I congratulate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu on breasting the tape of the presidential poll as the gold medalist. It was such a laborious, witty and windy walk to Aso Rock, the rock of power and abode of the powerful. That he navigated unscratched through the wreckage of primordial primitive political traps, scheming and shenanigans strewn on his path by his competitors gesture to the brilliance of his mind, the intelligence of his insights, and the muscularity of his strategic imagination that is a matter of common knowledge in the public sphere.
It is the common expectation of all Nigerians, once more, that he would harvest these attributes of strategic imagination, brilliance of mind and intelligent insights to bear on the democratic good governance of Nigeria as he did while serving as the Governor of Lagos State. These attributes are critical elements in the shaping, formulation and implementation of a viable and sustainable foreign policy. It is therefore envisaged that under the Tinubu presidency, Nigeria’s external relations, particularly, her foreign policy orientation would be strategically robust and sync with contemporary psyche.
Foreign policy is the queen of public policies; it is beautiful and regal in bearing, loved and cherished, beholden to the powerful and power mongers; but beneath it runs complex veins of high voltage currents that can shock and disrupt the tranquility of the social contract. Foreign policy is a highly specialized area whose discharge of its remit requires the superintendence of skilled subject specialists and professionals imbued with the requisite theoretical epistemology and diplomatic competence.
Foreign policy is a space of power and knowledge; a melting pot of issues and ideas that reference multiplicities of individuating modes of analysis and lenses of casting gazes at issues of national and international importance
Under the Tinubu presidency, how would the complex terrain of foreign policy be navigated and instrumentalized to inaugurate the much needed transformational development paradigm in Nigeria? Immediately, one can only hazard guesses. But given the strategic disposition of Tinubu, we expect a foreign policy strategy that would be complementary to the desideratum of socio-economic revival of Nigeria
In view of this projection, a lance of light would be thrown on five areas as my token contribution to the resetting, reshaping and remapping of the coming contours of our foreign policy.
First, it begins with choice of the minister for foreign affairs. The choice of who is to be the minister of foreign affairs should not be constricted by considerations of ethnicity, religion, region or avuncular fraternity. To the contrary, the minister should be either a retired or serving career diplomat or someone from the para-diplomatic services; or from the academia. In any case, the minister must be an intellectual, well grounded in the grammar of diplomacy, have conceptual grasp of the contemporary global political economy, the sociology of globalization and the technology of global power geometrics.
Above all else, the minister must be self-assured, bold, confident, eloquent and erudite, full of imaginative energy, ideational originality, and possess the vigour, vim, vivacity and capacity to graft the envisaged changing social, economic, cultural and metaphysical values under the Tinubu presidency to the train of Nigeria foreign policy.
Secondly, the ideology of Afrocentrism as the foundational philosophy of Nigeria foreign policy should be dismantled. All the factors—institutional, political geographical ideological, and so on—that recommended Afrocentrism as the centerpiece of Nigeria foreign policy are in contemporary times mere historical footnotes. For so long, the agency of Nigeria foreign policy has been fossilized into the salt of Afrocentric fundamentalism like the biblical wife of Lot. Nigeria foreign policy should come of age with the times.
Thirdly, the focus of Nigeria foreign policy in the new dispensation should be premised on transforming Nigeria into an economic and industrial hub in Africa. The time is ripe for Nigeria to soar into the higher realm of economic cum-industrial development founded on the canons of the liberal order. If this be the case, foreign policy should be the handmaiden of this drive. I label this brand of foreign policy philosophy as development diplomacy. It is wider in scope and dimension and its impact penetrating deeply across all facets of our national life.
It is neither a foreign policy orientation that thrives on displaying economic potentials and begging patrons nor accumulating external debts; on the contrary, it is a foreign policy measure that asserts Nigeria’s economic agency and development agenda.
Fourthly, Nigeria should carry herself with dignity and pride around the globe. This would entail massive psychological engineering of the national psyche and epistemological decolonization of our foreign policy. It repays to give critical attention to this issue. In the case of the former, Nigeria must stop being summoned around the globe to attend summits and retreats organized by countries: India-Africa Summit, China-Africa Summit, Turkey-Africa Summit, and so on and so forth. Nothing could be more demeaning to the national psyche than this summit summons. If this be the new approach to diplomacy, Nigeria should try calling for a Nigeria-Asia summit, or better still, a Nigeria-Europe summit as a gesture of reciprocation and let’s see the attendance list. In the case of the latter, Nigeria should pull down the halo of coloniality that swirls around her relations with her so-called traditional allies.
Finally, the social and psychological conditions on the domestic front should be adequately attended to. Foreign policy is fertilized by the domestic environment.
The peace of the graveyard and the melancholic characterizations of herders-farmer’ conflicts, banditry, Boko Haram, urban violence, kidnapping, social strife and generalized poverty, cries of marginalization and counter-marginalization, IPOB and so on that currently permeates the fabrics of Nigeria must be addressed be decisively and timeously addressed in order to mobilize and harness the creative energy of the citizenry to participate in the development process. No matter how good the foreign policy goals and objectives of any country may be, if the domestic environment is hostile and inclement, it would tantamount to ceremonialism without substance.
Atah Pine is the head of Department of Political Science, Benue State University, Makurdi, and can be reached on 08035974174.