AFTER a fourth try, Nigeria has finally taken the portfolio of commissioner for political affairs of the African Union (AU). By an overwhelming vote, delegates at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia yesterday elected Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Guinea Dr. Aisha Laraba Abdulahi to over- see the political engagements of the union, including the Commission’s interface with states and governments.
The Nigerian candidate led in all three rounds, pooling 35 out of the 50 votes to edge out Botswana in the final round that pitched the west against the northern region.
She had scored 22 in the first and 24 in the second round of voting. Central Africa region swung the votes in Nigeria’s favour as candidates dropped in the third round.
The Guardian learnt yesterday that Nigeria’s support for Gabonese Jean Ping for the chairperson of the AU’s position influenced the Central African region in their line of voting.
After her election yesterday, Abdulahi said in line with her brief, and under Nigeria’s watch, “I will apply democratic principles to reduce conflicts and peace inhibitors on the continent.
“This is hard work and commitment. Work begins immediately. I see it as an additional pillar for the political reconstruction being carried out by the union in order to achieve the desired development. Rome was not built in a day but with consistency, resilience our targets can be achieved. First I will like to study what is on ground now.”
On how she intends to grapple with the problem of adequate funding which has been the lot of commission she said: “That too is being handled. We have to look at what is on the ground. There is already a committee headed by former President Obasanjo (Olusegun) that is working on raising funds. The committee is enjoying support from all regions in Africa. Yes, we can work harder to make it better.”
There were speculations yesterday that Nigeria got the political affairs seat as a way of compensating her for the inability of her candidate Jean Ping to clinch the position of the commission’s chairperson. Abdulahi however denied this.
On the achievement of Nigeria at the summit, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, linked the emergence of Abdulahi to the unrelenting efforts by both headquarters and the Nigerian technical team on ground before and during the summit.
“It was a hard-fought victory even though we led in all the rounds until it became a two-horse race. From the voting pattern especially after candidates dropped at the end of the second round, this can be seen. We got overwhelming votes from the central region in the continental politics that played out”, he said.
The Minister who noted that Nigeria had congratulated South Africa on the victory of Mrs. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said: “It was not a contest between Nigeria and South Africa. The South African did a good job and mobilised support far more than Gabon. We work with whoever heads the commission in the interest of African Unity and solidarity.”
Also, the Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to AU and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Ambassador Paul Lolo, said on the fringe of the 19th African Union (AU) Summit of Heads of State and Government, with the theme: ‘Boosting Intra-Africa Trade’, that the nation’s candidate, Kolawole Aduloju, won a highly contested election for the post of Assistant General Secretary of African Postal Union.