map ofFOLLOWING decades of Isreal’s’ unceasing land-grabbing intransigience, and America’s unrepentant indulgence, the oppressed people of Palestine finally dared the conniving world: it tabled the resolution for an Israeli withdrawal based on territorial lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day war, paving the way for the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2017. By pushing through a course, some wary observers, regarded as a doomed mission, perhaps understandably, giving America’s unpretentious opposition, Palestine’s “hasty”, but determined actions are perhaps quite reflective of the aspiring country’s pent-up frustration, frustration fuelled by lack of progress in peace talks that had effectively halted her long march to freedom and independence. It was no coincidence that they chose Tuesday 29th December, 2014 – the exact day marking the o years anniversary of the creation of the Fatah movement, to internationalise the issue by seeking UN membership and recognition of statehood. Following the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) vote, the verdict was out: 8 countries voted yes, 2 voted no, while 8 abstained. Of the latter group were Africa’s Nigeria and Rwanda. Herein lies the crux of this piece: why Nigeria voted the way it did. This question is particularly important given that Palestine needed nine votes to pass through the all-important votes. Had Nigeria voted yes, Palestine may have clinched what arguably may have been one of its most important victories in its struggle with Isreal. Nigeria’s abstaining vote therefore turned out to be decisive, effectively nailed the coffin of the Palestine bid. To be sure, the so-called victory, had it materialised may have given the aspiring nation nothing more than a symbolic victory. For one thing, America, the eternal ally of Isreal (and a permanent member of UNSC) had never hide its opposition to the Palestine resolution bid, and had made it clear, from the onset that it would certainly veto it. So, viewed against this backdrop of an impossible mission, there is little doubt that Palestine’s chosen course was actually a doomed course. Notwithstanding the odds, the Palesine remained undaunted, and proceeded with the doomed course, anyway. While not unmindful of the resolution’s little impact (assuming it came through), its symbolism however meant a lot to Palestine’s age-long struggle. Imagine being wantonly uprooted from your ancestral land. Imagine the impunity of a colonising power that has brought you so much suffering/agony. Just imagine all odds stacked against you. This, in a nutshell, is the Palestine reality – a painful reality that had pitched her in a perpetual struggle for independence, since Isreal’s creation in 1948. The life-preserving struggle had and is still being fought on all fronts, militarily and diplomatically. At the forefront of the military struggle is the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which had been locked in fierce and bitter struggle with the occupier. The diplomatic front had not been less scotching either. In fact, and based on the logic-defying politics that underlined the failed resolution bid, it could be said to be an even more treacherous water to navigate. For example, the European and African camps were split in the vote. France and Luxembourg voted in favour of the resolution while Britain and Lithuania abstained. Among the African. nations, Chad voted yes while Rwanda and Nigeria abstained.
Nigeria’s ignoble abstainig vote is particularly perplexing, and difficult to fathom. Indeed, if one could understand US (and to a lesser extent, Australia), being Isreal’s traditional (if unrepentant) ally, how could we possibly explain that of Nigeria? If anything, Nigeria’s historical and moral antecedents in given support to freedom fighters clearly suggest a yes vote. Over the years, we have built a respectable credentials of being at the forefront of fighting injustice. Recall our historical role in facilitating end of South Africa’s apartheid. Nigeria, at a point in her political life also suffered similar forced occupation like Palestine. Specifically on the Isreali-Palestine conflict, Nigeria had long recognised the Palestine rights to statehood, and had remained consistently vocal in lambasting Isreal over its occupation and other atrocities committed against the Palestine. What’s more, majority of Nigerians (whose views/values our foreign policy is ideally expected to reflect) have always been sympathetic to the Palestine cause.
So, given these overwhelming evidences, it beats ones’ imagination why our officials at the UNSC did what they did. But we may want to ask: are they really acting in the interests of Nigerians? Granted they are elected by the people, does this gives them the authority (legal and moral) to do things we do not necessarily support? Who/what indeed defines our interests? Or perhaps there are other interests at work?
Answering these plethora of questions, unfortunately may not be so straightforward. For some distubing reasons. In Nigeria, it has become traditional for leaders to subsume citizens interests, being so alienated from people’s real needs. We may not look further to recall cases of such subjugation. Recall the many policies taken, ostensibly in people’s interests but which turns out to be everything but people-centered: the much hyped Indigenisation Policies turned out to be a conduit pipe to further impoverish the people and enrich the elites; the much aligned Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP) was renowned more for is sapping effect on the masses than its professed transformational potential. While some die hard apologists would be quick to rubbish these, on grounds that “these policies are under unelected military juntas’ the bad news though is that even under the so-called elected civilian governments, situation is no less better. If in doubt, just consider these preferred candidate (at elections) is canvassed for, but it is the imposed that clinched the ticket; electricity is what is promised, but darkness is what they bestowed on us; road network is what we requested for, but pot hole is what we ended up with; good governance is the social contract we signed with our leaders, but bad governance is what is upheld etc. Needless to add the self-serving UNSC abstaining vote.
In the meantime, the echo of the elitist actions is still reveberating, triggering admixture of feelings and reactions. From the Isrealis, the reaction is understandably of relief- and appreciation – to fellow collaborators. Speaking in Jerusalem shortly after the vote, Benjamin Netanyau, the hawkish Isreali leader was evidently pleased, singling out, for special praise outpouring, Rwanda’s Kigali and Nigeria’s Goodluck, whom, in his words, “he spoke with earlier’; and “true to their promise”, “delivered”. In sharp contrast, was the subdued, if defiant picture of the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abass, while addressing a mammoth crowd specially conveyed to mark the 5 anniversary of the Fatah movement. Apparently too, to also celebrate the anticipated coveted prize – which, alas was not to be. The resolution bid was timed to be a perfect gift – the needed, if symbolic tonic to turbo-charged the freedom- seeking people. Watching the subdued leader and his people, I cannot help but share in their moment of papable grief and pain. A pain that that is doubled the instant the repulsive image of our UN officials, casting their (unrepresentative) votes, once again flashed through my disappointed mind. To think that Nigeria was part of the conniving few that denied a well-deserved (even if fleeting) joy to a long oppressed people! Unknown to them too, our disconnected UN voters did another thing: denying us that rare moment of joy – just when the largely joyless 2014 was easing its cheerless train out of our over-pressured psyche.
Mr. Olimuyiwa Thomas contributes this piece from Benin City, Edo State. He can be reached through the e-mail: [email protected],com.