Not a few Nigerians were, and are still surprised, disheartened and deeply worried about an event that took place on June 5, 2017 in Monrovia, Liberia.
On that day, the 51st Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held in that city decided “in principle” to grant Morocco’s application to join the 15-nation regional economic grouping.
With reasoned arguments, a succession of diplomatic veterans, public spirited Nigerians and civil society organisations within and outside Nigeria have opposed the Monrovia decision.
The most strident voices in the chorus are those of the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN), former Foreign Minister Bolaji Akinyemi, former Commonwealth Secretary General Emeka Anyaoku, former Director General at Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, people’s lawyer Femi Falana, the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Comité Sénégalais d’Initiative pour le Suivi de l’intégration (CISI) a body comprising employers’ and professional organisations, workers’ unions, civil society organisations and academia in Senegal.
Akinyemi says the Moroccan move is aimed at whittling down Nigeria’s influence in ECOWAS and the world at large. He gives two options: ECOWAS Heads of State should reverse the Monrovia decision or Nigeria should pull out of the body.
Anyaoku, like Akinyemi, Akinterinwa and ARCAN believes that allowing Morocco to be a member of ECOWAS would further erode the influence of Nigeria in the sub-region.
Akinterinwa also sees a Trojan Horse – Morocco waiting to step in Nigeria’s shoes should it leave the Organisation because of complications arising from activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra. “Morocco is likely to be used as an instrument to disintegrate Nigeria”, he says.
MAN insists that Morocco in ECOWAS would spell doom to the productive sector of the Nigerian economy. “We are aware that Morocco and European Union (EU) have a trade agreement, which means if they become part of ECOWAS, products that come into Morocco from EU will end up in Nigeria, after all Nigeria is the biggest market in ECOWAS, says Frank Udemba Jacobs, President of MAN.
The political argument needs expansion and underscoring: Morocco’s membership of ECOWAS will further deepen Nigeria’s marginalisation in a community with a Francophone majority, most of whom are thought to support Morocco.
Opposition to Moroccan membership is not limited to Nigeria.
In an onslaught of recent articles, representatives of Senegalese businesses, labour unions, and civil society organisations have called for the blocking of Morocco’s full membership of ECOWAS.
“Morocco is knocking at ECOWAS’ door,” wrote Senegalese online media outlet Dakar-Presse on October 28, quoting Mor Talla Kane, Executive Secretary of the Senegal Employers’ Confederation.
“This door should not be opened otherwise it will signal the death of the weak economies of the west African zone… Morocco’s entry will occasion a tidal wave that will blow up our economy and no country in the region will be spared. The decision was made by the political decision-makers without consulting the populations.”
Indeed, CISI, which brings together employers ‘and professional organisations, workers’ unions, civil society organisations and academia, was created specifically to sensitise Senegalese to the issue and block Morocco’s move.
Only recently, the Togolese Government website republicoftogo.com, retracing an earlier report in the same medium that the government “is not hostile” to Morocco’s entry into ECOWAS, explained that the President had denounced the assertion that he would use all his influence on support Morocco’s bid.
There are legal arguments as well.
ECOWAS, set up in 1975, is geographically delineated (i.e. limited to West Africa), and accepted as such in International Law and by the United Nations and the African Union. Does ECOWAS have the right to redraw the boundary of West Africa or extend the boundary to the Mediterranean? Will Morocco’s full membership of ECOWAS not bastardise the classification of Africa into five distinct regions (West, North, Central, East, and Southern) as clearly stipulated in the 1991 Abuja Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community?
Furthermore, the 2001 ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance is the backbone of the Organisation’s policy on promoting and deepening democratic governance. Thus, ECOWAS is presently pushing for a maximum two-term policy for Heads of State of member countries through regular, free, fair and credible elections and in a multiparty environment. Is there a place in ECOWAS for a constitutional monarchy whose King rules in perpetuity until his demise?
Undaunted by opposition to its moves, Rabat has been relentless in in its quest, nevertheless.
In the last couple of months — and in continuation of the history of diplomatic audacity of Morocco’s ruling Alaouite Dynasty which has controlled the affairs of the country since the mid-17th century — King Mohammed VI has undertaken 23 visits to 11 ECOWAS member states with which it signed multibillion-dollar deals.
The reason for the diplomatic shuttle is anybody’s guess.
For all the reasons given above and more, The Nigerian Expression is convinced that Morocco’s admission to full membership of ECOWAS is NOT in our national interest. And Nigeria must deploy every weapon in its diplomatic arsenal to stop Morocco.
It is embarrassing that while Nigeria hosts the ECOWAS secretariat and funds more than half (60%) of its budget, fundamental decisions are often taken without the input of Nigeria’s leadership, or with very inconsequential contributions by Nigerian bureaucrats. Pulling out of ECOWAS cannot be an option for Nigeria which sacrificed so much in cash and blood for its West African neighbours these past 42 years! We agree entirely with the assessment of our retired career Ambassadors that the admission of Morocco “in principle”, in the first place, is one of the most humiliating and lowest points in Nigeria’s foreign policy since independence. The whole idea should have been aborted by Nigeria at the conception stage,
When it comes to high voltage international diplomacy, King Hassan has his way of making African leaders vote “Oui or “Yes”, even if they do so with King Hassan’s state coffers in mind, as reportedly happened when Morocco was re-admitted into the African Union in Addis Ababa in January this year. Nigerians want a “Non” or “No” vote –- and this must be the outcome of the next ECOWAS Summit in December in Togo where Morocco’s application will be fully considered.