Great Britain is a nation with a rich history: of empires, colonialism and industrial revolutions. Today, when we talk of geographical space and population, you won’t rank Britain at the top but that is not the case.
They still wield enormous influence in world politics and they are very conservative in doing so. They do not want to yield an ounce of their prestige and influence for any reason, be it in NATO, EU or the UN. That is why the referendum for Brexit (Britain exit from the European Union) saw the majority opting out irrespective of the consequences of this decision. Already we have seen the first casualties in ex-Prime Minister David Cameron and his key allies. Theresa May has taken over as Prime Minister and judging from the appointments she has made, they are ready to standby the decision to exit the EU.
But what does the decision of Britain represent to the world and most significantly to Nigeria? How does the decision of a country in a far away continent of Europe affect the most populous Black nation in the world? Why are Nigerians panicky over a decision that took place so far away? So many analysts have been looking at the possible impact on the Nigerian economy given the large population of Nigerians resident in Britain.
They have also looked at our colonial ties and the support from Britain at international fora. Others have looked at the impact in terms of costs of importation given that many of us do our shopping in the UK, a carry over from the colonial times. You can see this in the number of passengers flying the British Airways which regard Nigeria as arguably its most profitable route.
But the question to ask here again is: why must we tie our fortune to the apron string of Britain since 1960, the year of our independence? By the decision taken in this Brexit matter, it is clear that we have not learnt anything from our masters. The most significant lesson to us is the need for a country to consider its interest first as a point of take off, especially as it concerns foreign policies.
That was what Britain did. They considered their self-interest first. They saw the threat of a unified Europe that will dwarf the influence of the UK, coupled with the relatively large numbers of immigrants trooping in. From what we are witnessing now in France, the majority of those causing trouble in the country have immigrants background. Britain is afraid of what the influx of immigrants will do to the future of the country. Let us say, for example, that Britain admits one million refugees today, can you imagine what the population will be like in the next ten years ? The Brits will simply become minorities in their own country.
Is there a lesson for Nigerians to learn from? Yes. We must follow their example. ‘Nigeria first’ must be the cornerstone or focus of our foreign policy. We must stop this jamboree of trying to be a good friend or neighbor when the country is on fire. A united Nigeria will emerge as a formidable force to the world. We must first of all build integration and take care of what is inherently ours before looking out.
If our President had dedicated a greater part of his travels within Nigeria, building bridges of understanding across the country, the tension in the country would be less and his programmes will win more followers. We crave for foreign approvals by going abroad to announce key policies and decisions that are yet to sink in with the populace. Instead of gallivanting all over the world and giving the impression that all is okay with us, we must first strive hard to build a nation state out of Nigeria. That basically is our challenge.
Permit me to quote Mr Ogala Osoka, ex Managing Director of Nigeria Re-insurance Plc from the book, 50 Corporate Strategists written by Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe. He said: “First of all, you have to stabilise the place to make sure that nobody breaks down anymore because that is the only way you can assure those below that the building can stand. If you try to build without first stabilising the place, the people will not believe you. These people were already fed up. They were still so scared of the place that they became naturally sceptical.
They became suspicious and distrustful after the trauma of their past experiences…”. Here he was referring to his company, Nigeria Reinsurance when he took over leadership. It is same situation that we are faced with in Nigeria today. The leadership must stabilise the nation.
How do we reassure the people? Apart from the anti corruption fight, structures and institutions have to be stabilised. We must remove injustice and nepotism of the past and make the people to believe in one Nigeria. We must strive towards stabilising from the inside so that we can face the outside with a united strength. We have wasted so much time and resources trying to establish our relevance abroad.
Where did all of our contributions outside our shores – Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Africa, Congo and many others – lead us to? We must look inward to build a very strong nation first before venturing out. To look inward, nobody should be left out or made to feel unwanted.
Professor Pat Utomi had this to say during a radio programme on July 13, 2016: “It is good to have everyone inside, pissing out, than to have a few outside pissing in”. It is food for thought to those running the affairs of this country. This simply means that Mr President needs everybody on board for him to succeed. But he has to create the enabling environment for this to happen; we must tap into our diverse and rich human/natural resources to enable us to keep the ship of this nation afloat. We must look at Nigeria first and think Nigeria first but the leadership must lead the way with good examples.
Mr Sunny Ikhioya, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Lagos: www.southsouthecho.com