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Mustered Musings

"The years teach much that the days never know." -- Emerson

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Flying President ...

One area where President Olusegun Obasanjo has consistently received condemnations is his frequent foreign trips. After his re-election, President Olusegun Obasanjo seems to have again resumed his much-criticized foreign trips at the expense of the grave socio-economic crises besetting the nation. His frequent overseas visits paints a very sad picture of a leader who pays more attention to foreign issues at the cost of local ones. Last month, when a nation wide strike call was given by the National Labour Congress and the already crippling economy was threatened, instead of resolving the issues involved, he preferred to visit India and China ‘for increased trade and logistical support for African Union’s troops in the Darfur region’.

The day president travelled to India, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the civil society had held a rally to mobilize workers and Nigerians for the November 16 strike which they threatened would be ‘total’. It was disturbing that the President found it more convenient to mediate in the crisis in Darfur when his own house was on fire. Moreso because President Obasanjo’s chairmanship of the African Union is because of his position as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not vice versa, the interest and welfare of Nigerians is expected to be his primary responsibilities. His schedule and duties as the African Union Chairman should therefore is expected to be carried out in a way that will not conflict with his domestic responsibilities. Foreign concerns always seems to have diverted the President’s attention from the onerous task of national rejuvenation which Nigerians voted him to perform.

As per the local news reports, even in the face of a crawling economy, the sum of Naira 1.56 billion was proposed for foreign trips by President Obasanjo and Vice President Abubakar Atiku in the 2005 budget, apart from the N4.6 billion proposed as ‘trial payment for the purchase of Boeing Business Jet for the President.

Everyone expects that the lawmakers should help the President to stay more at home by diverting these embarrassing travel expenses to areas that will impact meaningfully on the people’s living standard .

The President recently denied that 70 percent of Nigerians languish in abject poverty, it is difficult to fault UNICEF’s recent statement that child mortality rate has worsened from 168 deaths per 1000 births in 1999 to 217 death per 1000 in 2003. The administration seems to be busy engaged in self-glorification and delusion over reforms that have not translated into good roads, education, potable water, employment and other social indices.

It is also sad that most public institutions including NEPA, NNPC, NITEL and NRC, still reek in corruption and are waiting to be given the much-promised dose of reform. For producing an experienced African statesman, Nigeria deserves to enjoy more of the acclaimed services which President Obasanjo dispenses freely abroad. He has nothing to lose by staying here to attend to the nation’s burning issues. There is a competent professional as Minister of Foreign Affairs, paid in dollars to manage the country’s external image.

To restore Nigeria’s image abroad, the president already have had the globetrotting binge of total over 380 days while news about the non-payment of utility bills in Nigeria's foreign consulates, non-payment of salaries to diplomats keeps pouring in.

Ofcourse there are others, who see the President's shuttle diplomacy as a vital instrument of forging bilateral and multilateral collaborations for sustainable development and peaceful coexistence and that it took the shuttle diplomacy of a leader of Obasanjo's stature to reassure the international community of the seriousness of what was initially deemed as Nigeria's precarious try at democracy !


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