A Foreign Affairs Minister’s Agenda



In fact, foreign policy as a national issue hardly featured in the electioneering campaign of the Septuagenarian, lending credence to the fact that because Nigeria was at the brink, only a sincere and committed engagement and resolution of dire domestic issues can even give the nation any hope that its foreign policy would be taken seriously, both at home and in the international arena.

Now however, with the naming of a new minister of Foreign Affairs, it can be fairly expected that the nation’s exertions in the international arena would be handled with more gravitas.

Although the country’s foreign policy objectives are vividly captured in Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution under Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, more than ever before, it has become imperative to prioritise those objectives and make them more relevant to the country and its citizenry.

Given the realpolitik of global diplomatic service relating to the national interest of nations, when Nigeria engages the rest of the world now, she should be doing so in a manner that seeks complimentary strategic political economic and social relationships that will foster partnerships, collaboration and cooperation rather than patronage and aid.
And this is where his foreign minister comes in. With a solid background in law, political science and some international bureaucratic experience, Mr. Geoffery Onyeama should be helping his principal in articulating, not just regurgitating, a robust Foreign Policy for Nigeria.

As members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Nigeria take incisive notes about the goings on in the country at this critical point in time when a helmsman is on the saddle in order to feed the rest of the world, their lenses would understandably also direct the eyes of the world to Nigeria’s foreign affairs machinery.
Always the man who heads that ministry has to be someone who can create an authentic Nigerian ‘diplomatic missile’ equipped with versatility and knowledge of domestic policies and can string together an acceptable meal, which could bear an unpalatable message at the international cocktail concert without fowling the diplomatic air.

Placing the re-drawn policies, and grand initiatives of the previous administrations in their proper perspectives, Nigeria could still with some bit of imagination, be capable of imposing herself on the foreign pitch as her citizens are used to and as may be demanded from her by her manifest destiny as well as the realistic dictates of the 21st century.
To Do

AS it is, minister Onyeama is inheriting a few standout pillars, which held Nigeria’s foreign policy to the glare in more recent times. These include Citizens’ Diplomacy, Neighbourhood Diplomacy, the Bi-national Commission (BNC) with select strategic allies as well as the new platform- the Global Strategic Partnership (GSP), which was birthed to collate, implement and expand a grand outreach that has now recently included some European Union (EU) members, China, India, Russia, South Africa and with prospects of those model with Brazil, Angola, Turkey and other of futuristic calculations that would be determined by Nigeria’s national interest.

The concept of Neighbourhood Diplomacy came about as intelligence reports during the tenure of former foreign Affairs minister Ojo Maduekwe, was pointing increasingly at the militarization of the Sahel and the fact also that there were terror cells up there hanging above Nigeria. The instrument must be used for an update on Africa as the old centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy. The idea was: If you take your neighbours such as Niger Chad and Cameroon, serious you do not keep away from them as Nigeria has now for decades done in virtually all of southern Africa where she was once honoured as the only frontline state outside the zone.

The new minister now on the saddle should appraise neighbourhood diplomacy and see if it could achieve its purpose of becoming for Nigeria, a powerful conceptual tool of ensuring that the country engages more deeply, more strategically and more consistently to the benefit of our Nigerian citizens who have abiding faith in continental integration. In terms of security, it would be like entering a door with neighbourhood diplomacy and coming out at the rear with ‘citizens’ diplomacy’.

Nigeria must be made to remain Africa’s biggest economy, and ipso facto boost confidence and send positive signals out there in terms of attraction of foreign investments. The reconstruction of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy along new realities must rev very seriously in presenting a much more positive image of Nigeria to the rest of the global community.
Matters That Linger

WHAT can be said to be the place of global reality in the engine of our Foreign Policy today? I have heard it that Nigeria is going to have relative stability in the management of the nation’s foreign policy. And citizens are expected to witness an era quite distant from the times when foreign policy oscillated between the whims and caprice of a particular foreign minister or to what extent the mental capacity of the head of state allows him to expound.

These are old but relevant questions: What in the days ahead will happen to Nigeria’s often vilified big power prism? The medium power posturing? The centre-piece doctrine? These questions are being asked still today because most cannot predict Nigeria’s line of action in an emerging global phenomenon. They know the nation’s foreign ministers make diplomatic shuttles, brainstorms at international fora but there is still an aloofness that does not allow the ordinary Nigerian now lost in the mire, to fathom and predict his government at those critical times when it should stand up and be counted.

The foreign Affairs minister needs to tell the nation whether there would still be around the corners of our diplomatic outposts, the attendant security implications of keeping unpaid, demoralised and unfocussed officers who may in time be paid by agents inimical to Nigeria’s interest?

After all, it has been said and put in the public domain that no actors in the field of diplomacy takes a country seriously if the volume and reach of its foreign policy fluctuates with the quantity and price of crude oil it sells in the world market!
Specific Paradigms As Pointers

Nigeria must be made to remain Africa’s biggest economy, and ipso facto boost confidence and send positive signals out there in terms of attraction of foreign investments. The reconstruction of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy along new realities must rev very seriously in presenting a much more positive image of Nigeria to the rest of the global community

THERE was a time the poignancy of the pre 1999 political scenario in Abuja did not do the Nigerian diplomatic practice any good. Nigeria has now exited even the ripples of that era. But with the insurgency and its attendant threats to the polity and economy taking so much energy from the central government in Nigeria, the presidential visits to Chad and Niger over the need to collectively decimate Boko Haram appears in keeping with neighbourhood diplomacy.

Going forward, a serious engagement of the Lake Chad basin Commission to secure the lives of its citizens would be needed in the days ahead as the other side of the string of shuttles that have already taken the president to the G7, the UN General Assembly, the African Union (AU) and some bilateral meetings

The BNC most remarkably the one between Nigeria and the United States (US) represents a sterling product of Nigeria’s diplomacy bearing in mind that the US is now the world’s sole super power. It deserves to be leveraged on because it also presents a credible platform for engaging on equal terms with an important world power, and attracting for Nigeria those exogenous resources, tangible and intangible, which only the US (for the time being) could provide.
So when in December 2004, the government of Nigeria cancelled a military programme with the US, has the mess created by (‘You need training of battalions’ and ‘No, I need weapons’) been taken care of by just regime change and klieg lights talk?

What has been the extent of the ruffling of diplomatic feathers between Nigeria and South Africa over the $9.7 million arms deal? How can Nigerians be insulated from being the butt of xenophobic attacks and to continue to be the exemplars of irregular migration?
The track of Nigeria’s foreign exertions is riddled with “models” such as concentricism, roadside diplomacy, diplomacy of consequence, and neigbourhood diplomacy, citizens’ diplomacy and economic determinism etc. In his first incarnation of Buhari, eminent diplomat Professor Ibrahim Gambari introduced the concept of Nigerian policy proceeding in concentric circles, starting from the core, the immediate neighbours, the region, the continent and the rest of the world. It was a bid to rejig the Centre-piece doctrine along more realistic lines, mindful of Nigeria’s national interest. What is being build today? What is being sustained or reinvented? All said, considering the challenge of restructuring Nigeria, of security and of the economy, can this country say now that it can position itself to embrace the entire globe (in economic partnership) and not just Africa as the canvass of exertions?

The commitment to the protection of Nigerian lives and property must necessarily now go beyond issuing stale threats, reactionary affirmatives and circulating protest notes verbal.
Never the less, the Minister can start with the ‘small things’ that matter. So, if we are poised to by pruning the current 119 Missions abroad, looking to save cost, we should press for a template for the upgrading of the Foreign Service Academy as Nigeria’s primary training unit in the model and standard of similar institutions in Brazil, India, Egypt and Germany.
For Nigeria, the befitting work to do in the days ahead is to recreate itself and work fundamentally hard on the domestic side of things, put its house in order anlaunch out only after then.

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  • christopher