Godwin Ukaa, Abuja

Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama,

Like most countries of the world, Nigeria’s foreign policy has evolved over the years. Today, its focus is on citizen and economic diplomacy.

Experts define citizen diplomacy as one that places the welfare of Nigerian citizens at home and abroad above all considerations, while economic diplomacy hinges emphasis on the bilateral and multilateral economic and technological development of the country.

The concepts were first introduced into the nation’s foreign policy in the 1990s, with the aim to galvanise citizens to actively participate in the economic development of the country. Prominent citizens at home and abroad were consequently engaged and empowered to negotiate trade concessions, attract foreign investors and secure debt rescheduling and payment to western creditors.

Nigeria from independence placed Africa at the heart of its foreign policy. During the continent’s struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism, Nigeria increasingly played key roles in regional, continental and global peace-keeping and peace-building, earning for itself the status of a frontline state. It vigorously pursued objectives that propelled its national interest in bilateral and multilateral relations, hinged on the promotion of democracy.

The country also spearheaded the formation of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS and its military observer group-ECOMOG, which ostensibly facilitated the containment and return of peace and order to the then war-torn countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, among other continental and global crises.

Since May 29 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, there has arguably been a new momentum to Nigeria’s role and status in international activities and multinational relations.

At a world press conference on March 28, 2016, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, articulated the foreign policy direction of the administration as including extensions of the country’s domestic objectives, anchored on a tripod vision of security, economic development and tackling corruption. This signalled the start of a new approach to the country’s foreign policy.

For a fact, the President’s active direct engagement with the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad, Benin and Niger Republics through the constitution of the Multinational Joint Taskforce-MJTF, has led to the current technical successes recorded in the routing of the security threat posed by boko haram in the North-east of Nigeria. This is in addition to other logistic support from Britain China, France, the United States and other countries, which helped to strengthen the MJTF.

The Nigerian President’s strong voice in soliciting collective efforts to combat terrorism at the 25th AU Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2015 and at other international fora, has no doubt helped to spur the outpouring of global support for the country.

For the first time in the history of Nigeria, more than six billion dollars worth of investments have been attracted to the country from the Peoples Republic of China. The sum is to be invested in key sectors of the Nigerian economy including agriculture, housing, power, rail transport and solid minerals. China’s Foreign Direct Investment is expected to stimulate the economy and create jobs for the country’s teeming unemployed youths.

President Buhari’s diplomatic shuttles to the G7 Summit in Germany, Oil and Gas Summit in Iran, Energy Summit in the US, Renewable Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, Summit of OPEC member states in Qatar and State visit to China, have continued to accrue benefits to Nigeria in bilateral and multilateral agreements. Undoubtedly, the President’s new approach to fostering Nigeria’s foreign policy has rekindled confidence in and respect for the country.

Moving forward, Nigeria must assiduously develop its local technology, articulate strong legislations for entrepreneurial innovations, a skills-producing education system, provide adequate security and court amiable trading partners, to consolidate its new diplomatic gains and sustain its status as a global diplomatic and economic player.