Bola A. Akinterinwa
Policy can be variously explicated, and particularly as a vertical continuum in which the beginning or lowest level is seen as ‘domestic’ and the crescendo as ‘foreign.’ In other words, we have domestic policy and foreign policy. In defining policy in this context, it is considered that foreign policy is necessarily an extension of domestic policy. Foreign policy is an aspect of domestic policy. Consequently, foreign policy is seen by many observers as an instrument for protecting the national interest. But what really is national interest?
Dr Humphrey Assisi Asobie, Professor of Political Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, has it that ‘interest’ as enunciated by Thomas Hobbes, was initially equated with self-preservation from the materialist view of human nature. In the nineteenth century, ‘interest’ ‘became attributed, not only to individuals, but also to such collective actors as social classes and fractions. The concept was generalised so as to apply to any group with identifiable common economic or social advantages to protect.’ In this regarded, Prof. Asobie has re-articulated the three main schools of thought on national interest: Realist, behavioural and Marxist schools. First is the realist perspectives of Hans J. Morgenthau of the power school and George Kennan of the eclectic tradition. Both of them agreed that it is national interest, and not moral principles, that should guide the foreign policy of any sovereign state, but hold different views on the nexus between national interest and moral or ethical principles [vide Humphrey Assisi Asobie, “Nigeria’s National Interest in a Globalising World: A Theoretical Perspective,” in Bola A. Akinterinwa, ed., Nigeria’s National Interests in a Globalising World: Further Reflections on Constructive and Beneficial Concentricism; Volume 1: contending Issues in Nation-building, (Bolytag International Publishers, 2007), p. 3 et s]..
The second is the behaviouralist school (Richard Synder. B. Sapin, H. Bruck) which considers national interest as not being a single objective reality but as a constantly changing pluralistic set of subjective preferences. As further quoted by Professor Asobie, ‘the national interest is what the nation, that is, the decision maker decides it is. What constitutes the national interest therefore cannot be subjected to measurement by objective yardsticks, because it is made of up values which are subjective.’
The third school is the Marxist or political economy school which says that the power school’s position implies that might is right if national interest is defined by power; that it implies an ‘indirect legitimation of the powerful, and ‘a form of justification of the continued exploitation of the weaker states by the stronger ones.’ More importantly, ‘it has the effect of deceitfully portraying the interest of a few as the interest of the whole nation,’ while it also ‘obscures and masks the domination of the working class by the ruling class and makes this domination appear acceptable’ since it is carried on under the canopy of national interest.
And most importantly, the definition of national interest by the power and behavioural schools has the effect of ‘blurring the differences between the external behaviours of States with divergent class characteristics.’
Nation-building and Foreign Policy Challenges
It is against the foregoing definitional background that we are poised to explicate, not only foreign policy as an instrument, but also as a critical challenge to nation-building. There are several elements of truth in the various rationales given to justify the position taken by the three schools of thought on the conception of national interest. However, regardless of the theoretical perspective foreign policy is looked at, it essentially remains an action or an objective.
As an action, it is a tactical foreign policy, meaning a potent tool of foreign policy. When national interest is considered as an objective, it is referred to as a strategic foreign policy, and therefore about self-preservation that seeks the security and grandeur of a country. By implication, it has a permanent character. But, unlike strategic foreign policy, tactical foreign policy has a varying characteristic. Different options are often considered in the pursuit of a given long-term foreign policy development objective. In such considerations, different challenges can surface. This partly explains why tactical foreign policy is short-term or limited objective in character and is also variously defined and redefined in response to domestic and international environmental conditionings.
Without iota of gainsaying, in Nigeria, foreign policy cannot be easily used to promote nation-building because the foundation for cultivating love for the fatherland was never laid, and hence, no opportunity has been allowed to grow and develop patriotism. In fact, all efforts attempted to lay a strong foundation for it is frontally challenged by ethnic chauvinism, religious bigotry, and political chicanery. First, there cannot be nation-building without initial political will that can sustain the building effort. The political will is yet to exist. Besides, a sociological nation must exist before consideration of its promotion. Nigeria is a nation-state and yet to be evolved as a sociological nation in which common indigenous and not foreign language will be cultivated. Diversity is the hallmark of Nigeria’s polity but no government has shown any seriousness of purpose to manage the diversity to the advantage of national unity and national happiness.
Put differently, the factor of Nigerianess only exists on paper, but hardly in the spirit of the so-called Nigerians. It is true that the Principles of Federal Character and National Youths Service Corps have been put in place. If the principle of Federal Character is required in the appointments in the Public Service and the principle has been kept in the political drawers of PMB only to gather dust, in which way is national togetherness fostered? Many media reports focused last week on the top management staff of the NNPC. PMB himself is the First Minister of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria. The first twenty topmost offices in the NNPC about three months were occupied by Northerners. Media reports talked about sixteen of them as at last week. The NNPC is the main source of oil revenue. Why should it be dominated by Northerners?
Political governance is still largely driven by ethno-religious sentiments in Nigeria. This situation is not helpful to the articulation of whatever national interest is to be protected. For instance, what foreign policy decision is expected when the foreign policy elite is challenged by political controversies, ranging from alleged Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda to agitation of politico-economic self-determination and separate regional existence? In this context, foreign policy cannot seek to rightly defend regional secession, even if self-determination is an internationally acknowledged principle.
It is important to also note the public resistance to Government’s Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda. The Governor of Bauchi State, Mr. Bala Mohammed, has made it clear that the Federal Government had already been accommodating in Nigeria the Fulani herdsmen from the West and Central African regions of Africa. They have been urged to come and occupy the ungoverned spaces of Nigeria, but this policy has been vehemently opposed in southern parts and Middle Belt of Nigeria. Again, what type of foreign policy can be promoted in the face of a North-South divide?
Perhaps more disturbingly, political governance is still largely predicated on political chicanery, toga of irrationalities and recklessness, institutional corruption. This is particularly so under the PMB administration, even though PMB gave Nigerians the impression that his administration would fight tooth and nail corruption, insecurity and economic poverty. But without any whiff of doubt, insecurity is fast deepening in Nigeria. Economic impoverishment has also become the hallmark of the Nigerian life with rising inflation and essential commodities. Societal discipline is now a tall order. Democracy itself is currently fraught with malpractices and electoral fraud and corruption through vote buying. In fact, political parties openly disregard their own party Constitution during their primary elections, especially in the election of their standard bearers. The truth is that the disregard for the rule of law has been to the detriment of sub-regional political balancing. And nothing can be as disheartening as having candidates with tainted records or having been convicted in a court of competent jurisdiction still being given national honours or being accredited for election purposes contrarily to the lawful regulations. But true enough, accredited diplomatic missions are more conversant with the political contradictions in Nigeria, even more than the host government.
Consequently, Nigeria’s foreign policy makers and implementers necessarily have limitations as to the extent they can promote the goodness of Nigeria abroad. This is one major obstacle to nation-building because Nigeria cannot grow and develop on the basis of untruths. Truth exalts a nation as told in the Holy Bible. Because governance is that of untruth and political chicanery, Nigeria cannot but have a tainted international image, which cannot but be quite difficult for the foreign policy image makers to polish. This then raises many interesting questions on how to carve out a new nation from the currently incapacitated Nigeria. In this regard, which way forward Nigeria?
Nigeria, Quo Vadis?
Different optional leeway have been posited by foreign policy thinkers. Option one is that of the late Muammar Gaddafi of Libya who considered the partitioning of Nigeria into Muslim North and Christian South as the only way of ensuring lasting peace in Nigeria. The rationale behind the suggestion is that political instability in Nigeria is generated by the quest for Islamisation of Nigeria, and where it is impossible, to begin the struggle with the Northern region. In other words, there cannot be any enduring political stability, and by implication, any peace and security, in the country until there are two countries: Muslim and Christian Nigeria. This is partitioning Nigeria along the lines of religion and many observers who have been talking about threats of Islamisation can now have their protection under Gaddafi’s observation.
In this regard, is the current Boko Haram insurrection or armed banditry in the North-west not an expression and struggle to have Nigeria partitioned, if Nigeria cannot be wholly Islamised? If it is not, how do we explain the declared objective of the Boko Haram which always installed the flag of an Islamic Caliphate in any place it succeeded to occupy? Can the agenda be Fulanisation if it is not Islamic? If it is Fulanisation, are the members of the Boko Haram all of Fulani ethnic stock? If they are not, are they sponsored agents provocateurs or mercenaries? Whatever is the case, this option one is quite difficult to accept as it is a call for national disintegration but it cannot be ruled out. This option should be kept as the last possible option for as long as the Government of Nigeria is still able to contain the threats of disintegration.
The implication in this case is that Nigeria is actually at war with all the international Islamic terrorists who are struggling to impose Islam on the whole world. Partitioning as a solution therefore can only be a last scenario.
Option two is addressing the challenges of constitutional restructuring. The 1999 constitution, even as amended, has more of disuniting than uniting factors. Many stakeholders see the Constitution as very fraudulent, simply because it purported to have been negotiated and engineered by the people of Nigeria, whereas it is not. It is, indeed, a military-defined constitution which has only been generating a lot of controversies, particularly from a religious perspective. It is argued, for example, that Islam or Muslim or Sharia is mentioned more than sixty times in the 1999 Constitution without mentioning any other religion in the same Constitution. Different motivational questions are being raised within the context of threats of Islamisation agenda.
Besides, the 1999 Constitution provides for federalism, which is hardly respected. It also provides for governance by rule of law but which the Federal Government has been more in the breach. For instance, the Federal Government selectively respects court rulings and judgments to respect. The judgment of the Appeal Court in the case between the ASUU and the Federal Government is a case in point. The Federal Government’s decision not to also comply with the court judgment on the immediate release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is another point of illustration. Why should any responsible government disrespect any court judgment? Some have even rightly or wrongly opined that PMB is not in charge of political governance of Nigeria and that it is the Fulani cabal that is in charge. What really is it that has not been thought of? Some have said the mere fact that a southerner in the person of Bola Tinubu is the standard bearer of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, does not imply that he will be the de facto president of Nigeria. The cabal will still be there to continue to govern as usual.
If democracy and rule of law have little respect in the political governance of Nigeria, how do we then take advantage of the external foreign policy environment to grow and develop Nigeria, if it is not to carry out a very fundamental amendment to the 1999 Constitution? Some observers have opined that it is better to have a new Constitution which will be collectively conceived, collectively adopted, collectively defended and collectively implemented. It is in light of this that calls for political restructuring have also been made. We strongly believe that the 2023 presidential election ought to be preceded by initial political restructuring to allow for good governance, efficiency, fairness and justice in the conduct and management of Nigerian affairs.
Option three is the possible use of foreign policy to achieve domestic objectives. In this regard, three possible considerations are relevant. The first is the case of the Technical Aid Corps as a critical instrument of foreign policy aggrandizement. Several thousands of Nigerians have been deployed to many countries in need of Nigeria’s technical assistance. The issue here is how to harness the gains of the deployments. This brings us to the second consideration, citizen diplomacy. Citizen diplomacy is about the use of non-governmental agents to advance the protection of the national interest overseas at the level of people-to-people. Why is it that there is no association of all the Technical Aid Corps members, who have been described by Ambassador Nkem Wadibia Anyanwu, a former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as Ambassadors with a small ‘a’, that is ‘ambassadors’?
True, when on active duty, the ambassadors must have made friendship with various people in their host states. What prevents creating a nexus between the TAC corpers in Nigeria and their former host countries? This is one area that Nigeria’s diplomatic missions abroad can be directed to facilitate. Citizen diplomacy can be very helpful to the use of the foreign environment to assist domestic policies. And perhaps most significantly is the third consideration: reviewing Professor Akinwande Bolaji Akinyemi’s Concert of Medium of Powers as a matter of urgent policy in response to the future challenges of the New World Order currently in the making.
If Washington succeeds to retain its status as a global power, there is nothing to suggest that the Washingtonian power will not be strongly challenged by notable new global players. There is the Chinese dimension acting alone or in concert with Russia. There is also the European Union as a new centre. While the United Kingdom can be expected to sustain the American power globally, North Korea and Chinese may constitute a formidable alliance with Russia, without ruling out China still acting alone. Consequently, Professor Akinyemi’s Concert of Medium Powers is one foreign policy issue that currently requires revisiting.
When it was first mooted as an idea and many countries were invited to Lagos to discuss the modalities, the big powers saw it as a direct confrontation and therefore did what was possible to discourage the promotion of the idea. And true again, there is nothing to suggest that revisiting it will not be considered as another confrontation but it is necessary for Nigeria as a leader. The Russo-Ukrainian war has specifically created a good platform to reconsider many exploitative international policies. The war has prompted discussions on alternative international currencies to the US Dollar and the U.K. Pound Sterling as espoused by the Bretton Woods agreements. New organisations and alliances are in the making. Consequently, Nigeria, as the global capital of the black world, and Nigeria with the biggest black population in the world, needs to provide exemplary leadership, not only for the African, but also for the whole black, people of the world by ensuring the establishment of a platform where interests of the medium powers can be constructively addressed. Rearticulating the idea of the Concert of Medium Powers has therefore become a desideratum. Foreign policy, indeed, can be a very potent tool of promoting national unity, economic vibrancy and religious harmony if the sentiments of holier than thou are first removed. A united Nigeria cannot but remain a dream if there are open threats of Fulanisation and Islamisation or ethnic threats of supremacy over one another. In addressing these threats, foreign policy can be seriously energised to seek international assistance to douse the tension at the domestic level. In the eyes of the OIC, Nigeria is a Muslim or Islamic State but Nigeria is not. Foreign policy can seek to underscore that Nigeria has a provision on secularity and to use the opportunity to seek international support for the strengthening of that policy of secularity.