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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Parliamentary diplomacy: Akpabio takes Nigeria to world stage at IPU

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The diplomatic tree Nigeria planted late last year is already yielding fruits. In October, 2023, at the 147th meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Nigeria’s Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, was elected into the executive committee of the body. Few months after, Nigeria has become a strong voice no longer ignored!

For 59 years, Nigeria’s legislative contributions to global development were stifled. But Akpabio’s 10th National Assembly is gradually changing the narrative. For instance, at the 148th Assembly of IPU in Geneva, Switzerland, Nigeria shone like a diamond, making globally-acclaimed submissions that have formed the working documents for the union.

It is commendable that Akpabio, as the leader of the his country’s delegation, effortlessly sold Nigeria to the world as a nation built on strong human values. Love, truth, right conduct, peace and non-violence form the core of those moral principles. The IPU conference primarily focused on world peace and how to manage global conflicts. Gratifyingly, Akpabio’s call for nations to “drop ego” and act “with humane feelings” that could uplift global citizenship sunk deep and drew loud, intermittent, ovations.

Akpabio successfully presented Nigeria as a country led by the humanitarians. While regretting the misadventures in Angola, Gaza and other conflict zones, which the global leaders failed to speak as a voice against, Akpabio charged IPU to consider the children, the aged and other vulnerable persons dying daily, there. “We have children who are dying, even as we are talking now;…we have people who cannot see water to drink even as we are talking now; we have those who are going to suffer from infections…We have to show the world that we are human beings…” he charged.

For Akpabio and the Nigerian team, a conference of such magnitude should not end as a jamboree without a concrete stand on key global issues. Hence, escalating conflicts and wars with their devastating effects on humans must be approached with unanimity of purpose and commitment towards world peace. Aside pushing for the release of hostages and mutual release of prisoners of war (POW), Akpabio urged that: “Cessation of hostilities must be part of our resolutions. Access to humanitarian aides must be part of our resolution…”

Only a humanist can stand in the gap for those he does not know. Clearly, Akpabio’s call for the world to “walk together, hand-in-hand even if we do not see eye-to-eye, in our march to reshape our world”, portends of a humane society that has taken years to build.

Global efforts towards peace are always desirable but sincerity has often been its bane. The other problem has been the bloated ego of some countries, who see others as second and third class nations. Akpabio’s bold and direct contributions therefore served as a stimulant for quicker altruistic actions.

With the five-star outing at the world stage, Akpabio has not only justified his headship of Nigeria’s legislature but also his election into the IPU executive committee.

With his sterling contributions at the 148th Assembly, Akpabio has properly positioned Nigeria on global stage for more respect and positive engagements.

IPU is strategically programmed for parliamentary diplomacy. Lawmakers, across the world, are expected to engage there in discussions, negotiations, and collaborations on various global issues, including conflict management, human rights, and sustainable development. Through this platform, countries are expected to build trust, facilitate mutual understanding, and work towards common goals, ultimately contributing to a more peaceful and stable world. Drawing from their workable individual experiences, nations could then guide the IPU towards borrowing ideas to implement in other similar circumstances.

Akpabio was therefore in sync when he recounted the myriad of successes Nigeria has made through internal parliamentary diplomacy. Through dialogue and some strategic legislations, Akpabio regaled the IPU with tales of Nigeria’s achievements in conflicts management. He narrated how Nigeria’s Parliament, particularly under his leadership, “employs mediation to address conflicts between non-governmental organisations and the government, as well as disputes involving labour unions.”

Because Akpabio drew from laudable practical and empirical experiences, it was easy for other nations to accept his submission on the imperative for the world to recognise the power of the collective voice in shaping a better future for all. His words: “We stand at a pivotal moment in history, an intersection where the choices we make and the words that we speak, have the potential to positively shape the future of a world in constant crisis. Therefore, we lend the voice of our country to the patriotic call for collective action to address the challenges facing our wonderful world”.

Despite Nigeria’s ethnic plurality and cultural diversity, with the potential for discordant interests, Akpabio felt excited to inform the IPU assembly that, “the (Nigerian) government, with the support of the Parliament, has embarked on efforts to strengthen peace, collaboration, and unity”.

Hence, since the specter of polarization along political, ethnic, gender, religious, or racial lines is a global menace, his submission was that it would make sense to adopt the Nigerian model for sustainable peace. “In Nigeria, our Parliament plays a crucial role in curbing polarization and ensuring peace and progress through legislation,” he said. One notable legislative milestone, recalled the Senate President, was the passage of the “Not Too Young to Run” Bill in 2018, towards widening the horizon for youth and women to actively participate in governance.

Aside Nigeria’s contribution to international peace through deployment of troops for peacekeeping missions across Africa and beyond, Akpabio spoke of Nigeria’s “significant role in conflict prevention and resolution through regional parliamentary forums, fact-finding missions to conflict areas, and addressing cross-border issues related to refugees, arms smuggling, and war-related criminal activities.”

He also pointed at the establishment of the National Center for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons as a demonstration of Nigeria’s commitment to combating insecurity by curbing the circulation of illicit arms in West Africa,” among others.

Arising from Nigeria’s experience, his voice rose a decibel when he cautioned on efforts to uphold international commitments, promoting peace-building, and holding the government accountable. Indeed, the theme of humanitarianism, as espoused by Nigeria’s Senate President linked to Martin Luther King, Jr’s admonition that, “all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of identity. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”.

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