By Adoba Echono, Abuja

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At independence in 1960, Nigeria anchored its foreign policy on Africa being the centerpiece of all its diplomacy.

This raised highly the image of the Nigerian government and people in the International community, with particular focus on decolonization of the whole of Africa and the end of apartheid in South Africa.

In pursuit of a foreign policy based on good neighbourliness and security for all, President Buhari on assumption of duty in 2015 began his official international trips by visiting Niger and Chad.

This was followed by a visit to Cameroun, Guinea, and Benin Republic to re-invigorate the brotherly relations, and particularly to solicit their support in the war against international terrorism, a part of which is the Boko Haram insurgence and ISWAP in North Eastern Nigeria.

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

The administration’s foreign policy mindset is mainly to focus on Nigeria, its immediate neighbours, the region, Africa and the rest of the world.

This must have informed the policy of the land border closure, for over eight months, between Nigeria and some ECOWAS countries which adversely affected the countries concerned including Nigeria.

However, the aim of the policy was to stop the smuggling of small arms and light weapons and ammunitions as well as foreign rice into Nigeria to reduce insecurity and encourage domestic rice production.

It actually paid-up as domestic rice production skyrocketed and the increase in rice export also rose astronomically.

The border that eventually opened in early January 2021 has no doubt facilitated the needed rapprochement as well as smoothen relations between Nigeria and ECOWAS member States.

This has also cleared the doubts and accusation that Nigeria was breaching the ECOWAS, WTO and the Africa Continental Trade Organization protocols regarding the free movement of peoples, goods and services in the region.

Nigeria has leveraged its influence in the region by its intervention in the political crises in the Gambia, Mali, Ivory Coast, and Guinea Bissau, which brought relative peace, and political stability in those countries.

President Buhari diplomatic sagacity led to Nigeria’s procurement of Tucano aircrafts to fight insurgency from America under the former President Donald Trump. This same move was blatantly rejected by the previous government of Barack Obama of the United States.

Under the leadership of President Buhari, Nigerians attained key positions in global institutions with the election and re-election of Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina as President of the African Development Bank, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Ambassador Tijani Mohammad-Bande, President of the United Nations General Assembly 74th Session and the appointment of Amina Muhammed as Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

It is hoped that the first plus for the incoming administration will be the right choice of the appointment of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who must be versed in international Diplomacy to further position Nigeria in the international fora and in the comity of nations.

The minister should be either a retired or serving career diplomat or someone from the Para-diplomatic services; or even from the academia.

The person must be an intellectual, well grounded in the grammar of diplomacy, he or she must have conceptual grasp of the contemporary global political economy, the sociology of globalization and the technology of global power geometrics.

The days of playing the big brother at the detriment of the Nigerian citizenry is over as such interventions have not given the nation its deserved results.

An aggressive international publicity advocacy should be employed to redeem the bastardly negative image of the nation, Nigeria and its citizens all over the world.

The focus of Nigeria’s foreign policy in the new dispensation should be premised on transforming Nigeria into an economic and industrial hub. When that happens, Africa will be on the right path to compete favourably with the rest of the world.

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