‘Our Foreign Policy Must Be Predicated on Returns’

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Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

A lecturer at the Department of International Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Prof. Charles Ukeje, has recommended that the country’s foreign policy must be predicated on what the country will gain as returns.

Ukeje disclosed this yesterday while presenting a paper during a webinar organised by the International Visitor Leadership Programme Alumni Association (IVLPAA) Nigeria, with the theme; “Promises of Independence & Nigeria Foreign Policy.’

He said there was need to review or overhaul the architecture on which Nigeria foreign policy is erected in order to make it more relevant to the needs of this country.

He noted that with some justification, those calling for the revision of the country’s foreign policy might be right, adding that there are elements of the policy that have become stale.

Ukeje stated: “Perhaps increasingly, Nigeria has become reactive instead of being proactive on foreign policy issues. So, things must happen before we react. Nigerians in Ghana or any other country must be in trouble before we engage the countries where they have challenges. And “I think to a very large extent, those who make this point are right. I have no doubt that we need to rethink Nigeria’s foreign policy, but it is a task that cannot be left to the government alone.”

Ukeje stressed that believed that the five principles of Nigeria’s foreign policy were merely a guide book and not a play book, insisting that, “those who are critical of this book – who say they are no longer relevant, missed a point. It is just a guide book and the play book has to be dynamic; it has to respond to the changing realities that the country faces in terms of pursuing our interest.”

He further said that he didn’t see serious fault in the foreign policy principles of Nigeria, stressing that the country cannot ignore what happens in the neigbouring countries, adding that it is like “allowing fire on your roof and go to sleep with your two eyes closed”.

Ukeje added: “What is perhaps important in my view is the diligence and consistency in the pursuit of these principles, and taking cognisance of the reality that the country faces. Africa should be the centre piece of our foreign policy; we should be alive to our responsibilities to the continent. It should not be on the basis of take the money and run, rather we should make our money and follow our
interest

“The investment for instance that people have complained that we made in Southern Africa in the fight against apartheid – that question wouldn’t arise if we put our money where our interest is. There is no country that does Father Christmas; no country is Mother Theresa. My point is when Nigeria pursues its foreign policy, it must pursue it that something must come out of it

“What I think perhaps is next now is for us to make a shift from the principle of drop the money bag and run.

“There is hardly any follow-up and this is my worry. In those places where we have invested huge human and material resources, there was no follow-up. In Liberia, a lot of Nigerian soldiers died in Liberia and in Sierra Leone; you remember apartheid in Southern Africa. There was no back-up plan; there was nothing in terms of what is it that will be our strategic interest or strategic pursuit in this reality. Our foreign policy must be predicated on returns.”

Earlier, the President of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), Asia, Prof. Charles Okonie, said an average Nigerian living abroad faces more challenges today, while adding that the country’s external image is linked to the internal image.

He said at the moment, there is no strategic planning to hear was the expertise of Nigerians in Diaspora.

Okojie added that NIDO expects the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) to be constituted fully and properly so that a better strategy cane be developed for diaspora contribution to national development.

On her part, Chairman of NIDCOM, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said Nigeria is not a nation of fraudsters, stressing that Nigerians are doing well abroad.

She assured that any country where Nigerians are facing challenges that NIDCOM will always be there to come to their aid