GUEST Column by Musa Ilallah
Tuesday September 17th 2019 was not just an ordinary day for Nigeria and Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande. The day was significant in a number of respects for the PMB administration in particular and the African Continent in general. Nigeria’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Professor Tijjani Muhammad- Bande assumed office as the President of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly,UNGA. He was elected by a unanimous acclamation in June 2019 to preside over the affairs of UNGA for the next 12 months after a strong mandate from his home government, which nominated him, was endorsed by the Group of African States and finally adopted unanimously by all the member-states.
This is coming to Nigeria thirty years after the Late Major General Joseph Garba as Nigeria’s then Permanent Representative to the United Nations was elected as the President of UNGA.
Even before his election in June this year, Ambassador Bande, in his various interactions with his colleague Ambassadors at the UN while serving as Nigeria’s Permanent Representative since 2017, had shown full capacity, intellect and competence to lead the UNGA into the future. A former Vice Chancellor of Usman DanFodio University, Sokoto, Ambassador Bande is a recipient of many awards and honours, most notably, Nigeria’s Officer of the Federal Republic,OFR; one of his homeland’s highest honours.
The Muhammad-Bande Presidency presents Nigeria and Africa a unique opportunity to ensure the implementation of the existing mandates for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Already the Federal Government of Nigeria had dispatched a three-man team to witness the assumption of office of Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande as the President of the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA. A statement signed by Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, confirming this development explained that the team to the historic event was led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ambassador Ahmed Rufa’i Abubakar and the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN was elected President of the 74th session of the 193 nations General Assembly by acclamation on Tuesday, June 4, to serve the one-year role with a strong mandate from his home government, which nominated him and endorsed by the Group of African States and adopted unanimously by the member-states.
The Presidential aide, therefore, expressed the hope that the Muhammad-Bande Presidency at the UNGA would ensure the actualisation of “the major priorities of Nigeria and the African continent’’.
It is on record that soon after his election, Professor Bande pledged to focus attention on ‘peace and prosperity’ for most vulnerable in the world. In his first major interview since his election with UN News, Ambassador Bande highlighted poverty eradication, quality education, and inclusion as his top priorities.
In terms of the coming year, he tells UN News that “education is really a complex matter. Whoever is denied an education is denied almost everything”. With education “we are likely to have less hate, we are likely to have better understanding…we are likely to have more equality”.
On the upcoming 75th anniversary celebration of the UN’s founding, Ambassador Bande said: ‘’there was a need to mark this important event in the history of the Organization and the world, and of politics in general. It should remind us as to the purposes of the Organization, its limitation and its promise and this promise is what we should all keep in mind.”
According to him, three main priorities that will characterise his tenure will be poverty eradication, quality education, and inclusion. This is aside the normal priorities of all Presidents of the UNGA which are peace and security.
When asked by UN News on the UN’s work and its future, UNGA President Bande explained that the Assembly has had also a very good basis from its beginning. ‘’We have had a few areas in which we didn’t do as well concerning, for example, genocide in Rwanda. There are many other areas in which, for example, norms concerning health issues and pandemics, issues relating to agriculture, issues relating to counter-terrorism, there is an emergent view, and, some constraints concerning the need not only to work together, but also (take) action on the ground on these matters, he added.
On any plans for improving gender parity at the UN, President Bande: ‘’I think the improvement is really in implementing what we’ve agreed to in a concerted manner that no one is left behind regardless of gender, race or religion. We have the Opportunity also of dealing with Beijing+25. It gives us another platform to reflect further and see whether we’re able to find, even more effective means of ensuring gender equality’’.
Speaking on education, President Bande added that whoever is denied education, he is denied almost everything in life. Explaining further, Bande said: ‘’Look at the connection between education and employment, education and equality, education and a sense of your rights, and around the globe that with more access to education, better curricula, we are likely to have less hate, better understanding and likely a better economy’’.
In the words of Ambassador Bande, ‘’The global reach of the United Nations makes it the world’s best hope for peace and security, sustainable development and the promotion and protection of human rights and social progress.’’
In his inauguration speech in New York, President Bande spoke about a number of September’s high-level events that will be convened at UN Headquarters to support the Sustainable Development Agenda, including High-Level Political Forum, the Climate Change Summit, the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, the High-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage, as well as high-level meeting to review progress made in addressing the priorities of Small Island Developing States, SIDS.
“The promotion of human rights and the empowerment of women and youth deserve special attention, and I will be devoted to the promotion of gender parity throughout the whole UN system, starting from my own Office”, said the President. In his remarks at the ceremony, Secretary General of the United Nations, UN, Antonio Guterres while congratulating the UNGA President noted some of the “many important and admirable qualifications” he brings to the office. He cited the president-elect’s tenure as Nigeria’s UN Ambassador; his expertise in political science and public administration; and the “invaluable insights” he has into Africa’s challenges and world affairs in general, particularly regarding the Organization’s peace and security work, sustainable development and human rights.
For Nigeria in particular and Africa in general, it is a new lease of life at the UNGA. I will with all sense of humility and confidence that the tenure of UNGA President Bande the African continent will be better off for it. All he needs now to make his tenure impact positively is cooperation and support from African member states in particular and the world in general.
As an Academic, University Administrator, Technocrat, political scientist and career diplomat, President of UNGA, Ambassador Bande will not disappoint Nigeria, Africa and all member states of UNGA.
ILALLAH is reachable via