A former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, has called on Nigeria to leave the Economic Community of West African States if the organisation fails to drop a plan to accept Morocco as its member.
Last February, the Arab country made an official request to join ECOWAS and has been campaigning to win the member states’ approval.
The development, Akinyemi noted, was inimical to Nigeria’s influence in the West African sub-region.
“Having failed to find any rational benefit to ECOWAS by expanding membership to Morocco, I can only conclude that the move is motivated by bad faith driven by the desire to whittle down Nigeria’s influence in ECOWAS, and by extension in the world, as Nigeria’s status as a regional power is facilitated by its role in ECOWAS.
“Nigeria has only one option: Let the West African Heads of States and Presidents drop this whole issue of expansion to the Mediterranean or Nigeria should serve notice that it would terminate, not suspend, its membership of ECOWAS. This issue is the biggest challenge to Nigeria’ foreign policy since the civil war,” the former foreign minister stated.
According to him, the issue of the admission of Morocco and possibly, Tunisia, into ECOWAS is ‘an existential issue for Nigeria’.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the deputy chairman at the 2014 National Conference pointed out that the United Nations, the African Union and all international institutions had become used to the concept of regionalism in the distribution of both appointive and elective posts.
He argued that ECOWAS could not unilaterally expand the boundary of West Africa to the Mediterranean.
“What is the legal or moral or historical justification? How does this dovetail with the acceptable international norms and usage? If ECOWAS now shifts West African boundary to the Mediterranean, does it mean that not only Morocco and Tunisia, but Egypt, Libya, and Israel (shares a boundary with Egypt) and Palestine are eligible for membership in ECOWAS?
“In whose interest is this move? Definitely, not in the interest of the members of ECOWAS. This is not just a theoretical issue. Elections to seats at the Security Council, the World Court, and various commissions of the United Nations are distributed on regional basis. Morocco, as a member of the Arab League, will benefit from the Arab League quota, and then have another bite at the West African quota, without other West African states benefiting from the Arab quota,” Akinyemi said.