President Buhari’s visit to China to sign investment deals once again underlines the necessity for sovereign countries to expand the boundaries of cooperation beyond the Western nations. In particular, the Nigeria/China currency deal which makes it unnecessary to use the dollar to import from China has been widely commended. The over-reliance on the U.S. dollar to carry out international trade and commerce has put too much pressure on our national currency – the
naira. The greater the demand for the dollar, the higher value it gains against the naira.
However, with the option by Nigerian importers to use the Chinese Yuan to buy manufactured goods from China and other products, the pressure on the naira would be significantly reduced. Despite these obvious advantages to Nigeria, some skeptics have expressed fears that the United States would fight back and deal with Nigeria for daring to relegate the dollar. This suggestion is not only ridiculous, but also an insult to the independence of Nigeria.
The greater danger lies in the inability of a sovereign nation to freely engage in wider international cooperation to protect its national interest. The late General Sani Abacha was isolated by the Western nations, and he went to the Chinese for cooperation. The present railway rehabilitation was the positive outcome of Abacha’s collaboration with the Chinese. If he had exclusively relied on the West for cooperation and collaboration, his development projects would have suffered or died naturally. A country needs courageous leaders like Abacha to assert their sovereignty.
The tendency of certain countries to kowtow to the United States or any super-power ultimately erodes their independence and pride. When the United States criticized the late South African President Mr. Nelson Mandela for relating with the assassinated Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the South African nationalist told the Americans they had no right to define his friends. The Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom was also in the news last week when she reacted to American criticism of her country’s plan to officially recognize an independent Palestinian State. She was quoted by the Reuters News Agency as saying that “Washington is not the one to decide our policies.” Therefore, unless countries assert their
independence, they will be taken for a ride by the powerful Western nations.
This issue brings to my memory the assertiveness of the late General Murtala Mohammed and General Sani Abacha in their dealings with international relations. General Murtala Muhammed gave dithering and undecided fellow African countries the courage to support the Angolan
nationalist movement – MPLA – led by the late Agostinho Neto. Emboldened by General Murtala’s guts, African countries followed suit and officially recognized the MPLA against America’s choice, the CIA funded UNITA Movement, led by the late Jonas Savimbi.
Regardless of the labels his hardened enemies may continue to give him, nobody can dispute the fact that the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, was courageous in his dealings with western nations.
After many African countries bowed to western pressure to keep the late Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi in diplomatic, political and economic isolation for ten years, General Abacha was the first to ignore the embargo and officially visited Libya in solidarity with the late Libyan leader. Thanks to Abacha’s assertiveness; his visit to Libya automatically killed the sanction against Gaddafi. It is a great mistake for any country to think that its survival depends on the approval of America or any western nations. Servility inspires contempt, and sadly many that want to be the yes men of America have failed to realize this ugly fact. However hard you try to be the “good boy” of these countries, mainly America, they would betray you. President Saddam Hussein of Iraq and the jailed former Panamanian leader, General Manuel Noriega were a few examples which
shows that servility to America doesn’t pay eventually.
While he was in power, General Abacha was branded “Nigeria’s brutal dictator” by the United States because he refused to take dictation from any foreign power. It was, however, the same “brutal dictator” who restored stability to Liberia and Sierra Leone, a task America had
failed to accomplish, despite its historical bond with Liberia. America only came to Liberia to evacuate her citizens and leaving Nigeria and other African countries with the burden of restoring order to Liberia. The United States never once gave credit to General Abacha for helping to restore stability to Liberia and Sierra Leone. But does that matter? As long as the record is there, America’s hostility cannot obliterate Abach’s immense contributions to Africa’s stability.
Abacha’s only offence in the eyes of the imperialist powers was his refusal to take dictation. He was not the kind of African leader that would tremble on the telephone while answering a call from Washington. He was not cast for the role of a puppet to be bullied around. Love him or hate him, nobody can deny the fact that General Sani Abacha was a courageous leader. No country should expect to be respected if it shows servility towards the imperialist powers. Respect is mutual: no independent nation should swallow rubbish from others. Whatever label anybody chooses to give the late General Sani Abacha, the fact still remains that he was outstandingly courageous and assertive.
Jabalu, International Affairs commentator, lives at No. 34, Nouatchott Crescent Zone 1, Wuse