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U PRESIDENCY: African leaders reject Nigeria’s request to shift poll by 1yr

Nigeria may not be elected into any serious post in the African Union, which crucial annual summit to elect its President and chairpersons for vital organs of the organisation, got underway in Kigali, Rwanda last night. AfricaVanguard learned that conflicting interests played up by some well-placed individuals in the Presidency on one hand and others in the nation’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on the other, left Nigeria with no serious strategy on how to win the AU Presidency or clinch two coveted posts of Peace and Security and Political Committees, which it had initially indicated interest. It was learned that Nigeria committed a serious diplomatic gaffe when a top official of its Foreign Affairs Ministry unilaterally declared to other AU member states that Nigeria was not interested in any of the key posts without seeking clearance and confirmation from the Presidency. Arising from the declaration by the top Nigerian diplomat, other AU members, particularly from the Arab bloc, which had never had a stint at the AU Presidency, immediately swung into action to fill the post and other strategic committees of the body. However, Buhari is reported to have expressed disappointment when he got to know that Nigeria had inadvertently been schemed out of the Presidency and other posts and immediately requested for the shifting of the elections by a year, apparently to enable Nigeria put its house in order and put up candidates. To get the President’s position accepted by other AU members, the Presidency dispatched former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and one-time Foreign Minister, Babagana Kingibe, to lobby some influential African foreign ministers to acquiesce to the request. However, the AU has pressed ahead with the Summit, which will culminate in the crucial election in Kigali, thereby putting Nigeria’s interest at bay. Apparently miffed by the refusal of the AU leaders to accede to his request to shift the summit, President Buhari stayed away from the event but dispatched his Vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, to attend instead. Vanguard learned that although a Nigerian from Kebbi State, Salamatu Suleiman, currently heads the Peace and Security Committee of the AU, some powerful elements in the Presidency, have been working behind the scene to get her replaced by a former female Education Minister from Jigawa State, for reasons yet to be made public. While the AU would prefer Suleiman to continue in that post, given her understanding of the dynamics of the Union and continental power, some hawks in the Presidency appear to be hell bent on foisting the former minister on the body, a development likely to backfire. As at last night, it was unclear whether Nigeria would put up a candidate for the Political Committee, which is currently headed by Aisha Abdullahi. Beyond the powerful committees, which Nigeria is likely to lose out, the AU Presidency is being hotly contested by three nations, which see themselves as the favourites to win the slot. The AU Presidential candidates are Botswana’s Foreign Minister, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi; former Ugandan Vice President, Dr Specioza Naigaga Wadira Kazibwe; and the Equatorial Guinea Foreign Minister, Agapito Mba Mokuy.


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