ThisDay Alumni Association Annual Dinner: Addressing Tinubuplomacy of 4-Ds

Bola A. Akinterinwa 

Thisday Alumni Association Annual Dinner first connotes an event: annual dinner, the maiden edition of which took place on Saturday, 16th December, 2023 in Abuja. The Thisday Alumni Association (TAA) comprises former Members of Staff of ThisDay Newspapers. The use of ‘alumni’, of Latin origin, implies that the alumnae and alums were either former nurslings, pupils, students, graduates, or associates, etc. of ThisDay Newspapers, published by Leaders and Company Ltd. and chaired by Prince Nduka Obaigbena.

Explicated differently, Thisday Newspapers constitute a special media school of thought. When Albeit Einstein said the purpose of education is not simply about gathering and accumulating facts and knowledge but essentially about training the mind to think rationally. And true enough, thinking without fear or favour was, and still is, the hallmark of ThisDay journalists. It is this particular factor that largely explains the jots of camaraderie of the TAA members. More interestingly, it is this same factor that also explains the choice of many ThisDay staff for political appointments at both the state and federal levels. The appointments of Olusegun Adeniyi, Kola Ologbondiyan, Waziri Adio, Yusuf Olaniyonu, Paul Nwabuiku, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu and many others were noteworthy.

For example, while Olusegun Adeniyi served as Presidential Spokesman to President Umaru Yar’Adua, Paul Nwabuikwu served as Special Adviser on Media to the Minister of Finance, Dr. Okonjo Iweala. Waziri Adio was the immediate past Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). He also served as adviser to the Senate President on Communications. Simon Kolawole was the recipient of the World Economic Forum’s prestigious honour, the ‘Young Global Leader’ for the year 2012. In fact, many members of staff of the ThisDay newspapers, especially the former editors like Victor Ifijeh, Dr Amanze Obi, are stars on their own right where they currently find themselves. One major rationale for the progress of ThisDay journalists is the fact that they were initially educationally well-baked and Nduka Obaigbena has special eagle eyes to fish them out for recruitment within a new framework of media thinking. The establishment of an annual dinner as a new instrument of inter-personal relationships clearly illustrates this. 

Beyond Tinubu’s 4-Ds

Without any whiff of doubt, the TAA is a projection of the ThisDay media school of thought beyond the frontiers of newspaper editorials and production. Reflecting over dinners cannot but be a very welcome development for various reasons. First, with the conception of an alumni association, the message is that the umbilical cord tying the ThisDay as an organisation, and the alumni association together will henceforth be strengthened. It will not be broken. 

Secondly, the TAA has the potential to become a major instrument of Citizen Diplomacy as espoused by former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe. When official diplomacy is unnecessarily challenged by unforeseen irritants, citizen diplomacy is what governments often resort to. Citizen diplomacy, by its name, is citizen-centric. It is generally considered as Track-two Diplomacy because it deals with unofficial and officious contacts between and among government officials, and between them and non-state actors. Citizen diplomacy complements official diplomacy which is considered as Track One diplomacy. It is within the framework of Track-two Diplomacy that the TAA can play more prominent roles in Nigeria’s foreign relations as Nigeria’s ambassadors with ‘small letter “a”’ to borrow the words of Ambassador Nkemjinka Wadibia-Anyanwu, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Without any shadow of gainsaying, journalists with the mind of critical thinking who also abound in many media houses in Nigeria, should be specially organised into citizen diplomatic frameworks to reflect and help Government in the conduct and management of national questions. This is why the establishment of the TAA is of particular importance and should be nationally commended.

Thirdly, a distinction is often made between international relations which deal essentially with inter-state activities, and international life in which state and non-state actors are involved. International life is what we have called this column. It is Vie Internationale in French, the first language of diplomacy before English language was introduced as the second language of diplomacy at the end of World War I. Track-one diplomacy is associated with international relations while Track-two diplomacy is associated with international life. The TAA, therefore, cannot but be a potent instrument of Nigeria’s diplomacy in the foreseeable future, especially in President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (PBAT)’s diplomacy of the 4-Ds. 

Fourthly, as media professionals, Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution as amended requires the media, in its sense of press, radio, television and other agencies, not only to uphold the fundamental objectives of the Constitution but also to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people. It is on this basis that the TAA should seek to beam its light on Tinubuplomacy of the 4-Ds particularly in responding to the foreseeable global disorderliness in 2024.

We already submitted in this column the appropriateness of talking about PBAT’s diplomacy rather than doctrine, and 6-Ds, rather than 4-D’s in the conduct and management of Nigeria’s foreign policy. It is a truism that foreign policy is considered an extension of domestic policy. In other words, foreign policy does not exist independently of the domestic environmental conditionings. The domestic policy considerations impact on external behaviours and vice versa. The domestic guiding ‘Ds’ cannot but be considered along with the 4-Ds already thrown to the public for further reflection.

Indeed, the 4-Ds – Development, Democracy, Demography, and Diaspora – are not, as presented, strategic objectives per se. While development and democracy can be rightly explained as objectives, demography and diaspora cannot be so considered. They are at best tactical in design. Government is only seeking to take advantage of Nigeria’s big population and Nigeria’s very vibrant and resourceful Diaspora to help achieve Nigeria’s international objectives. The Nigerians in Diaspora are seen as a wheel of progress, as a tool of national growth and development.

As explained by Foreign Minister Yusuf Tuggar, the purpose of the adoption of democracy as a guiding principle of foreign policy is to stop the general perception of our environment as a region of coups d’état and present Nigeria as a proactive democracy. And true enough, there is no disputing the fact that PBAT has been proactively engaged in the struggle for true federalism in Nigeria (vide my edited book, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Struggle for True Federalism, Ibadan: Vantage Publishers, 2000). There is nothing wrong in seeking to be seen as a pro-democracy country but democracy cannot and should not be the primary focus of foreign policy the way respect for international law is considered as a foreign policy objective in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

In the same vein, the Foreign Minister sees Nigeria’s demography as big enough to qualify the country to play big roles in international affairs in the same way other big countries do. In his calculations, Nigeria is expected to be the third most populous country in the world after India and China in 2050. As the biggest population in Africa, the biggest economy in Africa, and as the country with the biggest arable land in Africa, etc., there is no way Nigeria’s quest for membership of the G-20 would not be driven by the factor of development and democracy. But both democracy and development are nothing more than objectives while demography and Diaspora are the means of attaining the objectives at the foreign policy level.  

At the domestic level of policy formulation, there are also the principles of Determination, Discipline, and Diversification. Determination is about government’s policy direction, while discipline is in the area of individual attitudinal disposition of the citizens to nation-building. Diversification is about the expansion of the economy. Thus Nigerians should be talking about more than 4-Ds. The attainment of the objectives of the 4-Ds at the foreign policy level is largely contingent on determination or political will, on self-discipline and national discipline of the operators. Diversification, in order to move away from mono-cultural economy is also a desideratum.

All these considerations clearly point to the fact that what has been called the doctrine of the 4-Ds does not cover many aspects of the issue. The domestic and external factors considered together, we should be talking about Tinubuplomacy of the 7-Ds. At the domestic level are determination: to ensure good governance and promotion of patriotism; Discipline at all levels of political governance; and Diversification, not only of the economy, but also of the policy attitude to various global questions. The 4-Ds as espoused by Foreign Minister Tuggar can stand upright like the Rock of Gibraltar.

The TAA and Tinubuplomacy of 6-Ds

The TAA should be much interested in the use of the external environment and foreign policy as a potent instrument for national security and nation-building. As explained by Professor J.M. Amoda, Dean of School of Diplomacy and International Security Studies, Igbinedion University, Okada, ‘citizen diplomacy is one of the several tools for advancing a nation’s security and diplomatic interest in the context of the transformation of Government into The Establishment.’

More important, when Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe wanted to have a ‘contextualising contribution to the practice of Foreign Minister Diplomacy,’ he opted for Citizen Diplomacy the objectives of which are to bridge the gap between government and its citizens; government and the private sector; political parties and the governments of the day; the military and politicians; academia and the government technocrats; heads of universities and heads of select secondary school –in the evolution of an Establishment Regime and Meritocracy in the Nigerian polity.’ In essence, Professor Amoda has it that ‘it pays to keep in constant focus that state diplomacy can be used to develop the efficacy of citizen diplomacy and vice versa.’ In this regard, if state diplomacy can enhance citizen diplomacy and vice versa, who are the citizen diplomats to impact on state diplomacy? Naturally, the TAA are some of the citizen diplomats and should not found wanting in this area.

In this regard, the TAA should first be concerned with the domestic D’s: determination, discipline, diversification, and destruction of corruption. There is the need for societal determination to support PBAT’s and governmental determination to build a virile nation free from political chicanery and ethnic bigotry. Determination to foster patriotism and national consciousness is a desideratum. Determination will then determine what tactical approaches to be adopted. In adopting whatever approach, there is the need for application of discipline at all levels: discipline in terms of respect for time, respect for other cultures, respect for civilised work habits, etc., as well as discipline of dint of hard work in building a new diversified economy that will emphasise industrial agriculture. The moment the TAA succeeds in building a virile domestic environment where the gospel of rule-based political governance is acquiesced to, where election frauds do not exist anymore, and where journalists are not recklessly mistreated, the next step cannot but be the external environment.

More importantly at the domestic level, the TAA should have another look at Nigeria’s foreign policy institutions. The most significant foreign policy success Nigeria can always boast about is the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) put in place in 1987 by the then Foreign Minister, Professor Bolaji Akinwande Akinyemi. Nigeria has always earned international respect as a result of the deployment of teachers, lecturers, and professionals to various regions of the world. How can the TAC scheme be specially enhanced to further contribute to foreign policy efficiency?

Professor Akinyemi also called for the establishment of a Concert of Medium Powers which led to the formation of Lagos Forum and eventually had no future thereafter as a result of misinformation and misunderstanding. Today, questions are being asked on whether Nigeria should be a member of the BRICS. Even the incumbent Foreign Minister is looking at Nigeria’s population as a possible criterion to qualify to join the G-20. The idea behind the Concert of Medium Powers is that Nigeria should be able to use her potential wealth, her untapped resources to get what she needs from the international community. Apart from natural resources, human resources are even more important than material resources. In fact, Nigerian media professionals have been rated as the most vibrant in Africa and Nigerian media as the freest. This is more a reason why the TAA should not only begin with annual dinners but also seek possible institutionalisation of their association, lead the business of citizen diplomacy in the whole of Africa, beginning from Nigeria.

On the issue of Black Bomb also raised in the past by Professor Akinyemi, shouldn’t there be a Black Bomb? Interrogated differently, shouldn’t Nigeria have a nuclear bomb for the protection of Nigeria and its people? The international politics of non-nuclearisation has clearly shown that if a country supports the Nuclear Weapons States, they will not be very hostile. They are only very hostile to their perceived enemies. They argue that other nuclear power aspirants are not or do not have the technical capacity to manage any nuclear accidents but the same Nuclear States are helping their allies to acquire nuclear capability under the guise of peaceful uses. Why should a country have the right of nuclear weaponry and the same right will be denied to others? The TAA should also begin to address some of these questions.

Religion is another factor that has the potential not only to divide Nigeria beyond imagination but also the whole world. From a polemological standpoint, the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is not stricto sensu a religious one. However, onlookers in Nigeria and elsewhere see it as religious by sympathy. The object of dispute is basically land. In Nigeria, Christian followers have sympathy for Israel as if the Israelis are Christians. The Nigeria Muslims support the Palestinians. It should be recalled that Nigeria strained diplomatic ties with Israel in support of Egypt as a frontline state in the Arab war on Israel.

In other words, should the State be involved in religious questions? Should Nigeria be sponsoring pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem? If so, to where should the traditional believers be sponsored since everyone is talking about fairness and justice in political governance? What is, or what should be, the foreign policy position of Nigeria in the Israelo-Palestinian conflict?

The attack by the Palestinian militant group on 7 October 2023 on Israel is most unfortunate. Hundreds of Palestinian gunmen infiltrated communities near the Gaza Strip in an unprecedented manner. As a result, Israel has been taught the lesson of the Boys Scout: Be Prepared always and never to take anything for granted. More significantly, Israel has been put permanently on the readiness path for war. This is consistent with the Von Clausewitzian doctrine of preparing for war if you want peace. And true, the Hamas reportedly killed 1,200 Israelis and also took 200 Israelis into hostage, including women and children. In the spirit of legitimate self-defense, but more than necessary, Israel responded with openly declared determination to wipe out the Hamas completely and whatever they represent. In this regard, more than 1,500 Palestinians have been killed without any due regard for humanitarian law. What prevents Nigeria’s Citizen Diplomats from dialoguing with their counterparts in Israel? Is it impossible for the TAA to champion a continental conversation on the conflict since the United Nations has failed in the maintenance of international peace and security? What prevents the non-state actors from succeeding where the state actors have failed woefully?  

In terms of Nigeria’s self-preservation, what should be the policy attitude to the Russo-Ukrainian war with a beginning but without an end in sight? The Sudanese imbroglio has defied all peace-making efforts. African Union’s policy of non-acceptance of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa has become a basis of mockery. In fact, the ECOWAS has become more sharply divided against itself because of a tripartite mésentente: Francophone West Africa (Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger Republic)’s support for the military junta in Niger, Nigeriens’ hostility towards France, and Niger and her supporters’ hostility against the ECOWAS. In other words, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have carved out a sub-region out of the West Africa region. This is good in a sense that continental integration is fostered. However, the carving out of a sub-region is a reaction to perceived French hostile policies. Russia has manifestly been supporting them to the detriment of Western interests. Has Nigeria any policy on these issues? 

The critical implication for Nigeria’s foreign policy is that France has had her influence drastically reduced in Francophone West Africa but still wants to stage a stronger comeback. The ECOWAS is the main institution on which France is capitalising. This is because of ECOWAS opposition to coups making in the region. Besides, France cannot easily use Nigeria’s territory to launch an armed attack on Niger Republic, Nigeria’s immediate neighbour. It is the Francophone neighbours, particularly Benin Republic that can be used. But this cannot be done without the express support of Nigeria which is currently chairing the ECOWAS. PBAT is perceived to be currently under the French influence to which the foreign policy elite is against. What really is the way forward for PBAT and his 4-Ds doctrine? In which way can the doctrine address meaningfully the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine? What about Nigeria’s internal crises and conflicts? The establishment of the TAA, without iota of doubt, is very timely. A New World Order is in the making. Quo vadis for Nigeria in 2024? The challenge is before the TAA. May it please God Almighty to use the TAA as a new instrument to speak truth to power and restructure Nigeria in order to further strengthen it.  

Related Articles