New Telegraph

African leaders are generally fraudulent, says Akinterinwa

The plethora of issues in the international arena, especially the outcome of the election in the UK, France and South Africa and the verdict that Donald Trump can contest presidential election in the United States despite his conviction in 93 criminal cases in the face of President Joe Biden’s age would shape global activities in the next few years. Prof Bola Akinterinwa, an international relations expert and former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs examines these and more issues in this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE

Let’s start with the outcome of the UK election. What is your view of the defeat of the Conservatives under the leadership of Rishi Sunak?

Sunak is a son of an immigrant, and I cannot understand why a son of an immigrant could become unnecessarily too harsh on the modern-day immigrants. So, I think the defeat of the Conservatives is a most welcomed development for me. I don’t need to expatiate.

A descendant of an immigrant now suddenly said he is a conservative, what are you conserving? Are you going to be more conservative than the conservatives? You see, in this world, many of the privileged people are older and they take advantage of that to put themselves above all others. Is Sunak not of Indian origin? He now wants to make Britain a safe haven for those who claim to be more original than all others.

And for the first time in South Africa, the ANC lost the election and had to form an alliance with the DA to form the government. What does this tell you about the fortunes of the party?

Whatever has a beginning must always have an end. It is just like what Prof. Jean Batiste Duroselle said in his book, ‘Tout Empyre Pereira,’ that is, every empire shall perish. The ANC is one empire and there must be an end to an empire at any given time. The ANC has always been dominant and had the majority in the last 20 years.

You know, for instance, when you are no longer responding to people’s wishes, they will change. Voters have a voting mentality at every given time, but when the environmental conditioning of the voting mentality changes, then you must accept it. That is why some people have been talking about the principle of proportionality. Now what has happened is that the ANC could not have absolute majority, and rather than creating the situation of order and counter-order, amounting to disorder, the ANC had to go into uneasy marriage with the DA, not that it is convenient, but it did not have any choice.

The only thing is that in South Africa, if the blacks are able to have a grip of how to deal with problems, there would be no issues, but African leaders are generally fraudulent. They are very dishonest; they are not serving the people. And that is why when you hear the cliché ‘African solution to Africa’s problems,’ giving the wrong impression that we are able to control them, all these problems, like ECOWAS does not have the capacity to deal frontally with the Nigeriens supported by Russia, it is the same way in South Africa that ANC cannot form government without a special agreement with the other political parties.

Would you say the principle of proportionality was followed in the allocation of cabinet seats?

It is the same thing. They had to negotiate. The moment you form a coalition government you must negotiate and that is what Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been doing. Otherwise, there would be trouble.

Now to the election in France. How do you see the emergence of the far-right as the party likely to form government and the defeat of Emmanuel Macron?

The far right has been in the market place since the time of President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, through the period of Francois Mitterrand and Francois Hollande, ever before Emmanuel Macron came to power. You know that the father of the current Marine Le Pen was the one leading and they have always been complaining that the accord by immigrants, foreigners was influencing the growth of terrorism in France. They are foreigners and they have been there and you discover that many times the France nationals, far right, have always succeeded in being the finalist, contesting with the incumbent.

Also, the two-system political approach in France in elections where all political parties are allowed to present candidates in the first round, but the two political parties with the highest scores would go to the second round. That is why it has not been easy. So the far-right has a history of participating in the second round.

The issue now is why did Macron decide to dissolve the National Assembly at this critical time? Because he knew quite well that Marine Le Pen, the far-right will certainly come in a big way. Look, before now, presidential term in France used to be a seven-year tenure, and when you are re-elected, you would be there for 14 years, which would be more like a four-year term. If you divide 14 by four, it will give you about three and half years. Some presidents were re-elected twice, meaning that they were in power for 21 years. They had to review that and resort to a five-year term.

A President is re-elected on the assumption that he will continue to do well, but the moment they discover that he is not going to deliver, they will prefer to do away with him or her and go for the worse. That is the mentality of the French people in this particular case and that has been the pattern of their election.

There is this fear that Russia may have influenced the French election. How plausible is this?

I like your question. When Donald Trump was campaigning with Hillary Clinton in the United States, was the issue of Russian interference with electoral records through the use of computers not raised? If you agree that it was an issue, Russia’s foreign policy is anti-West in all ramifications. Now, Emmanuel Macron, himself has neither been for nor against Russia. The West has been talking about sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine, so Russia said, ‘far from it, we only engage in what we call ‘special military intervention.’’ What does that mean and what is the position of Emmanuel Macron in this particular case? He said they needed to tread cautiously with all these sanctions.

So, that gives fillip to the axiom that the enemy of my enemy is my enemy, but the enemy of my enemy could also be my friend for as long as the enmity will assist me to survive. So, Russia might have influenced the election in France, but why would you not expect Russia not to influence an election in favour of anyone who is likely to win?

But how is Nigeria going to be affected in view of its pro-West disposition?

Look, Russia told Nigeria in 2019, that it would help Nigeria to complete the Ajaokuta Steel Industry. That it would fund it. This discussion was held at the Russio-African Summit in Russia, but last year when the United Nations were to vote on Russian invasion on Ukraine, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffery Onyeama, under the influence of America and others, voted to condemn Russia.

Now, for you, if you are Russia, would you now help Nigeria to complete the Ajaokuta Steel Industry, when I, as Nigeria, had voted against you? The best thing to do, like some other countries did, was to abstain from voting. You would not be a friend of one and enemy of another. Do not be the friend of one, do not be an enemy of the other.

When you asked me if Russia would support one party against another, they pointed out that you must support anyone who would protect your interest. I can give you another instance. Russia is in Burkina Faso now. The alliance of the Sahel states now, they are a confederation. The trio of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have withdrawn their membership of ECOWAS. Now, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is frolicking around, when he had made a mistake by foolishly issuing an ultimatum to sovereign states.

In this case, if Russia were now to be keenly interest in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, and then there will be an election in Nigeria, do you think that Russia would be favourable disposed to candidacy of the likes of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, knowing he, as chairman of ECOWAS, took such action against Niger and the rest countries?

How do you see the policy summersault with regard to the suspension of the three countries by ECOWAS?

Look, when you said summerault, you know, my brother, there is a war that you prepared for, and there is another that is imposed on you. When a war is imposed on you, the story is completely different. Now, if you look at Article 2, Paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter, it stipulates that member states of the international community should not threaten or use force against another. But if you go to Article 51 of the same charter, it states that in the event that you are attacked by another nation, in a war that you neither provoked nor engineered, there is the principle of legitimate self-defence, but this must be in collective interest. That is why they call it collective security if you look at Article 5 of the UN Charter. In other words, an attack on Biyi Adegoroye is also an attack on Bola Akinterinwa if the two of us are in the same organisation!

The ECOWAS, the AU, even the EU have this provision that an attack on one member is also an attack on all others, they can explore collective security defence. So, the question you are asking is that Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Chairman of ECOWAS didn’t plan very well. Let me remind you that I, Bola Akinterinwa, and Kayode Ajulo, the current Attorney-General of POndo State, took ECOWAS and Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the chairman to court. We sued the ECOWAS Commission to tell them that they cannot declare war on the Niger Republic.

First of all, the ECOWAS Protocol and Treaty as amended does not provide for such things. It prohibits the use of force in resolving any dispute among sovereign states. When you talk about summersault, it is not such, it is simply in respect of …, if you are running after a snake, when the snake is tired and gets to a wall, it would want to fight back.

Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have declared that an attack on Niger is also an attack on them. Therefore, they will provide support to Niger. Secondly, we have the Wagner (mercenary) Group that is already operating in Burkina Faso and Mali in West Africa. So, in this case, they are ready to work for Mali and Burkina Faso. Thirdly, the Nigerien, the Burkinabe and the Malians have declared the France personal non-grata- that they should get out and have opened their doors widely to the Russians. The Russians look at it as a great opportunity to fight the Americans.

Hence in July last year, Burkinabe President, Captain Ibrahim Traore, went to visit Russia officially, go and google it.

I watched it on international television…

And he was given a red-carpet welcome.

Even recently, he exhibited some weapons…

At the level of agricultural development, go and see the type of agricultural machines, tractors and all those things they are getting, within the framework of their agreement. You know the agreement establishing the alliance, ASS, (Alliance of the Sahel States), was done in Lib Tako Buma. In the local language, it is Liba, terazey (to bury) in French, Tako, ((knock down). So, Lib Tako Buma is the confluence of the international boundaries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. And more than 45 per cent of the population of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger lives there. You know that Mali is bigger than Nigeria; Niger is bigger than Nigeria. But the issue is that territorially, their land is desertic, not arable. Nigeria is still the biggest country in Africa in terms of arable land. So, they decided to sign the agreement there, to mean that we cannot be knocked down; you cannot bury us. Meaning that there is no going back after leaving ECOWAS. That is the implication.

The military weapons you are talking about were acquired from Turkey, a turbulent country for the EU and NATO. These are trouble shooters. Turkey makes life difficult for Sweden and some countries in NATO. Besides, Turkey is not against Russia because they have what they call concord cordial. Now Burkina Faso is working like Russia when it was the Soviet Union.

You recall the word Moscovich. In the defunct Soviet Union, manufacturing was decentralized. For instance, vehicle tires could be manufactured in one region, the chassis and the engine in other regions. So, they had different places to manufacture all that will be needed to make a car, but the assembly plant used to be in Russia. The same way they handled their nuclear arms, Russia was holding on to it. So,that is why, for instance, when the Soviet Union broke up, Russia was asked to inherit everything, hence it is now the place where assembling of everything takes place.

In the context of the Alliance of State of Sahel, it is Burkina Faso that is taking virtually everything. It is the one assembling agricultural equipment and all and it is normal because it has borders with Mali and Niger. So, a little bit to the left, a little bit to the right. So, people are asking, how is he getting these agricultural equipment? It is by putting their resources together. And militarily, since Bola Tinubu as chairman of ECOWAS said they would attack, they are waiting for the day and would not want to be caught unaware. That was why I told you in the beginning that the war you prepare for is different from the war imposed on you. So, this time, they do now want an imposition of war for which they are not adequately prepared.

Next week, it will be one year since President Tinubu assumed office as chairman of ECOWAS. What are his achievements?

Beautiful question. Even when you achieve failure, it is still an achievement. The only thing is that the achievement may not be positive. The issue is that when you are determining success/failure, what do you consider? What was the objective, from the outset? The objective is simply that ECOWAS talks about zero tolerance for unconstitutional change of government. Mali changed government unconstitutionally, ECOWAS could not bite; Burkina Faso did same, to no avail and on July 26, it will exactly one year since the junta in Niger Abdourahmane Tchiani the head of the military government removed the president of Niger, so what is the meaning of zero tolerance for coup? It has been a failure.

First, they (ECOWAS heads of governments) gave a seven-day ultimatum that Muhamed Bazoum be released, last week, they simply removed his immunity and now he would be tried. Is that not failure?

Recall that ECOWAS started as a 16-country regional body with Mauritania. Mauritania left, and now, three countries- Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have also left the group during the tenure of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as chairman of ECOWAS. Today, ECOWAS has been reduced to 12 members, are we talking about progress in that case?

Let me remind you, Nigeria was a founding member of the initiative to establish the ECOWAS. It was at the instance of Nigeria. They started as far as 1972 when Henry Oloyede Fajemirokun went to Cote d’ Ivoire to represent both the business community and specifically on the instruction of General Yakubu Gowon. But most unfortunately, he died in Cote d’ Ivoire in 1972 at age 50. Nigeria brought in Togo, that was how ECOWAS was founded in 1975 when the treaty was signed in Lagos.

Now in 2024, the ECOWAS of 16 countries has shrunk to 12, and it is now breaking up when a Nigerian is the chairman. The answer is so clear. Has he achieved anything? Yes, he has achieved nothing.

Let’s look at what is happening in the US, where the Supreme Court ruled that Donald Trump enjoyed partial immunity over his action especially with regard to the January 6 riot?

You are just referring to immunity in Internal Law and Relations. Etymologically and up till today, immunity is only for whatever is done officially on behalf of the government or sovereignty. Anything you do in your private capacity. You can account for it when you leave the office.

In the academia, or in the enlightened society, when you say records are closed, the military, everybody talks about top secret, confidential, classified and all that. Why do they have that? It is simply to protect all those people that have been involved. Now, after 30 years in some cases, after they must have died, they will say that the files are declassified.

So, in terms of immunity, I think whether Section 308 or so talks about immunity clause, whatever is done officially, you have immunity cover, but beyond that, after your exit from power, it can be removed. Through the 1961Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Immunity, you can kill on behalf of the government, for as long as it can be proved that the killing is on behalf of the government. However, immunity does not remove from the fact that anyone who commits such crimes can go scot-free.

Does that mean that the US Supreme Court in that split decision bent the rule in favour of Donald Trump?

Yes, because there is what is called the law of politics and the politics of law, you can differentiate between the two.

Now, I want us to quickly move to the case of Biden. He has been rated very low in the presidential debate and the call for him to step down is mounting?

Well, President Boden has made it clear that he does not debate unlike before, that is he is facing the issue of age, and that can be a reason. But he knows how to defend America, he knows how to tell them and the whole world the truth. So, in terms of assessment and the likes, yes, he didn’t perform well, there is no disputing that, but that mere fact does not mean that Donald Trump is better than him.

You see, sometimes, when people play football on the field, the side that is perceived to be better has already scored 2:0 against their opponent, but at the tail end, probably in the second half, or at the tail end, you could see the team defeated in the first half, scoring and equalizer and then goes to win the game through penalty.

Nigeria did that in a match against Argentina…

That is the point I am making. The fact that Donald Trump did well in the debate does not make him a better candidate. Donald Trump is a criminal. He has 93 convictions.

I was coming to that. How do you see the fact that American law allows an ex-convict to contest for elective position?

That is why the whole world will never have peace. This is because the role model America which the world is trying to follow, laid the foundation for crime, international terrorism, discrepancy, political chicanery and political recklessness. How would the Americans, for instance, bearing in mind, you see, people saw the video, where Donald Trump was watching the destruction of the Congress. The video is there, I didn’t make it. And now, you will be using legal arguments!

Donald Trump was not paying taxes, rather he was short-changing the government. One more thing, the implication now is that America is giving to the world a confirmed criminal, who will now want to come to a meeting with other presidents. But we know that Trump is a criminal. He has committed many crimes against the state. In this case, any citizen can vote, and the fact that the judges have decided in his favour does not mean that Trump is free.

Look, let me refer you to what Shakespeare said in Macbeth. Macbeth, after killing King Duncan said that this soap and water can never clean him well. And Duncan’s two children, Malcolm and Donalbain, were debating on what to do, but the latter said ‘let us wait to find out who killed our father.’ But Malcolm told him ‘look up, the dagger with which they killed our father is still hanging.’ If you pass under it, it will just strike you down.’ There is no way you can clear Macbeth of the guilt. Donald Trump has been convicted many times, even though one conviction is enough. I am saying that it is not acceptable for America to be proposing to the world a convicted person as president to be relating with world leaders. That is why the Yoruba would say ‘if you don’t eat oil because of yam, you will eat yam because of oil.’ Joe Biden is still a better candidate, because he is less a ‘criminal’ than Donald Trump.

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