By Alexander Ekemenah
According to Section 19 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (With Amendment 2011), the foreign policy objectives shall be:
a) Promotion and protection of the national interest;
b) Promotion of African integration and support for African unity;
c) Promotion of international co-operation for the consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect among all nations and elimination of discrimination in all its manifestations;
d) Respect for international law and treaty obligations as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication; and
e) Promotion of a just world economic order
The natural reaction of a critical analyst, at first glance at the above objectives, is to turn away in disgust.
Were these objectives drafted or crafted by secondary school leavers or university undergraduates?
Nothing in these objectives is in tandem with current objective reality of the world; and could only have been drafted or crafted by some kind of idiots who probably do not understand international relations at all.
These objectives were drafted with no strategic vision or goal in mind – evidently from position of weakness befitting only Third World countries, by people who do not understand the dynamics of international relations and their contemporary strategic underpinnings.
They are textbook stuff, dovish in character and lacking in muscular ability to project power abroad using all elements of national power.
The objectives put the country in a dependent and beggarly position, subordinating itself the vagaries of international relations, as a pawn in the international chess game of power or realpolitic.
The worst part of it is that these provisions are part of Chapter II of the Constitution which deals with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principle of State Policy that are not justiciable i.e. government cannot be challenged in any competent court of law for its non-enforceability or otherwise. If they are to be amended, they have to go through all the procedures required for constitutional amendments.
It is not easy to quantify the benefits or windfalls of Nigerian foreign policy based on these types of objectives. The Government needs to convince the nation that these objectives have been beneficial to the nation in tangible forms since they were adopted as constitutional imperatives twenty years ago.
In pursuit of these objectives, Nigeria has entered into all sorts of international agreements whose material benefits cannot easily be traced or tracked on objective scale. For instance, ever since Nigeria joined the Saudi Arabia-led 32-nation anti-terrorist alliance in 2015, nothing can be said to have been its benefits. What is purpose of signing an agreement of which content has not been beneficial to the nation in terms of its goals? Boko Haram (ISWAP) for which the agreement was signed is still rampaging and killing innocent people since the agreement was signed
What has been the quantum of benefits in material terms since Nigeria joined Organization of Islamic Countries since 1986?
Apart from the above-mentioned examples, in many, if not all, of these international treaties and obligations, there is no record of where and to what extent Nigeria was involved in the nucleus of drafting, negotiating (with trade-offs) and debating of these treaties and obligations. Nigeria seems to be more interested in signing and ratifying the treaties, protocols and obligations after they have been initiated, designed and put forward by other countries than contemplating their strategic implications for shaping or reshaping the collective destiny of the nation and its citizens. Nigeria rushes/stampedes to sign all sorts of international agreements probably because it does not want to be seen being left behind. Again, there is no record of Nigeria’s championing of a particular aspect of these treaties, protocols and/or obligations. Nigeria is more content with being a back-bencher in these epochal affairs, preferring to warming the seat only for it to rush forward for signatory and ratification of these treaties, protocols and obligations because it is more fashionable and respectable to do so. Nigeria seems to be wary of competition in the marketplace of strategic ideas or ideas in general – ideas that change the narratives, dynamics and fundamentals of international relations. This is what perhaps accounts for the reasons for our more-often-than-not lukewarm or incoherent (or stuttering) ideological standpoints on any critical issue of global concern.
When these objectives are broken down into practical terms, they pose great difficulties in defending our citizens abroad when faced with challenges or threats to their lives since they must first observe peace and peaceful procedures in resolving ensuing conflicts. Subsection (d) is a medicine after death! They do not allow for self-defence as exemplified by the South African experience by our citizens in early September this year. In other words, Nigeria manacled itself in advance which allows the citizens to be disposed off at random when faced by life-threatening situations.
This particular section (d) poses series of difficulties. In fact, it is rather weird or vague to say the least. The way it is structured, it has no particular identifiable goal. Negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication are good in themselves but they are ends in themselves the way they are presented here. They are diplomatic mechanisms that do not have their particular goals (except to achieve peace!): they do not anticipate anything. Empirically, Nigeria has not shown anything achieved with them. Nigeria lost Bakassi Peninsula using the same means.
The current P & ID controversy is a case in point in this context. A London court has ordered Nigeria to pay $9.6 billion in judgment debt to P & ID. Instead of bluntly refusing to pay this judgment debt, Nigeria has once again embarked on the same perilous and tortuous path of seeking adjudication (by appeal) when the balance of forces clearly indicate that Nigeria is seriously in a weak position to win this case. Nigeria is in a weak position because there are little or no habiliments of economic war to fight this case and win.
Since independence, the guiding principle of Nigeria’s foreign policy has been the pursuit of its so-called national interest(s), including bilateral and multilateral relations with individual countries and multilateral institutions such as United Nations, African Union, IMF/World Bank consortium, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), etc, in its engagement with the rest of the world. This is by and large its worldview and perception of the international environment.
The main drivers of the country’s foreign policy have been its Afrocentric policy, anti-colonialism, anti-apartheid stance, etc. However, colonialism and apartheid have since historically disappeared from the scene of history. So where do we go from there?
Ever since Nigeria officially announced its commitment to economic diplomacy as far back as 1988, there have been no tangible results of this economic diplomacy as a result of the lingering economic and political crises raising the fearful question as to whether Nigerian foreign policy can ever be consistent with economic development or not?
The adoption of economic diplomacy (but never incorporated into the Constitution at any point in time) actually as an extension of domestic economic policy was as a result of the devastation wrecked by Structural Adjustment Programme orchestrated and actively supported by International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1986. By mid-90s, the Nigerian industrial landscape has been laid to waste, destroyed by the impacts of SAP, xchange rate imbalances and the wasting of oil windfalls of 1992. The State-owned enterprises became unmanageable, thus providing the justification for their commercialization and privatization, an exercise that is mired in controversy till date, an exercise that still cast its dark pall over the nation’s economy till date. Nigeria gradually got entrapped by external debts that till date, nobody could tell precisely what were ever achieved with the external loans taken from various sources. Nigeria also fell into a cauldron of epochal political crisis from mid-1993 as a result of the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election results evidently won by late Chief MKO Abiola. Again the impacts of this political crisis are still haunting the nation till date even after transition to civil democratic rule in mid-1999.
The bitter lessons of this turbulent period in the nation’s history are evidently lost in adopting proactive foreign policy objectives as manifested in the conspicuous absence of economic diplomacy as a major instrument or thrust of our foreign policy in the 1999 Constitution.
There were noticeable slight changes to the thinking of the Nigerian ruling elite especially from the time of President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) through the brief interregnum of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and finally to President Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2015).
To fast-forward, it would be recalled that following President Goodluck Jonathan’s victory in the 2011 elections, he created and directed Presidential Advisory Council on International Relations (PACIR) to coordinate the reforming of Nigeria’s foreign policy to become investment oriented. His main focus was on the following:
- Improved cooperation with other military forces all over the world to bring about peace globally;
- Improved bilateral and multilateral trade relationship among nations;
- Cooperation and assistance in curbing health challenges all over the world; and
- Promoting the welfare of Nigerian’s abroad to ensure they are treated with respect and dignity in all circumstances.
He then tasked the Foreign Affairs Ministry to help bring about the desired reforms which brought together the Nigerian intelligentsia, foreign policy experts, seasoned diplomats, and other professionals to chart a new way for the future without necessarily discarding the past.
But there are now other troubling questions being asked as to what direction that new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is taking Nigeria in terms of foreign policy after the previous sixteen years of democratic rule that has been argued by his administration to have been plagued by a considerable period of economic paralysis and/or political infamies.
One of the greatest challenges confronting Nigeria’s foreign policy today is its negative perception in the international community.
A country’s standing in the international system is highly dependent on the perception of her image globally, among other factors and variables. How does the rest of the world look at Nigeria? Have there been significant changes over the years? Have there been improvements in its image? A country is rated decisively by the ability of its national institutions to overcome its self-created challenges.
There is no doubt that Nigeria’s image abroad has hitherto been shaped by a variety of factors since 1960 ranging from oil boom, its fixated Afrocentric policy, anti-apartheid stance, and insatiable appetite for Euro-American finished products, etc, that have evolved over the years.
Perhaps more than external challenges, it is the internal challenges that are hurting and decreasing Nigeria’s possibilities of attaining its full potential of national transformation and maintaining or sustaining positive international image because the political leadership is yet to get its acts together. For instance, let us zero in on three major requirements.
- For successful industrialization to take place, the country need about 70 to 80 per cent literacy rate.
- For the economy to start off on irreversible development trajectory, electricity supply must meet international benchmark of 1, 000 megawatts per 1 million people – meaning that Nigeria roughly need about 100, 000 megawatts to drive its economic activities at full throttle.
- Therefore, to beat back poverty, the country need to attain 5 to 7 per cent growth rate per annum enabling about 8 to 10 person to exit poverty every minutes or thereabout to reduce destitution, penury or what is often called abject poverty.
Nigeria has been declared poverty capital of the world, and the country has not been able to prove the contrary. What this declaration partly means is that all the foreign direct investments in the country so far have not have the necessary impacts on reduction of poverty in the country. It also means that all the economic programmes adopted so far have not have the necessary impacts on reduction of poverty.
For the past ten years Nigeria has fallen into the embrace of Boko Haram-driven insurgency with all its highly suspected international connections – insurgency mounted against the Nigerian State (again with its acclaimed international connections) aimed at dismembering it. Soul-shattering poverty especially in the North Eastern part of the country has been accepted as an indisputable contributory factor to this earth-shaking insurgency, the type that has not been witnessed in any part of Africa. Yet our foreign policy has not been able to help deliver Nigeria from this soul-shattering insurgency.
The insecurity in Nigeria is of strategic nature and typology that create host of problems for the country in the conduct of its foreign policy – something that we have not really grappled with sufficiently. Nobody is fooled by the propaganda mounted by the Federal Government.
More than anything in this regard is the weak institutional capacity to address these challenges. Insecurity and corruption are just two examples of contemporary challenges confronting Nigeria. We may never know the extent to which these two challenges have dented Nigeria’s image abroad. Not many foreign investors are willing to come and invest in the North eastern part of the country today because of Boko Haram insurgency. The pervasive corruption in the country has become a great disincentive to foreign direct investment except by those investors (foreign economic assassins) that are willing to be part of the crimes of corruption.
While African unity is largely desirable in view of historical injustices inflicted on it by colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism/imperialism, it is not based on realistic assessment of African contemporary conditions, as individual African nations are not only free to pursue independent course of action, but are actually doing so; actions that sometimes contradict or conflict with such desire. Were South Africans thinking of African unity when they were xenophobically killing fellow Africans? Were several African countries thinking of African unity when they were attacking each other in the past? So what sort of African unity are we thinking and talking about as part of the nation’s foreign policy objectives?
Africa has been the centre-piece and pivot of our foreign policy. But what have been its overall benefits economically and politically, socially and culturally in comparison with our relationship with the rest of the world especially Western countries? While Nigeria exported and is still exporting some of its best brains to help develop other African countries, including countries outside Africa, Nigeria has since fallen in scale of human capital development.
It is interesting to note that Nigeria was very reluctant, and it took time to sign the African Continental Trade Agreement. The simple question is why – in view of the Nigeria’s stated objective of promoting African integration and unity? What really do these African integration and unity meant to Nigeria’s strategic interests? Were they to be seen as mere matter of theory, rhetoric, or practice? Why are we seemingly afraid to sign a trade agreement for Africa whereas we are quick to sign such agreements with other trading blocs outside Africa or bilateral agreements with individual countries – if we so much desire African integration and unity? Again and again, the Nigeria’s Federal Government has not been able to provide convincing explanations for its reluctance to sign this particular agreement in view of its foreign policy objectives. It is indeed an inexplicable conundrum.
As stated earlier: “In all the responses by the Nigerian Federal Government, what can be surmised from them is the obduracy to see the failure of a foreign policy anchored on Africa as a centre-piece that has been the main driver of Nigeria’s foreign policy for the past decades since independence. Global events have since clearly rubbished this kind of stupid continental-based foreign policy objectives. It is a pathetic hogwash of an ancient regime inherited from despotic military rule that has not been reviewed to find out whether it fit the conditions of the present times. (Ekemenah, A.: “Urgent: Need for Strategic Review of Nigeria-South Africa Relations” http://nextmoneyng.com/2019/09/09/urgent-need-for-strategic-review-of-nigeria-south-africa-relations/)
This is the dilemma in which Nigeria finds itself, caught between the Scylla and Charibdis.
A Just World Economic Order
Another instance of this uselessness of an objective is what is called “a just world economic order”. This is a useless dream, what is often called in local parlance “a pipe-dream”, a utopia or even hallucination based on wishful thinking. The world as it is structured today, though it may be “unjust”, is a driver of competition among nations, a kind of Darwinian contest of survival of the fittest, requiring every nation to be on its guard, to be master of something worthwhile in global production line and value chain – and not to be dreaming about a “just world economic order” that its Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) (on the stage of history) is not known or certain.
The promotion of this type of objective is without doubt based on the realization that the world economy as it is organized and/or structured today is blatantly unjust – dominated as it is by member countries of G7/8 and G20. As at present BRICS has entered the fray of global economic competition. Nigeria is not a member of all the above-mentioned groups. Again, from the rank of BRICS, China has emerged as a global economic octopus, unarguably the second largest and strongest world economic power after the United States. Yet, today, Nigeria is hobnobbing with China, alongside other African countries within the framework of Silk and Belt Road initiative by China, unmindful of the entire experiences and lessons of China and other global economic blocs. Nigeria has not shown any record of actively championing a new economic order – except lip service – thus doing injustice to its constitutionally avowed promotion of a just world economic order. What a self-contradiction.
Nigeria might have as well told that to the Chinese, or even the Western countries!
Maybe Lord Jesus Christ or Prophet Muhammad (SAW) will have to come down the second time to institute such a new and just world economic order!
Nigeria cannot claim to be pursuing a just world economic order (abroad) when it is not seen to be doing the same at home – in fact, it is seen to be promoting inequalities and inequities at home. This is the sort of stupid contradiction that critical thinkers laugh at when faced with such proclamations. Rather than fantasize about a just world economic order, the world economy should be seen exactly for what it is: a very unjust order. Nigeria should work within this reality and from this perspective, and struggle to maximize all advantages from it – rather than idly or pretend to advocate for something that is not feasible in the foreseeable future. It is a Utopia and therefore a chimera!
It is a different ball game if Nigeria is seeking a new world economic order in which its strategic interests can be realized.
The objectives did not even include, either by inference or implication, anything on economic diplomacy as a foreign policy vehicle, such as foreign direct investment. In other words, economic diplomacy in context of foreign policy is not a constitutional requirement but a domestic economic policy issue that may not be legislated upon as such. If we also compare this lacuna with the provisions of Section 16 of the Constitution, it becomes glaring that what is called “foreign economic diplomacy” is a mere adjunct of domestic economic policy and not a constitutional imperative.
The cause of these dovish or vague objectives is that Nigeria has never really been faced by existential threat or challenge, to its survival as a nation or otherwise. Its sovereignty and territorial integrity has never been challenged – not even with the experiential dispute with Cameroon over Bakassi Peninsula. In this particular case, there was no substantial threat of military invasion of Nigeria by Cameroon and its invisible (or visible) backers – even though there were exchanges of bullets along the disputed boundaries. Even though Boko Haram is a threat of secession from the rest of Nigeria, it has not really made this its sole objective.
With these kinds of foreign policy objectives, it is not difficult at all to see how Nigeria lost Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon in the mid-2000s; it is not difficult to see how Nigeria was wringing its hands petulantly even after South Africa poked its dirty xenophobic fingers into Nigeria’s eyes. This is essentially because Nigeria has entrapped itself with dovish foreign policy objectives that are clearly outdated in a 21st century world. Nigeria literally turned the other cheek to the enemy to slap!
In the case of Saudi Arabia, it is currently in the news that about 23 Nigerians are on death row for drug-related offices in Saudi Arabia; and Nigeria has not shown sufficient interest in rescuing these hapless citizens even within the framework/mechanism of its foreign policy objectives (of negotiation, mediation, conciliation, etc) from the jaw of death that awaits them in Saudi Arabia.
Nigeria is at home and abroad, a “Lemuel Gulliver in the land of Lilliput”!
Thus Nigeria lives in a kind of Fool’s Paradise, believing foolishly that it can never be threatened from within and without. Even in its internal ethnic-driven predatory politics (geo-political struggle for hegemony and supremacy), the Nigerian ruling class believe that Nigeria can never break.
There is therefore the need for critical interrogation of what these objectives really are, what kind of strategic goals they are meant to achieve. For instance, what exactly is Nigeria’s “national interest”? Is it just a single “interest” or combination of many? Is it an overarching, all-encompassing interest? If they are many, what exactly are they? How do the sub-interests relate to other stated objectives?
Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives and thrusts do not show how to make Nigeria great in the comity of nations. The objectives do not show “how a strong state can be created and maintained, a state strong enough to resist its rivals and ultimately gain dominion over them” (Sun Tzu: The Art of War, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 1998, p. 13). Indeed, the objectives cannot make Nigeria great in any particular sense. They do not show a philosophical goal of how Nigeria can turn its encounter and engagement with the external world and transform this into ultimate reality of been a great nation.
A Dynamic International Environment
Nigeria is behaving as if oblivious of the seismic changes that have occurred in the global arena in the last thirty years or thereabout. Nigeria continues to fool itself with either moonlight folk-tales or brazen shenaniganism. The world today has even become more unpredictable than thirty years ago because it is now more characterized by general substantive uncertainty i.e. vulnerability and volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. In fact, no Nostradamus of strategic thinking could have predicted the host of challenges that the world is now experiencing, ranging from general insecurity, outbreak of wars in geostrategic locations around the world, rightwing political backlash around the world, emergence of new military powers (China, North Korea and Iran), breakthroughs in science and techs, etc. Nobody could also predict precisely the kind of challenges Nigeria is facing today thirty or forty years back. The future is largely unpredictable but it can be planned for in a systemic manner using models and working templates that take into cognizance the unfolding changes around us, models and templates that are flexible and therefore can be easily adapted to changing times and circumstances.
Yet it is from the crucible of this VUCA conditions that the world is now experiencing the surge of new scientific and technological revolutionary wave. The world is now transiting from Third Industrial Revolution to Fourth Industrial Revolution even with the Fifth Industrial Revolution looming on the horizon. The breath-taking emergence of artificial intelligence, robotic engineering, synthetic biology computational science, 5G digital revolution, quantum computing, nanotechnologies, cognitive science, behavioral science, space explorations, driverless vehicles, 3D and 4D printing, Internet-of-Things, etc, have collectively led to creative destruction which necessitate constant innovation, competition or miserable death by the superhighways of post-modern society and world. There is also weaponization of biotechnology, indeed, of everything; including military anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) as a smart asymmetric warfare strategy. There is also the unfolding discourse on post-party governance (cf: Berggruen Institute, September 2015), etc.
To be part of the above unfolding revolutionary future, we need foreign policy objectives that are in sync with these modern innovations and processes, to be able to capture and incorporate them and move with the rhythm of time and space in the world.
It is not enough to have Embassies and High Commissions abroad. It is also not enough to have bilateral relationships with foreign countries for their own sake, as a matter of tradition, etc. What is most important or fundamental is to have an overarching or broad-based foreign policy that is anchored on strategic imperatives that are all-embracing – rather than nebulous piece-meal objectives.
It is very much doubtful whether Nigerian Embassies and High Commissions abroad can define, tell or narrate what the nation’s “national interest” is, given the kind of nebulous mandate they are charged to manage bilateral relationships on behalf of Nigeria.
From empirical standpoint, it is arguable whether there is proactive engagement between Nigerian Embassies, Consulates, Commissions, and Missions abroad on the one hand, and Nigerian citizens abroad on the other hand – citizens who go to them for one sort of problem or the other ranging from passport renewals to other documentations. These are apart from internal structural deficiencies within these Embassies and Commissions especially their inabilities to deliver on their core mandate of attracting high net-worth businesses to their home country.
In the case of Nigerian High Commission in South Africa, it is not known exactly what role it played in protecting Nigerians from xenophobic attacks in the latest episode.
Attacks against foreigners in South Africa are not new. According to the website Xenowatch, which tracks such incidents, more than 500 attacks occurred between 1994 and 2018. The attacks seem to spike periodically; more than 100 attacks in 2008 left more than 60 people dead, and more than 70 attacks occurred in 2015. This year is on track to be another violent one, with more than 40 incidents recorded. More than half of the incidents unfolded in Johannesburg, the country’s largest city. (Salem Solomon: “After a Week of Xenophobic Attacks, South Africa Grapples for Answers” September 6, 2019 https://www.voanews.com/africa/after-week-xenophobic-attacks-south-africa-grapples-answers (Accessed: September 26, 2019)
There is need for inquiry into this infamy with the aim of finding out its omission or commission in the ugly incident.
Nigeria is never known to have stood for any known ideological principle. Rather Nigeria prefers to enmesh and subsume herself within the ideological hubris of other nations especially the Western countries. We valorize their achievements in a vulgar and nauseating manner. Nigeria is never known to have actively led other African countries, in a sustainable manner, on any campaign on any international issues of concern. Nigeria has never refused on ground of principles, to be signatory to certain obnoxious international agreements.
Not many African countries are willing to follow Nigeria on any international campaign because either none trust Nigeria enough or Nigeria has not shown sufficient leadership quality that can galvanize other countries or ideologically strategically attractive enough. Nobody is willing to break an egg to make omelet on behalf of Nigeria or for Nigeria’s sake.
The only time Nigeria has ever stood up and look straight in the eyes of Western countries, daring them, was over the same ungrateful South Africa over apartheid prior to 1994. The same South Africa is now xenophobically discriminating against Nigerians living in South Africa – and all that Nigeria could do was to wail and wring its hands petulantly without clenching its fist into a knuckle aimed at something.
All these have to do with the fundamental character of the Nigerian State, a conciliatory State that accommodate all sorts of evils and rubbish (external and domestic) that even violate its so-called national interest that has never been explicitly or concretely defined.
Nigeria has tragically become a country, like the proverbial toothless bulldog, that can neither bark nor bite. It is analogous to Jonathan Swift’s Lemuel Gulliver in the Land of Lilliput!
Nigeria and South Africa
The performance of Nigeria in the wake of xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa in early September 2019 is a case study of self-defeatist foreign policy objectives.
At the end of the crisis, Nigeria did not achieve anything, except to flatulently accept apology; did not actually demand anything and; finally came out with nothing.
Nigeria could not even evacuate her citizens from the blazing inferno of xenophobic attacks because it has no means of doing so. No elements of national power! It was Air Peace, “piloted” by Mr. Allen Onyeama, who deployed his aircrafts and other resources to evacuate the returning citizens.
Never before has a nation disgracefully displayed such impotence, having her citizens trapped in a conflict zone in a foreign country; lacking the minimal ability to intervene and rescue her citizens.
It was even contemplated that President Muhammadu Buhari would go to South Africa to shake hands and dine with President Cyril Ramaphosa! (As at the time of concluding this write-up, President Muhammadu Buhari has already gone to South Africa on a state visit!)
Strangely enough, it is this same South Africa that is often regarded as the main rival of Nigeria in Africa. Yet it is this same South Africa that Nigeria do not wish to offend in any particular sense, for any reason whatsoever, not because it fears what South Africa can do to hurt her but because of the business ties between the two countries that have tied the ruling elites in both countries in a kind of “unholy alliance”.
Let us recall that when North Korea was rattling the nuclear sabre too much about two years ago, President Donald Trump went to the United Nations from where he threatened to decimate North Korea in a nuclear inferno if the former does not desist from harassing the United States with nuclear attack. “The US has great strength and patience … If it is forced to defend ourselves or our allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”, in a nuclear Armageddon, the world has ever witnessed, President Trump threatened in September 19, 2017 at the United Nations General Assembly.
About nine months later (June 12, 2018), North Korea and the United States met in Singapore for the first time to have an understanding about contending issues at stake between the two countries. The lessons are not lost at all to all international watchers and analysts viz: the United States has boxed North Korea into a tight corner and North Korea was forced to beat a tactical retreat from its hitherto bellicose rhetoric and nuclear-sounding cymbals.
The United States is currently at loggerhead with Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear program and other issues – where the push is gradually becoming a shove. It is also very clear that Iran will be the one to back down if the push comes to a shove as it is not in position to withstand the firepower of the United States military machine if it comes to a war.
Of course, this write-up is not an advocacy for war-mongering. Neither is it a rejection of diplomacy as an alternative dispute resolution instrument or mechanism in conflict situation – instead of war. It is an advocacy that the nation must be prepared for all contingent situations, including war, whenever they arise – and not to lay back, day-dreaming, pretending that the world is ever friendly.
Thus, it is not enough to have our President making speeches at international fora. Most of these speeches, at any rate, are devoid of historical value. They are dumped into the archives within a short space of time or dropped on the floor of the forum where they are delivered because they lack substance. Nobody, no other country, ever refer to such speeches again because they are worthless. Speeches are preserved not only because of their historical values or substance but also because of the energetic, educated and attractive (gravitas) personality making them. The speech maker must be a historical personality himself, must embody a historical period in the nation’s life, must stand tall and distinguished among men – not somebody who meander his/her way to power, a drab personality, whose personality is constantly questioned or doubted in his/her integrity, alleged falsely acquired education, whose countrymen snigger at publicly, etc.
It is not enough to have certain Nigerians as heads of international organizations or bodies as well. Indeed, these certain Nigerians may be successfully working to reshape the organizations or bodies under their leadership. But it is not Nigeria as a State that is reshaping these organizations or the world at large by causing a new alignment of forces in international order. It is not enough to have Nigerians being successful in their various fields of endeavours in the Diaspora. Those are individual achievements that have no direct bearing on the performance of the State as an actor in international stage. Nigeria has never disrupted any known international order at any given period of world history. It is not those who try to keep an international order or status quo as evident in Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives but those who are willing to disturb, disrupt or scatter it that are in the forefront of global leadership. That is world history.
It is ironic that since 1999 when Nigeria transited to civil democratic rule, it has progressively worsened in terms of development indicators. For instance, Nigeria has not been able to make herself strategically attractive for earth-shaking foreign direct investments not to talk of multilateral bodies willing to come to establish their regional headquarters in Nigeria principally because of insecurity (even in the Federal Capital Territory), all-pervasive corrupt practices within all social strata, lack of standard infrastructures and general harsh operating environment. For instance, World Economic Forum is held alternately in South Africa while Nigeria has only been lucky once to host it. The global New Development Bank is headquartered in Shanghai, China, while its regional African regional headquarter is in South Africa. These are indications that all is not yet well with Nigeria in strategic terms.
A Giant with Achilles Heel
Nigeria, prior to 1999 is often regarded as Giant of Africa. But is this still the case under civil democratic rule? What went wrong in the course of the last two decades that Nigeria is now considered a failed, or failing state, fragile and/or stunted in growth?
It is pertinent to note that the 1999 Constitution (and with particular reference to the foreign policy objectives) came into being against the background of an epochal political crisis of 1993 to 1998. During the height of this political crisis, Nigeria was increasingly seen as a pariah nation, even with sanctions imposed on the political regime in power then, i.e. Abacha-led military dictatorship. In other words, the formulation of these foreign objectives did not take into account the lessons learnt or not learnt during this turbulent period of Nigeria’s political history. Or it may be argued, to certain extent with justification, that these kinds of objectives were an appeasement of the political forces wronged by the political crisis of this period in the realm of foreign policy. It may also be argued that the objectives were a reflection or by-product of “stability” much sought after by the Nigeria State in the realm of foreign policy to continue in the old ways of conducting business in international relations, the kind of objectives that will not generate controversy that can upturn the applecart of the Nigerian State.
The era of oil as a weapon in foreign policy has long come to a clangorous close. Nigeria can no longer threaten any foreign country with oil embargo or sanction. Nigeria would simply be told to go to hell!
Indeed this era came to a close as far back as 1978/79 during the regime of Obasanjo-Yar’Adua military dictatorship after the nationalization of British Petroleum and other measures deployed to clip the wings of the British in her support for apartheid regime in South Africa. Since then, Nigeria was no longer able to weaponize oil as an instrument of foreign policy, as a strategic leverage in attaining its foreign policy objectives in view of many contemporary developments such as discovery and production of oil by many other countries outside the control of OPEC cartel, of discovery and extraction of oil shale, and other technological advancements in energy production spectrum.
Nigeria is gradually losing its strength as a nation, almost imperceptible, yet real. Nigeria is bleeding internally and may bleed to death if the tidal wave is not stemmed in time. World Bank has declared that Nigeria is dying and that is a very portentous statement to make to describe a nation like Nigeria. (I do not see mischief in this declaration. Rather I see a warning.) The calamitous failure of leadership especially at the national level contrary to all propaganda has made the country directionless except the empty “next level” sloganeering and/or rhetoric. Insurgency, kidnapping, primitive killings are gradually sapping the strength of the country, a process that has been on for more than one decade now. Corruption that has become a Frankenstein monster, a Medusa, is draining or diverting resources to wrong ends. The professional class in the country is not robust as part of it is constantly migrating to other climes in search of greener pasture because of the increasing “desertification” or “erosion”; because the domestic environment has increasingly become inhospitable, hostile or harsh for the full blossoming of the professional middle class in Nigeria.
At first glance or to a casual observer, these itemized problems are imperceptible because of our huge demographic density that constantly replenish or paper over the increasing losses or gaps. However, the problems will morph and reach the point where it will tip over the scale of balance to the negative side for the whole world to see, no longer as a matter of perception or feeling but as a matter of concrete and objective reality, as a matter of daily fact that leer at our faces.
Looking at the current situation objectively, it is clear that Nigeria has nothing any more to use as strategic leverages to achieve its foreign policy objectives.
The crux of the matter is that Nigeria does not have any known international security policy in the context of foreign policy to support the nation’s vital national security interests at home and abroad since independence. The international security policy referred to here is broadly seen in terms of human security to protect Nigerian citizens abroad wherever they might be on the surface of this planet. Nigerians in Diaspora, working, living or visiting, are basically on their own as there is no visible security policy umbrella or canopy at home under which they can feel protected if they are ever threatened or attacked abroad. (http://nextmoneyng.com/2019/09/09/urgent-need-for-strategic-review-of-nigeria-south-africa-relations/)
As this writer had earlier opined, Nigeria’s position/status and role have not been redefined in the context of global phenomena/events that have reshaped international relations in the last few decades. These phenomena include globalization, advent of ICT, global financial crisis (or the emergence of new global financial landscape and architecture), including the resurgence of right-wing nationalism, constabulary incendiarism, new form of racism on global scale, etc (Ibid).
The reason is not far-fetched. For the past decades, Nigeria has been unfortunate to be saddled with political leaderships that were not proactive enough (with the exception of Obasanjo administration – 1999-2007) to take stock of the new global strategic environment and tackle the challenges there from. Even with the exception of Obasanjo administration, there was no coherent ideological basis for his proactive international adventures in terms of a newly-defined foreign policy objectives and thrusts. Subsequent administrations even became progressively worse to the present time (Ibid).
The lesson is very clear for all to see. The elementary understanding of realpolitic or geopolitics, and the concomitant foreign policy decision-making teaches us that you can only go for the jugular if you have the capability, i.e. from the position of strength. But as it is now, Nigeria is literally begging from the position of weakness because it has no diplomatic strength to arrest and handcuff South Africa. Nigeria cannot bully South Africa in any manner because it does not have the strategic capacity to do so (Ibid).
We can all see what lack of strategic foresight can do to a nation. Corruption has even destroyed our ability to think strategically because mentally corrupt can only think in short terms. Their brains are crippled because of the leprosy or cancer of corruption that has eaten deep into the soul or psyche of the nation (Ibid). Because of this, Nigeria is now caught in mini-Thucydides trap, caught between mental aspiration and physical incapacity to scan the horizon, a trap that prevents us from producing independent counter-narratives to global discourse – except to follow the tide of mainstream thought.