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Published On: Thu, Jan 8th, 2015

Statehood: What does Nigeria want for Palestine?

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By Ochiaka Ugwu

Only last week, Nigeria against all expectations abstained from United Nations Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood. This singular action represents a diplomatic success for Israel who wants to prevent a Palestinian state attaining UN membership and its freedom as Nigeria attained from British in 1960.

Nigeria’s position signals a major Foreign Policy shift from the states-quo. Political observers have described it as a sign of major change in the country’s foreign policy.

It is on record that Nigeria had been at the forefront of the international clamour for independence for the State of Palestine, which had over the years, engaged in bitter warfare with the State of Israel.

Earlier before the actual voting, the office of the Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak revealed that Nigeria will vote against the Palestine’s freedom bid. According to Barak, Nigerian’s decision followed a meeting that was held in New York. Before the meeting, Nigeria was one of the Security Council members who was against passing the resolution, but was yet to take a decision on how to vote.

Barak had earlier updated his Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu of his plan to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan as well as United States government officials who were also working against the Palestinian Authority’s statehood bid from passing in the Security Council.

The office further revealed that the meeting was held last week, adding that they also discuss other pressing matters, regarding the wave of international terrorism, which, the two countries worked out modalities on how to tackle.

The United States has the veto power to overrule whatever decision taken in respect of the passing, and has made it clear that it will not hesitate to make use of it as they are also against the bid.

The Security Council members that are against Palestine’s UN membership are the U.S, Germany and Colombia while China, India, Lebanon, Russia, and South Africa are in favour.

It is unfortunate that Nigeria as the giant of Africa and leader of black race is unable to be an honest broker when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that have been on for decades

For US to put pressure on Nigeria to vote against the resolution shows that we are still tied to the apron string of these super powers.

Although, this may be contested as some have said that the nation cannot afford to abstain given the fact that we need the help of these super powers in tackling the rising insurgency, but upon the so called collaboration, Boko Haram seems to be winning.

It is not clear why Nigeria the largest economy in Africa is unable to be the honest broker that it regularly states it wants to be when it comes to issues involving justice and self determination. Everyone now see Nigeria as opposed to the Palestinian proposed resolution that attempted to put a date to the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

Nigeria and other countries repeatedly say they support the idea but prefer that it is accomplished in a different way.

To prove their point, Nigeria conspicuously abstained, refusing not to vote in favour of the resolution even though this oil-producing African country recognized Palestine and until half an hour before the vote reaffirmed it would favour it. So having flexed its muscles and accomplished its goal of rendering the Palestinian resolution’s defeat, why did the Nigeria continue to oppose a resolution the substance of which it says it supports?

Why couldn’t Nigeria just follow the example of its African neighbor, South Africa by being part of history towards the liberation of Palestinians? A vote by Nigeria would not have changed anything but it would have sent a clear message to all parties that when it can, Nigeria is willing to show that it is an honest broker.

Perhaps by abstaining, this is too much to ask and perhaps it is best that the world, especially Palestinians, give up on the pretence that the Nigeria can, even under President Jonathan, show a minimum of self respect and act in the same way as it talks.

Abstaining does covey much, because most times silence means consent on a particular issue. By voting the resolution, it doesn’t give automatic independence to Palestine. It simply means that Nigeria supports much of the content of the resolution and will work with the parties to reach an accepted resolution.

Most Nigerians no doubt is upset on their decision due to the controversy it generated around the world, because it left one wondering on why a new democracy will be blocking freedom for another country that shared a similar experience with it towards search for nationhood. By the action, Nigeria’s ability to engage and pressure Palestinians has been badly hurt by its unnecessary decision to abstain in clear matter.

Imagine if Nigerian representative had simply voted in favour of the resolution. It would have sent a message to the world that Nigeria has come of age and has the independence to make its own mind and to state its own position.

Taking a bold decision in a very serious issue does not amount to supporting any side but being on the part of truth. It doesn’t make you less a country either. Indeed, it will be a big honour that will even put the nation in the right position to work with the parties to reach an accepted resolution that will ensure permanent world peace.

We are convinced that it is possible, with further time and effort, to secure for the first time ever a resolution which commands full world report that will put a stop to unnecessary bloodbath in the Middle East.

Instead Nigeria against all odds legitimized the perpetuation of the Israeli occupation, ignoring the cry of the oppressed and students of peace and conflict resolution who put the blame of the failure of peace talks squarely on the shoulders of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

By abstaining in voting the relatively moderate Palestinian resolution, Nigeria has given encouragement to the policies of obfuscation and delay in the negotiations. A resolution that South Africa, France and Luxembourg were able to vote for, shouldn’t have produced an opposing vote by Nigeria.

About five hundred South African Jews among them anti-apartheid veterans, prominent authors, musicians, doctors, judges and lawyers added their voice to the growing anger against Israel’s military assault on Gaza.

In a half-page advertisement in the Sunday Times, they said they were “appalled and devastated” by Israel’s assault on Gaza and called on like-minded people of the community to sign an online petition against the aggression.

They also distanced themselves from local Jewish organizations, accusing them of having “blind support for Israel’s disproportionate actions”.

Whatever, Nigeria’s position may be, every right thinking person should be for a free Palestine and an end to the occupation which has deprived Palestinians the right to normal life, but hell. They have right to live a peaceful life and under an organized system.


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