Nigeria’s Foreign Policy and Strategy: The Challenge of Domestic and Global Environmental Dynamics

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VIE INTERNATIONAL
with Bola Akinteriwa
Telephone : 0807-688-2846
e-mail: bolyttag@yahoo.com

The theme of the second national conference on Nigeria’s Foreign
Policy, organized by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic
Studies (NIPSS), is entitled Stakeholders Conference on Nigeria’s
Foreign Policy and Strategy: Responses to the Dynamics of Domestic and
Global Environments in the 21st century.’’ By calling it a
stakeholders’ conference, it means it was restricted to only people
who have the relevant knowledge and experience and who have something
to do with the business of foreign policy.

The conference was organised against the background of changing
dynamics in the domestic and global environments. For instance, it was
the exertion of measurable impact of the nature and dynamics of the
global environment on the content and direction of Nigeria’s foreign
policy that largely informed the organisation of the first Kuru
Conference on ‘All-Nigeria Conference on Foreign Policy’ in 1986.

However, in the thirty years between 1986 and 2016, the Directorate of
Research of the NIPSS has it that ‘the global strategic environment is
experiencing rapid technological and social changes, especially since
the beginning of the new millennium. This has accelerated
interconnectedness and interdependence of peoples and countries.

Theboundaries between domestic and global affairs are increasingly
blurred as policy making is now enhanced in a milieu of complex
bilateral and multilateral mechanism… In these circumstances,
Nigeria’s foreign policy would need calibration to respond to these
changes in line with its national interests.’

As further considered by the NIPSS, the changes at the domestic level
are such that Nigeria’s foreign policy must also ‘respond to the
urgent need of building strong and efficient institutional frameworks
for addressing the observed challenges.’ The challenges include
intermittent polarization and instability, high level of unemployment
and poverty, mono-cultural economy and low industrial and agricultural
productivity. Additionally, there are the problems of institutional
corruption, declining quality of education and ethical standards, as
well as infrastructural deficit.

Another rationale for the second Kuru Conference is the need to
complement the various reviews of public policy. Already, Nigeria has
a comprehensive National Security Policy and Strategy, and a National
Cyber Security Strategy. As NIPSS explains it, ‘what is remaining
essentially is a comprehensive review of Nigeria’s foreign policy and
strategy. Since the NIPSS believes that ‘the strategic vision for
Nigeria’s foreign policy is to vigorously pursue a just secure,
united, democratic and developed nation, which is quite arguable, the
NIPSS as a policy research and leadership Institute, decided to play
host to a stakeholders’ conference on ‘Nigeria’s Foreign Policy and
Strategy’’ with special emphasis on how to respond to the dynamics of
the domestic and global environments.

The Conference, organised in collaboration with the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, was held at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja on Wednesday,
30th November 2016 and Thursday 1st December, 2016. There were three
sessions per day. In terms of methodology, papers and presentations
emphasised historical and issue-oriented approaches, which enabled
reflections on conjectural foreign policy scenarios required to guide
foreign policy. In this regard, the structure of discussions was
three-layered: opening, working, and syndicate sessions. Besides, in
terms of analytical scope, the foundations of Nigeria’s foreign
policy, her bilateral, and multilateral relations were covered.

In his keynote address at the opening session, the Honourable Minister
of Foreign Affairs (HMFA), Mr. Geoffrey J. Onyeama, mandated the NIPSS
to review all aspects of Nigeria’s foreign policy and strategy in
order to develop ‘an action plan for the realization of a new one’ and
to redefine ‘our vital national interests to fully explore emerging
domestic and global challenges by injecting new dynamics into
Nigeria’s foreign policy architecture.’ More significantly, the HMFA
requested the Conference to ‘elaborate on mechanisms capable of
leading to the birth of a new foreign policy able to address and
contain the crisis of underdevelopment, the challenges of poverty and
other strata of socio-political developments.’ Such mechanisms, in the
eyes of Mr. Onyeama, must address the current issues in international
relations: diplomacy, globalization, human rights, terrorism,
democracy and environmental challenges.

Matters Arising: The Governmental Challenges
At the level of foundations of Nigeria’s foreign policy, two main
papers were presented by Ambassador Sola Enikanolaiye, former Chargé
d’Affaires, Nigeria’s High Commission in India and current Permanent
Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Dr. Shedrack Gaya Best,
Professor of Political Science at the University of Jos. In his paper
on the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Management of Nigeria’s
Foreign Missions: Challenges and Prospects,” Ambassador Enikanolaiye
indirectly raised the critical issues of perception, the changing
nature of global questions and national interest, as well as
attitudinal behaviour in the generation of conflicts and policy making
as dynamics of policy making domestically and internationally.

Regarding perception, Enikanolaiye recalled when issues like human
rights, refugees, etc were not regarded as ‘so relevant, rather as
mundane issues of international relations, as opposed to
decolonisation, anti-apartheid, and nuclear disarmament.’ Today,
Enkanolaiye has submitted, ‘the table has turned as we see
environmental issues, migration, terrorism, development cooperation,
trade and investment and human rights and other relatively new issues
taking the front burner of international discourse.’

Put differently, in the 1980s, human rights as an issue was not a big
deal but it is today. Nigeria’s foreign policy interest was more about
decolonisation and denuclearisation by then. Today, Nigeria is saddled
with different questions. When Ambassador Enikanolaiye was Third
Secretary at the Second United Nations Department, and was dealing
with human rights questions, he was simply perceived as dealing with
mundane issues and therefore dealing with irrelevancies. The
implication was that he was not considered relevant to policy making.
The truth of the matter, however, was that human rights remained a
critical subject internationally but Nigerian policy makers simply did
not take it so.

The changing nature of international questions, largely predicated by
globalisation, partly explains the rivalry or misunderstanding between
some Nigerian diplomatic missions and the headquarters. As explained
by the Permanent Secretary, ‘while the Headquarters is largely
responsible for policy formulation and design, Headquarters rely
almost totally on their missions to carry out their directives.’

However, ‘officers at missions, rightly or wrongly, claim superior
knowledge of the issues, especially as it involves their country or
organisations of accreditation and are sometimes not too disposed to
adopting the position of Headquarters…’ In the thinking of
Enikanolaiye, Headquarters is ‘in the vintage position to … better
understand government policies, programs and priorities to be
projected abroad.

From this perspective, his paper focused on what should be done in the
conduct and management of Nigeria’s diplomatic missions abroad in
order to make them better. In this regard, identifying some of the
main challenges as inadequate funding, flagrant disregard for laid
down rules, regulations and processes, he suggested the need to put an
end to impunity, ensure that missions are not run according to the
whims and caprices of the Heads of Mission, prevent Missions from
being run as a fiefdom, prevent officers from writing directly to the
Permanent Secretary without going through their Heads of Mission,
prevent the remittance of funds directly to Missions without the
involvement of the Headquarters, prevent Chargé d’Affaires or officers
in acting capacities from writing directly to the Honourable Minister
of Foreign Affairs (HMFA), and most importantly, ‘on no account should
and Head of Mission address their correspondence to Mr. President
directly.’ It must be through the HMFA.

If indiscipline is seriously addressed, foreign policy pursuit, which
he sees ‘not to be in sync with the domestic policy focus of Mr.
President (security, economic prosperity, corruption eradication,
etc), inadequate funding cannot but be a thing of the past, especially
in light of the many measures already taken and that are being taken:
policy reviews involving the reconstitution of the Policy Planning
Committee and Crisis Management Committee, Station Charters,
re-introduction of regional seminars of Heads of Mission to be held at
the Headquarters, in-house training seminars for Foreign Service
Officers. For the specific purpose of financial solvency of the
Missions, he suggested the need to allow them to keep a certain
percentage of revenue generated from their operations, and the need to
work out a Public-Private-Partnership arrangement for some
government’s choice properties abroad.

A second foundational question raised by Professor Shedrack Gaya Best
in his paper, Nigeria’s Foreign Policy-making Process in a Democracy,
is ‘whether or not the national interest of Nigeria in foreign policy
is equivalent to the foreign policy objectives identified in Section
19 of the 1999 Constitution.’ Professor Best has observed that, of the
three forms of government in Nigeria (colonial, 1914-1960: 46 years;
military, 29 years and democratic, 27 years), ‘the years of military
rule have helped to militarise the institutions and agencies
responsible for making foreign policy with the effect of alienating
the citizenry from the process and making it an executive affair. This
legacy has not been corrected by the democratic eras.’

More significantly, he not only observed that the 1999 Constitution
provided only a broad framework and not at all precise and clear on
Nigeria’s national interest, but also posited that ‘there has been no
remarkable difference between the process of foreign policy making in
a democracy and that under military rule in Nigeria.’

To be able to respond to global challenges in the 21st Century, he
called for an unambiguous definition and operationalisation of the
Nigerian national interest, a democratisation of the foreign policy
making process, by particularly increasing citizen participation,
responding to public opinions, encouraging professional associations
to have input, as well as re-positioning and enabling the Nigerian
Institute of International Affairs to provide research input into
foreign policy formulation.

The Bilateral and Multilateral Dimensions
At the level of bilateral relations, discussions focused on Nigeria’s
relations with China, India, United States, and France. Professor W.O.
Alli, of the University of Jos, examined the principles on which
Nigeria’s relationship with China is based, the main issues involved,
its dynamics, and why the ties should be specially sustained. China
has a foreign policy predicated on a pentagon: non-interference in the
internal affairs of other nations; non-alignment; win-win policy, One
China, two systems policy; and South-South cooperation. The critical
issues involved centre around how to make Nigeria-China relations more
beneficial to Nigeria.

As argued by Professor Alli, Nigeria has a lot to learn from the
Chinese, especially in terms of how to structure the economy and
balance national development. He noted the ‘deployment of communist
political structure to administer a clearly capitalist economy’ as ‘of
great significance in the Chinese political genius.’

Without doubt, Professor Alli cannot be more right when he underscored
the need to evolve strategies for sustaining the relationship. If the
volume of trade was under $60m at the beginning of the Second
Republic, increased to about $400 million on the eve of the Fourth
Republic, and if the Chinese are not only involved in the
establishment of free trade zones, but also in launching of Nigeria’s
first satellite into the space, and perhaps more interestingly, if
Nigeria is not only the number one engineering contract market for
China but also the first African country to accept the Chinese
currency, RMB, in its foreign reserve, as well as the first African
country to establish a Cultural Centre in China, it is only logical to
continue to sustain these elements of strategic partnership with
China.

Professor Alli has suggested the need for an Institute for Asian
Affairs to be devoted to the study of China, India and other Asian
powers (Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia etc) and the need for a
strategic focus in her relationship with China, because ‘the era of
Chinese has indeed arrived and we should all wake up to this reality
and be ready to work more seriously with the Chinese.’

Like China signed a strategic partnership agreement with Nigeria in
2005, India did same with Nigeria in 2007. As noted in Ambassador M.L.
Gana’s paper, Nigeria-India and Asean Relations, ‘Indian investments
in Nigeria face serious challenges of inadequate infrastructure, like
poor power supply, thereby increasing the cost of doing business. The
relationship is further hampered by the lack of taxation avoidance
treaty and investment protection agreements and also by lack of direct
flight between the two countries.’

More disturbingly, there is also the problem of circumvention of
national laws to smuggle in sub-standard and fake goods into each
other’s economy which ‘has adversely affected the pharmaceutical
industry and other sectors of the Nigerian and Indian economy.’ In the
belief that Nigeria is God’s own country, Ambassador Gana has
suggested a harmonious coordination between the MFA and all its MDAs,
merger of the International Cooperation Unit of the MITI, if not the
MITI itself, with the MFA, holding regular inter-ministerial and Joint
Commission meetings

At the level of multilateral relations, the paper on Nigeria-African
Union by Ambassador Shinkaiye is noteworthy. He explicated Nigeria’s
roles in the making of both the OAU and its successor organisation,
AU. Even though many observers wrongly attributed the genesis of the
AU to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who was pushing for ‘a United States
of Africa (USA) with one government, one military, one Central Bank
and one Judiciary for the whole continent,’ it was thanks to Nigeria
that a leeway was paved for the AU as Gaddafi’s ‘draft for his USA was
almost thrown out by other leaders until (when) President Olusegun
Obasanjo, supported by then South African President Thabo Mbeki
persuaded the others to seize the opportunity to reform the OAU.’
In spite of the many supportive roles of Nigeria in both the OAU and
the AU, Ambassador Shinkaiye has pointed to many challenges with which
Nigeria has been faced, for instance, support for Nigeria when needed
has not always been given.

Grosso modo, even though virtually all the papers presented addressed
some issues capable of enabling how to respond to the dynamics of the
global environment in the 21st century, it was essentially the
syndicate sessions that permitted the delineation of the way forward.
At the plenary of the syndicated sessions, agreement was reached that
President Muhammadu Buhari should be advised to quickly empanel a
technical committee of the relevant stakeholders to review Nigeria’s
foreign policy on a holistic basis with the NIPSS charged with the
responsibility of coordinating.

It was also agreed that there should be a comprehensive review of the
Host Agreement between Nigeria and the ECOWAS as Nigeria is not on
record to be reaping the desired fruits of her investments in the
regional organisation. All in all, the second NIPSS conference on
Nigeria’s foreign policy was good. It came at a time Nigeria was found
frolicking around at a foreign policy junction of indecision and at a
time the US president-elect, Donald Trump, was threatening to deal
with Nigerians. The conference provided the necessary platform to
anticipate scenarios and build counter scenarios for purposes of
national survival in a changing world of globalisation. But time will
always tell.