Viewpoint

April 15, 2024

Akpabio and new vista in parliamentary diplomacy

Senate launches magazine

Akpabio

By ANIETIE EKONG

THERE is a general consensus that Nigeria had a glorious outing at the recently concluded 148th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, IPU, which was held in Geneva, Switzerland. Through the leader of the delegation and President of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Nigeria’s voice reverberated across the world on the need for peace and conflict resolution through diplomacy.

The IPU is the global organisation of national parliaments made up of 180 countries. It was founded over 130 years ago as the first multilateral political organisation in the world, encouraging cooperation and dialogue between all nations. The IPU is the parliamentary parallel organisation of the United Nations. In 2002, the UN General Assembly granted permanent observer status to the IPU.

The IPU has been a leader in developing strategies and tools to assist parliaments effectively perform their fundamental tasks of representation, lawmaking, and oversight. The IPU promotes responsive and effective parliaments around the world and works towards improved parliamentary performance.

As part of its programme, the IPU sponsors series of workshops to build support for reform and modernisation of parliaments, strengthening capacity of legislators for effective representation, skills acquisition in the lawmaking process and assisting in handling substantive issues that parliaments need to address such as constitutional development, rule of law, federalism, accountability, corruption and good governance.

According to Senator Akpabio: “Through its efforts, the IPU contributes to the advancement of parliamentary democracy and the achievement of global peace, justice and strong institutions. In a world grappling with numerous challenges, it is therefore incumbent upon us, as representatives of the people, to collectively strive for a better future,” he said.

The election of Senator Akpabio as an Executive Committee member of the IPU in Luanda, Angola in October 2023, has been very significant for Nigeria. Senator Akpabio broke a 59-year-old jinx with his election into the executive committee of the global parliamentary body. The last time a Nigerian was represented in the Geneva based parliamentary body was in 1964. Nigeria now has a voice in global issues of good governance, sustainable development, human rights, climate change, women’s right, peace and security and youth participation.

In his inaugural address at the general assembly of the IPU in Luanda, Angola, Senator Akpabio explained the essence of the global parliamentary union: “The Inter-Parliamentary Union plays a vital role in promoting global parliamentary cooperation. It fosters dialogue, facilitates networking, and supports the strengthening of parliamentary institutions worldwide. By bringing together parliamentarians from different countries and regions, the IPU promotes the exchange of ideas, the sharing of best practices and the development of joint strategies to address common challenges.”

Back at Geneva IPU, hundreds of parliamentarians from around the world attended the Assembly to address the theme, ‘Parliamentary Diplomacy: Building Bridges for Peace and Understanding’. With 56 countries experiencing armed conflict in 2023 – according to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute – the IPU Assembly provided a much-needed space for parliamentary dialogue and diplomacy at the global, regional and bilateral levels, as a complement to the United Nations and other multilateral forums.

Speaking at the General Assembly in Geneva, Senator Akpabio maintained that parliamentary diplomacy is quite critical to achieving peace in the world and resolving conflicts. He called for more progress in parliamentary diplomacy, noting that though the Nigerian Parliament has explored the concept and achieved a myriad of successes, more can still be done.

“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.

“Nigeria has stunning kaleidoscopic diversity and a vibrant cultural heritage. The obverse side of this diversity is that Nigeria often faces the tragedy of commons where individuals and groups act in their self-interests, leading to the decline of shared resources.”

Senator Akpabio who has imposed on himself the task of marketing Nigeria to the international community noted that: “The government, with the support of the Parliament, has embarked on efforts to strengthen peace, collaboration, and unity. However, we are aware that the spectre of polarisation along political, ethnic, gender, religious, or racial lines is a global menace that requires the concerted efforts of all governments and non-governmental organisations to overcome.

“In Nigeria, our Parliament plays a crucial role in curbing polarisation and ensuring peace and progress through legislation. One notable legislative milestone in Nigeria was the passage of the “Not Too Young to Run” Bill in 2018, which aimed to widen the horizon for youth and women to actively participate in governance.

“Nigeria has also actively contributed, with the support of Parliament, to international peace and security by deploying troops for peacekeeping missions across Africa and beyond. Nigeria’s bicameral parliament plays a 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 called for “more progress in parliamentary diplomacy and increase in peace-building capacity, not only in Nigeria but across all sovereign states, saying: “Let us advert our minds 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.

“We must walk together, hand-in-hand even if we do not see eye-to-eye, in our march to reshape our world. We must remember that we are the eyes, the ears, the hands and the minds of our people and we embody their hope for a brighter, more equitable future for this blessed world of ours.”

But it was his passionate appeal for cessation of hostilities in Gaza and the need for humanitarian aid to the region that caught world attention. “We have to show the world that we are human beings. The cessation of hostilities must be part of our resolutions. Access to humanitarian aid must be part of our resolutions. At the same time, release of hostages and even those who are prisoners of war, because if both sides take steps in releasing the hostages, releasing the prisoners of war, it means that both sides have agreed that the international community can go through the next stage, which is negotiation for sustainable peace.

“If they cannot agree, I would urge that from here, we have a three-man drafting committee to come up with those resolutions which we must make before we leave here. We can no longer allow a child to die tonight without lending our voice. It doesn’t matter which side. We are all parents. If we come here to look for ego and then, try to be emotional, it’s not affecting them,” he said in an emotion-laden voice. 

Indeed as an executive committee member of the IPU, in Senator Akpabio Nigeria has a strong voice in international diplomacy.

•Ekong is Special Assistant on Media/Communication to the President of the Senate