Leveraging International Relations For National Development: The Nigerian Example

By Deborah Adeniyi

The term “International Relations” speaks of relation between or among nations. Another definition of International Relations is that it is the totality of interaction that takes place across the borders of state. International relations is therefore, inevitably part of the present day world. Ever since the creation of nation-states which stemmed from Treaty of Westphalia, there has been dependency amongst nations of the world. This has been for several reasons such as; economic growth, unequal distribution of natural resources, medical aid and many other obvious reasons. In the International arena there are certain players that aid relations among nations, namely; State and Non State actors. Nigeria is a good example of a state actor while International organizations like United Nations and ECOWAS are examples of Non state actors. These actors help play the game of international politics and at the end, certain nations gain upper hand and edge over other nations in the International Arena. It is however, important to understand that International relations is important to nations in attainment of their National Interest. This is done using Foreign policy as the tool to achieving certain goals in order to attain high level of growth. Countries have adopted various tools such as; Diplomacy, War, Technical aid etc in order to improve National Development. All these tools stated above are the tools of foreign policy and they have evidently worked for certain countries in aiding their National development. It is valid for the question “How can a country leverage International Relations for National Development? ” to set in.

The following paragraphs would give adequate explanations on how a country can leverage International Relations for National Development, using efficient examples.

The introductory part of this article makes mention of a term called “Foreign Policy” which stands as a major tool in International Relations. The term “Foreign Policy” refers to a set of explicit objectives in regards to the world beyond the borders of a state, which are created to achieve and attain national interest. A country will channel their foreign policy objective towards the attainment of their national interest because countries, just like man are selfish in nature. At least, the Realists have been able to back up this claim. In the International arena, there are no friends, countries work with other countries when they detect the possibility of that relation aiding their national growth. Therefore, countries employ the tools for foreign policy to play the game of International politics right. Diplomacy, which can be defined as the application of intelligence and tact to International relations in order to influence the actions of foreign governments using negotiation and dialogue, has been a major tool. Countries sign treaties and go into different diplomatic agreements because of their own interest. Interests such as National Peace, Economic growth, National security are enough reasons for countries to go into diplomatic agreements. Countries make use of these platforms to aid their National growth. For example the “Vienna Conference of 1961” which was created to ensure peaceful relations amongst states. Countries that encouraged that conference would have done so from a place of national interest. Also, the League of Nations which was created in 1919/1920 by Woodrow Wilson was a diplomatic move after the First World War. Every country desires national peace, because it aids stability which in the long run encourages national development.

Countries also make use of Economic and Technical aid to encourage their National Interest. This can be examined in two perspectives. One, as the state giving the aid and as the state being given aid. Before the first perspective is examined, it is important to note that in the international arena there is no such thing as being “caring or nice” and there is also nothing like an unconscious move. Every state perform actions in full awareness. With this knowledge, the first perspective can be examined. A state can leverage giving aid as a tool for national development in the sense that the ability to be in the position to “give” attracts one thing which is POWER. Power is the ability to influence another. In the International arena, power stands as the ability for one country to influence various aspects of other countries. These various aspects could be their economic, political and even religious sectors. During the Second World War, USA gave different forms of aid to the Allies for example , the Lend Lease Bill, the Destroyers for bases etc. The United State of America, inevitably increased their prestige because of their actions. One can also examine aid given by Arabs which in most cases stem from religious reasons. It is at this junction, important to state that National development cuts across various sectors of a country including the Religious. Some countries believe the growth and spread of their religion equates growth of their country.

In an attempt to encourage national development, countries create or join International Organizations. They make use of these platforms to encourage the growth of their nations. It is important to understand that nations will only join International organizations that have similar goals or objectives as theirs. This is done so that, once they become members of such organizations and are able to influence or make decisions in that organization, they can manipulate or channel the decisions made to be in favour of their country and also to benefit from whatever positive result is gained in the international arena. Certain countries however, have not been able to efficiently leverage the international arena for national development because of their refusal to join some of these organizations or be partisan to some treaties. A good example is North Korea.

Nigeria in past years has had both good and bad experiences which have given birth to the Nigeria we have today. These experiences have been due to actions taken by the people and their government. The development of a country is not just in the hands of the government officials alone but the people have a fair share as determinants of the country’s growth. Every country has various sectors such as Economic, political, religious , educational and entertainment sector. It is true that the government have power over these sectors. It is also true that the people have power. The difference is in the degree of power both parties have. The international arena is such a large and wide space that all of these sectors mentioned above have their roles to play in the international arena. Taking Entertainment as an efficient example, Nigeria is blessed with so many talented people. These people have made use of their talents and skills to put Nigeria on a favorable stance in the International arena. For example, Fela Kuti , Burnaboy, Wizkid , Davido, have gotten international awards. Some of these artistes are now being invited to perform on international platforms , stages and games, take the “World Cup” as a major example. The popular Nigerian singer, David Adeleke, performed at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. These awards and heights reached, inevitably bring prestige to Nigeria and puts her on good standing in the international arena at least on entertainment level. Another aspect of the entertainment industry is the Movie industry. A lot of Nigerian actors and movies have attracted recognition and awards. Actors like ; Stan Nze, who won the septimius award in Amsterdam , Netherlands with the category “Best African Actor” also, Kunle Afolayan’s film “Citation” which won “Best International Film Award” at the National Film Festival in UK. Nigeria has leveraged these awards and the platforms for progress. Nigerians realize the world extends beyond their borders therefore, they must act to attract appraisal and recognition in the international arena for the sake of their national interest and growth. One can tell that Nigeria is definitely playing her cards right in the entertainment sector because of the increasing number of collaborations between Nigerians and foreigners. This progress also cuts across the sports sector, using “Oluwatobiloba Ayomide Amusan” as a good example of individuals that have aided Nigeria’s sport sector at international level. The entertainment industry is so big and Nigerians have graced the platform with wonderful performances and achievements. Other aspects of the entertainment industry that have experienced achievements at international level include; fashion and styling, photography and modeling and so on.

Furthermore, Nigeria’s decision to create and join international organizations is another way Nigeria has leveraged International relations for her growth. For this to be properly explained and understood, Nigeria’s concentric circle must be examined. Concentric circles which means circles that have the same centre point, explains the various levels to which a country can influence and can be influenced. The key factor in any country’s concentric circle, is the country itself. This means Nigeria is the centre point in her concentric circle but other factors are important too. Nigeria’s concentric circle is at subregional, regional and global level. Nigeria is a member of organizations at each of these levels. At the subregional level Nigeria is a member and also founder of ECOWAS( Economic Community of West African states). At regional level, Nigeria is a member of OAU( Organization of African Unity) and African Development Bank. While at Global level , Nigeria is a member of the United Nations. All these organizations have stood as international platforms for Nigeria for aid her development. The creation of ECOWAS in 1975, for example helped to contain breakdown of many west African states through peace keeping expertise and also helped economic growth. What has this got to do with the growth of Nigeria? Well, Nigeria is in West Africa, a wise man understands if his neighbors are being robbed very soon it would be his turn. This explains Nigeria’s soliciting for the growth of West Africa. Also, Nigeria’s membership in OPEC ( Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) which has helped Nigeria to stabilize her oil market. It has also given Nigeria a form of prestige since it has placed Nigeria amongst the comity of nations engaged in the noble duty of stabilizing the oil market for the good of all. In addition, Nigeria being a member of the United Nations, has helped Nigeria in several ways, namely; provision of employment opportunities to Nigerians, financial support through IMF and world bank, Medical assistance through World Health Organization and promotion of human right and peace. Another very important platform created by UN, that Nigeria has benefited from , is the United Nations Development Program. If these advantages of membership in the UN are examined, one would agree Nigeria has made good use of her membership in the UN. This therefore, stands as another means through which Nigeria has leveraged International relations for her development.

There are also certain projects involving Nigeria and some countries which if turns out well, would aid Nigeria’s growth. It is important to note that, the mere fact that a country attempts to make use of her relation with other nations, depicts that the country has identified the opportunity to leverage whatever relationship exists. A good example is the GREEN IMPERATIVE PROJECT which is a Brazil-Nigeria partnership. Nigeria stands to benefit from this project, in the sense that the project would have great impact on Nigeria’s Agricultural sector. In this project, there would be agro-tech transfer from Brazil to Nigeria. This project stands to expand the economy, increase employment and boost the availability of food. This project can therefore be seen as a good example of Nigeria’s attempt to leverage International relations for her national development. The project is still ongoing so one cannot measure if it’s a successful attempt or not. However, one must recognize the “attempt” as a step by Nigeria to leverage international relations for her good.

The question now is “are the steps enough?” Has Nigeria really leveraged international relations for her development? The answer to this question lies in the current position Nigeria is in. Nigeria has explored and made various attempts which can still be enhanced. The international arena is such a vast space and for a country to successfully thrive, that country must work on both internal and external factors so that whatever effort is attempted to be channeled towards the outside, would not be destroyed on the inside. Also, the international arena thrives on what countries have to offer. Underdevelopment internally would increase dependency and reduce ability to dominate. Therefore, a lot of attention should be placed on increasing efficiency as a country in order to play a good game in the international arena.

Deborah Adeniyi writes from Lagos State University.