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PROJECT TOPIC AND MATERIAL ON The Military and Nigeria’s Foreign Policy
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1.1 Historical Background of Nigerian Foreign Policy
A study in Nigeria’s foreign policy over time has quite often under – scored the potency of its domestic contents. Notable scholars on Nigerian external relations such as Akinyemi, Aluko, Gambari, Biraietc demonstrated the influence of domestic conditions on the country’s attitude and behaviour to other actors in the international system. The influence of domestic politics on Nigeria’s foreign policy was made obvious to the international community on 1st October, 1960, by the then first Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa himself in a moving address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He observed that:
Nigeria does not intend to ally itself as a member of routine with any of the ideological power blocs and Nigeria hopes to work with other states for the Progress of Africa and to assist in bringing all other African territories to a state of responsible independence Given the domestic nature and the country’s size and at the same time natural resources, it was assumed that Nigeria would play a leading role in the continent of Africa. Some scholars even spoke of the country’s “manifest destiny” to lead Africa surrounded by small and weak states. Abubakar, O.S reviewing Gambari said that; the first phase, one of uncertainty and timidity of Nigerian Foreign Policy coincided with the period of the First Republic (1960 – 65). The major issue at that time were the official foreign policy declaration itself; the Anglo Nigerian Defence pact, the Congo Crisis and African Unity; Negotiations for associate status with the European Economic Community (EEC): the Rhodesian Crisis and Common Wealth relations; and the Arab – Israeli antagonism and the search for a cohesive policy towards the middle east. Nigeria throughout this period operated a Pro- West foreign policy disposition. The conservative nature in her external relations was dictated by Nigerian Federalism which profess three strong regions with a weak centre. Prime Minister Balewa then had a constitutional authority which was not always matched by the political power needed to override these divergent groups encroachment upon Nigeria’s foreign policy. The coming together of the two partiesi.e Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and National Council for Nigerian and Cameroon (NCNC) which formed a coalition government then forced the Balewa government to make adjustment in order to keep the partnership viable.
Consequently, Nigerian foreign policy during the 1960 – 65 period was less dynamic than it would have been if the NCNC had been solely responsible. By the same token, it was far more assertive, Pan Africanist and neutralist especially on the Middle – East than it would have been if the NPC had exclusive control. The need to adjust in order to accommodate the sometimes contrasting views of the governing parties and save the alliance, made Balewa’s foreign policy liable to such criticism as lacking in consistent imagination and dynamism and characterized by Ad – hoc decision making which tended to be contradictory and self – defeating. The second phase of Nigerian Foreign Policy was the period between 1966 – 1975 under which a lot of changes took place at the domestic political level. The Nigerian external relation was marked by active, positive and influential role especially in the continent. The fragile nature of the Federalism was replaced by a stronger centre with 12 states constituting the Federating Unit. The assertion of the military rule under General Yakubu Gowon dramatically changed the dimension of authority Domestic politics and Nigerian Foreign Policy. The discovery of oil boom also assisted in great measure in allowing the country to play more decisive leadership role in World affairs, as it increased the revenue accruing to the Federal government. The previous low keyed, resistant and often apologetic approach to African affairs had to be changed. The aftermath of Biafra experience was also instructive as the country came up with a coherent policy to her fellow African countries. The integrative efforts of Gowon with the establishment of ECOWAS and the financial and moral assistance to neighbouring West African countries were remarkable. Nigeria’s extension of hand of fellowship to the Eastern block countries such as China and Soviet Union was seen as a policy shift from the earlier position. The country played a frontline role in Southern Africa problems by increasing financial and other assistance to the Liberation Movement there. Gowon’s active role in Africa later earned the country the chairmanship of OAU. Similarly, Nigeria led other African countries in breaking diplomaticties with Israel in the wake of the latter’s hostility against Egypt. The nature of the regime and its domestic economic condition explained fundamentally the drastic change in Nigeria’s diplomatic style under General Gowon. General Gowon was overthrown in a bloodless coup in July, 1975. A momentous shift of Foreign policy position was however achieved under the General Murtala/Obasanjo regime. This is one administration whose foreign policy posture was characterized by dynamism as the regime strove to move the country’s foreign policy to a more truly non – aligned position particularly within the six months of Murtala’s rule. The regime’s bold move to recognize MPLA in Angola and the memorable speech to the OAU extra – ordinary Summit Conference at Addis – Ababa in January, 1976 remains a remarkable turning point. Three main factors have been identified as being responsible for this dynamic posture. The firstfactor is that of increased revenue due to the oil wealth. The other two factors are the character of the leadership itself and the institutional re-organization of the foreign policy making process that took place during this time. The next phase in the development of Nigerian Foreign Policy came with the return to civilian rule (1979 – 1983). The external policy of the Shagari administration is comparable only to that of the Balewa Era. Some scholars and commentators consider the Second Republic as having “engendered retrogression” in the country’s foreign policy resulting from its Pro – Western policy. For sure, the period of retrogression began during the Obasanjo regime when the country experienced a “return to subservience” The major factor explaining the retrogressive nature of the country’s foreign policy during the period is found in the character of the leadership. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was made up of the most aristocratic, conservative businessmen and a sprinkle of academicians of the same mould. Most of them have economic and social links with the elite of the Western World even if at a peripheral level. This among others made it difficult for them to formulate an independent foreign policy which might necessitate occasional disagreement with the Western powers. Moreover, the nature of Nigeria’s mono – cultural economy with its sole dependence on oil was such that by 1979, the country’s level of integration into the World capitalist system by transitional interests was enhanced as represented by the oil companies. Between 1981 – 1982, the country total export had declined considerably by 34.5 percent and the monthly import bill reached the one billion mark just one year after Shagari took over. Invariably, the regime could not keep to its electoral promises to the people. On the foreign arena, the regime could not maintain the momentum of those progressive actions taken since Murtala Mohammed came to power that continued to enjoy the support of the informed elites. Indeed, there was recourse to the old order of passive and reactionary posture in Nigerian Foreign Policy as manifested in the country’s policy on the Chadian Crisis, OAU and ECOWAS. It was abysmal lack of focus and inability of the regime to respond to the various domestic demands that precipitated the collapse of the 2nd Republic with the overthrow of the government by the Buhari led military Junta in December, 1983. The coming to power of this administration was very much welcomed by the Nigerian public. This was largely due to the total disaster of the Shagari administration. The new government was well received more so as it claimed to have been the offshoot of Murtala administration. The administration came with the purpose of restructuring and bringing the economy back to sound footing. It also vigorously sought to institutionalize a new ethic of National leadership based on discipline, public accountability and integrity. There was also more commitment to the polisaro and recognition of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. Other policy issues, particularly the expulsion of aliens and the closure of Nigerian borders were received with mixed feelings by the neighbouring countries. However, Buhari’s anti – West Posture was remarkable, as it demonstrated its autonomy and status in decision making. Nigeria’s diplomatic relations with such powers as United States and United Kingdom became ruptured. In all these instances, Nigeria demonstrated to the rest of the World that she was not ready to take insults or directive from any country big or small, The regime at the end suffered “Support Erosion” with its human right abuses, a situation which made it easy for it to be overthrown. The Babangida government that succeeded the Buhari regime was described as a Liberal/benevolent military regime especially at its infancy. The administration like its predecessor was committed to economic restructuring which informed its choice of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). The programme had adverse effects on the life of Nigerians, and as expected had serious implications on the country’s external relations. The regime’s handling of the bombing of Libya by the USA was heavily criticized so also was the regime’s OIC policy which almost precipitated serious internal upheaval. It was apparent that the government under the guise of economic diplomacy succeeded in playing into the hands of the Western powers as its economic programme could be said to be anything but humane. The failure of Babangida to respect the peoples mandate with the annulment of the June 12 Presidential election’s result, after endless political transition led to the demise of the regime. Following the annulment of June 12 presidential election in 1993, the interim government which was put in place by General Babangida on 26th, August, 1993 did not enjoy the support of a wide range of Nigerians. General Sani Abacha’s intervention on 17th November, 1993 was therefore very timely and inevitable given Nigeria’s drift towards anarchy and disintegration During the Abacha regime, development between China and Nigeria was one of the most prominent aspects of the shift in Nigeria’s foreign policy. At this time Nigeria and China entered into different agreements, which allowed China to become involved in oil production, refurbishment of the long – neglected Nigeria Railway Corporation, the dredging of Seaports at Calabar and Warri and the development of Mass – housing projects.5 Abacha’s foreign policy thrust shifted to Asia, failing to realize that in a globalized world, aligning Nigeria with Asia alone is inadequate. The political heat from both home and abroad continued until Abacha died on 8th June, 1998. Following the death of Abacha, General AbubakarAbdulsalam (rtd) took over as the Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He succeeded in conducting a peaceful, free and fair election that finally brought Olusegun Obasanjo as the President and Commander-in- Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces on May 29, 1999. Obasanjo’s foreign policy under democratic rule has been underlined by Nigeria’s return to a place of prestige in the International Community. Particularly of interest in this research is the influence of domestic politics on Nigeria’s foreign policy under Obasanjo’s Civilian administration (1999 – 2003).