Nigeria’s Foreign Policy and Global Challenges under President Bola Tinubu: The Threats to National Security

Bola A. Akinterinwa 

The environment largely conditioned the formulation of Nigeria’s foreign policy before and after Nigeria’s accession to both national and international sovereignty on Saturday, October 1, 1960. The first foundational principle of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy (NFP) was reciprocity. It was formulated in reaction to France’s first two atomic bomb tests carried out in the Reganne area of the Sahara Desert in February and April 1960. Colonial Nigeria then protested through the Colonial Master, Great Britain, to France but to avail. Following the second test, Nigeria promised to deal appropriately with countries which disregarded Nigeria.  Nigeria made it clear that she would not accept any further French atomic bomb test in the Sahara desert because of the radioactive effects believed to be blowing southwards, and therefore inimical to the health of the people of Africa. And true enough, but most unexpectedly, France carried out another atomic bomb test on December 27, 1960, otherwise about three months after Nigeria’s independence, which prompted Nigeria to strain her diplomatic ties with France on January 5, 1961 in the spirit of reciprocal treatment. This was the background to reciprocity as the first foundational principle of NFP. 

The environment also dictated the adoption of the principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries, friendly and peaceful coexistence in the foreign policy statements of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on August 20, and October 7, 1960. The policy of ‘no compromise with Apartheid’ in South Africa followed in 1963. Today, under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (PBAT), it is not the environment that first conditions the making of foreign policy, but political will. It is political determination that prompted the adoption of the doctrine of the 4-Ds and not environmental necessity. While the adoption of reciprocity was reactive in character, the 4-Ds policy doctrine is programmatic. The problem, however, is that the implementation of the 4-Ds cannot be possible without reckoning with the environmental global challenges which are also threatening Nigeria’s national security interests the exegesis of which is hereinafter provided.

Tinubuplomacy since May 29, 2023

On August 21st, 2023, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Yusuf Tuggar, said PBAT’s foreign policy, which we have always associated with Tinubuplomacy, would be guided by 4-Ds:  Development, Democracy, Demography, and Diaspora. The 4-Ds Diplomacy was unveiled in Abuja on the first day in office of the Minister. And true enough, the 4-Ds are important critical issues in international relations. 

Development is an important objective in global governance. It is as important as the quest for the quest for international peace and security which is generally believed to be a sine qua non for meaningful development. The problem, however, is the determination of the extent to which any developed country wants any developing country to be developed and qualified to be among the countries of the First World. Additionally, the international community is much interested in democracy, demography in Nigeria, and Nigerians in Diaspora. The interest in democracy is best explained by the fact of its having been internationally made a conditionality for grant of development aid. 

Based on the explications given by the Foreign Minister, particularly in India, the 4-Ds cannot be rightly described as a doctrine but as diplomacy. The Oxford dictionary explains a doctrine as a synthesis of various rules, principles, norms, interpretive guidelines and values. The 4-Ds have been conceptualised to be means rather than as strategic objectives. They are indeed diplomatic tools. It is useful to note that there is no known or acknowledged foreign policy principle known as doctrine within the context of Nigeria’s foreign policy. The only foreign policy doctrine known so far in Nigeria’s foreign policy lexicon is the Bolaji Akinwande Akinyemi Doctrine according to which any country seeking the understanding and support of Nigeria must first consult with Nigeria in order to carry Nigeria along. The consultation must be prior, not during or after. The doctrine was propounded at the 1986 Foreign Policy conference in Kuru, Jos. 

Without whiff of doubt, democracy, development, demography, and Diaspora, when considered as diplomacy, are critical and controversial questions in international relations to which no meaningful answers have been given. The 4-Ds are therefore of great scientific value in interpreting and understanding how PBAT intends to utilise them in the operationalisation of Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives, because none of the 4-Ds is an objective per se. The 4-Ds are basically instruments of national security and survival. 

And unlike the biblical doctrines (Christology, which is the study of Jesus Christ; Ecclesiology, the study of the church; Eschatology, the study of the end times; Pneumatology, study of the Holy Spirit, Soteriology, the study of salvation, etc.) which can be as instructed by God and by God only, foreign policy doctrines are generally man-propounded, man-interpreted, and man-implemented. The 4-Ds are pillars of economic diplomacy the nitty gritty of which is now being queried by some scholars in its area of investment drive. Besides, doctrine has a programmatic character as a policy. Whereas, diplomacy as an art or science, generally underscores tact, finesse as a method of negotiation and strategic objective. In essence, the 4-Ds is a tactical foreign policy design. It is against this background that PBAT’s foreign policy strategy should be interrogated.

As the Foreign Minister put it, ‘through this doctrine centred on development, democracy, demography and Diaspora, we hope to find modern solutions to address complex contemporary problems… And by the special grace of God and with your support (Foreign Service Officers), I am sure that we can place Nigeria where she belongs, at the pinnacle of visionary and global decision-making.’ This statement clearly shows that the 4-Ds are tools of diplomacy. His explanation on development gave further credence to the 4-Ds as diplomacy rather than as doctrine: ‘like India, Nigeria’s mobile phone penetration is phenomenal and financial inclusion is an area we aim to improve. India’s Jan Dhan Yojana program is not dissimilar to Nigeria’s Agent Banking for financial inclusion. The success of Fintech such as Kudi, testifies to the enormous potential for private sector investors in this space in Nigeria. Indian entrepreneurs can relate to this and easily seize the opportunities therein.’

And perhaps most importantly, Ambassador Tuggar underscored the issue of Nigerian Diaspora in India and Indian Diaspora in Nigeria, emphasizing that ‘many of us in Nigeria grew up watching Bollywood movies and had Indian math, physics, and chemistry teachers and were acculturated to many things Indian at an early age. This exchange must continue through our schools, both physically and virtually. Nollywood and Nigeria’s film industry could benefit from closer collaboration with Bollywood, especially behind the camera-lighting, make up, cinematography, and sound.’ 

Additionally, on the margins of the 18th G-20 Leaders Summit in New Dheli, India, Ambassador Tuggar also said that ‘we are constantly seeking ways to strengthen our democratic institutions to enhance the quality of life for our citizens by improving services provided by our governments and fostering an environment for the private sector to thrive.’ On demography, the Minister had it that ‘we are after all the largest country in Africa and projected to become the third largest in the world after India and China. To achieve SDGs and similar human-centric goals and avert global financial and economic crises, India and Nigeria need representation at decision-making tables in G-20, BRICS and UNSC. There is much to gain from each other in technology, agriculture, health, and energy.’ From the foregoing, there is no disputing the fact that the 4-Ds are more than a doctrine. They are diplomatic tactics for attaining foreign policy strategies, especially in terms of attraction of foreign direct investments. In this regard, PBAT has embarked on several foreign trips to campaign for foreign investments in the spirit of economic diplomacy. But to what extent has economic diplomacy been helpful to entrepreneurial creativity in Nigeria? 

A school of thought has considered alternative approaches to the investment drive. For instance, Dr Olatunji Olateju, the immediate past Head of Department of Political Science at the Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State, explained during the question-answer  session on the ‘Issues in the News programme of the Radio One 103.5FM News and Current Affairs’ last week Tuesday that ‘the formulation and implementation of  realistic economic policies will make more meaning to the economic development of Nigeria than merely clamouring for foreign investments’ (vide the report of Malachi Ugwo, Radio One). The various suggestions on how to go about it are what the PBAT can begin to consider within the 4-Ds diplomacy, which is what we consider appropriately as Tinubuplomacy to make it quite different from the general economic diplomacy in Nigeria’s foreign relations.

The Challenges to Tinubuplomacy

The first threat to Tinubuplomacy and threat to Nigeria’s national security interest is how to address the new decision of the Abdourahamane Tiani’s to begin crude oil export through Benin’s Cotonou port. The Niger-Nigeria relationship which has been the warmest since the time of independence now appears to be weakening, especially following the showing of unfriendly attitude by Nigeria to the military junta in Niamey. Nigeria cut off electricity supply to Niger which Nigeriens do not see as an ECOWAS-driven decision but as an unfriendly Nigerian decision. Nigeriens do not want to accept that PBAT is not only Nigeria’s president but also the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority. 

General Abdourahamane Tiani, Niger’s military leader, announced last week on the state television that Niger would begin to export its first barrels of crude oil through the Niger-Benin pipeline as from January 2024. The pipeline, which was constructed with the help of the giant PetroChina and which links Niger’s Agadem oilfield to the Benin port of Cotonou, was officially completed in November 2023. It is expected that 90,000 barrels of oil per day will be exported and Niger will have 25.4% share of it. Niger has a refining capacity of about 20,000 bpd to satisfy domestic needs. 

More importantly, Niger’s leader made the objective very clear: the ‘goal is not simply to sell crude oil. We want to move towards a refinery that will process Nigerien crude within our own borders’ because of the need to take maximum advantage of the country’s resources. How does Tinubuplomacy want to address the implications for NFP?

Apart from this, Niger’s strained relationship with France has serious implications for Nigeria’s ties with her immediate neighbours all of which have preferential understanding with France. French language has ceased to be the lingua franca in Niger. It has been lowered to the level of a working language. French embassy has been closed down indefinitely in Niger. The last batch of French troops in the country also left for France last week. The use of Nigeria’s neighbours by France to fight Niger Republic in the spirit of reciprocity is most likely. France is on record to have promised to remove the military junta by force. How will Tinubuplomacy be detached from this? There is no way Nigeria’s national security will not be impacted negatively. 

A second threat to Tinubuplomacy, which is constitutional in character, is the objective of NFP as contained in Chapter II, which, in its Article 19, provides that Nigeria’s ‘foreign policy shall be the promotion and protection of the national interest’ (paragraph a), promotion of African integration and support for African unity (para. b) promotion of international cooperation for the consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect among all nations and elimination of discrimination in all its manifestations (para. c), the respect for international law and treaty obligations, as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration (para. d), and promotion of a just world economic order (para e). Two observations are noteworthy in the foregoing declared foreign policy objectives. 

First is the use of ‘shall.’ Article 19 begins with ‘the foreign policy objectives shall be…’ The use of the word is to underscore the extent of importance of the self-created obligation. The second is the use of ‘promotion’ in all the paragraphs except in paragraph (d) in which the word is ‘respect.’ It is precisely the use of this word, ‘respect,’ that creates the major problem for Tinubuplomacy. In other words, why should the foreign policy objective of Nigeria be to respect international law and treaty obligations? Why should any respect for international law not be informed by the rule of reciprocity? If a treaty obligation suddenly becomes anti-Nigeria, or if Nigeria is induced into error in signing an agreement that Nigeria would not have normally signed had she known the truth ab initio, should Nigeria still respect international law?  It was precisely this Article 19 (d) that the International Court of Justice capitalised on in compelling Nigeria to cede the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun, apart from the need to apply the principle of pacta sunt servanda or the sanctity of agreements. The immediate implication of this objective is that the articulation of Tinubuplomacy of 4-Ds must bear in mind that whatever is declared also necessarily becomes an obligation that the international community expects to be strictly respected. Tinubuplomacy, from the foregoing, is fraught with constitutional obstacles right from May 29, 2023. It has the potential to undermine the implementation processes of the 4-Ds diplomacy.

A third threat to Tinubuplomacy is the division of the peoples of Nigeria against themselves. First, the notion of Nigeria as an embodiment of national unity does not exist. In the way continental integration is more about government-to-government and not about people’s integration, so is national unity that of government-to-government in Nigeria. Yoruba people are divided on whether to remain part of Nigeria as it is. The MASSOB and the IPOB want to have a sovereign State of Biafra and the Federal Government of Nigeria remains wrapped up in the glory of self-deceit that Nigeria is indivisible and indissoluble when the country is manifestly divided in determination and spirit. The 4-Ds can be free from national security threats if the question of national unity is first addressed.

PBAT himself is on record to have been a chief advocate of true federalism in Nigeria. He is also on record to be the main and chief enemy of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo when both of them were Governor of Lagos State and President of Nigeria. PBAT’s struggle for true federalism was documented by me in an edited book. Thus, the diplomacy of the 4-Ds can only thrive well in an environment of true federalism in which the constitutive States of Nigeria are allowed to function appropriately and constitutionally. The way political governance is conducted and managed is such that, sooner than later, there may no longer be any local government system. Has Tinubuplomacy considered this probability?

A fourth threat is the factor of dependency on the developed world under the pretext of being an ally or strategic partner. There is no disputing the fact that the use of Africa as a source of raw materials for the development of Europe is most likely to continue under the administration of PBAT. Nigeria, since the time of General Gowon has always been critically opposed to the exploitation of African resources exclusively for the development of Europe. This was a major pillar of Dr Okoi Arikpo’s foreign policy. On the one hand, PBAT wants international recognition as the newly elected President of Nigeria. The great powers, like France, want to take advantage of PBAT’s quest for international legitimacy to use him as a stooge. The Franco-American quest to make use of the PBAT-led ECOWAS to launch military attack on Niger Republic is a case in point. Put differently, the 4-Ds diplomacy cannot be conducted outside of the great and small power politics. 

A fifth threat is the new UK visa rules introduced by Mr James Cleverly, the Home Secretary. He said a British citizen will need a minimum income of £38,700 sterling a year in order to qualify to bring a family member to the UK. Explained differently, the UK citizen must show they have available funds equivalent to a minimum gross annual income of £18,600. In this regard, they need £3,800 more for a first child and £2,400 more for each subsequent child. What is particularly noteworthy her is the fact that, in the case of a foreign national having a good income, the rule is that income counts only if it is earned in the UK. For Nigerians, the UK is their first home outside of Nigeria. Nigerians in the UK are part of the people expected to help in nation-building. How does Tinubuplomacy want to respond to this development?

A sixth threat is the continuing brain-drain saga. The 4-Ds diplomacy underscores the role of the Nigerian Diaspora. In fact, PBAT has called on all qualified Nigerians in the Diaspora to please return home to help in nation-building. Why should anyone expect them to come home when the environmental conditionings of work in Nigeria are, at best, very inclement? David Cameron sees Nigeria as a fantastically corrupt country. Who says that Nigeria is not? Is Nigeria not a country where a snake will swallow billions of naira and nothing happens? Is it not in Nigeria where a Minister of trade and Industry can budget N1bn to attend a conference in Geneva and nothing happens? Has the Ministry of Trade and Industry any record of Nigeria’s balance of trade? The dialogue between Senator Adams Oshimhole and the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mrs Anite Doris Uzoka, last week, speaks volumes. Indeed, host countries of Nigerians in Diaspora cannot be much interested in facilitating the return of leading Nigerians in Diaspora to Nigeria. This partly explains why the very scientific and entrepreneurial ones are frequently honoured with positions to discourage them from returning to Nigeria. Last week, Dr. Olusimbo Ige was appointed the first black female Commissioner at the Chicago Department of Public Health. Another Nigerian-born Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, was appointed the President of the Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge last week. With Nigeria’s financial profligacy and unnecessary large official delegations, can Tinubuplomacy bring them back home?

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