By Deborah Omotutu
OVER the years, experts have scrambled to put in place the pieces to have a complete grasp of Nigeria’s role in the comity of nations. It seemed at independence, the trajectory of Nigeria’s diplomacy was set owing largely to her vast economic resources, population and a rich experience in her liberation struggle.
Africa became the centre-piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy as demonstrated by her engagements in the liberation struggle against the forces of colonialism and apartheid. This can be observed also in her role in conflict resolutions and as chief mediator in Africa’s unending conflicts, while deploying her huge resources in the conception and furtherance of political and economic integration in the region.
This earned her the status of “Big Brother” in the continent and its sub- regions. Nigeria was perceived as the “Giant of Africa”, and on the global stage, she adopted a non-aligned posture which made her a potential bride to be courted by any of the major actors she deemed relevant.
Today, the lingering idea of Nigeria being the giant of Africa, the big brother and the most populous Black nation is that of perception among Nigerians. But is Nigeria what she is ascribed to be? Was she ever a great nation? Does she have the potential to become one? Is she a force in Africa and in the global scene?
Can she harness her potential to project power and relevance in the coming years or in the future? Any state can assume a role in the international scene, but to be relevant is how strategic that role is towards the projection of the national interest. Put succinctly by S.F Folarin: “Nigeria’s participation in …conflict resolution may be award winning, it did not and cannot translate to national development, political stability at home, as well as peace and security. There have been more cases of conflicts in Nigeria from independence to date than the conflicts it has assisted in resolving abroad.” This, therefore, begs the question of the relevance of Nigeria’s ingenuity in conflict resolution in Africa.
The potential Nigeria was identified with since independence was only relevant at the time, and since the changing times, there have been consistent failures by successive leaders to conceive a strategic role for her in the world. This is due to the fact that she is not a nation but a state and as such, she has no national interest or shared goals by her citizens in what they seek to achieve or become.
The resources and geographical space in Nigeria do not belong to her but to nations within it. This is why she is ruled by sectional leaders that seek to utilize such resources for the development and advancement of sectional agendas. Nigeria is perceived as a “crippled giant”, being the most populous Black country with enormous resources unutilised.
While she is crippled in every index of human development, she is no giant. And while being the most populous Black country is a fact, they have become illusionary appellations for grandstanding to cushion the psychological trauma for being underdeveloped and Third World country. Nigeria’s population should not be about numbers, but the quality of life of her citizens and its impact on her image.
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However, her population is fast depleted through daily mass murders in insurgency, political assassinations, ritual killings, ethnic cleansing, domestic murders, cult wars, police brutality, tanker/petrol explosions and ghastly road accidents. Her death rate far outpaces that of birth. A genuine population census conducted today will show a staggering decline in Nigeria’s population.
Since the resources, territory and population belong to nations within it, and in the absence of national interest, the state called Nigeria has neither power nor potential. Due to sectional agendas, she has refused to create the structure to utilise the skills of her citizens, forge a common interest and usher in accountability in governance. Even as a mere state, her sovereignty is being challenged and her borders compromised by various ethno-religious militias such as the Boko Haram.
Pundits watch with held breath as every opportunity Nigeria has to protect her citizens and project a positive image to the world is squandered. An instance is the invitation of Chinese nationals by the government into the country amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, despite its origins in Wuhan, in disregard of the warnings from concerned Nigerians and in particular, the body of medical practitioners.
This is in spite of the fact that Chinese face masks, ventilators and test kits shipped to Europe and America were rejected as they tested positive to the virus. While the world is cautious of China, this act of Nigeria was done to the astonishment of Nigerians and the world. This is coinciding with attempts by the legislature to hoodwink Nigerians into compulsory vaccinations.
Now, there is no clear explanation by the Federal Government with regard to the Chinese mission in Nigeria. The explanations are varied and incoherent.The Chinese nationals were said to have gone missing at a point. What is clear is the sectional agenda the Chinese mission came to serve in Nigeria.
While some Nigerians aspire to replicate the American dream in Nigeria, this can never be. It is not enough for Nigeria to copy the US presidential system of government as both countries are extremes in terms of values, structure and constitution. The US is a confederacy. Although she is a melting pot of nations, she has attained nationhood over time through the sheer force of collective will and aspirations.
Nigerians must realise today, that, while they still have a country, they have no nation that seeks their interest and project same in the world. Nigeria has no role and is a mere spectator in the international scene. Many fear a disintegration of her constituent parts if the country is not restructured to accommodate the sovereignty and aspirations of her peoples.
Omotutu, a student of strategic international relations, wrote from Benin City, Edo State.