, rigged in favour of the victorious powers of World War II. The UNSC no longer reflects the geopolitical and economic realities of 21st century world. Japan and Germany, two of the largest contributors to the UN, are not permanent members, as well as emerging powers such as India and Brazil. Africa also has no permanent seat.
In keeping with the rules of the UNSC, which rotates the presidency of the Security Council among its members on a monthly basis in alphabetical order, Nigeria will get its turn to be president of the Security Council for one month, during which it can contribute to setting the agenda of the UNSC. Africa should be at the centre of that contribution.
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