By Omole Ibukun
Being a proud fan of Fela and a respecter of the legacy of the Afrikan Shrine, it was a surprise for me that a President of France could be celebrated in the same shrine. The surprise is how he found his way into Fela’s Afrikan shrine. Is it to sell his imperialist agenda to Nigerians with the angle of Africanness? Have we quickly forgotten Fela’s tough stance against colonialism, neocolonialism and imperialism? With the controversy of Nigeria signing African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) raging (in all fairness, we might not have a record the vocal support of Emmanuel Macron for the signing of the ACFTA or not by Nigeria), do we not understand that this strong advocate of regionalism and imperialism in Europe is here for business, not just culture or politics?
The visit of President Macron to Nigeria to discuss security and terrorism, one of the major issues troubling the country, might be seen as a kind gesture to some naïve minds, but I think this is the time for caution. Nigeria is a third world country plagued by illiteracy, poverty and insecurity, but we are not too dumb to know that there are no ‘free meals’ in international diplomacy. It is no secret that the European and Asian politicians, compelled by their business moguls, want a country with a large market like Nigeria to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA). While ACFTA might be good for integration, it will help these foreign markets open up Nigeria through neighboring countries and kill locally-made goods in that competition. President Macron seems to be here for imperialist world trade.
Buhari on the other hand has an election to win. He wishes to win that with the rhetoric of nationalism and national interests, which not signing the Agreement supports. He also wishes to protect the Nigerian business empire who might not want to compete with their more advantaged European contemporaries for the Nigerian market, at least till 2019. This is the empty patriotism with which the agreement is being approached by the administration. This is the caution that Buhari is taking; he will definitely have no reason to not sign it after the 2019 polls. In fact the signing of the ACFTA has turned to a talking point between President Buhari and one of the main antagonists of his 2019 aspiration, Former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
No one is intolerant of cooperation between countries here, but we must coherently see how that cooperation does not kill the autonomous survival of the poor masses of thsoe countries. Macron is presently unpopular at home in France for his reforms of cuts on the livelihood of workers of his country. Buhari’s cowardice and pedantry is also seeing to the growth of insecurity here in Nigeria. While we remain open-minded on whatever the content of this diplomatic visit is, we must state clearly that the unity of the African continent must be towards using the resources of the continent to better the lot of its people and humanity, and not to increase the profit margin of some European or African multinational or monopoly. It is with these words that I appeal that we should not get carried away by the youthfulness or the funkiness of the young president of France, but ask WHY IS MACRON REALLY IN NIGERIA?
Ibukun writes from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife