President Muhammadu Buhari is back in the country after participating in first the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi, Russian Federation from 23rd to 24th October 2019. Many of his detractors, especially from the opposition and few public commentators have shown dissatisfaction over Buhari’s rate of oversea trips in his five years in power. They say, the President travels too often. They quote his number of overseas travels as 46 so far- 3 times in 2019, 3 times in 2018, 3 times in 2017, 21 times in 2016 and 16 times in 2015.
Criticizing the president’s foreign trips has become a tool for clout for the oppositions; notwithstanding if such trips are for diplomacy or to promote Nigeria’s bilateral and multilateral relations. Buhari’s detractors chose to ignore the obvious truth that foreign trips are part presidential responsibilities globally.
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo in his 8 years in power made over 140 foreign trips to 97 countries, he was criticized. But Obasanjo said he travelled extensively, canvassing global understanding and mainstreaming not only Nigeria but the whole of Africa into the ‘New World Order’. Former President Goodluck Jonathan was also heavily criticized for his foreign trips. He was even accused of spending 3.3 billion on 20 trips abroad just in 2012.
Developing countries need to build interactions with the developed world and shuttles by their presidents are vital in this regard. Even in some developed countries, foreign trips are part of the many duties of their nations’ leaders. For example, the US president leads the country’s diplomatic efforts through state visits, meeting foreign leaders as well as attending intentional summits. President Bill Clinton made 54 international trips to 72 different countries; President George W. Bush made 48 international trips to 73 different countries. President Barrack Obama made 52 international trips to 58 different countries while President Donald Trump has so far made 15 international trips to 22 countries.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s international shuttles are not for fun or relaxation rather to negotiate Nigeria’s bilateral and multilateral relations; promote her foreign policy while also sourcing funding for Nigeria’s critical domestic infrastructure. Due to current realities in Nigeria, foreign trips have become necessary for tackling regional conflict and insurgency- especially the threats of Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP).
On June 3rd and 4th 2015 President Buhari was in Niamey, Niger Republic and N’Djamena, Chad to seek collaboration with the governments of our two neighbors in defeating Boko Haram. This strengthened the country’s offensive against the insurgents; hence Boko Haram was defeated technically. On 4th and 5th December 2015, President Buhari was in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the China Africa Summit, Nigeria gained a lot in terms of development and cheap loans agreement from China, especially in the area of the railway development, which Nigerians are now enjoying. In January 13th 2017, President Buhari was in Banjul Gambia, in which Nigeria played the leading role in solving the Gambian constitutional crisis. On April 30th 2018, Nigeria got a major boost in its relations with the United states when the President was hosted by President Donald Trump- many major agreements were signed which are vital for Nigeria’s development in the area of defense, trade, infrastructure and agriculture.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s international trips have helped Nigeria in the area of securing cheap loans, critical infrastructures, agriculture and combating regional and international terrorism including boosting Nigeria’s international image
On both long and short runs, Nigerians will see the gains of the President participation in the Russia-Africa summit which was held on October 23rd-24th 2019 in Sochi, Russian Federation. The summit is very important for Nigeria-Russia relations in terms of public infrastructure, improvement in the efficiency of Nigeria’s oil sector, military cooperation, fertilizer production, the Ajaokuta steel mill including Russian scholarship to Nigerians and technological & trade exchange.
Zayyad I. Muhammad Writes from Jimeta, Adamawa state