The last day of 2014 left a lasting shame on Nigeria’s foreign policy. Nigeria abstained from a vote at the United Nations Security Council that would have set a clear timeline and road map for the end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Nigeria jettisoned a fundamental principle of its foreign policy which, since independence in 1960, was built on aversion to colonialism, racism, discrimination and apartheid. Clearly, expediency took precedence over principle that day, a deed that is set to destroy a long-term relationship with long-term friends. It is a shame of a nation, which otherwise is the anchor nation of the black race.
If a country or government cannot stand by any principle or give its word and stand by it, it has lost credibility and can never be trusted by its friends and allies. Palestinian ambassador to Nigeria Dr Montazer Abu Zeid was quoted to have said, “It is a shock for us why Nigeria abstained… it is a sad day for us. Nigeria recognized the State of Palestine since 1988, when the times were even more difficult. They voted for the two-state solution; they voted for us on all issues on Israel and Palestine. Nigeria has been like a big brother to us but, at this crucial time, to vote to end the occupation, they abstained.”
What a shame! Nigeria’s abstention not only goes against longstanding positions of the OAU /AU and the Non-Aligned Movement of which Nigeria is a member but even against the interests of Nigeria and the African Union. A statement by the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) states, “There was an unwritten commitment between the North Africans and some Middle Eastern countries and sub-Saharan Africa to mutually support one another on two principles: (a) the right of self-determination (b) liberation of territories occupied by force. That is why, on their part, the North African/Middle Eastern states have supported decolonization efforts in Namibia, Mozambique, Angola and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) as well as the struggle against the apartheid in South Africa. In return, African countries have continued to support the struggle of the Palestinian people.
“Furthermore, it is strange that Nigeria would abstain on the latest UN resolution on Palestine at a time when the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council are deeply divided on the issue, with the US voting against, Britain abstaining, and France joining China and Russia in voting for the Resolution. Under this circumstance, Nigeria would have stood out as a country that consistently acts on principle and votes accordingly on matters affecting the rights of self-determination of people and rejection of the indefinite occupation of Palestine territory by Israel.”
There is a price for such things and the cost of this strategic blunder is potentially enormous to Nigeria. For those who may not know, 75% of the total Arab population in the world is here in Africa. The Arabs are collectively the single largest group in Africa. Thus, if Nigeria is said to be having a foreign policy that is Africa-centered, what the country did on December 31, 2014, is a great betrayal of a major component of Africa. Suppose the UN Reform which is expected to take place this year eventually materializes, does Nigeria realize that she would lose the critical support of this bloc in her bid to be on the Security Council eventually? Has anyone factored in this before this suicidal abstention?
For sentimental reasons, some people think support ing Israel is like supporting Christians while supporting Palestine is like supporting Muslims. This is far from the truth. If anything, at least one-third of the total population of Palestine is Christian. The current rulers of Israel under the war-monger Benjamin Netanyahu are not Christians but Zionists who are distorting the real teachings of Judaism, a great religion that does not subscribe to the land grab, violence and killings that the current Israeli leadership perpetrates, including the killing of women and children. This is the regime that Nigeria is supporting blindly instead of voting for the historic two-state solution for Arabs and Jews to live in peace.
Nigeria has always taken a principled position on any global issue over the years. Abstention is sheer hypocrisy and, in this case, amounts to a veto because that single vote would have sent a clear and unequivocal message to the Israeli leadership that it is time to stop violence and embrace peace, which in this case is the two-state solution where Palestine and Israel will have defined boundaries and lands to call theirs.
As it is, Nigeria is now known for inconsistency and hypocrisy even on a fundamental issue of racism and discrimination, for Zionism is apartheid. By this singular act, this government has undone a relationship that is centuries old. By this blunder, Nigeria has shown that she has no guts to defend even her national interests let alone stand up for Africa. By this suicidal mistake, Nigeria has shown that this country has no courage to stand up for the oppressed people anywhere.
The only thing that Israel exports is security equipment which will have no demand where there is peace; that is why it has a violent regime now. Government did not even take into consideration the domestic implication of this foreign policy blunder in an election year.
However, abstention or no abstention, history is on the side of the oppressed.
— By Abba Mahmood
ALSO IN THE PRINT EDITION