Buhari and the world
AS President-elect Muhammadu Buhari knows too well, Africa has always been the cornerstone of Nigeria’s foreign policy, and since independence in 1960, the nation has not let the world down in terms of expectations concerning her leadership role in Africa.
Buhari needs no reminders that he is assuming office at a time that leadership position in Africa and indeed the world needs to be asserted by Nigeria.
This will not be done by speeches or summits alone, but by conscious efforts at positioning Nigeria for prosperity and giving her the wherewithal, morally and materially, to dictate the terms of engagement of other nations with Africa.
Nigeria has contributed to peace processes globally, worked for the liberation of parts of the continent that were under colonial rule and has worked hard to stabilise the sub-region of West Africa.
The country helped stabilize war-torn Liberia and Sierra-Leone and encouraged the entrenchment of democratic institutions in those nations.
It is now Africa’s largest economy, a leading oil producing country with a population that is among the world’s largest, including a thriving middle class.
It is therefore, a huge market for global trade, hence its actions can affect neighboring countries in particular, and the world at large. This at least in part explains the perennial interest in the affairs of Nigeria and their management.
Given the usual tension-soaked political atmosphere of the country, due largely to its diversity, the world has always been concerned about the possibility of violence attending Nigeria’s electoral process.
The acidic campaigns by politicians and threats by self-acclaimed militants prior to the last elections did not help matters. Peace initiatives had to be undertaken by renowned diplomats like Kofi Annan, a former United Nations Secretary-General; Emeka Anyaoku, a former Commonwealth Secretary-General; and John Kerry, current Secretary of State of the United States; to ensure a violence-free exercise.
The global interest in Nigeria, therefore, is keen, for the nation’s success or failure is Africa’s. But what is the colour and substance or character of the international community today? What does it want of Nigeria and what should the incoming President do to put Nigeria in her appropriate place in the comity of nations? The end of the Cold War terminated the bi-polar global order and ushered in a unipolar one dominated by the United States of America and its western allies, despite a tendency towards multi-polarity, courtesy of Russia and China.
Politically, the accepted dominant order all over the world is liberal democracy which essential components are free and fair elections, representative governments, free press and associational freedom. Nigeria’s political elite, at least, have already embraced this liberalism despite a few challenges.
Economically, the dominant order is neo-liberalism underlined by free market and free enterprise. Under this credo, countries must privatize their national assets, liberalise trade, and put in a legal environment for international businesses like those compacted in the Monterrey Consensus.
Above all, state control must give way to private enterprise, competition and profits. In spite of its telling contradictions, even short-comings, Nigeria has, again, already embraced this economic model but it should be remarked that the pursuit of social policies which put the people first, seemingly opposed to the logic of freely rampaging market forces as it is, must still be given prime consideration.
The basic truth is that the leading countries of the world are anxious to keep Nigeria in their orbit, but they work at all times in their own interests alone.
A Nigerian leader must therefore, of necessity, work in the interest of Nigeria. One song those countries would be willing to listen to in the overall framework of free market catechism is the fight against corruption.
Luckily, Buhari not only has the image and character of a warrior against corruption, he also has a beautiful lyric in this regard: “We shall end this threat to our economic development and democratic survival… [And] it shall no longer be allowed to stand as if it is a respected monument in this nation.”
Should he be true to his words, the world would dance. The incoming government is expected to protect the interest of the multinational corporations’ dominance in the oil sector of the nation’s economy, but it must be noted that the global market is one where fair pricing is not as important as maximization of profit.
Hence, the interest of Nigeria too must be protected. Of course, the incoming President would be expected to join the global war against terror, but he should not do so in subordination of Nigeria nay Africa’s interest to that of the global hegemons.
Negotiating the turf that the international community is, certainly requires a special panache. And the new government should be guided in its relationship with other countries by what they say and what they do. Nigeria’s interest and that of Africa must never be placed behind any other.