Tue, 04 Oct 2011 Feature Article

Nigeria Foreign Policy, 1960-2011: Fifty One Years of Conceptual Confusion

Nigeria Foreign Policy, 1960-2011: Fifty One Years of Conceptual Confusion

Since the independence of Nigeria in 1960, there have been a plethora of conceptual ideological transitions in the Nigeria foreign policy machinery. Essentially, they all strive towards an epistemological construction and definition of the thrust of Nigeria's foreign policy. These conceptualizations are often regime specific and borne out of a psychological hunger to carve a regime identity that will create and leave lasting impressions on the minds of Nigerians. They are not necessarily products of deep and profound philosophical reflections. This crisis of myownism (regime identity) is one of the major causative agencies of project abandonment and public policy failure in Nigeria.

The concepts that have bestraddle foreign policy thought in Nigeria, in both official and non-official parlance are: national consensus in foreign policy, dynamic foreign policy, Africa as the centre piece of Nigeria's foreign policy, concentric cycles, concert of medium powers, economic diplomacy, and citizen diplomacy among many others. These conceptual mutations in Nigerian foreign policy engineering, we contend, lack any ideological consistency, operationally barren, philosophically vague, and such, an exercise in conceptual confusion and groping in the dark. We will assess some of these concepts one after the other in what follows.

Dynamic Foreign Policy
The concept of a dynamic foreign policy first crept into intellectual discourse on Nigerian foreign policy in the first republic. It was on the occasion of the parliamentary debates of Nigeria foreign policy, wherein the then Foreign Minister Hon. Aja Wachukwu moved a motion that: 'this honourable house reaffirms the foreign policy of the Federal Government as declared by the Right Hon. Prime Minister and approved on the 20th August, 1960 by this honourable house and hereby declares its approval of the government's interpretation and conduct thereof, and congratulates the government on its achievement in the international field since the independence of this country'.

In his response to motion, the then shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Anthony Enahoro moved an amendment to this motion to read that: 'the Honourable House is of the opinion that the foreign policy of the Federal Government as declared by the Prime Minister and approved on 20th August, 1960 by this Honourable House lacks dynamism and regrets that the Government's interpretation and conduct thereof is out of step with progressive opinion in Africa' (emphasis mine).

In retort, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Aja Wachukwu, went on to reel out the foreign policy engagements of Nigeria and how these engagements were dynamic and that if these measures were not dynamic, then he doesn't know what dynamic constitutes.

By putting the concept of dynamism at the centre of this discourse, particularly making it appear as a core requirement of any foreign policy endeavour, the streak of dynamism gained currency as a fundamental basis of foreign policy making and evaluation in Nigeria. The debate failed to operationalize the concept of dynamism and its utility and importance in the foreign policy process. The closest statement that pointed towards a conceptual operationalization was Anthony Enahoro's radical rhetoric that subaltern groups in the country 'represent the true voice and true temper of the people of the country' and that as such any foreign policy measure outside of their sympathies is 'lacking in inspiration, it is not dynamic'.

Precisely what dynamism entails in foreign policy making in Nigeria has not been vigorously outlined. However, the opposition and radical rhetoric of Anthony Enahoro and his interpretation of dynamism has left a lasting impression on the conceptualization of Nigeria's foreign policy. As such, it is the case that foreign policies of successive administration are seen as either being conservative or dynamic. While the Balewa, Gowon and Shagari administrations were deemed conservative, that of Murtala/Obasanjo, Obasanjo/Yaradua are deemed dynamic. Because of the public appeal of the appellation of radicalism/dynamism, it is politically faddish for successive regimes since independence to tag their foreign policies as a being dynamic. It need be stated however that, a nation's national interests, not the effusions of dynamism or its lack thereof that is the barometer of measuring its foreign policy.

Africa as the Centre Piece of Nigeria's Foreign Policy

The idea of a Africa as the centre piece of Nigeria foreign policy is premised on the understanding that Nigeria's engagement in the international system will be looked at through the binoculars of Africa. As Hon. Aja Wachukwu averred on the imperative an Afrocentric policy, 'charity begins at home and therefore any Nigerian foreign policy that does not take into consideration the peculiar position of Africa is unrealistic'. This enunciation is the philosophical origins of Afrocentrism in Nigeria's foreign policy thought; it was however, the Adedeji Report that coined the concept: 'Africa as centre-piece'.

The issues that gave practical expression to this African-centeredness were the remnants of colonialism on the continent, apartheid in South Africa, liberation wars, ideological and proxy conflicts among others. Outside these politically pressing factors, the issue of a shared racial universe, of cultural neighbourhood, of shared historical experiences and the ideals of pan-Africanism further lubricated the wheels of this foreign policy conceptualization. Indeed, in the pursuing an Africa-centered foreign policy premised on racial and socio-cultural affinity of Africans, Nigeria was carrying out an exercise in anthropological diplomacy.

Under the framework of an Africa-centered foreign policy, Nigeria got involved deeply in the decolonization struggles in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa and in the process earning for itself the appellation a 'frontline nation', even though she was geographically far removed from the theater of the struggles which was in the Southern African region. Nigeria is central to the formation of ECOWAS, has contained the breakdown of social order in Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc, through its world acknowledged peacekeeping expertise, and has provided economic life wire to less economically resourceful countries. In terms of proactive engagement with major socio-political and economic issues of continental importance in the last fifty one years, Nigeria tower far above any other African country.

Since this phraseology appeared on the Nigeria foreign policy scene, it has continued to reproduce itself, like the ever recurring mathematical decimal. The foreign policy elite and political leadership of successive governments seems to be carried away by its philosophical allure rather than its rational ideation. In this sense, therefore, considerations of the economic benefits, continental political leadership, national interests, and military partnerships and strategic engagements are sacrificed on the altar of good neighbourliness and psychological gratification. I need to make a comment on the issue of psychological gratification. This issue has to do with the psychological construction and mentality of Nigerians that verge on bigmanism, show-off and materialism. Beneath all these however, lies a massively gigantic emptiness and inferiority complex. Most often, the flagrant display of materialism among Nigerians is a product of psycho-social insecurity. Exported to the international arena, in this sense, Nigeria wants to present an image of a big brother image before the other African countries.

This reason accounts for why inspite of the huge financial expenditures and massive loss of human and material resources in the Liberian and Sierra Leone wars, for instance, Nigeria has not been able to reap any economic benefits. To date, one cannot tell one single Nigerian company involved in the post-conflict reconstruction activities going on in these two countries. What major economic niche has Nigeria carved for herself in these post-conflicts countries? There is hardly anything one can point finger towards. Yet, the Africa-centeredness framework has continued to maintain a stronghold on foreign policy thinking in Nigeria. The theories of concentric cycles and concert of medium powers all take their bearing from this perspective. In sum, the concept of Africa as a center piece of Nigeria foreign policy is also not grounded in considerations of economic growth and national development, and as such no matter how conceptually lush it may be, it remains substantially empty.

Economic Diplomacy
The concept of economic diplomacy as a foreign policy plank was introduced in Nigeria foreign policy during the Ibrahim Babangida administration. The government conceptualized economic diplomacy policy as, 'the promotion of export trade, investment and increased financial assistance from friendly countries'. Building on this, the then Foreign Affairs Minister, Ike Nwachukwu in his June 1988 speech entitled: The Dynamics of Nigeria's Foreign Policy, provided the policy direction when he stated that, ' it is the responsibility of our foreign policy apparatus to advance the course of our national economic recovery'.

The imperative of an economic diplomacy foreign policy framework was inspired by the economic pressures that were exerted on the Nigerian economy as a result of the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). The focus was on export promotion, encouragement of direct foreign investment, debt rescheduling, embracing of neo-liberal economic measures and deep involvement in the interplay of the capitalist international political economy. The political wing of economic diplomacy agenda was that Nigeria will ingratiate itself and cultivate the goodwill and friendship of the leading countries of Europe, North America and Japan.

There is absolutely nothing new about the economy being used as a major component of a nation's foreign policy endeavours. For students of foreign policy, the linkage theory is an elementary explanation of how internal factors help in shaping and giving definition to the quality and direction of foreign policy. It was mere hype. Secondly, Nigeria lacked the economic infrastructure to use economy as a major instrument of diplomatic engagement. This is so because the productive forces in the economy are grossly underdeveloped, there is the dearth of capital, a lack of entrepreneurial ingenuity; the economy is monoculturally dependent on oil, politicized, corrupt and rent oriented. It is part of the problem that Nigeria has not been able to make economic gains from her foreign policy adventures, particularly in the sub-region.

Again, no foreign policy agenda can succeed on the basis of reliance on a single factor, such as the economy. Foreign policy is borne out of a multiplicity of factors, such as; culture, politics, history, patriotism, geography, military power, etc. indeed, the very basis of embarking on economic diplomacy in the first place was the inability of the Nigerian economy to withstand pressures of the international political economy in the first place.

Citizen Diplomacy
Citizen diplomacy is the foreign policy thrust that has been embarked upon since the advent of democratic governance in 1999. It was spearheaded by the Olusegun Obasanjo and has been in place since then through the administrations of Musa Yar'Adua and Jonathan Goodluck. Basically, citizen diplomacy contends that the citizens, that is, Nigerians are the centre piece of Nigeria's foreign policy. Commenting on what the concept is all about, Ozoemenam Mbachu, posits that, 'the basic thrust revolve around concern for the basic needs, human rights and socio-economic welfare of Nigerian citizens in conducting bilateral and multilateral engagements with other countries'.

Through the instrumentality of the citizen diplomacy, it is envisaged that Nigeria will harness the resources and potentials of her diaspora, mainstream the doctrine of reciprocity, and create an enabling environment for her citizens to prosper and engage in broad issues of human importance at both the national and international levels. In the event too, it will enhance Nigeria's export portfolio and attract foreign direct investments.

According to Mbachu again, critical issues that have been left unanswered by the citizen diplomacy policy thrust and for which if clear answers are not provided could endanger it are: a.) what are the objectives of Nigeria's bilateral and multilateral economic and political cooperation based on the framework of citizen diplomacy? b.)What should be the benefits of citizen diplomacy as a functional framework for bilateral and multilateral cooperation? c.)Who would aggregate the inputs of Nigerians in the diaspora? d.) How would the success or failure of citizen diplomacy be measured and by whom?

While aligning myself to these questions, let it be asked: Is the social responsibility of the State not primarily targeted at creating a conducive atmosphere for the citizens' fulfillment of their potentials, and realization of their yearnings and aspirations? This is the philosophical foundations of the state as encapsulated in the doctrine of social contractarianism. If so, which it is, no doubt, what is special about citizen diplomacy as a conceptual framework of foreign policy? Since 1999, to date, what can we point at and say this is the benefit(s) of citizen diplomacy? Again, the answer is nothing.

We have demonstrated that since independence to date, although there have been conceptual and doctrinal transitions in Nigeria foreign policy, in reality they are not grounded in deep philosophical thought, visionary imagination and broad based considerations of long lasting benefits to the national interests. Basically, there are borne out of pragmatic exigencies, political faddism, conceptual elegance and regime identity. As a result, Nigeria's foreign policy fifty one years down the road can be summed up to be change and continuity, motion without movement, dynamism without surge. What Nigeria need therefore is a foreign policy that will contain the crisis of underdevelopment, the challenges of poverty, leadership, political development, and a host of other maladies and launch her as a modern state in the twenty first century in order to realize her full potentials and cravings for continental and global leadership.

ATAH PINE is of the Department of Political Science, Benue State University, Makurdi, Nigeria.

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