Africa is the centerpiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy and this is rightly so. This philosophy and disposition accepts in wholesale manner, the mantra to the effect that charity begins at home; what is the value, benefit or point in being very benevolent to strangers as your family suffers unforgivable neglect? Africa as centerpiece made sense. In my most expansive mood, Africa as centerpiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy should include all peoples of African descent, whether they Americans, Brazilians, Cubans, West Indians of the Caribbean or the Aborigines of Australia. They are Africans.
The challenge is to delicately balance Nigeria’s national interests with such worldview. In dialogues in championing peace in the West Africa sub region and the entire continent of Africa. Isolationism is not a good substitute, but it has become a very temping option. Can Nigeria now ignore the imperative of Nigeria’s role in West Africa, Africa and the world? Particularly, regarding our continent and its descendants worldwide? Nigeria ought not, in view of size in every sense! Bearing in mind the size of our national resources, population, vigor and enthusiasm etc, regarding African affairs. Nigeria is so ordained to play these roles.
It is however the case that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown of leadership Nigeria as chief architect and chief negotiator of peace has bled Nigeria too much! Nigeria, Kenya and then Ghana were the main operators of the engine room of African independence movement in the 1950s and 1960 pre-independence Africa. The era of Azikiwe, Awolowo, Kenyantta, Nkrumah etc
Thereafter, Nigeria spearheaded the anti Apartheid and Liberation Movements for the then colonized countries in Southern Africa, namely, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Fact, Nigeria led the world boldly and courageously in these matters at the time. Nigeria’s hot-pursuit of an Africa-centered foreign policy in the 1960s and 1970s was vibrant, vigorous and robust. Nigeria in words and actions, led the demand for freedom, political independence and equality for Black Africans in Southern African region. Nigeria advocated economic, political and diplomatic sanctions against the Apartheid regime that rule South Africa at the time. Nigeria as well, demanded the termination of minority white regimes in Rhodesia now Zimbabwe, ditto Angola, Mozambique, Namibia etc. Nigeria led all sorts of boycotts against apartheid and minority regimes.
These actions by Nigeria did not endear Nigeria to some.
It will be recalled that America and European countries were slow to accept Nigeria’s point of view, and leadership in the agitations and advocacies to end apartheid and minority regimes in Southern Africa. President Reagan of the United States and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were, in particular, vehemently opposed to the end of Apartheid.
America and most of Western Europe were therefore slow to impose United Nations mandated economic, political and diplomatic sanctions against these white minority regimes on the African continent in the aforementioned countries. America and some Western European countries variously proffered excuses and the illogic of their supports for obnoxious oppressive and brutal white regimes in Southern Africa, America and Europe labeled and castigated Africans who sought majority rule, democracy and equality. America and Europe at the time prevaricated over these fine ideals, because it concerned Africans who were lumped together as communists, communist sympathizers and even terrorists!
It must be emphasized that in leading the process of these advocacies and agitations to end the brutal reign of terror by these white minority regimes in Southern Africa, Nigeria incurred the wrath of America and Europe for daring to be so audacious in advocating democracy, majority and the end of Apartheid. Nigeria therefore, attracted punitive efforts from America and Europe, efforts geared at crippling Nigeria for daring to advocate, agitate and lead the world in demands for majority rule by Black Africans on African soil.
Nigeria’s political and economic troubles were initiated then by those in America and Europe, who saw it as an affront, Nigeria’s vociferous and strident advocacy on behalf of the oppressed majority in these Southern African countries (already mentioned). Clearly, there were these plans to punish Nigeria and to teach Nigeria lessons, for daring to have the audacity to challenge the status quo of America and Europe. Nevertheless, Nigeria demanded that America and Europe stopped being the milk, honey and lubricant of Apartheid South Africa, and the other viciously monstrous minority regimes then in all of Southern Africa.
The viciousness and violence visited on Nigeria for daring to challenge those who provided support and succor to the Apartheid and the white minority regimes culminated in the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed, who was at the time, the leader of Nigeria, whose administration courageously drove the determined and very focused policy efforts to end Apartheid and minority white regimes on the African continent.
In essence, the sum of Nigeria’s experience in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s has not changed. Africa has remained the centerpiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy, even through the 1980s, the 1990s and in this new millennium! The 1990s and the first few years of this millennium have seen Nigeria in her continued efforts to douse every political fires and intractable internecine fractiousness in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Congo, Togo, Sao Tome & Principe and more recently, Darfur in the Sudan.
Over several decades, Nigeria has performed consistently well and creditably well. All these have come at great expense to Nigeria. These costs have been borne by Nigeria in both human costs of the supreme sacrifice types and in billions of dollars in cash, peace keeping and all. But Nigeria and Nigerians have never been applauded or praised, rewarded or even recognized for Nigeria and Nigerians’ humongous efforts in these directions. Nigerians have been the bulwark of peace keeping in every part of Africa.
Nigeria has never sought to impose her political or economic will on these countries where Nigeria has helped to broker peace at great costs to Nigeria. Unlike the United States, Britain and France, who frequently seek reconstruction contracts, economic, military and strategic benefits everywhere the Americans and Europeans have intervened, Nigeria has alwa
ys intervened in these crises, perhaps naively, for purely humanitarian, altruistic and benevolent reasons.
Nigeria has never sought to influence local economic, political or other policies in any Southern or West African countries where Nigeria has interned for regional and continental peace, or stability, unlike America, Britain and France, who are quick to seek advantages for themselves, either by way of markets for goods from America, Britain or France or by the sudden establishments of Military Formations, Barracks and some other military establishments in the countries where they have intervened.
It is generally believed that the average Southern Africans resent Nigerians on their soil. In various ways, it is generally established that Nigerians who are legitimately in South Africa are visited with utter and utmost contempt by South Africans. South Africans, who it seems, have quickly forgotten Nigeria’s efforts on her behalf.
Even Professor Soyinka was not spared of these sort of contempt and indignities said to be especially reserved for Nigerians by the South Africans! How soon they forget Nigeria’s efforts and the sacrifices Nigeria contributed to their worthy cause?
It is said to be the same in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Contempt and indignities are as well reserved for Nigerians in these countries. This, even though Nigerian soldiers were killed in trying to save Liberia and Sierra Leone! Nigerian Journalists were as well killed in these wars of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria, over a fifteen year period, spent tens of billions of dollars to prevent these countries from becoming extinct.
But guess what happened as soon as the situation in Sierra Leone was stabilized and British troops could now come into Freetown? The British became instant heroes who Sierra Leoneans now celebrated and profusely thanked for “wonderful work” even though the Nigerians have been the ones minding the store for almost twenty years!
The same can be said of Liberia, see how fast and speedily President Madam Sirleaf jetted to the United States and how she was in a hurry to distance herself from Nigeria! See how frequently, every opportunity she got in the United States, she lambasted Nigeria without exceptions and without reserve! She in my view was in a hurry to establish her credentials as a puppet of someone in Washington DC and she worked too hard at it, during her first visit to America following her inauguration as president of Liberia. She was quick to announce what she thought Nigeria’s responsibilities and duties were, regarding former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Taylor was in asylum in Nigeria as part of a comprehensive peace deal negotiated and spearheaded by Nigeria In the end, everyone in willful amnesia, now seem to be blaming Nigeria!
What an effrontery! What nerve she and others have? What ingratitude! Nigeria’s selfless efforts on behalf of Africans have been of no economic or political benefits to Nigeria. These Africans do not even defer to Nigeria in West African, continental and international affairs. Nigeria gets no deference or respect from them!
Despite and in spite, or as if to spite, all Nigeria’s efforts on their behalf, the beneficiary countries have done little or nothing to demonstrate a recognition of Nigeria’s efforts, roles and humongous sacrifices for their benefits. And the Charles Taylor imbroglio makes me want to ask the question, what is in it for Nigeria? Blame and more blame? Why should Nigeria bother next time? Liberia? No economic, political or strategic value.
It now appears, the Africans whose rescue Nigeria has been engaged in over and over again and at considerable expense, have preferences for people other than Nigerians. These Africans appear to be selective in their gratitude, in favor of Americans and Europeans. Nigeria has no legal or even moral duty or responsibility to them!
Let the United States, Britain and France with their selfish agenda driven manipulative tendencies, take care of these Africans the next time they have crises. America, Britain and France are after all, the ones these Africans respect and worship. Perhaps it time for Nigeria to concentrate our resources and our crises management skills on ourselves. An economically successful and advanced Nigeria will command respect from all, whether they like or not.
It is time to stop wasting precious Nigerian lives, precious Nigerian monies and other resources on those who are quick to forget. Nigeria must not waste any more resources on all those who are quick to be ungrateful and disrespectful to Nigeria.