Perspectives on president Buhari’s foreign policy – Part 2
Agriculture through mechanization
(iii) Health: combating the Covid-19 pandemic through joint Nigerian-USA effort
(iv) Energy: USA investment in Nigeria’s energy sector namely hydro electricity, utilization of natural gas to power industries, nuclear, value chain in the oil industry, etc.
(v) Human Resource Development: Admission of Nigerians on scholarship into American universities and institutions of science and technology, ICT etc.
(vi) Transport and communications: Aviation and maritime, ICT etc.
(vii) Research and Development: in all facets of the economy, especially in science and technology
(viii) Immigration: Free reciprocal entry and exit permit to both countries
(ix) Resource flows: From International Financial Institutions and Organizations for infrastructure and other development purposes.
(x) Cooperation in the global multilateral institutions.
To these ends, the President should therefore set up an urgent Presidential Advisory Committee on Foreign Relations comprising competent people of very good knowledge of the American system of Government including the process of lobbying Congress to win friends for Nigeria. The lobby team will, through articulating, promoting and advancing Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives highlight the benefits to America of a friendly Nigeria.
An early approach to President Biden that Nigeria is ready to do business with his administration is very crucial. In this regard, the Nigerian Embassy in Washington D.C. has to be fully involved and armed with competent hands to assist the Ambassador carry out follow-up actions towards enhancing cordial relations and achieving Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives.
It needs to be said that the foregoing foreign policy suggestions are very much applicable to Nigeria’s main trading partners especially the G7 countries, Russia, and China, nations that have economic and technological edges over Nigeria. President Buhari has visited these countries many times since assuming office in 2015 for assistance and to realize the mission of his government. There is an abiding need for the President to ensure a follow-up and an evaluation and monitoring of the various agreements signed with those countries so that these are faithfully and beneficially implemented.
The establishment of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission by the Buhari administration has created an awareness and enlightenment of the huge financial contributions from Nigerians abroad into the Nigerian economy. It has also assisted Nigerian nationals abroad to appreciate profitable areas of trade and investment between Nigeria and the outside World. It is in the interest of the country that the Nigerian government encourages and supports them to invest in the country through the Commission, without prejudice to the role of the Nigerian Missions abroad.
There should be synergy between our embassies and the Diaspora Commission under the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to avoid unhealthy competition or working at cross-purposes. However, the Diaspora Commission should be more focused on its mission, while consular issues should be left to the Nigerian Consulates or to the consular sections of the country’s Embassies abroad. Meanwhile the government has done well in evacuating and repatriating many Nigerians stranded abroad back to the country, particularly, those that had to be airlifted from countries like Libya, South Africa, UAE, UK, Egypt and recently, Saudi Arabia.
In examining the international dimension of the third element in the Buhari government agenda, it must be admitted that the war against corruption has been intractable. Though this government has achieved some success in negotiating with countries housing the Abacha loot to repatriate the money to Nigeria, more effort should be exerted to get the USA, UK, Switzerland and other safe haven countries to return stolen Nigeria’s money including of course, the Allison Dieziani loot. Buhari’s loot-retrieving dragnets that extended to United Arab Emirates should also spread beyond Europe and USA to Canada and the safe-havens in the Caribbean Islands.
President Buhari’s efforts at diversifying the country’s mono-economy through encouraging investment in Agriculture, small and medium scale industries, construction of roads, railways and other infrastructure towards domestic production of goods and services and less reliance on foreign importation is laudable. Focus on self-sufficiency will generate employment and industrial take- off rather than continue to be import dependent that is unsustainable.
Internally, much still needs to be done as regards inflated costs of government projects in the country. For example, comparisons have been made between the cost of constructing rail-lines in Nigeria and in Ethiopia or Ghana, and came to the conclusion that it would appear to be in a ratio of 1:5 in favor of China. The 2019 report of International Corruption Perception Index which ranks Nigeria 146th of about 180 countries is a worse standing than in 2018 when the country stood at 144th of 180 countries assessed. It is obviously that Government still has a long way to go in its fight against corruption. Reviews such as this should be a constant exercise to be adopted by the Buhari Administration and its report taken seriously. Surely, foreign investors will be more interested in less corrupt countries where the security of doing business is more assured and less costly than in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s domestic policy determines, of course, its foreign policy.
Thus, the country, under Buhari could not join the rest of the world to demonstrably condemn the United States police for the cold murder of George Floyd on 25th May 2020.
Since independence Nigeria, having the largest population of the black people in the world, adopted a foreign policy tenet to defend the dignity of the Black person anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, this was not upheld in the very well known case of the murder of George Floyd. It is possible though that the domestic brutality of the SARS in the Nigeria police against fellow Nigerians became a moral burden that denied the government a moral high ground to stand and condemn police murderous acts against the Black people in the U.S. Also, it would appear that the Buhari administration was scared of an erratic and racist President Donald Trump who could revoke at whim, his approval to sell the Tucano aircrafts needed to prosecute the war against Boko Haram. Despite this dilemma, Nigeria should have, both as a matter of moral principle and in response to the widespread indignation of Nigerians, condemned the killing of African-Americans. After all, most Nigerians abhor the illegal and unjustifiable murder of innocent people, no matter their race. Nigeria should stand consistent in its principles and policies so as to earn the respect of its citizens and that of the International Community.
All said, as Nigeria faces problems of insecurity and corruption, as its economy suffers recession, the time for introspection has come. The Buhari government must focus on rebuilding the Nigerian nation by adopting a foreign policy that makes Nigeria its centerpiece. The country’s resources and energy should be mobilized to get it out of insecurity, ignorance, poverty, corruption and socio-political and economic doldrums. Nigeria can still assist its African bothers where and when necessary, but it should be on the basis of reciprocity. But it should now focus on itself rather than continue playing the big brother and Father Christmas role in Africa. It is nigh-impossible to practice the policy of isolationism in a globalised world. Nonetheless, Nigeria’s interest should be central to both its domestic and foreign policies. Thus focused, the country can, sooner than later, become like others whose economic strength has propelled them to power, respectability, and influence in the global arena.
Lewu, PhD, former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil.
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