The arrest of Charles Taylor in Nigeria and his subsequent arraignment before a tribunal in Sierra Leone makes an intriguing episode. Taylor was pressed to step down in August 2003 in exchange for a sanctuary in Nigeria brokered by President Obasanjo on behalf of the US and Britain. Liberia had been torn by bloody civil strife involving US-backed rebel groups against the Taylor regime. When things seemed to be calming down with the installation of a newly elected president of Liberia, the US and British governments began demanding for the handing over of Taylor to the tribunal inspired by the US and Britain.
It is pity for Obasanjo that he could be drawn in a deal that was not intended to be honoured. This brings to mind the African saying: â€œHe, who does not honour his word, does not deserve to be honoured by any word.â€ For Obasanjo to go out and court Taylor into asylum in Nigeria, and turn round to deliver him to his adversaries, will for ever be a very depressing page in the history of treachery.
Obasanjo had his own reasons to contend with in this saga. He desperately needed a US bill of no objection in his bid for another term of office. He succumbed to this blackmail.
The whole of Africa ought to have rallied behind Obasanjo to stave off the US and British pressures on Nigeria for the sake of the honour and dignity of Africa in defence of the solemn agreements. Because African leaders did not close ranks over the Anglo-US bullying, Nigeria buckled under and surrendered its sovereignty.
I have never been an admirer of Taylor. He is part of the buffoons and valets which have continued to keep Africa in chains and tears. But the delight and indifference of many politicians in Africa over the fate of their fellow head of state is a misreading of the signs of the times. The essence of the arrest of Taylor is not about an African vagabond finally facing justice; it is about whether any of the African leaders will ever escape from their own turn.
Akin to many African countries, including Nigeria, are low-level conflicts, often engendered by the entrenched third-world social stagnation and fuelled by different corporate centers of the globe. As these conflicts become prolonged and acute, the US steps out as the holy arbiter to bring calm. In the name of the establishment of peace, many leaders who have been of past service to the US interests will find themselves being shipped to their backyard, only to be hunted down.
The writer is a member of the
NRM Historical Leaders Forum
Africa should have resisted Taylor arrest