One Year of PBAT’s Foreign Policy: Strategic Miscalculations, 4-Ds and National Anthem 

Bola A. Akinterinwa 

Nigeria’s foreign policy under President  Bola Ahmed Tinubu (PBAT) is largely predicated on two main pillars: Emi l’okan (it is my turn) philosophy and doctrine of 4-Ds. Emi l’okan was a major political strategy adopted by PBAT for the purposes of his presidential election. It became a popular slogan thereafter and ordinarily meant that PBAT had served several political leaders, especially in assisting them to gain access to the presidency, and that the time has come for him, PBAT, to be allowed to also gain access to the presidency.

Lato sensu, Emi l’okan means more than ‘it is my turn.’ The meaning is best understood by asking or completing the expression: Emi l’okan to do what? In other words, ‘it is my turn’ to do whatever is considered necessary to advance nationhood. During his electoral campaigns, PBAT said he would continue with President Muhammadu Buhari’s (PMB) policies. 

Foreign policy wise, PBAT implied that he would sustain it from where PMB stopped. However, the philosophy of Emi l’okan has not suggested any compliance with PMB’s policy stand. This is why we should be talking about an Emi l’okan foreign policy, as espoused by PBAT and in the doctrine of 4-Ds: Democracy, Development, Demography, and Diaspora. Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, has explained the 4-Ds as a doctrine, as an ordinary idea. But true enough, the conceptualisation of the 4-Ds clearly suggests that it is more of an art, a technique, and instrument for achieving a foreign policy objective.

For example, of the four Ds, only the ‘D’ for development can be an objective to be pursued. Democracy, demography and diaspora only serve as instruments for the attainment of the objective of development. If they were to be considered as objectives, the means must be identified and they cannot but be limited in the sense of their being useful for attaining other long term foreign policy objectives. More importantly, PBAT has assented to the bill that reverted to Nigeria’s old National Anthem, thus making ‘Nigeria We Hail Thee’ the new order of the day. These are issues in Nigeria’s foreign policy in the past one year.

Emi l’okan and Policy Miscalculations 

Emi l’okan is a philosophy of governance that underscores the personality of PBAT and what he stands for as a proponent of true federalism, politician, and statesman. In other words, there is an Emi l’okan policy, Emi l’okan foreign policy, Emi l’okan approach of doing things. In fact, it is the PBAT’s political mania of political governance which seeks to impact on the governance of Nigeria. In this mania of doing things, there have been some strategic miscalculations because the philosophy of Emi l’okan is necessarily individualistic in character, and therefore, cannot but have some limitations. Psychology of human differences also allows for differences of opinion and shortcomings.

For instance, Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, as amended, provides for secularity, and yet, the Government of Nigeria is unnecessarily engaging in its promotion. The Vice President, Kashim Shettima, told Nigerians that PBAT had incurred N90 billion to subsidise the costs of participation of Nigerians in the 2024 Hajj pilgrimage. This amount excludes the costs for the Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem later in the year. 

Besides, minimum wage in Nigeria is only N30000 (thirty thousand naira only), and yet some constitutive States of Nigeria are unable to pay. The Federal Government cannot subsidise food for all, healthcare for all, education for all, transportation for all, housing projects for all, guarantee security for all, etc., but is much delighted in subsidising secular activities that are constitutionally prohibited. This is a more serious strategic miscalculation.

Another fundamental strategic error is the application of the ECOWAS’ policy attitude towards unconstitutional changes of government in the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) region. The policy attitude is that of ‘zero tolerance.’ And true enough, the policy attitude towards Niger Republic is largely influenced by the unconstitutional changes of government in Mali and Burkina Faso, who were sanctioned by the ECOWAS, but apparently to no avail. The acknowledgment of the failure of the sanctions prompted the strengthened determination of the ECOWAS to seek to end any illegal change of government beginning with the case of Niger Republic.

In this regard, President Mohamed Bazoum, had served as the 10th President of Niger Republic from 2021 through 2023 when he was ousted. The Ivoirian leader, Alassane Ouattara, reportedly facilitated the choice of PBAT to become the ECOWAS chairman with the ultimate objective of using him and Nigeria to restore President Mohammed Bazoum to power and also restore civil authority. Thus, the ECOWAS, under PBAT, first gave a 7-day ultimatum to the Abdourahamane Tchiani junta in Niamey to release President Bazoum and restore democratic rule or face an ECOWAS use of force. 

This supranational order was not generally seen as an ECOWAS order but as that of Nigeria for various reasons: PBAT is ECOWAS chairman and he needed international recognition as a regional leader that has teeth to bite, especially following the many allegations and court trials he faced following his election as the president of the most powerful country in Africa, Nigeria. 

Additionally, Nigeria is supplying electricity to Niger Republic within the framework of Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission cooperation agreement. Nigeria suspended the supply of electricity because of the non-compliance of the Niamey junta with the ECOWAS ultimatum. In fact, Nigeria’s bilateral relations with Niger Republic were the warmest when compared with other neighbouring countries. So, when PBAT was implementing the ECOWAS order, the people of Niger found it difficult to believe that Nigeria could afford the luxury of ignoring that Nigeria and Niger were neighbours by territorial contiguity and geopolitical propinquity. All in all, Niger, along with Burkina Faso and Mali opted to withdraw their membership of the ECOWAS as from the end of 2024. They have now formed an Alliance of Sahel States. This is how the Emi l’okan foreign policy is another strategic miscalculation. 

Again for various pressures, the ECOWAS has not been able to restore democratic rule and secure the release of President Bazoum from his incarceration in Niger. The Commissioner of Justice and Attorney-General of Ondo State, Kayode Ajulo, SAN, and Professor Bola A. Akinterinwa, Professor of International Relations and Member of Governing Council of the Achievers University, Owo, took the ECOWAS and PBAT to the ECOWAS Court of Justice to stop the ECOWAS from threatening and using force to resolve the matter. Northern political elite also mounted pressure at the National Assembly to stop the ECOWAS and PBAT. They argued that any attack on Niger Republic is also a self-attack because the same community of people reside on both sides of the international border dividing the two countries. In fact, it has been variously argued that there is no real border between Nigeria and Niger. As a result, there has not been any use of force. The ECOWAS Court has remained silent on the Ajulo-Akinterinwa court prayers. The unwanted coup in Niger has led to the declaration of French ambassador as a persona non grata and to the dismantlement of French and US military bases in Niger. Most unfortunately, however, Niger is now playing host to Russianisation over which Nigeria does not have any control.

And perhaps most disturbingly is the controversial relocation of either French or US military base to Nigeria. The military bases that are unwanted in Niger are being touted to relocate to Nigeria. Nigeria rejected the location of the US AFRICOM in 2005, a rejection that compelled the United States to postpone the relocation of the AFRICOM from Stuttgart, Germany. For Nigeria, under PBAT, to ever contemplate considering Nigeria to play host to Franco-American military bases, is most unfortunate. It cannot but severely damage PBAT’s political history beyond damage. Such acceptance has the potential to compromise Nigeria’s foreign policy of alignment because a foreign military base in Africa is a negation of Nigeria’s foreign policy.  The OAU and its successor organisation, African Union, always frowns at foreign military bases in Africa even if some African countries disregard the policy. It cannot but be a serious strategic miscalculation for Nigeria to accept the relocation of the Franco-American military bases, under whatever guise, to Nigeria. Nigeria rejected the Anglo-Nigeria defence pact in 1961. There is no new logic yet to inform moving away from self-respect, from the non-alignment driven national interest, and from the self-imposed leadership role in Africa.  

Nigeria We Hail Thee

‘Nigeria We Hail Thee’ was Nigeria’s National Anthem from 1960 through 1978. It was replaced with ‘Arise O Compatriots’ by the General Olusegun Obasanjo regime in 1978. One rationale for the change might have been the need for liberation from colonial taint. Most unfortunately, however, British colonialization of Nigeria cannot be denied. It was a fait accompli. For example, the name, Nigeria, coined from ‘Niger Area,’ by Flora Shaw, is was a colonial creation. The fact of British colonisation of Nigeria is a truism and cannot be denied by anyone even if the name of the country is changed from Nigeria. Consequently, the objective of replacing the 1960 anthem in 1978 can vary and can also be explained differently: reduce the impact of colonial legacy, it can be an attempt to deny the truth. Truth is constant and cannot be denied without consequences.

For three main reasons, reverting to the 1960 independence anthem is a very welcome development. It is quite legitimate for three reasons: the lyrics of the 1960 Anthem are more meaningful than that of the 1978 Anthem; the recommendations in the 2014 National Conference Report; and Emi l’okan policy. As regards the lyrics, the 1960 anthem clearly shows that Nigeria is truly a modern state in international relations. It placed importance on the people. It reflects the people’s deep love for, and faith in, Nigeria. In other words, it also reflects patriotism and reflects the socio-cultural and geo-political reality of Nigeria. For instance, it recognises the diverse nature of culture, particularly Nigeria’s ‘diverse tongues’ and strong determination of the people to remain in brotherly camaraderie in their inter-personal relationships. Above all, it underscores the people’s acceptance of the sovereignty of Nigeria.

On the contrary, while the first stanza of the 1960 anthem is very salutary, that of Arise O Compatriots appears to be militant because it was adopted under a military regime in 1978. It is a rallying anthem with inbuilt subservience. For example, in ‘Arise O Compatriots,’ who is calling who to rise up? In what capacity is the caller doing the calling? Calling on other compatriots to rise up implies that the compatriots called upon were not doing the necessary to sustain Nigeria’s nationhood, hence the need to awake them up. It is a call on Nigerians to serve Nigeria with love, strength and faith, as well as with heart and might ‘one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.’ 

In other words, it is a call for exhibition of patriotism. It is a quest to sustain ‘the labour of our heroes past.’ Analytically, was Nigeria bound in freedom in 1978 and in 2024? Which past heroes are we talking about: military or political leaders? 

Without any whiff of doubt, the second stanza of ‘Arise O Compatriots’ is very Godly in prayer, commendable in request, and far-sighted in aspiration. The instruction of the Federal Government that the second stanza should be used as national prayer is good and should not be simply thrown into the dustbin of history. The stanza asked for God’s direction and guidance in Nigeria’s noble cause. In other words, if Nigeria’s cause is noble, God should help with His direction and guidance. Many causes in Nigeria are not noble. Federal Character is noble in design but not in implementation. Consequently, the prayer is necessarily conditioned.

And more interestingly, the stanza asked God to help the Nigerian youth to know that living in love and adopting honesty of purpose as a way of life, as well as living just and true, enable great and lofty heights to be attained. There are no qualms with these prayers, but it is difficult to argue that the prayers are heard by God. If God has accepted to direct Nigeria’s political leaders right Nigeria would have been better off than what it is today. Most unfortunately, political life in Nigeria has been largely fraught with chicanery, fraud, galloping and reckless corruption, deepening national disunity, and political misdirection.  It is against this background that reverting to the 1960 anthem should be seen and understood as more appropriate.

The reasoning of the participants at the 2014 National Conference, chaired by Justice Idris Kutigi and assisted by Professor Bolaji Akinwande Akinyemi, was not different. In the report of the Conference, reverting to the 1960 National Anthem was recommended, meaning that the bill at the National Assembly and assent of PBAT were consistent with the recommendations made by the 492 members that participated in the conference. As explained by Professor Julius Ihonvbere, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives who sponsored the bill, reverting to the old anthem has the potential to strengthen national unity.

Opponents of the bill have argued that the change of national anthems was not a priority and did not bring food to the table. They not only argued that it has a colonial character, but also that the speed with which the bill was passed could not but raise questions. And true enough, the bill was given an accelerated passage on Thursday, May 23, 2024 and moved to the Committee of Whole where it was also passed. On Friday, May 24, 2024 the Senate similarly discussed the clauses and passed the bill. PBAT, on May 25, 2024 signed the bill into law. And with effect from May 29, 2024 the new National Anthem was officially adopted.

While opinion is divided on the reverting to the independence anthem, we strongly believe it is a welcome development. It was the Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government of the 2014 Conference that recommended that Nigeria should revert to the 1960 anthem but opposed changing the National Flag and renaming Nigeria. As good and prayerful as the second stanza of ‘Arise O Compatriots’ may be, the third stanza of the independence anthem appears to be the mother of all prayers. 

The stanza requests the God of all Creation to help Nigerians to ‘build a nation where no man is oppressed,’ so that ‘with peace and plenty Nigeria may be blessed.’ All that is required is for God to accept to help Nigerians in building a Nigerian nation. God cannot accept if Nigerians do not refrain from the promotion of acts of injustice, unfairness, and deliberate corruption and profligacy. On this issue of national anthem, PBAT has done well. National Anthem is a major instrument of projection of foreign policy interest. It is sung or recited during official and officious, as well as unofficial meetings.

At the level of Emi l’okan as foreign policy, the interest of PBAT in quickly getting the bill on the National Anthem passed might be traceable to two major factors: the animosity between PBAT and former President Olusegun Okikiola Obasanjo. When Chief Obasanjo, a General of the Nigerian army, was President of Nigeria, he made political governance difficult for PBAT as Governor of Lagos State. PBAT created new Local Governments Areas in the strong belief that the constitutive States of Nigeria have jurisdictional competence over local government matters. President Obasanjo insisted that only the 774 Local Governments recognised in the 1999 Constitution could be recognised and funded. 

Consequently, no funding was approved for the newly created local government areas in Lagos. In fact, the animosity was made open. The animosity appears to have been renewed with the reversal of Nigeria’s national anthem. It was under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1978 that the 1960 National Anthem was changed. Chief Obasanjo was then an internationally-recognised anti-apartheid and anti-colonial activist. He nationalised the British Petroleum and the Barclays Bank in protest against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s sale of Nigerian crude oil to South Africa. By then Nigeria had a ‘No Compromise with Apartheid’ foreign policy. This might have influenced the decision to change the colonial national anthem. The militant attitudinal disposition of Chief Obasanjo cannot but partly explain calling on all Nigerians to rise up and obey the call to duty. President Obasanjo who was seen to have had his own pound of flesh by then and PBAT has taken the opportunity of the National Anthem to easily undo what Chief Obasanjo had done.

In essence, one year of PBAT’s foreign policy is suggestive of a foundation-laying for gradual restructuring of Nigeria in response to public yearnings. PBAT is opposed to national disintegration. He has always been an advocate of true federalism. However, his foreign policy promotes the diplomacy of 4-Ds which does not appear to be able to stop the struggle for self-determination and separation. The ECOWAS has suffered major setbacks under PBAT with the strategic policy miscalculations on the policy of zero tolerance on unconstitutional changes of government in the West African region. Besides, not only are some foreign policy experts in Nigeria seeing PBAT as a stooge of the West, and particularly of France, Westerners who berated him when he first assumed duty as President, also believe that PBAT can be related with as a stooge. It is within this framework that the possibility of relocating the French and the American drone bases from Niger to Nigeria is being contemplated. Without doubt, PBAT is carrying out various reforms aimed at rejigging Nigeria, promoting foreign direct investments and preaching the sermons of regional and continental unity, Nigeria’s foreign policy must ensure unconditional due respect for Nigeria and its people as a sovereign state and people. 

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