Africa as the Centrepiece of Nigeria Foreign Policy | Meaning, Principles & Implications

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Africa as the Centrepiece of Nigeria Foreign Policy | Meaning, Principles & Implications

Africa as the Centrepiece of Nigeria Foreign Policy | Meaning, Principles & Implications
Africa as the Centrepiece of Nigeria Foreign Policy | Meaning, Principles & Implications

What is the Meaning of Africa as Foreign Policy of Nigeria?

Africa as the “centrepiece” of Nigeria’s foreign policy means that Africa is the focus of Nigeria’s foreign policy. In other words, this policy orientation implies that the country places a high premium on issues relating to African affairs in her foreign policy.

In the ranking of the major issues in Nigeria’s foreign policy, the ones concerning Africa take precedence over any other. In short, Africa is high on the pecking order.

There is no gain saying the fact that Africa has been the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy since independence. The origin of this policy dates back to an April 1960 session of the House of Representatives when some NCNC members of the House moved a motion for the creation of a Department or Ministry of Pan-African Affairs. At that time, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the leader of the NCNC was known as “Zik of Africa”.

Consequently, an All-Nigeria People’s Conference was held in 1961 to map out the strategies for achieving this objective. The conference which was hosted by Dr. K.O. Mbadiwe, an NCNC member, comprised representatives of political parties, trade unions, academic community, students, women organisations and parliament.

The conference made some far-reaching recommendations aimed at achieving the objectives.

Guiding Principles of the Africa as the Center-piece of Nigeria Foreign Policy

The aims and principles of the policy may be summarized as follows.

  • There was the need to bring together the various contending regional groups in Africa such as the Monrovia and Casablanca groups. This was necessary for the promotion of African unity.
  • It was imperative that moral and financial support should be given to nationalist and liberation movements fighting for the independence of other African nations still under colonial rule.
  • Neo-colonialism is a danger which has to be countered by the government and all progressive forces.
  • It was important to enhance the image of Nigeria in Africa and beyond.
  • The Nigerian personality and influence should be projected in Africa.

Implementation of the Africa as Centre-piece of Foreign Policy of Nigeria

That Africa is the cornerstone of Nigeria’s foreign policy has been an article of faith for successive Nigerian governments since independence in 1960. They have never procrastinated in their commitment to African affairs as manifested in the following policy actions taken by Nigerian governments over the years.

  • The decisive action taken on the Angolan crisis in 1976.
  • The active support given to liberation movements in the continent, especially in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa.
  • The active role Nigeria has been playing in the resolution of conflicts and boundary disputes in the continent.
  • The leadership role played by the country in the formation of ECOWAS and the African Union.
  • The establishment of ECOMOG and the active role she played in putting an end to the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
  • The granting of financial and technical assistance to other African countries.

The real meaning of “Africa as the centerpiece of Nigerian foreign policy” is clearly demonstrated by this observation by a former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the country:

Seventy-five per cent of the time and energy of the foreign affairs staff is consumed by African affairs. Ninety-five per cent of the technical and financial assistance during this period was directed at the continent. Over 76 per cent of the policy differences between Nigeria and other industrialized countries revolve around African issues especially South African issues.

For example, the first public rebuke handed down by the new regime (Murtala Mohammed regime) to an industrialised country was the criticism of West Germany on 10 September, 1975 over an alleged agreement to send a nuclear reactor to South Africa. The warning to multinational companies to choose between Nigeria and South Africa was most certainly an economic sacrifice on the part of Nigeria”.

Implications of the Africa as Centrepiece of Nigeria Foreign Policy

The adoption of this policy has certain implications for Nigeria. This include:

  • The comrmtment of Nigeria to African affairs has earned her accolades and prestige in the comity of nations.
  • The suspicion and distrust of Nigeria by her neighbours in the past has given way to mutual trust and cooperation in political, economic and cultural matters. This is not to say that there is no room for improvement.
  • African countries sometimes support Nigerian candidates who aspire for positions in international institutions.
  • There is greater interaction between African countries especially in the areas of transportation and communication.
  • In terms of costs and benefits, the cost of implementing the policy is high with little returns on investment. But the intangible benefits of the policy are immeasurable.

It is, however, not enough for foreign policy makers to talk glibly about Africa as the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy. The central question should be:

What does the ordinary Nigerian stand to benefit from the policy?

So far, not much. Nigerians are treated with contempt in the developed countries as well as in Africa.

Even more practically, can the Nigerian farmer sell his products at a competitive price in advanced western countries? In spite of Africa being the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy, Nigerians are harassed daily in other African countries.

In South Africa, for example, Nigerian travellers and residents are harassed and humiliated by immigration officials and the police. In Ghana, a Nigerian will not be allowed to set up a business unless he has a minimum capital of $300,000 (about N123 million).

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