Factors Affecting Nigeria’s Foreign Policy
Nigeria’s foreign policy is moulded and influenced by a number of factors including the following:
1. National Interest
National interest refers ordinarily to those values which are common to the people living in a nation-state. But in reality, national interest is usually equated with the values of the dominant ruling class.
These values determine the foreign policy of a country. In other words, a state will only pursue what it considers as its national interest (e.g the exploration and production of crude oil in Nigeria is in the national interest).
2. Values and Preferences of Polic Makers
A nation’s foreign policy is profoundly affected or influenced by the perceptions, attitudes and value preferences of the various participants in the decision-making process. In other words, a nation’s international behaviour is, to a great extent, determined by the interests of those making and implementing foreign policies.
3. Environmental Factors
Environmental factors also affect the decision-making process. The nature of the political system, historical development of the state and the economic system influence the foreign policy. For example, the relations between Nigeria and Britain is influenced by the fact that Nigeria was a former British colonial territory. Thus, Britain is a leading trading partner of Nigeria. The same can be said of the relationship between France and her former colonial territories.
4: Personality Factors
Another important factor that affects the foreign policy of a country is the personality of the leaders. As pointed out “the growing personalization of political power in most post-colonial states means that the motivations and personality characteristics of the key leadership groups are important domestic determinants of foreign policy”.
In the First Republic, for example, the direction of Nigerian foreign policy was almost wholly determined by Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. It is not difficult to know that the personality of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, an international figure of repute had great impact on the formulation and implementation of Nigeria’s foreign policy under the Obasanjo Administration (1999 2007).
5. Public Opinion
Public opinion also influences the course and direction of a country’s foreign policy. For example, the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact of 1962 was abrogated in 1963 largely because the “informed and politically relevant opinion in Nigeria rejected not just the pact with Britain but any type of military alignment with nations. . .”.
Decision makers may, however, refuse to be bound by public opinion. If public opinion has been so decisive, Nigeria would not have granted asylum to former Liberian President Charles Taylor whose group (the National Patriotic Front of Liberia) killed two Nigerian journalists at the outset of the Liberian civil war and collaborated with Foday Sankoh’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to maim and kill thousands of people during the civil war in Sierra Leone.
Like domestic politics, Nigeria’s foreign policy is also affected by a body of ideas, doctrines, beliefs and values sometimes referred to as an ideology. There is no country without an ideology and even a state without a clearly defined national ideology is influenced by existing ideologies.
Ideologies, such as, capitalism, socialism, nationalism and Pan-Africanism affect both the domestic and foreign policies of states in different ways. Pan-Africanism or macro nationalism, for example, was the basis for African unity and the eventual formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which was later transformed into the African Union (AU) in 2002. There is hardly any African country which does not subscribe to the idea of African Unity. Not surprisingly, Africa has been the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy since the First Republic.
7. Size and Population
The size and population of a country affect its capacity to make and implement foreign policies. The prestige and respect which Nigeria enjoys in the comity of nations derive largely from her huge population is the largest in Africa.
8. Abundant Resources
A country like Nigeria with abundant human and, material resources will likely be more independent in its foreign policy than a poor one.
Nevertheless the availability of resources is not a sufficient condition for success in foreign policy. The Democratic Republic of Congo (IDRC), for example, has abundant natural resources but she has since independence been bogged down by internal conflicts and wars which have weakened its capacity to develop its resources and have a virile foreign policy.
Notwithstanding, a country like the United States of America (USA) is very influential in international politics because it is richly blessed and has been able to harness and develop its resources to a high level.
9. Level of Development
The level of development of a country significantly determines the effectiveness of its foreign policy. Development here refers to economic development. Perhaps, the most universally acceptable method for measuring a country’s level of economic development is the per capita income, which is calculated by dividing the Gross National Product (GNP) by population. This indicator of economic development purports to emphasise that there is development when the rate of increase in real income is higher than the growth rate of population.
According to the World Bank in 1992, the per capita income of the USA was $23,000, Switzerland $36,080, South Africa $2670 and Nigeria $310. Given the disparity in levels of development, it stands to reason to say that the USA, Switzerland and South Africa would be more effective in achieving their foreign policy goals than say, Nigeria.
But the huge population of Nigeria and her abundant mineral resources are potential catalysts for the country’s development and a dynamic foreign policy.