Leave Charles Taylor Alone in Nigeria

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

What kind of a man is President Olusegun Obasanjo? What type of a president is this who can not keep his words — especially when his promise was not made under duress? My goodness, his words ought to mean something. Other nations and opinion-makers ought to be able to trust him when he gives his words; but unfortunately, Obasanjo has turned or is turning out to be the kind of man who can not keep his promises or stand his ground when others are shaking him down. Who is this man, who is this president who is about to give in to domestic and international blackmail? If he succumbs he will lose face and credibility in the comity of nations.

If President Obasanjo understands nothing else, he should know that Trust is a very important and necessary ingredient in international negotiations and international politics.

The president of a sovereign nation, acting in good faith and within the confines of his country’s constitution and international conventions, has the right to grant safe passage and political asylum to a person or persons he deem fit — especially if such action will help bring about peace and stability to a country and region that had fallen victim to years of brutality, killings and wanton destruction.

Charles Taylor was a crook and a vagabond and a blood-thirsty despot. There is no doubt about that. However, to the extend that he was given a deal — a safe passage and immunity from arrest and prosecution in return for abdicating his country’s presidency — Nigeria and the international community should keep to their part of the bargain. It is wrong, legally and morally wrong to now want to change the rules when the game has begun. Why does the United States want Charles Taylor arrested and brought to trial? Why and why now? Whatever the reasons behind this dirty and duplicitous move, it should be rejected by President Obasanjo.

However, if America and her Allies want Charles Taylor, well then, Obasanjo should return him to a locality of his choice within Liberia and then let the Marines and the new Liberian President Mrs. Ellen Sirleaf Johnson and her gang go after Taylor. This they will never do or agree to for obvious reasons. They know what awaits them in the Liberian jungle. And if they dare, Liberia will return to the way it was — the killing field, the graveyard of bones and souls. They can also expect Sierra Leone, Guinea and other surrounding states to burn and wither.

Wars are easy to start but very difficult to stop. And even when the hostilities ceases, it is mightily difficult to bring about peace. In addition, one has to think about the prevention and or the reoccurrence of war; therefore really smart peacemakers always think about peace-building. “Conflict management is distinct from peace-building. The former is a temporary agreement in favor of cessation of hostilities (short-term goals), while the latter is long-term; it calls for an overhaul of the entire political system and institutions and attempts to ameliorate the root causes of the conflict.” And as far as I was concerned, Obasanjo and Mbeki, along with the African Union had peacebuilding and nation-building in mind when they offered Charles Taylor a way out. But apparently not!

Liberia was/is not much different from most other African countries. What make her different were the role and place of freed slaves and their descendants in the affairs of the country. It was a country that never truly assimilated the “outsiders.” Or perhaps the outsiders refused to be truly assimilated. Along with the ethnic fault line was the collapse of state authority, lack of human security, erosion of political goods and services, the politicization of the military, and the marginalization and exclusion of the indigenous groups and the attendant effects of years of seething poverty.

After several years of killing and destructions, Liberia, like Sierra Leone is gradually getting her acts together. We need not muddy the water more than it already is. The world will not come to an end if Charles Taylor is left alone in Nigeria. Thousands of apartheid goons still roam the streets of Johannesburg and Cape Town. And indeed, there are thousands of criminals roaming the streets of the United States after reaching plea agreement with the government. And even the State of Israel, with her avowed hatred of war criminals refused “Polish request to extradite Solomon Morel who was alleged to have committed crimes against humanity.”

Common sense and good sense should prevail here. It is easy to destroy lives and properties; but it is never easy to rebuild. It is never easy to rebuild hope and confidence and normalcy. Therefore the government of Liberia must be encouraged in her peacebuilding and nation building efforts — not engage in grave digging. What’s the point in returning Charles Taylor to the government of Liberia or an international court? To return him would be a subversion of justice and common sense and fair play.

If the United States of America was that particular about the welfare of Liberia, why didn’t they send in the Marines to “take care” of Taylor when Taylor was roaming and ruling with impunity? And if the United States was that sincere about her “distant relatives,” why didn’t she invest time and money and manpower in the prevention of war or the cessation of hostility or to the peacebuilding efforts? But she instead engaged in overt and covert activities, helping to plunder the nation’s resources.

Nigeria is a sovereign nation; she should at least for once act like one. Obasanjo is the president of an independent nation; he should act like one. He cannot be seen to be taking orders from Downing Street or the White House. And in fact, he should never take orders from foreign governments and their agents. He should never succumb to their blackmail and threats. No. The constitution of Nigeria confers on the president the right to offer clemency and or safe passage to anyone.

As individuals we may not like the politics and or the kind of scumbags that may occasionally benefit from such benevolence; but still, it is within the right of President Olusegun Obasanjo to grant such passage. In this case therefore, he has the backing of the Nigerian constitution to grant Mr. Charles Taylor safe haven in Nigeria. In addition, the president’s actions are in concert with Nigeria’s national security interest. After all, if Liberia were to go up in smoke again — as it surely would if care is not taken — it would be Nigeria, not the United States that will

have to rise to the occasion. Again.

The principle involved in this matter is simple: credibility and constitutionalism in all matters domestic and foreign. This is Obasanjo’s hour to show that, above all else, he is trustworthy, that he is a reliable partner. He must show that he has the character, the courage and the heart to stick to his words. If Obasanjo disappoints today by going back on his words, who else is he going to disappoint tomorrow? We cannot have a president that dances to the tune of foreign powers — be they the preeminent superpower or some banana republic somewhere in a distant land.

You may also like

1 comment

Anonymous March 28, 2006 - 2:30 pm

Sabella I agree with you. But I also think that a good leader is pragmatic in the sense that he will sacrifice individuals or relationships with other governments in order to provide for his own country. America does it everyday. For example, America will hang out with Sadam for decades until they no longer need him, then they topple him and start a war; remember former American allies like the former Panama strongman Manuel Noriega, former Philipine leader Marcos, former …you get the picture. Those are the dynamics of statecraft and international politics


Leave a Comment