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Nigeria’s Foreign Policy under President Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2015)

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The Nigeria foreign policy position of the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration who succeeded the late Yar’Adua is generally perceived as a continuation of the foreign policy thrust of his predecessor. In his capacity as the acting President, Jonathan went on a number of diplomatic shuttles, as part of a deliberate attempt to reassure the whole world that Nigeria was well and secure despite the internal political challenges especially with the challenges of succession it was going through. Nigeria literally returned to the international arena. Goodluck Jonathan embarked on a trip to the USA where he met with his American counterpart, President Obama which allowed the delisting of Nigeria from the discriminatory rule of the Department of Homeland Security on special screening of passengers on international flights to the United States that specifically targeted Nigerians as a result of the Christmas day attempted bombing a US airline by a Nigerian Abdu Mutallab.

Furthermore, Nigeria’s ambassador to Libya was recalled by Jonathan in protest of suggestion by Muammar Gaddafi that Nigeria should separate into a Muslim North State and a Christian South. The action was taken to checkmate the excesses of the then Libyan leader and send a strong signal that Nigeria will not tolerate such unwarranted interference in the nation’s internal affairs from any State.

The relationship between Nigeria and US continued to improve under Jonathan. The signing of the first US– Nigeria Bi-national Commission was evidence to this. Alao noted, aimed to establish a tool for sustained, bilateral, high-level dialogue to promote and increase diplomatic, economic and security co-operation between the two countries.

Nigeria’s domestic priorities were the Commission’s main concern. These key domestic priorities include good governance, electoral reform and preparations, transparency and anti-corruption, energy (electricity supply) reform and investment, as well as food and agricultural development, which were all key components of what Jonathan promised in his transformation agenda.

In fact, he brought about a purposeful mobilization and instrumentalisation of Nigerians in Diaspora for national development. His administration did not only encourage the formation of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO) in all countries where Nigerians are present, it went further to create a Diaspora Commission to take charge of the affairs of Nigerians in Diasporas and ensure their effective instrumentalisation.

His swift response to the denigrating deportation of Nigerians by South Africa sent a very strong signal that Nigeria “has come of age” and that any attempt to denigrate her has consequences. President Jonathan was able to manage the said Nigeria-South Africa face-off in a diplomatic way which was greatly appreciated by Nigerians.

Also, he wasted little time to order the evacuation of Nigerians trapped in the crisis torn countries like Libya and Egypt in 2011 and January 2012 respectively. In fact, Nigeria was the first country to airlift her citizens from Egypt. In January 2012 Nigeria hosted the fifth Nigeria/EU dialogue aimed at streamlining migration in a globalizing world and in the interest of all parties. This affirmative action’s projected vividly the citizen centered focus of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy.

Special attention to the improvement and strengthening of economic ties with the country’s partners in the international arena as a foundation for stability and growth was given by the Jonathan’s administration. For the first time in many years, there were conscious efforts by Nigeria to ensure that her sacrifices of lives and resources towards restoring peace to many countries in Africa no longer go without commensurate national benefit.

It marked a paradigm shift in Nigeria’s foreign policy. However, focusing on Nigeria’s domestic priorities did not mean abandonment of African issues. It is on this note that the Jonathan regime and through its leadership in ECOWAS effectively managed the dismissal of Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D’Ivoire when he refused to hand over power, after the 2010 Presidential elections in that country. Similar crisis of self perpetuation in office in Niger was also condemned by the Jonathan’s administration.

After President Goodluck completed the tenure of former President Umaru Musa Yar-Adua, he (Jonathan) then contested on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and won the April 2011 presidential election with massive support and expectations among many Nigerians. The president development emphasis was based on transformation programme which according to him was to totally transform every decaying sector in Nigeria.

It was also the time Nigeria was experiencing high level of insecurity occasioned by the activities of Boko – Haram in the North East, corruption and youth’s restiveness among other problems. All these factors contributed negatively to the global perception of Nigeria and Nigerians in the international arena. In order to solve these problems, President Goodluck Jonathan’s foreign policy direction focused on investment and economic co-operation within the global community.

This was made now during the May 29 inaugural and acceptance speech of the President thus: Nigeria’s new foreign policy direction is now on investment and economic co-operation which thus ties Foreign Policy to the country’s domestic agenda, a radical departure from the old one which has Africa as the centre piece. The new foreign policy lay more emphasis on investment rather than political drive as it is the only means of delivering the dividends of democracy to the electorate.

The new posture of government is that – while we retain the leadership role in our sub-region, and while we play our leadership role on the continent by taking the lead in all major issues on the continent, the Foreign Policy direction will also be used to drive the economic and industrial development in Nigeria.

To support his words with actions, a new directive was given to Nigeria’s various diplomatic missions by the president to consider themselves as the operators of the foreign policy in practical terms. They were urged to look for opportunities, ventures, programmes that they could bring to Nigeria to give the new focus a success.

The significant of Jonathan’s foreign policy based to his 2011 inaugural address was to priorities domestic concerns as he clearly stated that, his administration’s foreign policy of externalizing domestic priorities. The concern therefore is that even within the sub-region there should be a new initiative on sub-regional integration based on inputs from the people unlike past efforts which were the exclusive handwork as well as aspiration of the past leaders.

Indeed, to the best of his abilities, diplomatic and bilateral relationship with many countries was renewed. He also addressed international gathering to help Nigeria fight the terror activities of Boko Haram and corruption. He also encouraged Europe and Asian giants to invest in Nigeria’s private sector particularly in the key areas of energy, downstream sector and agriculture. Also, President Jonathan stresses that: “Therefore, there is urgent need for a holistic effort by the government, corporate bodies and individuals to stamp out the evils of insecurity, crime and corruption so that the country is relatively safe for both Nigerians and foreigners” .

Globally, Nigeria’s image had damaged as a result of the widespread of corruption and has resulted in foreign nationals exercising extreme caution in going into business transactions with Nigerians, therefore weakening the nation’s economic sector.

However, President Goodluck did not actually succeeded in implementing foreign policy as seen in USA government refusing to sell weapons to Nigeria to tackle the insurgency issues in Nigeria, and the South Africa government also sizing money meant for Nigeria to purchase weapons to fight Boko Haram among other diplomatic conflicts in the international field. In the same vein, many Nigerians were executed in countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and unprovoked attacks on Nigerian citizens and massive deportation of Nigerians across the globe.

In general, just like other previous administrations in Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan had good policies. However, the problem face by Nigeria’s foreign policy that is affecting the country’s global image is not based on formulation, but rather in implementating these policies formulated Nwankwo. In summary, Nigerian Foreign Policy under the government of Goodluck Jonathans failed to have a significant impact on the global community.

Read also: Nigeria’s Foreign Policy (1999 – 2015)

Nigeria’s Foreign Policy under President Muhammadu Buhari (2015)

Since Nigeria attained independence in 1960, the country has pursued a foreign policy with an alignment to the West, with the exception in the periods of both late Generals Murtala Mohammed and Sani Abacha which saw the country moving to the East. President Muhammadu Buhari who assumed office on the 29th of May 2015 as a democratically elected president of Nigeria has taken some new path in his administration’s foreign policy, mainly in accordance with his party’s (APC) campaign manifesto which promised the electorate that Nigeria’s national interest will guide his foreign policy, after which his administration will focus on the sub-region of West Africa.

President Buhari kept to his promises, he immediately after taking oath of office, he wasted no time in embarking on a high level diplomatic mission to the Lake Chad Countries to drum up support for the fight against insurgency mainly Boko Haram in the North East that nearly overwhelmed his predecessor’s administration. Worthy of note is that the president has not deviated from his three cardinal agenda (fight against insecurity, corruption, economy/job creation) even in his foreign policy implementation.

This can easily be seen from the president’s foreign travels, which have to do with the fight against corruption and negotiations to repatriate Nigeria’s money stashed in foreign countries back to the country, which have since been yielding results, to securing international commitment in the fight against terrorism that has become a global phenomenon. Also, to finding ways of making Nigeria an economically viable country through diversification from oil dependency and the increase in its technological advancement.

Since May 29, 2015, President Buhari has undertaken a total of 31 foreign trips, spending some 53 days outside Nigeria. Buhari’s activist foreign policy role must be considered against his personal convictions, and against the backdrop of his foreign policy engagement as a military head of state. Of the 31 trips undertaken so far, the China visit stands alone in yielding clear results.  Though not initiated by Nigeria, Chinese authorities in their enlightened self-interest, and to safeguard the lopsided Sino-Nigeria trade imbalance, offered Nigeria a Yuan-Naira currency swap and a $6bn loan.

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The currency swap, which is aimed more at undermining the US dollar as Nigeria’s main foreign exchange reserve, helps Buhari’s foreign policy solvency only in a limited way. As if to confirm the vagaries of such on-the-fly foreign policymaking, after the swap was announced, the Naira weakened further.

Three likely strands that may have influenced Buhari’s foreign policy inclinations are as follows: the desire to engender a new and robust foreign policy thrust; the desire to revitalize Nigeria’s stalled foreign policy impetus; and the desire to sustain the past and renowned foreign policy glory by hands-on engagement.

Buhari conducting his foreign policy evokes power, dedication and priority. However, enough can’t be said of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy under the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari because of the scope of the study which is ends in 2015, just six months into the present administration.



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