President Bola Tinubu failed to take part in a live economic session at the ongoing summit of world leaders in Paris. The Nigerian leader asked the country’s ambassador to represent him instead.
It was not immediately clear why Mr Tinubu could not go on stage by himself, especially as his office previously announced he was in France to attend the summit and participate in a debate about Africa’s economic prospects.
The Summit for a New Global Financing Pact is a two-day event at Palais Brongniart in Paris, and organisers said it was aimed at finding efficient solutions to reduce poverty and the adverse effects of climate change on the world’s financial system.
Mr Tinubu was scheduled to join other participants on stage at 6:00 p.m. local time (7:00 p.m. in Nigeria) on Thursday, with his aides saying he was fully prepared for the event as his first since becoming president on May 29.
Mr Tinubu was represented by the Nigerian ambassador Adamu Ahmed, who was on stage with David Craig, co-chair of the task force on nature-related financial disclosures (TNFD); Mark Carney of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), Mary Schapiro of global public policy at Bloomberg, Sabine Mauderer of the Network for Greening the Financial System; and United Nations special envoy Catherine Mckenna.
In a prepared speech, which seemed to have been hurriedly put together, Mr Ahmed said: “We believe we’ve more pressing social issues in Africa. The argument has been that world leaders should elevate social issues just like environmental issues. I must commend President Macron who has brought the issue of poverty to the table. This summit is about climate, people and diversity.
“The severe financial and economic crisis that African countries found themselves in after COVID-19 is over. There are economic difficulties, and we’ve all realized that public resources would no longer solve the problem, we need to track private capital and for us to track the capital, and we need to compete with other countries around the world.
“It is no longer business as usual for African countries, we now need to join the discourse. We need to compete with the rest of the world. We welcome the idea of President Macronto develop Net-Zero Data Public Utility (NZDPU) because we feel it is an open free repository that will greatly help African countries.
“The message from the African continent is that we are on board, we want to join the international community. We are now seeing movement from mere commitment to concrete transition plans.
“For example, in Nigeria, we enacted the Climate Change Act in 2021 which enables us to establish the Climate Change Council in which the president (Tinubu) is the head. It enables us to establish a climate change fund and National Action Plan on climate change which clearly reels our road map to the net zero target. We put our target to 2060 because we are aware of the enormous challenges we are confronting. We have tried to form regional partnerships as African countries.”
The trip was Mr Tinubu’s first abroad since becoming Nigeria’s president on May 29. It was not immediately clear why he could not participate in the crucial aspect of the summit for which he left the country despite growing complaints about the biting effect of his decision to remove subsidies on petroleum products used by previous administrations to cushion economic hardships.
Mr Tinubu has for years used doctors in Paris as he continues to secretly manage serious health conditions. His aides denied that he would be seeing his doctor during this trip.
South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa was among several African leaders who participated on stage at the summit on Thursday evening.
Mr Tinubu’s failure to participate in today’s panel, while unusual for such an event, mirrored his strategy during Nigeria’s presidential campaign. As the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Mr Tinubu avoided live debates with his opponents and relied heavily on his media team and loyalists to project his image and agenda.
During a trip to London in December 2022, where he was invited to speak by famed think-tank Chatham House, Mr Tinubu failed to adequately respond to complex questions. He repeatedly yielded the microphone to his coterie of surrogates, a controversial conduct that Chatham House decried as unusual and unapproved because there was no prior discussion thereof.
Mr Tinubu said he rejected debating other candidates in Nigeria because media outlets organised the events he saw as unfair to his campaign. He, however, failed to explain why he asked allies to take critical questions on his behalf during his Chatham House appearance.