Nigeria on Dec. 31, 2014, made its biggest ever foreign policy blunder. It was its last minute decision to abstain in a vote in the United Nations Security Council on an Arab draft resolution that would have ended Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories by year 2017. Israel had seized the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
To pass, the resolution needed to be approved by nine of the 15 permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council. Nigeria is one of the non-permanent members. Eight of the 15 endorsed the resolution and Nigeria had been expected to do the same because of its long standing pro-Palestine stance. However, just when diplomats thought a yes vote by Nigeria was a done deal, we delivered a shocker instead.
In abstaining, Nigeria was joined by Britain, South Korea, Rwanda and Lithuania. In the Tuesday night vote, Australia and the US voted against the resolution, while Russia, China, France, Luxembourg, Jordan, Argentina, Chile and Chad endorsed it. Explaining away our unexpected let down of the Palestinians, our Permanent Representative at the UN, Ambassador Joy Ogwu, said it was in line with our position that “the ultimate path to peace between Israel and Palestine lies in a ‘negotiated solution’.
However, she failed to see the contradictions in our latest position on the Palestinian Question. In 2013, without batting an eye, we endorsed Palestine’s application for membership of the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Secondly, Nigeria was the only member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) to have voted against the draft resolution calling for an end to Israel in occupation of Palestinian lands by 2017. Palestinian OIC representative Muhammad al-Akluk has called the Nigerian position a “clear contradiction” because it “violated numerous resolutions passed at the Islamic organization’s summits in support of Palestine”.
It is obvious that there are factors other than the reason given by Ambassador Ogwu that pushed the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to choose to abandon Palestine this time. It is no secret that relations between his government and the Israelis have been excellent of late. Jonathan, over the last two years, has gone on pilgrimage to Israel and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Secondly, it is believed that Nigeria decided not to endorse the resolution to repay Israel for recent “tangible assistance” it gave in the war against Boko Haram in the North-east. “Israel, as opposed to the US, Britain and other traditional Western allies, which have been engaged in semantics, has given Nigeria concrete assistance in the form of drones, arms, military advisers and training that has helped Nigerian troops”, according to reports.
Even so, we believe this is no time to abandon a suffering people who have come to rely on us for diplomatic and moral support in their struggle for independence against an enemy armed to the teeth by the United States and other Western powers. It is a big shame that in repaying a small debt we owe Israel, we have sacrificed the future of old friends and allies who the Palestinians are.