*Why I’m going to Afrika Shrine – Macron
By Chesa Chesa
Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Emmanuel Macron of France on Tuesday held bilateral talks at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja during which agreements were signed for French assistance totalling $475 million for some development projects in Lagos, Kano and Ogun states.
The Lagos deal is a letter of intent for the financing of urban mobility improvement project via a loan of $200 million. This will involve development of eight priority bus corridors connected to the Lagos mass transit network.
In Ogun State, a French firm in conjunction with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority is to mobilise from investors about $200 million for land reclamation to correct the massive degradation of arable land being witnessed in the state.
The project aims to reforest 108,000 hectares of depleting forest in Ogun, which the State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, hailed as very vital to not only addressing climate change challenges and recreating the forest, but also providing employment to the people of the state, among other benefits.
France, through its foreign development agency, Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), will also extend a credit facility of $75 million towards improving water supply in Kano city.
The concessional loan is expected to help Kano State government ensure that more residents of the city have access to drinking water while improving the financial viability of the state water board to increase its revenues.
After the signing of the agreements, Buhari and Macron addressed a joint press conference at the forecourt of the Aso Rock Villa, and pledged to increase the cooperation between Nigeria and France in tackling security challenges occasioned by Boko Haram and ISIS jihadists in Nigeria and the Sahel region of Africa.
While Macron pointed out that France could not do much to assist Nigeria solve the raging crisis of killings by herdsmen, he said, he was more concerned about how African governments organised themselves to effectively tackle the challenges posed by jihadists terrorists on the continent.
According to him, “the main plan is an African plan and France is not the one to solve or fix African situations. So what we want to do is that we will intervene and maintain our presence in Africa and Sahel to fight against terrorism, especially in Mali and in the region.
“What is important to me is how the different African governments organize themselves to fight against terrorism and get rid of these people and especially, jihadism. That’s why I do promote the G5/Sahel Initiatives.
“As far as we are organized, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon is also very important, it is Boko Haram. I think first we have to increase the operations and the pressure against these jihadists. We can fix the situation in the coming months and obviously France will remain present in Africa for as long as they want it.”
He noted that many people were convinced to join these jihadists largely because of economic and ethnic crisis, which is why it remains important for governments to implement programmes that assure the citizens of security, welfare and opportunities.
Macron recalled his days in Nigeria about 15 years ago, noting that it was an emotional come-back, especially as he never imagined he would return to Abuja one day as President of France.
Stressing his deep appreciation of African culture, Macron said the visit was a good opportunity for him to return to Afrika Shrine in Lagos, where he obviously enjoyed the Afrobeat songs of the Fela Anikulapo Kuti music dynasty.
“I wanted to find a good occasion to come back there. I know the place and I have some memories. I have to confess that at the time, there was no president around, I hope I will not spoil the party.
“I think that is such an iconic place for a lot of African people and African culture. And I think very often when you speak of the African culture in Europe, those who are succeeding in Europe and in France, which is different most of the times, are not dramatically very famous in Nigeria or in Africa. There is a bias because you know people are absolutely not the same.
“I mean Fela, Femi, Seun Kuti are obviously very famous in France and Europe, I mean they are big successes but the Shrine is a cultural hub, an iconic hub and is very important for me, first on a personal level, and that is why I want to say with a lot of humility that I recognize the importance of this place, I recognize the place of culture in this current environment”, he stated.
In his remarks, Buhari said he informed his guest of the need for inter-basin transfer of water to resuscitate the Lake Chad, while also expressing his gratitude for French support in his fight against corruption in Nigeria.
He appreciated Macron’s visit to the Afrika Shrine, noting that it was such patronage that has kept the cultural legacy alive and running. He encouraged the French president to go ahead and get some relief there.