What has Lai Mohammed done to Buhari’s UNGA brilliance?

President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly this Tuesday was well received by international observers as one of the more pro-active addresses by any leader of the 193 nations. Calling for the Security Council to engage North Korea in a dialogue, against the “fire and fury” of the United States’ President Trump was particularly impressive.

Buhari also hailed the leadership of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, towards global unity and international cooperation, and at the same time highlighting the role played by ECOWAS leaders such as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in bringing about a democratic transition in the Gambia earlier in the year.

Then there was the lunch with President Trump, and meetings with the King of Jordan and the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo.

These would have projected the image that Nigeria was making smart moves on the international scene, making friends and reaching out to explore as much diplomatic leverage as it could, at least within the window of the 72nd General Assembly. But apparently, Buhari’s Minister of Information did not receive the memo, giving his comments on France and the UK allegedly providing the safe haven for the local operations of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s claims which he says are “facts” may have some truth in them but something about the way he has gone about making such broadcasts does not sit right. In a week in which every country is doing as much to negotiate stronger ties on issues including terrorism, to call out in an off-handed manner as he has done cannot have done anything good towards improving the existing relationships between the countries.

The Minister added the caveat that he did not want to start a diplomatic row, but he has arguably set down the first fetch of firewood, eliciting a response from the French Mission in Abuja in which France expressed “surprise” at Alhaji Mohammed’s statement.

A Twitter report today says President Buhari has been the 10th most searched for leader during the week of the UNGA, and that could be for good or bad. However, giving that the reviews of his contributions New York have been positively reviewed, it seems a shame that his Minister of Information, who should have capitalized on lauding more of what Buhari said rather than diverting new narratives, has done well to add some stain to Nigeria’s international outlook.

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