'Leader of Africa' image is tarnished: Chaos over election threatens Nigeria's United Nations Council aspirations

(First Edition)

ABIDJAN (agencies) - Nigeria's main foreign policy goal and the image it seeks to project as a champion of black interests were both in bad shape this weekend. The military regime's refusal to accept the result of the 12 June presidential election may do enormous damage to the country's international relations, foreign and African analysts fear.

While African leaders kept an embarrassed silence, Nigeria's dominant allies and partners, the United States and Britain, expressed their shock and anger in public statements.

Officials of the two countries said their governments felt betrayed by General Ibrahim Babangida, the military president, who still insists he will leave office as planned on 27 August.

'We have no wish to punish the people of Nigeria, but it is essential that we bring home to this undemocratic military government the united view that democracy and public accountability are essential in the sound development of any nation,' said Baroness Chalker, Minister for Overseas Development.

'If Nigeria's military leaders continue down this undemocratic path then they will do so alone, without donor support,' added Lady Chalker. 'International observers, including our own British MPs, were satisfied that the elections had been free and fair.'

'We trusted him,' a Western diplomat said, trying to measure the likely economic and diplomatic fall-out from Gen Babangida's intervention.

It stopped the millionaire Moshood Abiola from being declared the winner of an election which foreign and Nigerian observers said was the fairest in the country's history.

Analysts said Nigeria's long-standing ambition to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council now looked absurd. 'Forget it. That is out of the window,' a Western ambassador serving in West Africa said.

Nigeria's UN campaign, the centre-piece of its foreign policy, was already uphill work. But it was making progress and the case for an African representative could have been overwhelming if, as may happen, the Security Council's permanent membership is expanded from the present five.

Nigeria's official policy for many years has been that its population of nearly 90 million makes it uniquely qualified to defend the interests of blacks everywhere - whether in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean or Africa. 'They have certainly tarnished that image,' a US diplomat said.

The outside world, when it thinks about Nigeria at all, often focuses on violence, corruption and drug smuggling. This image reflects only part of the truth about a dynamic and entrepreneurial society with few of the post-colonial hang-ups that still cripple elites in many African countries.

Only Nigerian journalists could write, as they often do, about 'our great virile nation'. Nigerian claims to leadership have depended on Gen Babangida's avowed commitment since 1985 to return to civilian rule. That was what set him apart from African leaders such as Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko who have defied international pressure to accept democracy.

Many hopes were pinned on Nigeria. Optimists said a successful handover by the army would restore belief in Africa and silence those who have all but written off the continent.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all