From a commonsensical standpoint, POWER is the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way. In international political parlance, power connotes the ability of a nation or group of nations to influence others to act in ways that are beneficial to them.
National Power is defined as the sum of all resources available to a nation in the pursuit of its national objectives. The ability of a country to advance its national interests is dependent on the effectiveness of its government in developing, activating and projecting its instruments of national power to achieve national strategic objectives. The major powers of the world, such as the United States of America, Russia, China, the European Union countries et al, leverage on their key areas of strength to exert influence, gain concessions and project strength in their relations with other nations.
The Instruments of National Power are the tools a country uses to influence other countries or international organizations or even non-state actors. For instance, the United States National Security Strategy (NSS) as mandated by Congress is the principal document that lays out how the President plans to use the instruments of power to achieve US National Security objectives. The instruments of national power may be subsumed under two major planks based on their applicability and origin – “national” and “social“. National includes geography, resources, and population. Social includes economic, political, military, psychological and informational.
Nigeria is a major economic and military power on the African continent – at least on paper – and a potential world power, if the abundant human and material resources it possesses are taken into consideration. It participates in the international political system through its membership of international organizations such as the United Nations Organization, African Union (formally OAU), ECOWAS, to mention just a few. Through its membership of these organizations, it projects the country’s foreign policy objectives which are extensions of its national or domestic policies.
At independence in 1960, Africa became the epicenter of the country’s foreign policy drives as demonstrated by the Tafawa Balewa government’s tacit support (in cash and kind) for the liberation struggles of fellow African Countries such as Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Angola, Namibia, Lesotho, South Africa et al; spearheading Peace Keeping missions to the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leon et al; and supporting other multilateral peace initiatives across the continent as well as in other troubled sports across the globe; a role she continues to play in contemporary times.
However, despite its huge – financial, material and logistical – contributions to peace and development efforts in both the continent and across the globe, Nigeria’s potential as a major player in global affairs has remained stunted. She has sadly remained a perennial underachiever, an also-ran in international political circles, unable to authoritatively influence events in its favour, even lagging behind smaller and less endowed countries both in the continent and beyond. This is due largely to its inability to identify, develop and utilize its instrument of national power to productive effect. Thus, the ability of Nigeria to advance its national interests on a global level in the future will depend largely on the effectiveness of the government in employing its instruments of national power in achieving national strategic objectives.
So what are those chief instruments of national power that Nigeria should develop and strengthen in order to begin to effectively project and actualize its foreign policy objectives on the global stage?
The most powerful countries in the world have stable political systems which are the chief cornerstones of their national power. Political stability is the superstructure on which the other instruments of national power ultimately rest upon. There is a saying that “charity begins at home”. A country with a disorderly house cannot enjoy the reverence of its counterparts in the international arena. Political stability gives more muscle to a country in its relations with others.
As a first step towards actualizing its potentials as a major player in global affairs, Nigeria must steady its political ship which has been sailing off course for a larger part of her checkered history as an independent state. The absence of a democratic culture, consequent to several years of military dictatorship, coupled with the complex structuring of the country, has contributed towards making the country politically unstable and conflict prone: one major civil war (1967-1970) and several low and high intensity insurgencies – political, ethnic and religious. This has inadvertently weakened and limited the influence the country would have been able to exercise in international political circles.
The country’s political leadership should as a matter of urgency work towards instituting and nurturing a workable democratic political system that is in tune with global best practices. This would help define the country’s political ideological plank and ultimately streamline its future foreign policy goals which friendly countries can easily identify and align with.
SOLID ECONOMIC BASE
A strong Nigerian economy with free access to global markets and resources is a fundamental engine of the general welfare, the enabler of a strong national defense. In the international arena, the Nigerian Government through some of its agencies should work with other global agencies, the governments of other nations, and the international financial institutions to encourage economic growth, raise standards of living, and predict and prevent, to the extent possible, economic and financial crises.
Again, the country must diversify its largely mono-mineral (oil-dependent) economy by developing other previously neglected income-yielding sectors such as solid minerals, natural gas, tourism, agriculture, aqua culture et al. This is the best way forward as oil, Nigeria’s single supreme resource, as has been harshly demonstrated over the years, is largely susceptible to the unpredictable vagaries of global price fluctuations. The manufacturing sector should also be developed so as to transform the country into an exporter rather than an importer of finished products. A versatile economy that is export based will give Nigeria stronger leverage in its relations with other countries.
STRONG MILITARY FORCE
A strong, functional military force is an indispensable instrument of national power. The military instrument of national power can be used in a wide variety of ways that vary in purpose, scale, risk, and combat intensity. These various ways can be understood to occur across a continuum of conflict ranging from peace to war. Inside this continuum, it is useful from a strategic perspective to delineate the use of the military instrument of national power into three broad categories.
The Nigerian State employs the military instrument of national power at home and abroad in support of its allies and in furtherance of its national security goals. The ultimate purpose of Nigeria’s Armed Forces is to fight and win the country’s wars – internal and external. Fundamentally, the military instrument is coercive in nature, to include the integral aspect of military capability that opposes external coercion. Coercion generates effects through the application of force (to include the threat of force) to compel an adversary or prevent our being compelled. The military has various capabilities that are useful in non-conflict situations (such as in foreign relief).
Nigeria’s military had in the past acquainted itself impressively and admirably through its involvement in regional and global peace keeping missions. The Belgian Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone et al where conflict theatres where the Nigerian military excelled. But this sparkling past has been smeared by the activities of Boko Haram insurgents in the country’s North-East, Niger Delta militants in the South-South, who demystified the air of invincibility it enjoyed in the past by challenging its once unassailable position as the state’s instrument of the monopoly of the use of force.
There is an urgent need to revamp this once dreaded and revered fighting force if the country is to regain its pride of place in global circles. In all, regardless of when or where employed, the Armed Forces of Nigeria should abide by the country’s values, constitutional principles, and standards for the profession of arms.
HIGH QUALITY DIPLOMACY
Diplomacy is the principal instrument for engaging with other states and foreign groups to project a country’s values, interests, and objectives, and to solicit foreign support for its national development. Diplomacy is a principal means of organizing coalitions and alliances, which may include states and non-state entities, as partners, allies, surrogates, and/or proxies. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs are Nigeria’s major conduits for foreign affairs.
The poor quality of Nigeria’s diplomacy is one of the major reasons the country has remained a peripheral figure in global affairs. It accounts for the inability of the country to gain profitable concessions in its relations with other countries – one of the major reasons she has remained an appendage that is tied to the apron strings of the major powers who use and dump her when they are through with her.
Nigeria must strive to improve on the quality of its diplomacy if it wishes to stake a serious claim to being a major player in global affairs. To this end, professionals should be recruited to formulate, project and manage the country’s external affairs. The subsisting practice whereby diplomatic positions are routinely dished out as political concessions to the political elite, career politicians, must give way to the accommodation of trained, seasoned career diplomats who understand the principles, dimensions and vagaries of international power politics. The Ministries, departments, agencies and foreign missions should be manned by professionals.
HUMAN CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT
Nigeria, like the major powers of the world, must develop its human capacity if it wishes to grow and transform into a global power that is able to compete with others. A functional, practical educational system that is technology-driven is the key, for an educated population is an industrious and productive population. No effort should be spared in the development of the country’s manpower levels as this will positively impinge on other aspects of its national power.
Nigeria’s national power, its ability to influence developments on the global sphere would be greatly enhanced if a fluid and lucid synergy amongst all the aforementioned elements is developed; a marriage of perspectives with all the constituent parts of the system working in the same direction – strengthening the country’s national power base. All the instruments must correlate to advance and defend Nigeria’s values, interests, and objectives.
The potentials of Nigeria as a continental and global power are not in doubt. But these undoubted potentials must be properly harnessed and channeled towards the achievement of the country’s foreign policy goals. This is what the world’s super power nations leverage on and accounts for their dominance of global politics.