Nigeria's Floundering Diplomacy: Need for Paradigm shift.
Diplomacy is the business of handling a porcupine without disturbing the quills. All war represents a failure of diplomacy. In fact, Randolph Bourne posits that 'diplomacy is a disguised war, in which States and non-state actors seek to gain by barter and intrigue, by the cleverness of arts, the objectives which they would have to gain more clumsily by means of war'. In the advanced democracies, diplomacy is used as a handmaiden of foreign policy.
By any acceptable measure, Nigeria deserves to be called 'Giant of Africa' by virtue of its stupendous resource endowments and population. In her 50 years of nationhood, the influence wielded by the nation through the instrumentality of foreign policy can better be assessed within the context of its regional and continental leadership aspirations. This ambition is the underpinning philosophy and consuming impetus for adopting the theory of four 'concentric circles' as a defining parameter for Nigeria's national interest. Fifty years after independence, Nigeria has recorded impressive successes and also unimaginable failures in her foreign policy. Ostensibly, the central tendency is that Nigeria has been extraordinarily naive by restricting its foreign policy to Africa as its cornerstone. It was a laudable goal before the 1990s, but its evolution is needed for Nigeria to meet the needs of the dynamics of diplomacy is a fast globalizing era. Nigeria's unhealthy domestic policy environment has narrowed down the menu of policy choices at the multilateral level. Nigeria is the 6th greatest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, but the State of the domestic economy and the prevailing social conditions are not desirable. Nigeria is characterized by mass poverty, grave insecurity, dilapidated economic and social infrastructure, which has triggered the forces, of corruption, marginalization, ethnicity and pre-bendal politics. Listed and delisted as a potential terrorist country in 2010, the nation now contends with the monster of insecurity, sometimes degenerating to near chaos. In the out gone year, 2010, Nigeria was ranked 130th among 180 countries in Corruption out of which Nigeria ranked 130th. On Human Development Index, the 2010 places Nigeria on the 157th potion among 177 countries. It is even a starker reality that because of the decrepit educational system about 39 million Nigerian graduates are unemployable while more than 75 per cent of the 150 million population lives below the globally acceptable poverty threshold. Nigeria has been parading bad statistics in several spheres of life. Some of these have vitiated our rebranding efforts. Since the federal government introduced the slogan 'good people and great nation' Nigeria's rebranding efforts have largely failed, partly because those piloting the rebranding projects have no compass to chart a safe direction. This point was driven home when the when Transparency International passed a damning verdict about the worsening corruption situation in Nigeria. On all fronts, it does appear that the rebranding project faces difficult challenges in all departments of Nigeria's national life. Of course, even professional image makers cannot create a humpty-dumpty out of a scraggy skeleton. Rebranding was regarded as a mantra to turn around the truculent African tragedy. It may be difficult for any Nigerian to answer in the affirmative if the rebranding project has taken off the ground. Oyetunde (2002) remarked that 'Unfortunately, for Nigeria, our foreign policy is static unprogressive and is not benevolent to most Nigerians. For instance, the state security services that ought to be the eyes and ears of government an important component of our foreign policy instead some members of this distinguished body one found in beer palours discussing the current operations while foreign agents are taking notes. Adaramola (2005) corroborated the view that in terms of helping citizens abroad, Nigeria is not pro-active. An American can bet his life on getting help if he runs into any American embassy to seek solutions to a problematic situation. On the contrary, a Nigerian seeking help in a foreign land will most likely be left hanging. Perhaps, it is not surprising why a citizen of one nation is patriotic while a citizen of the other work against the interest of his nation. It could also the reason why a citizen of one nation exhibits political fervor while that of another nation shows political apathy. The nation faces the problematic of defining her national interest because of the variegated diplomatic permutations and ideologies Nigeria has adopted over the years. Some foreign policy experts believe that Nigeria has no clear-cut political ideology and national interest. Part of the policy vacillation is attributable to the fact that foreign policy is inextricably linked to its domestic policy. The Citizens' Diplomacy pursued by Ojo Maduekwe was lacking in depth, substance and direction. Nigeria is presently making huge efforts at peace- keeping to end the twenty-year old war in the Sudan. In Africa, Nigerians suffer rejection wherever they go. They are often subjected to xenophobic attacks in South Africa, tortured by the Gabonese security agents, and brutalized by the Libyan Government before deportation. While it may be asserted that Nigeria's national interest tends to promote the core values and objectives of her diplomacy in principle, there is now an urgent need to forge a more pragmatic approach to issues rather than engage in populist and unrewarding ideological loyalty and nebulous diplomatic permutations. As Nigeria progressively loses its competitive edge in Africa, the nation needs to provide a more viable framework to articulate and implement a diplomacy that positively affects the collective esteem. The contention is that because of Nigeria's over-concentration on African issues, Nigeria's foreign policy outside continental Africa is vague and not anchored on principles that would confer on Nigeria robust political or economic advantage. There is no denying the fact that Nigerians are good people in all its ramifications but when there is no good leadership the 'goodness' of the people automatically diminishes. A people are as good as the kind of leadership they get. Today, the most vibrant segment of the Nigerian populace - the youths are scattered all over the world like the Israelites in Diaspora. Some are summarily abbreviated owing to xenophobic attacks in South Africa; many of them are in underground gulags in Libya; in Malaysia, Singapore and China, Nigerians are either tortured or hanged for sundry offences ranging from drug trafficking, 419, forgery to armed robbery. Nigerians who commit drug offences in Saudi Arabia are promptly hanged. While the economic space narrows, culminating in a one-party system, the polity also faces a legitimacy crisis. The nation is endowed with ponderous with natural resources but these resources are controlled by a few buccaneering comprador class and economic fifth columnists. Why is poverty so endemic and pervasive that the youths who should constitute the 'locomotive' of development are emigrating to greener pastures abroad? The nation's educational system is so decrepit that our intelligentsia have all been brained - drained to develop other lands. In the foreign policy scene, there is consensus that Nigeria's foreign policy is unprogressive and stagnant because the leadership has not been able to define what constitutes Nigeria's national interest. Critics posit that Nigeria's domestic ecology does not support her foreign policy posturing as 'giant of Africa'. Nigeria has been benevolent to other nations while Nigerians are humiliated even among the contiguous States, subjected to xenophobic attacks abroad amidst apathy on the part of the Nigerian government. Nigeria exhibits false generosity abroad in order to create a wrong impression that the political economy is healthy. In Africa, Nigerians suffers rejection and even maltreatment wherever they go. The thinking is that because of the leaders' inability to define her national interest, the nation has lost its competitive edge in African diplomacy. The Nigerian political landscape is tainted with near absence of ethical values and common etiquettes and this affects the behaviour of public officers. Because of the rascality of the power holders, and the aura of invincibility they exude, privileged Nigerians are constantly engrossed in the struggle for political power and its attendant paraphernalia of high office. We have a group of self-chosen watchmen who apply tricks and treachery to shoot their way to what in other lands are humble positions. Nigeria cannot move to the next level with a cabal of self-serving leaders. How can we successfully rebrand when these vampires are still walking tall in our midst. The only window to dispense with these people is a complete change of the existing order. Since the 'rebranding' propaganda has neither direction nor destination, I would move very strongly that rebranding should be decentralized, that is, it should be the responsibility of the States and Local Government Councils. Perhaps a better way to get around it is to rebrand Prof. Dora Akunyili to understand that, since we are implementing neo-liberal economic policies, it would be proper to deregulate rebranding like the down-stream sector of the petroleum industry so that there would be a healthy competition among States, with a price tag. If we adopt this strategy, the results would outweigh the sacrifices. But whichever way we look at it, the arrow head of rebranding must first be rebranded to understand the truism that Nigeria may not re-brandable until there is a complete generational change coupled with the introduction of a new ideological orientation and the inculcation of the right values. There is now consensus among Nigerians at home and in Diaspora that Nigeria is becoming a liability to the African continent. At independence, Nigeria was Pro-West, non-aligned and Afro-centric. Nigeria evolved from the Commonwealth of Nations and most of the intelligentsia was socialized in the African continent. The thinking was that being the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria could play an invaluable role in the political and economic integration of Africa. Accordingly, Nigerian leaders manifestly declared Africa as the 'Centre Piece' of her foreign policy. Akindele (1979) observed that because of Nigeria's Afro-centric diplomacy, the Murtala-Obasanjo regime spent about 75% of its time and resources to solve the problems of Africa. Nigeria's commitment to Africa was so intense that Section 19 of the Constitution provides: The State shall promote African Unity, as well as the total political, economic, social and cultural liberation of Africa and the people of African birth or descent throughout the world… and shall combat racial discrimination in all its manifestations. The contention is that because of Nigeria's over-concentration on African issues, Nigeria's foreign policy outside continental Africa is vague and not anchored on principles that would confer on Nigeria robust political or economic advantage. This foreign policy leaning has vitiated Nigeria's ability to attract foreign investment from trusted nations in Western Europe, Australia, Asia, Israel and North America. Another problematic of re-defining Nigeria's national interest is the ideological pretensions of the leaders. Nigeria continues to advocate idealistic policies of Non-Alignment rather than aggressively pursue and protect her national interest. For Nigeria to be great, she has to imitate the great powers, which are guided by economic interest in their diplomatic transactions. For example, China is opposed to the Security Council intervention in Darfur, Sudan because of the oil and other raw materials they obtain from the Sudanese Government.
Our foreign policy is based on three basic pillars; the concept that Nigeria is an African nation; it is part and parcel of the continent of Africa and therefore it is so completely involved in anything that pertains to that continent… we are independent in everything, but neutral in nothing that affects the destiny of Africa…' The peace of Africa is the peace of Nigeria, its tribulations are our tribulations and we cannot be indifferent to its future.
The scope of Nigeria's foreign policy should no longer be limited to continental affairs. It's should be focused world-wide and geared toward the promotion of our cultural heritage, and scientific, economic and technical cooperation with viable partners. The nitty-gritty of economic diplomacy is the management of Nigeria's bilateral and multilateral economic relations to expand areas of mutually beneficial. Economic diplomacy emphasizes co-operation as a sine qua non for economic development.
To achieve this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in conjunction with the Ministry of National Planning was to formulate and implement bilateral economic scientific and technical co-operation matters. Based on this modus operandi, Akinterinwa defines economic diplomacy as a non-confrontational policy, a tactic adopted to create an environment of mutual understanding between Nigeria and her economic partners in order to enhance domestic economic growth and development. The tactic is predicated on the offer by Nigeria of more incentives to investors, information dissemination, the mobilization of all relevant actors, the posting of 'competent' economic diplomats to man trade sections of Nigeria's missions abroad, and above all, the search for general understanding of Nigeria's economic problems by the country's principal trading partners. Most foreign policy experts believe that the next administration will be guided by economic diplomacy in the nation's external relations with African countries and this should be manifest in the areas of trade, economic co-operation and technical assistance. Only economic diplomacy may provide be a launching-pad for charting a safe direction for a paradigm shift. The much-needed paradigm shift has become a sine qua non, in the light of emerging challenges of democratization and globalization. We cannot afford the luxury of a floundering diplomacy, characterized by purposelessness, inconsistency and inertia.
The dynamics of world diplomacy have made it imperative for Nigeria to adopt multilateralism as a policy option, with the welfare of her citizens and the health of her economy as her overriding national interest. Nigeria is harassed by bad statistics in terms of power supply, poor physical infrastructure, low capacity utilization and poor Human Capital Development, with good governance, the nation still stands the chance of maintaining a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. There is therefore the need for paradigm shift to project her image and recapture her leadership role in Africa. Nigeria must play herself to reckoning among the big powers, engage in a forward looking multilateral diplomacy to revamp her battered image and resuscitate the economic well-being of Nigerians at home and abroad.
Idumange John, wrote from Yenagoa