What Diplomacy Cannot Do for Nigeria

 

By: Idumange John

 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can be likened to a marketing department of a firm. The foreign policy of any State is designed mainly to protect and advance the national interest of the people. According
to Alfred Thayer Mahan, an American naval officer, “Self-interest is not only
legitimate, but a fundamental, cause for national policy; one which needs no
cloak of hypocrisy. A virile public diplomacy can be instrumental to the
development of a nation.

 

Diplomacy is the art of conducting and implementing foreign policy. It is the process by which diplomats seek to achieve foreign-policy goals through the instrumentality of negotiations and
bargaining by State and non-State actors. The essence of diplomacy is
bargaining, which involves the use of both the carrot and the stick. Because of
the importance attached to economic diplomacy, some nations appoint highly
specialized commercial diplomats. Economic welfare is a key preoccupation of
the foreign and domestic policies of a state.
The
paramount objective of diplomacy for any state is the creation and maintenance
of adequate safeguards for continued existence and for mutual advantage of the
actors.

 

Recently, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Odein Ajumogobia fielded questions on a huge range of issues.  His comments permeated very salient issues affecting Nigeria’s national interest and stability. By my own assessment, diplomacy
moved
away from government to government to other non-state
actors, who try to influence a greater audience in a world where communication
has been facilitated by informatics. Diplomacy - viewed from the perspective a
part of science, diplomacy is an indispensable tool of statecraft, which could
be accomplished through the instrumentality of accredited officials, which in
the case of Nigeria is the Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Minister, took a historical excursion to point out the efforts of the leaders to unite a diverse nation made up of a mosaic of 250 separate and distinct
ethnic nationalities into a modern nation. Again The Minister mentioned the
protracted military juntas occasioned by 
destabilizing coup d’etats, and a fratricidal 30-month civil war. He
pointed to the fact that Nigeria has been able to overcome the centrifugal
forces of  primordial ethnic nationalism,
religious diversity and  the colonial
hangover – which have made unity and stability extremely difficult. These are
facts of history we cannot ignore.

On Vision 20:2020, the foreign Minister said “President Goodluck Jonathan is unrelenting in his advocacy of this vision. It has become evident that the president is determined
to do all that is necessary to firmly place Nigeria on the path of
constitutional democracy and good governance, through the conduct of free and
fair elections and ensuring transparency and accountability. He went further “
Nigeria has witnessed a series of fundamental changes in the nation’s electoral
system. The era of impunity, electoral fraud and malpractices is about to end,
as far-reaching changes are taking place in the electoral commission, but the
impunity of PDP may be a worse dictatorship.

Nigerians know that for the better part of three years now, national crises including political National crises are increasingly being resolved constitutionally, and
the Nigerian people are beginning to reassert their rights to hold their
leaders accountable. Despite the fact that there are still many areas of
weakness that require improvement, it is encouraging that most neutral analysis
of Nigeria concludes that things are improving and that Nigeria is getting
better. To recapture our lost years, the government of President Jonathan has
embarked on a long term development plan, to significantly enlarge Nigeria’s economy
and capacity by the year 2020. In diplomatic language, state actors say what is
not achievable in so far as the national interest of their countries are at
stake. In a dynamic society such as our, diplomacy should serve a more
constructive purpose.

The Minister was right when he posited that President Jonathan has set in motion a process of profound political and economic reform. These reforms were initially initiated
by his two civilian predecessors to engender political stability, economic
growth, wealth and job creation. At the core of this reform is rejuvenating a
policy of uncompromising supremacy of the rule of law, transparency,
accountability, openness and due process in governance and in procurement. There
can be no doubt that the prevalence of such democratic values in combination
with policies and the will to finally harness its vast resources,
entrepreneurial talent and creative capacity of the Nigerian people - as well,
of course, as appropriate support from our friends-will propel Nigeria to
realize its potential, to be among the 20 largest economies in the world in
less than a generation.

Nigeria has been involved in peace-keeping but at whose cost? It is true that Nigeria should be involved in peace-keeping for strategic reasons but strategic reasons are not
enough to invest massively in a democracy of another country while Nigeria’s
democratic structures are fledgling. Nigeria still maintains the largest
contingents of peacekeeping forces in Darfur and Liberia and in many ways has
borne the highest cost. The African Union is now advocating a change of mandate
for AMISOM, that’s the hybrid peacekeeping force in Somalia, from peacekeeping
to peace enforcement. While the FM may be said to be right, the value all these
have added to good governance ala democracy
is difficult to quantify.

Nigeria is the biggest economy in West Africa and the second-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, responsible, even with the current challenges it faces, for over 60
percent of the region’s GDP. With a population estimated at 150 million,
Africa’s most populous nation has a youthful population and the hope that that
brings. With respect to natural resources, Nigeria currently has the sixth
largest deposits of gas in the world and (is) the eighth largest producer of
petroleum in the world. More than 34 solid minerals exist in exploitable
commercial quantities, but Nigeria is yet to develop the solid mineral sector
to maximize economic growth. 

Sometime ago, Olu Adeniji observed that “the more affluent and self-reliant the economy is, the greater the possibility for a more independent and influential policy”. Not only are African states unable
to exercise adequate influence on world events, they are in most cases,
compelled to re-order their foreign policy goals to accord with domestic
economic strength and external interests. Because of Nigeria’s mono-product
economy, the nation’s ability to generate and expend power in the international
system is very limited. For example, Nigeria is the largest producer of crude
oil in Africa and the sixth largest oil produces in the Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), yet the Human Development Report of the
United Nations shows that over 70 percent of the 150 million people live below
the poverty line. The poverty index among the urban poor and rural dwellers is so
overwhelming that many people  believe
that the natural endowments of the nation have become a source of stagnation.

 

These strong economic blocs woo the LDCs with a promise of enlarging their economic space but they lack the institutional genes and capacity to benefit optimally from globalization.
Presently, Nigeria cannot evolve any sustainable economic model to escape the
poverty-insecurity nexus. On the contrary, we are running a war economy, with
all indices such as infant and maternal mortality, life-expectancy rate,
unemployment and low productivity as signals that we are inching towards the
slippery slope of failure. It is now obvious that the formal economic space
will be narrow even as the criminal economy expands exponentially.

 

The reality of the Nigeria situation is that the political space seems to be expanding but there is a tendency towards one party system. This is evidenced in the gale of
carpet-crossing to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Nigeria is on the
fast lane to a one party system, and this a dangerous signal for democracy in
the land. There is also the crying need to entrench internal democracy within
the PDP - which has become the greatest liability and obstacle to good
governance in Nigeria.

There can be no disputing the fact that Nigeria is well endowed with natural and human resource but  the economy is grossly mismanaged by
a band of economy opportunists and it does appear that the Federal Government
seem helpless in prosecuting the principle perpetrators and accomplices. The
argument that Nigeria GDP manageable high but vision 20:2020 is not achievable
because the nation’s wealth is frittered off shores by a few corrupt
politicians. Corruption is a very lethal threat to the pursuit of good
governance, and our diplomacy should be tilted in this direction.

Nigeria is not industrializing and diplomacy cannot establish industries in Nigeria. Diplomacy cannot also eradicate poverty, but diplomacy can assist in negotiating debt relief, encourage Foreign
Direct Investments (FDI’s) in the non-oil sector. Nigeria can also use the
instrumentality of diplomacy to promote policies that are capable of
strengthening existing institutions to fight corruption and entrench good
governance. Diplomacy cannot create employment for youths but can promote
conditions favourable for macroeconomic policies to flourish. Diplomacy without
morality cannot address the Niger Delta crisis because there is no culture on
earth that would expropriate a people of their natural resources without
compensation. However, diplomacy can compel the Multinationals to take their
Corporate Social Responsibilities more seriously, but not without giving the
people of the NDR a sense of ownership of their land and resources. Nigeria needs
an effective leadership that can explore these possibilities.

 

If the present conditions persist, the scourge of poverty would reach unimaginable dimensions. The conditions in urban centres would also worsen with more shantytowns, more congested roads, more
beggars and more delinquents. Thus at 50, Nigeria would be grappling with the
very notion of national sovereignty in all its ramifications. It is against this
background that most Nigerians believe the 50th independence
anniversary of the nation does not deserve the grandeur, trumpeting and fanfare
the Federal Government has proposed for it. It would send a clear message if
Nigerians celebrate the anniversary in sobriety without the vuvuzzelas.

 

 

Idumange John, is  a  Fellow of the Institute of Public Management, Nigeria

 

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