NIGERIA’S SUCCESSES IN THE DIPLOMATIC CIRCLE SINCE INDEPENDENCE

Adoba Echono, Abuja

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Nigeria’s foreign policy architecture at independence was crafted around the imperative of Africa as the center piece of its external relations. This gave birth to the Afro-centric posture and principle that has underpinned relations with the outside world to date.

Challenges of nation-building notwithstanding, Nigeria remained committed and consistent with its foreign policy thrust, adding citizen and economic diplomacy to its initial policy of being Afro-centric.

The country demonstrated its capacity and capability in championing the wellbeing of the constituting members of the African community by championing the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union.

Similarly, Nigeria supported and funded struggles for independence in many African countries, along with the de-legitimization of white minority rule in South Africa, Angola and other liberation movements in Southern African countries. This act earned her membership of the Frontline States.

Nigeria’s involvement in Africa then and in present times, has been devoid of self-interest, as evidenced in its diplomatic maneuverings during the struggle and restoration of peace in countries such as Sudan, Liberia and Sierra Leon amongst others. The critical role played by Nigeria, led to the end of civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, while contributing the bulk of the peacekeeping forces to the two countries in 1990.

Nigeria began the funding of the two foremost liberation groups in South Africa, notably the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress (PAC) in 1961 and in 1970; the country began a five million US Dollar annual subvention for these groups as a big brother, picking up all the bills and sacrificing its comfort for other African countries.

All civil servants and public officers in Nigeria donated two percent of their monthly salary in support of African liberation movements.  Furthermore, a significant number of high-profile black freedom fighters were offered asylum in Nigeria, including former Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, between 1977 and 1984.

 

Nigeria also led a consortium of African States that lobbied for the creation of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid.  In fact, before Nigeria’s support, the ANC fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa was yielding little or no results at all.

 

From 1960 to 1995, Nigeria alone spent over 61 billion Naira more than what any other country in the world spent to fight for freedom in South Africa.

 

Nigeria was admitted into the United Nations in 1960 as the 99th member in order to join forces with other progressive members to help lift this burden from the continent by untying the thumb of militant supremacist and colonial regimes.

In a critical effort to cushion the pains of endangered States on the continent, General Olusegun Obasanjo, in December 1976, launched the Southern Africa Relief Fund and the money realized was sent to Angola, Namibia and South Africa.

Nigeria also championed the promotion of the rapid socio-economic development of Africa through regional economic integration; the strengthening of regional economic institutions such as ECOWAS and the reduction of economic dependence on extra-continental powers.

This reasoning gave birth to the formation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on 28 May 1975 with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos.

Nigeria also provided qualified teachers, lecturers and medical personnel under its Technical Aid Corps (TAC) to universities and medical institutions across Africa and other Asia and Pacific nations.

In pursuit of a foreign policy based on good neighbourliness and security for all, when President Muhammadu Buhari took over power in 2015, he started his official international trips with visits to Niger and Chad, and later Cameroun, Guinea, as well as Benin Republic, to re-invigorate the brotherly relations. It was also to particularly solicit their support in the war against international terrorism, particularly the Boko Haram insurgency in the North Eastern part of Nigeria and the contingent states of Niger, Chad and Cameroun.

The trips led to the creation of the Multinational Joint Task Force consisting mainly of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Benin and Cameroun, aimed at defeating the Boko Haram terrorists and bringing peace and development to the Lake Chad Region.

The influence of Nigeria in the region has been leveraged by President Buhari in his interventions in the political crises in the Gambia, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau, as well as, most recently in Guinea Conakry. This has restored relative peace and political stability to those countries.

Nigeria has over the years made tremendous sacrifices to the liberation and wellbeing of most African countries. However, these efforts appear not to have been well appreciated by other countries, forcing it now to concentrate more on citizen and economic diplomacy.

 

 

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