Nigeria’s eggheads in diplomacy and international affairs led by a former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, have proposed three-pronged approaches that would enable the incoming administration enhance Nigeria’s position in the international arena and also in strengthening international relations.
These three approaches include the development of military industrial complex in Nigeria, the establishment of a South Atlantic Treaty Organisation (SATO) and the establishment of a viable space program in collaboration with private stakeholders in developed economies.
They made the proposal in a statement titled, “Designing a Foreign Policy Agenda for the New Administration–Summary Report,” which captioned the main thrusts of their online discussion.
Akinyemi, who was a former director general of Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, said the incoming administration could, “enhance its foreign policy by taking three critical steps. Firstly, Nigeria should create a military-industrial complex to support its active foreign policy. Secondly, a SATO should be established. Lastly, Nigeria could collaborate with private stakeholders in developed economies to build out a viable space program.”
He explained that the term, “military-industrial complex” referred to the connection between the military and the defence industry in which the later benefits from the former’s demand for weapons and technology.
He pointed out that the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICN) was founded same year as Brazil’s military-industrial complex, which had produced aeroplanes, tanks, and naval ships.
However, Nigeria was yet to achieve such feats. In contrast, Nigeria had only made rudimentary guns and bullets, which he attributed to domestic cleavage and not voting round pegs in round holes.
But Akinyemi insisted that “Nigeria has the potential to develop a military-industrial complex like India, Pakistan, and Turkey.”
He mentioned that funds were allocated to three universities to purchase nuclear facilities during the ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, but there was no interest after the government left office to sustain the vision.
However, he believed that Nigeria could still achieve this goal provided we have disciplined leaders who are willing to lead with a vision and the passion to follow through with action
He noted that countries do not necessarily solve all of their domestic issues before investing in a military-industrial complex. For example, China invested in its military industrial complex before fully addressing issues related to feeding its population.
Akinyemi averred that the announcement that Finland had joined NATO has made the discussion regarding a SATO a timely one.
He emphasised the necessity of promptly defining the areas that would be protected within the South Atlantic Ocean, and pointed out that although the United Nations initiated a process in 1986 by designating a Zone of Peace in the South Atlantic Ocean, there was no treaty or military involvement to back the UN definition, and it was geographically loose.
He said implementing this arrangement would have major advantages, which included safeguarding the exclusive economic zone of coastal countries in the South Atlantic Ocean, preventing foreign fishing vessels from violating their rights and damaging their economic interests. Additionally, it would protect the military interests of member countries.
On the final point of using a space program as an instrument of Nigerian foreign policy, Akinyemi suggested that Nigeria should do more in this area and that partnering with private space entrepreneurs should be a key pillar of a new foreign policy agenda for the new administration.
He said the Nigerian Space Agency (NSA) was also not receiving enough coverage.
“The lack of understanding of the importance of such a program may be why Nigeria and Africa do not give it more attention. A space program requires investment in both culture and technology and while there are risks around weaponising space and space debris polluting earth, these risks should not be a deterrent,” he said.
Contributing during the discussion, Akinterinwa, stressed establishing a military-industrial complex would enable Nigeria to remain relevant in political discussions and interventions.
He observed that past attempts to build one have failed due to corruption.
“To establish a military-industrial complex, educational and research institutions must have a clear objective, a dedicated team of researchers, and no federal character concerning research,” Akinterinwa added.
He also emphasised the need to appoint a Foreign Affairs’ minister with a visionary understanding of international relations.
During the event, Ambassador Jaiyeola Lewu, noted that the South Atlantic had long been a zone of peace and cooperation and suggested that the South Atlantic Treaty may need to be revived to benefit member states spanning from Dakar to South Africa, and from the Caribbean to Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.
Another attendee, Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya, emphasised the importance of the Pelindaba Treaty, which created a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Africa. He added that this project and the Gulf of Guinea Commission that Nigeria leads might have lost momentum.
The Ambassador expressed concern about the upcoming government’s political agenda and lamented that foreign policy, except for one party, was not a major focus during the political campaigns.
Ambassador Olusola Enikanolaiye emphasised the importance of addressing past obstacles and preparing for future challenges. He also stressed the significance of involving the private sector and establishing appropriate relationships with countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Angola, and South Africa to prevent getting involved in conflicts.