[BLOG] The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”: “Does ECOWAS Make Sense”… without Pax Nigeriana?
15-10-2012 06:43:56 | by: Administrator | hits: 2638 | Tags:

For even a hardcore advocate of ECOWAS and regional integration like myself, I am getting a tad tired of the unresolved issues over Mali. ECOWAS has been waiting for the longest time for Chapter VII-approval from the UN Security Council to send an ECOWAS Standby Force. When ECOWAS leaders met some two weeks ago, they decided they needed to go into Mali. Now, France has waded into the picture, wanting to offer logistical support and whatnot. ECOWAS should just make up its mind—like it did with Guinea-Bissau—that it is going in. The prevarication is enough.

Ofcourse that might be easy for me to say as I am not in the thick of things. But so is this: Nigeria must step up and shape up in ECOWAS if the regional grouping is to make any meaningful impact in the 21st century.

That country just celebrated 52 years of its independence on 1st October to little fanfare over here in Ghana. Even its smaller neighbour in Ghana uncharacteristically made little mention of it. To speak of Nigeria these days is to speak with a heavy heart: it is a rich hegemon, tainted with the corruption tag like its life depended on it; replete with injudicious acts—from an inexplicable rise in armed robbery to police shooting civilians, to students performing unspeakable acts on mobile phone thieves--and plagued by the spectre of Boko Haram.

In my writings for this column last year, I was very critical of Nigeria—and not without good reason. My piece—entitled “Forget Pax Nigeriana, Enter Pax Aufricana”—was a fairly damning indictment of the country, especially its attitude to ECOWAS. It had experienced bombings on 17 June, 2011, but had yet failed to capitalise on that to push through the ratification of the proposed regional anti-crime agency the Criminal Investigative Intelligence Burea(CIIB)—despite having held many meetings in Abuja between June and August under the auspices of the INTERPOL-backed West Africa Police Chiefs Committee Organisation(WAPCCO), which is headquartered at the ECOWAS Directorate of Peace and Security! If that is not an act of pusillanimity, I do not quite know what is.

To boot: Nigeria was playing a very duplicitous role in the continent by failing at the Security Council and the AU’s Peace and Security Council to deliver for Africa. At the regional level, not once did one see a Nigerian response to the need to ratify the ECOWAS CIIB. I am not quite sure whether Nigeria believes that keeping ECOWAS citizens in the dark is the best way to do integration—or that it just does not have the testicular fortitude to push through with ratification at a time when its smaller ECOWAS neighbour in Guinea has established one at the national level.

If you are beginning to be put off by the apparent Nigeria-bashing, hold on a minute while I do an about-turn.

In so many ways, I respect Nigeria for the way in which it holds itself proud as the continent’s Black African keeper. That pride is great, and it has taken it very far, but it must do better in the context of ECOWAS.

When I ask “does ECOWAS make sense?”, those words, I must confess, are not wholly mine. It is the titular essay of one Nilanjan Banik and C.A. Yoonus (from the Institute for Financial Management) who asked this in their June 2011 paper. Their conclusion overall was that ECOWAS has a lot going for it (including the possibility of establishing an Optimum Currency Area (OCA) )—much like the Euro has done, but with specific reference to Nigeria, it must team up with Ghana; Senegal; and Cote d’Ivoire (in their capacities as some of the more resource-endowed countries) to “undertake more initiative to trade with relatively resource-poor states in West Africa.”

I am equally encouraged by the fact that thanks to the hard-headedness of people like Senator Ike Ekweramadu, speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, the Parliament is going to consider trying coup-plotters in the sub-region. The idea is that they will end up at the ECOWAS Court of Justice to be tried for crimes that are likely to disrupt the sub-region’s development.

In my view, the bottom line is that we need more people like Ekweramadu. There are too few of his kind populating the ECOWAS institutions. The impression is that many have grown complacent about the fact that the three most important institutions – the ECOWAS Commission; Parliament; and Community Court of Justice – are all in Nigeria. Sadly, that is not about to change any time soon, because our other ECOWAS neighbours also lack the testicular fortitude to make proposals for adequate “institutional distribution.”

Nigeria may be the largest country in the sub-region, but it must honestly step up. If it has deluded itself into thinking that this is “Pax Nigeriana”, it must come again. We need a strong ECOWAS—and most certainly a responsible and concerned Nigeria to assert itself for West Africa!

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on ekbensah@ekbensah.net  / Mobile: 0268.687.653.

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