President Muhammadu Buhari just returned from the 5th United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Doha, Qatar.
The Conference featured an opening ceremony, the Fiftieth Anniversary Commemoration of the Establishment of the Group of LDCs, General Debate, Eight (8) High-level Thematic Roundtables, and series of side events on priorities of the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA).
The objective of the Conference was to primarily mobilize political will, solidarity, action and solutions to transform the LDCs, by finding sustainable solutions to the challenges of poverty, food insecurity, hunger, weak or nonexistent infrastructure, inadequate health facilities, climate change, among other things.
Expectedly, Nigeria participated in the general debate in which President Buhari delivered a national statement while the Ministers of Environment, Education, Humanitarian Affairs, Industry, Trade and Investment, Finance, Budget and National Planning participated in the main Thematic Roundtables relevant to the policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
These thematic issues were: Addressing Climate Change and Supporting the Environment; Investing in People in Least Developed Countries to Leave no One Behind; Enhancing the Participation of Least Developed Countries in International Trade and Regional Integration; and Resource Mobilization and Strengthened Global Partnerships for Sustainable Development in Least Developed Countries.
Nigerians saw much of it on TV, great visuals of accomplishments and possibilities from there.
While in Doha, the President held series of talks on the sidelines, meeting the Chairman of ECOWAS and President of Guinea-Bissau, Oumarou Sissoco Embalo who brought the good news of the forthcoming Icon of Democracy Award to President Buhari; the Transitional President of Chad, General Mehmet Idris Deby-Itno who got assurances of support for the democratic transition going on in their country, with both leaders appreciating the sustained momentum in the transition, and another meeting with the Vice President of Iran, Mohsen Mansouri.
Here, both leaders discussed ways to further strengthen economic cooperation especially in the sectors of energy, infrastructure and culture.
President Buhari told the Iranian Vice President that he fully supports “the strengthening of relations between our countries, as we have complementarities, especially in energy production.”
The President also had another important meeting with the father of the current leader of Qatar, the host country, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
The two leaders discussed ways to increase commerce, make people-to-people ties even stronger, cooperation in areas of energy, culture and other important issues.
President Buhari used the opportunity of the visit to speak to his guests about the recent election in Nigeria and the fact that a new President would be taking over in less than three months.
He hoped that the strong relations he had built between those countries will continue to endure in the new administration.
The highlight of the conference for Nigeria was the national address on the theme of this year’s event “From Potential to Prosperity”, a speech that observers described as strikingly activist.
In it, the President criticized the current structure of the global financial system which, he said, “places an unsustainable external debt burden on the most vulnerable countries.”
He warned that such debt burdens would make it extremely difficult for LDCs to meet the 2030 Agenda for Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
‘‘In 2015, the world came together to endorse the 2030 Agenda for Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. There was no doubt that it was highly ambitious and would require leaders around the world to be fully committed for the SDGs to be achieved within the projected timeframe.
‘‘Eight years on, the possibility of achieving the SDGs remains bleak for many countries, particularly, the Least Developed Countries.
The difficulties in achieving the SDGs are numerous and were further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, the continued threat of Climate Change, and recently the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
‘‘The Least Developed Countries are often faced with developmental vulnerabilities and challenges that are not always of their making.
These pose huge obstacles to their development efforts, hence the need for urgent and robust assistance to help unlock their potentials and build socio-economic resilience.”
He was also very strong on his pet topic, Climate Change, in the speech warning that climate change remains one of the biggest existential threats facing humanity today, posing challenges to lives and livelihoods, and manifesting in different negative forms, including increase in temperature, rise in sea levels, flooding, drought, and desertification.
‘‘It has also led to significant loss of biodiversity. Worst still, climate change has exacerbated conflicts and led to unplanned migration, causing untold hardship in places like the Lake Chad Basin region.
“The Least Developed Countries therefore continue to suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change, despite contributing the least to its causes. Deaths from climate related crises are higher in the most vulnerable countries, with projections that there will continue to be an upward trend.”
Speaking to Nigerians in the diaspora about the ongoing political transition, President Buhari called for support for the incoming government of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, “so that Nigeria will continue to be the beacon of hope and prosperity in our continent and an example for other African countries to emulate.”
In addition to other things, this trip, more than any other, speaks to the courage, political stamina and statesmanship with which the President has managed the affairs of the nation.
In the buildup to the trip, he was faced with orchestrated attempts to poison public opinion against national institutions, particularly the presidential election and its conduct by the independent National Electoral Commission, INEC as an institution, against which vile and unsubstantiated allegations were hurled.
The clear intent of this was creating an atmosphere of fear, polarizing the public and demonizing the administration of the President.
The wishful thinkers appeared to assume that the June 12, 1993 election crisis, the worst ever since the Civil War could be recreated. Those who sought to do this forgot what the President said at the palace of the Gbong-Gwon Jos, when he went to the city to inaugurate the Tinubu-Shettima campaign:
“This election will not be annulled; whoever is the winner will be president.,’’ he said.
President Buhari not only muted himself following the cacophony, he picked up international travel: “Bola Tinubu’s election stands. If you are aggrieved, and you have the locus to do so, go to court.’’
Whenever the President travels abroad, he meets world leaders but doesn’t miss the opportunity to talk to our citizens there, who proudly tell him about the achievements of the Nigerian community settled in those countries. The group he met with in Doha was made up of very outstanding professionals.
In putting together those meetings, the Nigerian Diaspora Commission under Abike Dabiri has been showing a remarkable aptitude.
The trip to Qatar was yet another successful outing by the President and it will be on record as such.
Garba Shehu is the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Media & Publicity.