Jonathan's Transformational Diplomacy

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The Jonathan administration has popularized the term “transformational leadership” as a mantra nay a buzzword for good governance. Expectedly, transformational leadership will affect all facets of life including the country's diplomacy. For the past couple of weeks this diplomatic permutation was drowned by contestations about a 6-year single tenure. Now that the matter has taken a backseat, Nigerians will devote more time to discuss the dozens of unfulfilled promises of the PDP administration. The general perception is that Nigeria has lost its competitive edge in African diplomacy because of her inability of re-defining her national interest within the context of global diplomacy. This of course is not far from the truth.

In his article on Obasanjo's foreign policy, Reubin Abati, now Presidential spokesman, gives an interesting and complete overview of Nigeria's foreign policy since its independence. He rightly points out 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 today's diplomacy as we move into the next millennium. Africa as the centerpiece of Nigeria's foreign policy no longer suffices; a broader perspective is necessary. Although Nigeria hasn't got the means and might to have a global foreign policy, it should endeavour to take more into consideration current trends in international relations and diplomacy such as globalization, human rights, and democracy.

Nigeria- the purported giant of Africa can be likened to a Shark. The shark is a fish that always moves forward. Nigerian diplomacy has been static, pitching her decrepit tent as a member of the NAM; and later making Africa as the centre piece of her foreign policy. Most diplomatic experts believe that these foreign policy paradigms are ant equated. With the popularization of the transformational leadership there is no doubt that Nigeria is destines to regain her continental dominance in African diplomacy while strengthening her niche areas or distinctive advantages.

There is now a need for Nigeria to revamp her educational system so as to regain her pride of place as an intellectual powerhouse of Africa - a position we have adopted hopelessly without result for five decades. We have enough resources to reward Free Education should be pursued at the basic levels to the university levels. There are enough resources in Nigeria for all level of government to provide non-fee paying education. Today the educational system suffers enormous financial malnutrition. Considering the nexus between education and the economy, Nigeria is capable of revitalizing all the moribund industries. Again over the years Nigeria has placed emphasis on the university education but not much has been achieved in the area of intermediate manpower. Emphasis should shift to these areas now.

In Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Asian tigers, intermediate manpower provides the locomotive for growth of the real sector of the economy. This is why the Kingsley Kuku administered Amnesty Program has adopted the right strategy in grooming an army of skilled intermediate manpower in the Niger Delta Region. Whereas, there are so many top flight academics, professors, engineers, medical doctors, pilots, welders, seafarers, boat builders and other techno-vocational skills are in short supply. Most of these positions have been taken over by the Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Lebanese and other developing countries.

The Jonathan administration has to learn from the Asian Tigers to provide adequate funding of foreign embassies and appoint career diplomats to handle issues that are professional and technical in Nigeria. It is painful that Nigeria's Sat 1 fell from orbit and I wonder if China has paid back the N40 billion Nigeria lavished on the satellite project. Now, Nigeria wants to launch 2 satellites into orbit.

Most of the telecom companies operating in Nigeria are not efficient because of poor power infrastructure and total absence of Nigerian satellite in orbit. The tariffs we pay in Nigeria are prohibitive services are epileptic; and payers have no value for their money. In my opinion, successive military dictatorships in Nigeria have used the Africa cornerstone slogan to lure compliant like-minded African regimes to support their unpopular regimes. This was the price Nigeria had to pay for the support of dictatorial African states. Now, we are a democracy and we have to speak out and stand tall within the international community. We no longer have to beg for support from other military dictatorships for limited gains within African diplomatic circles. Africa alone should no longer be the one and only reason for the existence of a foreign policy in Nigeria. None of the important international diplomatic actors, such as the USA, France and Great Britain, build their foreign policy on only one pillar. Nigeria shouldn't be an exception if it wants to play a role in current high level diplomatic circles.

Regarding image building, Dora's rebranding failed because Nigeria had and has no brand as at now. It was astonishing to observe how Nigerian diplomats and information ministry officials were incapable of formulating a message destined for international consumption to counter the international press campaign against Nigeria. The incapacity of Nigerian officials at the time to explain these decisions to the international public led to the deteriorated image of Nigeria abroad. The effects are very deep-rooted and years will be required to correct the image. The image problem is what makes it difficult for the USA and some countries in Europe to process Nigerian visas as speedily as they would have done.

Nigeria is a country that has a huge policy vacuum. Nigeria is still grappling to develop a diplomatic culture, which will in turn precisely define in policy terms what its cultural policy is and what it aims to achieve outside the country. What does cultural cooperation with foreign countries imply? Does it simply mean encouraging foreign artists to organize tours in Nigeria or foreign countries to establish flourishing cultural and language centres in Lagos, Abuja and elsewhere in the country? Where in the world does Nigeria have a cultural centre worthy of its title? In the field of defense, what is our defense policy? Does it simply mean protecting the external and internal territorial integrity of the Nigeria? Protecting the integrity of the country against who? In short, who are our enemies and who are our friends? What type of relations should we have with all our French-speaking neighbouring countries considering that all of them have over thirty years old defense and military pacts with France, one of the world's leading military and industrial powers?

On Nigeria and its citizens abroad, what does the country intend to do to make them contribute in their own way to the economic, cultural, scientific and technological development of the country? In certain African countries, citizens residing abroad vote and take active part in political activities. What would Nigeria do to encourage its democracy to evolve toward such an objective? Nigerians living abroad should be encouraged to have closer relations with the motherland. Nigeria's foreign policy should include all these actors for a more global approach to policy issues than in the past.

Such a policy shift would mean a very careful choice of external actors. Although I would not advocate dropping Africa, Nigeria needs to make a careful choice of our closest allies based not on the wealth or technological advancement of the partner but on Nigeria's vital national interests in the cultural, economic, political, scientific and technical areas as well as in the military field. A commission comprising diplomats, top-level military officers, university professors and politicians should be set-up to review our foreign policy objectives and to redefine our vital national interests. Its mandate should be short and precise. These interests should be made the fundamental guidelines of all our foreign policy objectives in Africa, the European Union, America - North and South, Asia and the Pacific.

The fact is that Nigeria's domestic policies have not provided an enabling environment to support her foreign policy posturing as 'giant of Africa”. Apart from blind ideological loyalty and the adoption of moribund foreign policy paradigms, Nigeria adopted an Afro-centric foreign policy anchored on the Concentric Circle Theory has been criticized because it negates economic diplomacy, which thrives on multilateralism. Over the past two decades, 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.

Even in Africa, Nigerians suffer rejection and even maltreatment wherever they go. Our police is fast becoming a terrorist outfit. The traffic police and the Federal Road Safety men have built unauthorized toll gates, and because of our inability to cleanse the domestic environment, Ojo Madueke's citizen's diplomacy was a weeping failure. President Jonathan's transformational diplomacy should address all these gray areas re-engineer economic diplomacy by way of moving closer to progressive nations in Europe, America and Asia. It should not pass for mere rhetoric as it was the case in the past. Nigeria cannot afford to grope in the diplomatic theatre anymore and Jonathan's transformational diplomacy has to change this ugly scenario.

Idumange John, wrote from Yenagoa

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Articles by Idumange John