The UNSC Vote: Nigeria’s Abstention Was a Vote for Injustice

On November 29, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly held its 67th General Assembly Plenary where 188 countries voted on a draft resolution to accord Palestine ‘Non-Member Observer State’ status in United Nations. The draft resolution 67/19 was adopted by a recorded vote of 138 in favour to 9 against, with 41 abstentions. The countries that voted against the bid were Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, Panama and United States. Nigeria voted in favour of the draft resolution 2 years ago, and Ambassador Prof U. Joy Ogwu, the Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the UN noted after she cast the vote on behalf of Nigeria that “the dawn may be closing on the two-State solution. Continued settlement-building by Israel threatened that objective. That impasse must be broken. Self-determination was the sole embodiment of the just, conscious expression of people to their dignity. To deny that right was to deny all other rights.” Professor Ogwu supported the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and statehood and reiterated Nigeria’s recognition of the State of Palestine. Also, Nigeria had established diplomatic relations with Palestine and on 31 October 2011 Nigeria had voted in favour of the admission of Palestine into UNESCO as a full Member State- in the teeth of fierce opposition from the US and Israel.

During her speech back in 2012, Professor Ogwu underscored the right of the Palestinians to live in freedom and that “It was fitting that today the international community had given Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations. It was not only timely, it was right and it was just.” Finally she pledged Nigeria’s commitment to work towards Palestine’s admission to the United Nations as a full Member State.

On the 30th of December 2014- 2 years after Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN bore open and praiseworthy testimony on the floor of the UN to the values that most Nigerians hold dear - a renewed opportunity arose for Nigeria to “work towards Palestine’s admission to the United Nations as a full Member State”. Jordan, a rotational member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), formally presented a UN Security Council bid to officially recognize Palestine as a state within the 1967 borders with full UN member benefits and state status throughout the international community. It is noteworthy to state that the bid was not to recognise Palestine as a state (because by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 67/19 - Palestine is already recognised as a “non-member state"), but to admit it into the UN as a member with the full benefits.

This resolution secured 8 of the 9 necessary votes- with Nigeria’s vote at such an iconic moment, Palestine would have made a giant step for the right of self-determination. In only 2 years, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan (and VP Mohammed Namadi Sambo) has progressively taken Nigeria from a country with balanced and noble foreign policy to one that is right now on the verge of becoming an outcast amongst other nations when important universal human rights struggles are concerned.

According to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, one Palestinian source involved in the negotiations told the Guardian: “Even half an hour before the vote, Nigeria indicated it was committed to voting for the resolution. We knew that Rwanda, South Korea and Australia would not back it, but we believed Nigeria was on board.”

The apparent change by Nigeria, the newspaper reports, came after both the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, phoned President Goodluck Jonathan, to ask him not to support the resolution.

Also ynetnews, an Israeli news source that prides itself as the “Israel's most comprehensive, authoritative daily source” quoted a high-ranking official within the Israeli Foreign Ministry that they "discovered that the Nigerians did not submit and did not break down and voted according to their conscience," What finally tipped the balance high-ranking official was a phone call made by Netanyahu to the President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan.

The Israeli news source further notes that “Jonathan is a good friend to Israel. In the last year, he visited Israel twice – the most recent visit occurred two months ago when Jonathan arrived in Israel on his private plane in order to lead mass for 3,000 Nigerian pilgrims in Jerusalem and place a not at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.”

Arriving at primary elections for leadership of his Likud party on Wednesday, Netanyahuostentatiously informed his party members and reporters that he had spoken to both Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Jonathan before the UN vote. “I spoke with both of them. They promised me personally that they would not support this decision and they stood by their words. That is what tipped the scales.”

What the high ranking Israeli official and Netanyahu said were as important as what they left out. Nigeria was up to the last minute ready to vote “according to their conscience," then President Jonathanbeing “a good friend to Israel” perverted that course of action and trashed Nigeria’s well establish tradition of promoting fundamental human rights issues to please his friends. Now imagine the uproar this sequence of events would have generated if a Mr Abdullah was the president and being “a good friend of the Saudis” and having “gone on hajj to worship” had “promised” the Saudis to pervert Nigeria’s established course of action against known tradition. Imagine the controversy, the breathless screams and shouts that would have greeted the revelation- and hues and cries of incontrovertible, irrefutable, undeniable evidence of “plans to Islamise Nigeria” or brain-numbing lectures about why it’s wrong to “bring religion into politics”. The incredible mindset of such folks, the online knights, who propagate absurd theories and the cartoon coverage they get on their false claims are the only things that are lacking in this case.

Furthermore, ynetnews reveals the roles that America played to derail the Palestinian ambition at the UN: "The US had a very significant role, “Not only were they willing to veto, they also worked side-by-side with Israeli diplomats in order to prevent support for the decision within the Security Council. It's not that they just said they would vote against it. They worked. There were phone calls and messages. The American diplomatic effort is noteworthy."

Although the American politicians, most of whom have been conditioned to the wrath of the Israeli lobby or irredeemably corrupted by its funds, do not care a hoot what or how much damages are done to the American national interests as long as they please the pay masters. Former US senator, Tim Wirth, wrote on this just after the UNESCO vote in 2011 “With a clear majority of countries around the world prepared to back Palestinian ambitions at the United Nations, the United States is poised to lose its leverage over several UN bodies that advance American interests and promote our ideals) as long as they continue to behave like Israel’s lapdogs.

American politicians have their way of betraying their founding values and the oaths they swore an oath to defend and promote with the use of sophisticated language. Despite a growing international movement to topple apartheid in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan maintained a close alliance with a South African government that was showing no signs of serious reform. And the Reagan administration demonized opponents of apartheid, most notably the African National Congress, as dangerous and pro-communist. Former president Mandela remained on the U.S. terrorism watch list until 2008 when former President Bush finally signed a bill to remove his name. President Reagan even vetoed a bill to impose sanctions on South Africa- thankfully this was overruled by a different Congress.

On a trip to the United States after winning the Nobel Prize in 1984, Bishop Desmond Tutu memorably declared that Reagan’s policy was ”immoral, evil and totally un-Christian.”. Both the US’ Executive and Legislative arms have been completely compromised by the Israeli lobby it is impossible to reform them.Already, under US Public Law 103-236 dating from 1994, US would have to withdraw funding to the UN if Palestine was admitted to full membership on Tuesday night. Happily for Mr Obama, he didn’t have to use his veto in the Security Council; all he had to do was get his Secretary of State to have a private chat with our president.

While it is certainly true the vote on the 30thof December would necessarily not have changed the miserable living condition average Palestinians, Christian and Muslim, endure under the terrible Israeli occupation policies, Nigeria’s historic and necessary vote in support would have represented a powerful symbol of our commitment to justice and peace, and for Palestinian human rights, self-determination and freedom from occupation. Such a courageous decision would have closely followed in the tradition of our invaluable contributions to the fall of Apartheid in South Africa (SA). Nigeria played great roles and inspired others to close ranks against Apartheid. For instance, the Nigerian government issued more than 300 passports to South Africans seeking to travel abroad and after the 1976 SOWETO uprising, students of all levels in Nigeria were levied to contribute money towards the education of their brothers and sisters in SA. But times have changed and the stakes are different. Now, it seems we have a president who does not take decisions, but take orders.

There are many fresh graves in Palestine today made possible on means that some people in the world still feel justice has a religion, race or must be for faces of people known to them. Or simply because we do not care enough to say “not in my name.” By staying silent in the face of injustice, Nigeria clearly voted for injustice and showed its patience for Israeli genocidal colonisation project. The question on the lips of some is if in an election year, there will be a political pay back by Israel and America since President Goodluck Jonathan has put his “friendship” (friendship that could not get us the much needed US arms and military equipment to combat the Boko Haram terrorists) over and above what is manifestly in the national interests of Nigeria. Those who did not show independence of thought and respect for conventional wisdom and facts on an issue of universal human rights struggle did not only pervert our collective sense of justice, they also showed to the world what justice and peace mean for Nigerians. America and Israel may continue to implement their plans but the people of Palestine are not simply waiting to die in the monstrous Israeli occupation perpetually. God willing, Palestine will be free.

Disu Kamor
Executive Chairman
MPAC, Nigeria