Nigeria And The Expansion Of The P5 Of The Un Security Council


Okoh Emeka

The United Nation’s Security Council sixty years after its formation still reflects the global power structure of 1945, notwithstanding that its membership has been expanded from 11 to 15 in 1965. Although the world has changed substantially since the UN structure was created, the five World War II favorites (China, France, (USSR) whose position has been taken by Russia, the UK, and the US) have held on to their privileged status - they are "permanent" and can each veto any Council decision. This arrangement makes the Council both undemocratic and often inef fective. The few powerful members dominate UN policy and can easily veto any decision even if widely accepted by other players. Despite the geographical representation of the ten elected members, the Security Council remains imbalanced in favour of the industrialized powers.

There exist a consensus among nations on the necessity of reforming the United Nations SC; the problem lies on a single word HOW? Finding an all-convincing answer to that question I bet is as hard as anything hard we can think of. In trying to answer this all important question, the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, during his address to the General Assembly on September 23, 2003 declared that the UN had reached a “fork in road” and announced the formation of a High-level Panel consisting of 16-member Eminent Personalities.

On December 2nd, 2004 the reform panel submitted their proposals for reshaping the most important international organization, which notwithstanding its inequalities still confers and carries a big weight in international relations. The panel submitted two conflicting recommendations but each contained expansion of the Security Council from 15 to 24 member nations. Of the two options, option A which provides for six new permanent seats with no veto being created, and tree new two-year term non permanent seats divided among the major regional areas seem to be getting more support from commentators. Going by that option, Africa has two seats, which will be contested by the three regional favorites-Nigeria, Sout h Africa and Egypt.

As time draws closer to the gathering of nations in New York, we will try to look on our chances (Nigerian Chances) of clinching on one of the seats reserved for Africa. What are the forces that will work in favour and or against us? Looking at the contenders it can easily be seen that the race will in no way be an easy one, the road is going to be rough, well calculated and articulated diplomacy remains the only hope of taking what I can say is rightly ours for the reasons that will be stated below. In fact, if Nigeria had grown to the level expected of it, just as the case of India and Brazil is more or less a concluded issue so also Nigerian case would have been.

Egypt has a powerful well skilled tactics of carrying out its foreign policy and in protecting its interest as a nation, which has always worked to their favour, and I believe that its diplomats should be given credit to that effect. This tactics draws and reflects its ethnic religious and more importantly geographical situation. From the foreign policy perceptive - Egypt is simply Egypt; and any other name that is to be attached to it will depend on the aims and anticipated ends, they will claim to be more Arab than any other Arab when need calls for that, where Palestinian issue is involved, they are not just acting simply as an Arab country, no not at all, the status has changed, Egypt in this case is simply middle East. When the need arises to be Africans, dare proof to them that you are more African than them. This tricky but interesting reality for years has benefited Egypt and it is still doing. An Egyptian, Boutrous Boutrous Ghali once occupied the seat of the UN Secretary General, Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, till date remains the Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency.

Looking closely at the recommendations it is immediately noticeable that although Asia will have three representations – China, India and Japan, no Arab will accept that any of the three can frankly represent his interests. It is on the ground that Egypt will not only be representing Africa but also the Arab interest that many international commentators seem to favour and endorse Egypt candidacy.  I agree with Dr. Adepimpe Onifade when he w rote: “Egypt may have the status, but appears not to have the financial means and or political will to leverage regional security” and aside all that, the seat in question is exclusively reserved for Africa as a continent and not a shared seat between Africa and Asia, middle east or any other for that matter. Egypt Foreign Minister argued that Egypt has the strongest military in Africa, although am not in possession of any statistical figure of the said “strongest” military, but let us just take it that it actually has the “strongest” military, but as far as security in the continent is concerned the strongest military is dormant and invisible. There is a clear absence of political will in the part of Egypt. Like I said, it will be very erroneous to endorse Egypt following the argument of dual interest representatio n. The geographical status of Africa should be maintained, if it is maintained, the question now becomes; can Egypt truly represent African interest. I will say no.

Egypt is doing all it can to convince the world that it merits a permanent seat, so many people were surprised at a sudden change of heart by the Egypt government to conduct a multi-party election, I was not surprised because to any close observer of international politics it is an open secrete that that action and their intentions to take possession of the Security Council seat are connected lest they be labeled undemocratic by their American friend, I may not completely exclude that it is co-planned with the US. Egypt has actively participated in bringing together the leadership of Israel and Palestine to demonstrate their effort in bringing peace to the most troubled region in the world, it may be wrong to state that all these efforts are geared towards their aim to gain support in taking the Af rican seat but at the same time it will be absolutely wrong to exclude that intention.

As for South Africa, it is argued that its endorsement may come mainly as an Economic power, one commentator wrote “been taken serious by the G8 means been taken serious by P5”. South Africa is Africa’s emerging economic and moral powerhouse, having successfully transited from apartheid isolation to a modern democratic and multiracial society. Here also Mandela factor is a great plus for the South, it is no secrete that Mandela is a living legend, he is respected my all, his opinion and influence will play to add support for the South Africa. Though South Africa may possess economy which puts it above all other African countries but we should not also forget that South Africa has a sub structure of a White-led economy and a Black-dominated polity and cannot be said to be completely feet to authentically represent and defend African interest.

Nigeria, the “giant” of Africa! It will be unthinkable to consider any representation without first putting Nigeria in the burner, it’s been said that a quarter of Africans are Nigerians and that of every 5 Africans one is A Nigerian. The most populous black nation in the world, who else is and can be more feet to represent Africa and the black race than Nigeria? However the issue goes further than just population. Nigeria is Africa’s most prominent and consistent defender of African liberation, and served in that capacity even when battling imperialism and all forms of colonial oppression was considered foolhardy. It played a leading role in merging the Casablanca and Monrovia blocs, which paved the way for the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963 and, later in 2002, its successor, the African Union (AU), currently chaired by Obasanjo. A rousing speech by the late General Murtala Mohammed in 1975, in which he declared that “Africa has come of Age,” quickly became the mantra for Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and non-White South Africans as they struggled for social and politico-economic independence in the 1970s and 80s. Massive material and financial aid from Nigeria were constantly channeled into and ultimately guaranteed the success of various liberation struggles. It is for this reason that Nigeria rightly earned the status of a “Frontline State.” Also, in recognition of its stand against South Africa’s apartheid, Nigeria was appointed to permanently chair the UN Anti-Apartheid Committee until the inhumane system was disbanded . 

Any country or countries that will finally represent Africa must be a country with straight-faced and sincere attitude towards regional and global security. We are on the advantage in this case, Nigeria remains the biggest contributor of peacekeeping force to the United Nations  in Africa, Nigeria spends millions of dollars every year maintaining security in Africa. Nigeria is the largest democracy in Africa. Of course the status of one of the most corrupt country in the world can work against us but as it looks from the outside, Obasanjo’s government may have come to understand that and the recent interest in fighting corruption is very welcomed even if it is simply a mere gesture to the international community not really true intention to get Nigeria out of mess, such camouflage though not completely acceptable is allowed in international power play. Nigeria needs to demonstrate capability to reduce corruption to its lowest minimum, in doing that however, Nigeria must vehemently reject any move to disgrace her in the eyes of the international community, the recent search of Atiku’s residence and the silence of the lamb of Obasanjo’s government clearly demonstrates a desire to settle personal scores at the expense of the image of Nigeria as a nation.

These qualities automatically does not in any way make Nigeria a permanent member, the pattern taken so far by the government and other African leaders is a welcomed pattern although I seriously doubt that the commission looking into the permanent seat question will finally come out with a consensus. In the light of that doubt, it will not be a bad idea if Nigeria will start underground talks with such countries as India, Brazil Japan and Germany so as to present a collective single request with them in the General Assembly. In doing this, we can use not just the present serving diplomats but also the likes of Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth and many other intellectuals at our disposal.

It is no secrete that the present P5 will play a serious if not determining role in who gets what in the reformed security council thereby making it a necessity to garner their support, United States will be in a dilemma on whom to give its vote, Egypt represents a very important geo-strategic interest of the US, it will be a hard deal to get Washington to back Nigeria but we all know that US is obssesed with black Gold and using what we have to get what we want may not be a bad idea. London will more likely give Abuja a nod. The simple reason that Egypt remains the only African country visited by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is enough to convince anybody that unpredictable Moscow will likely give Egypt i ts support, in the wake of the conflict emerging from the detention of Russian citizen in Nigeria, a group of law makers in the Russian Duma said that Nigerian quest to join the P5 is untimely, however, those detainees can even be used to strike a deal with the Kremlin. It is more difficult to even guess which direction Paris and Beijing will head, though for economic reasons their first nod will likely go to south rather than Egypt or even Nigeria. Large Muslim population in Nigeria should also act as a factor to bring Muslim countries to support our effort. Notwithstanding that Sudan is seen as an Arab country, Nigeria has been in fore front of the fight to bring the Darfur crisis to and end.

Nigerian multiethnic structure naturally cultivates tolerance and the spirit of coexistence thereby enhancing regional security. A friend once told me how a boy from Congo confronted some Russians saying some nasty things about Nigeria; he told them “Nigeria is Africa’s big brother, messing with Nigeria means messing with Africa”. The big brother should take his place to effectively defend his juniors; we have that capability all we need is to harness it to take our rightful position in Africa and in the world



Moscow 2005ã