To take a critical look at Nigeria Foreign Policy, one must first understand what foreign policy is and the reasons for it. With that in mind, we will take a good stead to see the problems of Nigeria Foreign Policy and then possible solutions.
What is Foreign Policy?
Foreign policy or foreign affairs policy are those advantageous strategies a country employs to protect its national interest and achieve specific goals for the benefit of its citizenry and country generally.
The word foreign of course implies that these strategies are taken in relation to other countries, hence the equivalent term “Foreign Relations”.
Reasons for Foreign Policy
As countries differ so will their foreign policy differ. However, the reasons for having foreign policy cut across nations and some of those reasons are as follows:
1. To achieve national goals.
2. Promote economic interests of the country.
3. Have defined approach towards other countries.
4. Tackle global issues through multilateral cooperation.
5. Protect the territorial integrity of the country.
6. Protect the interests of its citizens, both within and outside the country.
With these general reasons, we can cull that having foreign relations with other countries is quite necessary since no country can be entirely self-sufficient. Different factors determine how a country’s foreign policy is drawn.
Focus of Nigeria Foreign Policy
According to Section 19 of the 1999 Constitution, the objectives of Nigeria’s foreign relation are:
1. Promotion and protection of national interest.
2. Promotion of African integration and support for African unity.
3. Promotion of international cooperation for the consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect among all nation, and elimination of discrimination in all its manifestation.
4. Respect for international law and treaty obligations as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication.
5. Promotion of a just world economic order.
Item number two, focused on Africa, as stated in the constitution seems to have taken the fore from Nigeria’s independence until now, earning her the title “Giant of Africa”.
As regards implementing the objectives above, Nigeria belongs to quite a number of organizations. Some of them are: African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations, Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), African National Congress, African Development Bank, Commonwealth of Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, Interpol, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, World Health Organization, World Trade Organization and a host of others.
Given where Nigeria is presently, some success has been recorded in foreign relations as seen in her numerous efforts in keeping the peace in Africa by providing the majority of the ECOWAS troops at different times. Nigeria also lends forces to United Nations Peacekeeping Operations around the world.
To fully achieve the reasons for foreign policy though, some challenges have to be tackled.
Problems of Nigeria Foreign Policy
Some of the major problems of Nigeria foreign policy are:
1. Security Threats
Nigeria has faced its fair share of security threats like the militancy issues from the Niger Delta, and boko haram issues from her Northern region.
Having foreign relations with other countries should foster investments from such countries, but the security challenges posed by these threatening groups within the country make it quite unappealing to foreign investors. Bad news travels fast, and with ample help from social media, even worse.
It does not help either that these terrorist groups that threaten the nation’s security are not trying to hide their actions.
2. Unstable Economy
Following closely to security threats is Nigeria’s unstable economy as a factor that impedes foreign direct investment (FDI). Nigeria has a lot of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) that are signed but not in force.
The reason for this can be pinned to her unstable, corrupt and politicized economy. There is an urgent need for action to see these partnerships leading to sustainable development in the country.
3. Political Fragility
Inasmuch as treaties are signed for the countries involved and not the individual as head of state per se, foreign relations can suffer if there is a change in the government of a country.
Nigerian investments in a country may take a downturn if there is a change in the government of such country and vice versa.
4. Perceptions about Nigeria
The old narrative about Nigeria and Africa in general is still pretty much the same despite all efforts and accomplishments by its citizens.
This greatly hinders good relations among the comity of nations. The international community tends to relate with Nigeria under suspicion and a level of distrust.
If nothing is done, the country’s reputation will continue to thwart whatever diplomatic missions and representations Nigeria executes in other countries or the international scene generally.
5. Insufficient Food Security
Food insecurity is a chronic problem in Nigeria that has to be addressed. Nigeria has the potential to eliminate hunger, ensure sustainable food security, and produce enough food for export than is the case now.
There is great potential in the agricultural sector if it’s given the attention it deserves – the oil palm, cashew, almond and so many other home grown plant produce can open a huge market for Nigeria and improve foreign relations with countries in dire need of such products.
6. Africa taking Centre Stage
Jaja Wachuku, the first Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs once said, “Charity begins at home and therefore, any Nigerian foreign policy that does not take into consideration the peculiar position of Africa is unrealistic”.
This was as far back as the 1960s, just after independence and Nigeria has been Afrocentric, showing great support in times of need to her neighbours.
Angola, Mozambique, South-Africa, Liberia, Namibia and many others have benefitted from Nigeria foreign policy focused on Africa.
This can continue to be of course but Nigeria foreign policy makers need to integrate how these huge financial expenditures and massive use of human and material resources can pay off rather than the negative results as seen in the xenophobic attacks in South Africa and slavery cases in Libya. As stated earlier, foreign relations should protect national interest.
7. Failure in Citizen Diplomacy
Democratic governance in Nigeria tried to put citizen diplomacy at the fore of her foreign policy. The socio-economic welfare of Nigerian citizens in conducting bilateral and multilateral relations with other countries was at the heart of this move.
The result of this should have been a stream of opportunities for Nigerians to prosper and be involved in vast issues of national and international heights with great return on foreign direct investments.
Since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999 until now, the benefits of this ground for foreign policy is still poorly unrealized.
8. Varying Cultures and Historical Traditions
It is a well-known fact that Nigeria possesses diverse cultures and in many ways, its citizenry still struggle with unity issues internally.
With the Eastern parts seeking emancipation of some sorts and the Northern states with its threats to mention the more pronounced cases.
A country that is culturally and historically fragmentized cannot efficiently pursue its foreign policy because there is no unified support from all sections of society.
9. Geography and Natural Resources of Nigeria
Water ways, soil fertility, climate type, land mass and of course Nigeria’s oil rich state are all determining factors in Nigeria foreign relations.
Nigeria’s petroleum industry is the largest on the African continent; Nigeria is a major exporter of oil, making her a country of international interest.
While Nigeria battles internally with clashes and issues resulting from petroleum, her foreign relations for the same reason has been more cons than pros.
Possible Solutions to the Problems of Nigeria Foreign Police
1. Tackle Security Challenges
Relative peace is essential to foster foreign relations. The police force is doing a good job curbing kidnappings and arresting the perpetrators.
The army also seem to be handling the boko haram groups as best as they can. Boko haram however, is no longer just a domestic problem but a regional one.
Collaborating with other African countries to fight the terrorist group is a step in the right direction. Herdsmen issues should be tackled the same way too. A threat-free society will encourage foreign relations.
2. Review of Bilateral Investment Treaties
A thorough review of all concluded bilateral treaties should be carried out to ensure they fulfil the objectives of having a foreign policy.
Long standing BITs should also be reviewed to ensure their relevance to the present economic state of Nigeria.
3. Review Nigeria Foreign Policy
This should cut across the decision making process, introduction of transparency in foreign policy discussions, deploy the best personnel for the review, and reassess factors that hinder the execution of Nigeria foreign policy.
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4. Reinforce Alliances
Some alliances and partnerships with other countries have been mutually beneficial. Such should be reinforced alongside the review as stated earlier.
5. Tackle Underdevelopment
Dealing with underdevelopment will go a long way to eliminate most of the issues faced in foreign relations. Stable economy, reduced poverty rate, food security, good public health, durable infrastructure, well-functioning educational systems and good employment are a few of the factors that represent a developed nation. These factors are appealing and will foster foreign direct investments.
6. Reframe Nigeria’s Image
The narrative of Nigeria in the international media has to change. The perception of Nigeria and Nigerians in diaspora needs to be reframed. Better foreign relations will ensue if the image of Nigerians as terrorists or con artists is changed.
As earlier stated, development will greatly improve Nigeria’s foreign relations. A reviewed and renewed foreign policy that takes into consideration global trends, present economic needs and citizens’ welfare has become inevitable.Click here to see the latest Study Abroad Scholarships and Guides
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