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Nigeria’s Foreign Policy (1999 – 2015)

Nigeria’s Foreign Policy (1999 – 2015)

Foreign policy expresses self-interest strategies chosen by the state to protect its national interests and also to achieve its goals and objectives within the international relations arena. Thus, the various approaches are strategically used in order to interact with other countries of the world. In international politics, nations are solely interested in achieving two basic things – national interest and foreign policy. The former begets the latter.

National interest accentuates taking action on issues that would develop or improve the political situation, the economic and social wellbeing, the health and culture of the people as well as their political survival. In other words, national interest is people-oriented policies that have the capacity to improve the lot of the nation’s citizens and make them stand head above other nations.

It must be policies that would promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number of the citizens. For example, a policy that brings about the creation of full employment in the country and at the same time advance the nation’s march towards economic and political emancipation vis-à-vis other members of the international system.

A country’s foreign policy, also referred to as the ‘international relations policy’ is a set of political and economic goals that seeks to shape how a country will interact with other counties in the international arena. Thus, foreign policies are generally designed to help safeguard a country’s national interests, national security, ideological goals and economic prosperity.

It’s made up of decisions and actions which involve to some appreciable length, relations between one state and others. It is a set of clear objectives with regard to world beyond the borders of a given social unit and a set of strategies and tactics designed to achieve those objectives.

This implies the perception of a need to influence the behaviour of other states or international organization. The aim is to make sure that such states or international organization maintain the existing pattern of behaviour especially if the influencing state recognizes such as contributing to the achievement of its own objectives or to change the present pattern by introducing a new set of policies or by altering or halting the implementation of existing ones.

Nigeria’s foreign policy since independence has been viewed from different perspectives in recent times. One of the most dominant perspectives of Nigeria’s foreign policy is that “it is chameleon in nature. A foreign policy constantly in a state of flux as a result of internal and external dynamics inherent in any given administration or regime. Some writers however maintained that regardless of the frequent changes, the substance of Nigeria’s foreign policy has remained the same.

The formation and implementation of Nigeria’s foreign policy from independence has been carried out in no fewer than fifteen different administrations through the ministry of foreign affairs. From Tafawa Balewa’s administration in 1960 to the current President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, these various administrations – including the different military regimes which took over administrative power in Nigeria for over a cumulative period of 35 years, of the entire 56 years of the existence of Nigeria’s foreign policy-maintained that it pursued the same national interest with regards to the nation’s foreign policy.

The consequence of the changing nature of Nigeria’s foreign policy, there has been a glut of conceptual ideological transitions in Nigeria’s foreign policy machinery.   Studies indicate that past administrations made every effort towards an epistemological construction and definition of the thrust of Nigeria’s foreign policy.

These conceptualizations are often regime specific and born out of a psychological and selfish hunger of various administrations or regimes to shape an identity which will leave a lasting impression in the minds of Nigerians. To this notion, Pin laments: “…these ideologies are not necessarily products of deep and profound philosophical reflections.”

Concepts and ideologies that have been recommended over the years since independence include: Africa as the centre piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy, Dynamic foreign policy, and national consensus in foreign policy, Economic diplomacy, Citizen Diplomacy and the transformation agenda of Nigeria’s foreign policy are a few examples among many other ideologies which in many ways have not been achieved.

Nigeria’s Foreign Policy under Olusegun Obasanjo’s Civilian Administration (1999-2007)

Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected as the civilian president and at the beginning of this new administration, revitalization of the derailing economy for the well-being of the Nigerian people was identified as a major platform for sustainable democratic order. However, it was generally agreed that to reposition the Nigerian economy for the desired growth, issues such as declining Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the debt problem and repatriation of ill-gotten wealth must be appropriately addressed.

The need to balance the domestic and external contexts brought about an initial foreign policy that required extensive outreach diplomacy during the early years of the Obasanjo administration. Indeed, between May 1999 and mid-August 2002, it was reported that Obasanjo had embarked on 113 foreign trips, spending 340 days out of the country. In explaining his reasons for undertaking the trips, Obasanjo stated:

I have devoted much time and energy journeying virtually all corners of the globe in my personal effort to positively reintegrate our country into the international community and attract investment. We are happy to report that the results from these trips have been encouraging enough to confirm my personal belief and the advice of marketing experts namely that personal contact is the best way to market your product, and my product is Nigeria.

President Obasanjo and the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Alhaji Sule Lamido, travelled extensively in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas to promote Nigeria’s bilateral relations, even at the expense of very strong criticisms of the President’s “excessive” overseas tours. Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo gave an insight into how he took stock of his administration’s achievements on the external plane. These can be summarized in the sub topics below:

Conflict Resolution

The administration made strong attempts to restore confidence and credibility to Nigeria’s contribution to the prevention, management and resolution of various conflicts in Africa and elsewhere. At the Algiers Summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1999, Obasanjo’s proposal that the year 2000 be made the Year of Peace, Security and Solidarity was adopted by the Summit.

Also in September 1999, during the fourth extra-ordinary OAU Summit in Sirte, Libya, Obasanjo’s proposal for the convening of a Ministerial Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA) was implemented, the conference was held in Abuja from 8th – 9th of May, 2000.

The administration worked towards achieving that the peace and stability process in Sierra Leone, after Nigeria and ECOMOG‟s ending of the civil war, was being handled by the United Nations, thereby reducing Nigeria’s financial commitment. Nigeria also ensured that its military personnel continued to feature regularly in the regional and international peacekeeping missions. Such places included Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Western Sahara and the Balkans.

In the Mano River area, Nigeria continued to broker peace between Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in an effort to put an end to the cycle of violence. In Sierra Leone for instance, Nigeria is playing a leading role in the task of reconstruction after years of civil war. Nigeria has also contributed the sum of $100,000 for the take-off of the Special Court to try war criminals.

Also in Zimbabwe, Nigeria was greatly responsible for the “thawing of the ice” in the potentially dangerous land crisis. The land crisis in the country was rightly identified as a potential flash point for conflict, which could consume most of Southern Africa, with consequences going far beyond the continent of Africa.

Through the instrumentality of the Commonwealth, the Abuja Agreement was brokered, to break the logjam. This Agreement remains the most laudable mechanism for resolving the Zimbabwean crisis to date.  The Chief Obasanjo’s administration demonstrated that it was committed to making sure that African continent is peaceful since peace and stability were the basic conditions for any meaningful development.

Consular: Welfare of Nigerians

In this respect, a new consular policy was formulated in the Obasanjo administration, which would be the guiding framework for Nigerian Missions in dealing with cases of citizens of Nigerian outside the country, regardless of the circumstances of their departure from the country or their current immigration status abroad. Nigeria’s diplomatic missions abroad made it know repeatedly to their host countries that the dignity of Nigerian citizens must be respected; migrant workers of Nigerian origin protected and those trafficked should be recognized as victims who must be assisted rather than be desensitized.

Indeed the policy also sought a share of the international labour market for Nigerian workers in almost all fields of endeavour. In that regard, Nigeria and a number of countries, notable Italy, Ireland and Spain concluded frameworks for cooperation on mutual and bilateral assistance on labour. With this Nigeria will be able to provide manual labour (manpower) to countries that have signed the agreement.

Regional Integration

It was of the belief in Nigeria that the integration of African economies could be rapidly achieved through the proposed African Union, thus it instigated the active support of the government in facilitating the eventual adoption of the treaty establishing the African Union (AU). It was as a result of Chief Obasanjo’s intervention that the Heads of States adopted the Constitutive Act of the Union, during the Lome Summit in December 2000.

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Nigeria’s backing for the establishment of the AU was simply based on the belief that its character, content and form were in consonance with the esteemed vision of the Organization of African Union (OAU) founding fathers and the aspiration of Africans for the unity and prosperity of it peoples.

In 2002 the OAU was finally transformed into the African Union (AU) as well as the successful conclusion of the Durban Summit. It was Nigeria’s belief that if the African Union lived up to its expectation of becoming a catalyst for political, economic and social transformation of the African continent, then the ideals and goals and objectives of the founding fathers of the OAU of a united, strong and prosperous Africa would have been given vent.

The ‘Fast Track’ approach to integration in the West African region was led the Chief Obasanjo’s administration. On December 9th, 1999 at the 22nd Summit of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Authority of Heads of States and Governments in Lome, Togo, Nigeria made a groundbreaking proposal for a fast track approach to integration of the sub-region. This process, which originally involved close economic relations with Ghana, has now brought about the establishment of a Free Trade Area involving Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Niger and Ghana. It also has resulted in considerable progress made in further integration of our currencies, transport and power systems.

The successful inauguration of the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) in Libreville, Gabon in November, 1999 can be regarded to be the most outstanding achievement of Nigeria during the tenure of Obasanjo in the area of sub-regional cooperation. The Gulf of Guinea Commission comprising Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, Congo, DRC and Angola, has as its principal objective as follows; the strengthening of economic and political cooperation among member states as well as the provision of a forum for cooperation within sub-regional institutions such as ECOWAS and the Central African Economic Community (SEMAC).

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Approximately eleven years after it was first proposed by Nigeria, the final take-off of the GGC was a hallmark diplomatic achievement for the country. The achievement recorded was largely as a result to the new democratic dispensation in the country and Nigeria’s acknowledged leadership role in Africa.

Obasanjo’s effort at achieving cooperation among nations was not restricted alone to the African continent as it was also extended to the Third World through his chairmanship of the G77. As a result of been the chairman of the G77, during the year 2000, Nigeria successfully re-energized the group by convening a meeting at a Summit level meeting of the G77 for the first time since its establishment 36 years ago in Havana, Cuba on 12th April 2000.

As the chairman of the G77 in 2000, Obasanjo, together with former leader of Libya Mouamar Ghaddafi, put forward a South Healthcare Delivery Programme that was later accepted at the Havana Summit of the group. The aim of the programme is to provide assistance to the Healthcare sector of the needy members of the G77.

The Secretariat of the programme is based in Nigeria. In July 2002, the programme was formally launched with the first batch of volunteers heading for Chad, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Niger. The budget for the programme was estimated at $21 million and both Nigeria and Libya contributed about 50% of the budget while Cuba supported with thousands of medical staff

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