The answer to the question as to whether our foreign policy thrust is ripe for repositioning is an obvious “yes”. Several reasons can be adduced to justify this.
Top among them is that other African countries have been gradually inching away from the common commitment to African unity, brotherhood and common interests. Nigeria appears to be the only one still tenaciously clinging to it.
We are not calling for a wholesale dumping of the policy. We are calling for a rejig; a fine-tuning that emphasises the core, existential interests of our country and people.
Many African countries are not just backing off from our collective commitments to Africa; there is an outright rise in the quantum of hostility to Nigerians on the continent. There are waves of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and Nigerian businesses in same South Africa we paid through the nose to liberate. Meanwhile, their businesses and economic interests are thriving in Nigeria, leveraging on our large and imports-loving population. Ghana, our Anglophone neighbour, made a punitive law targeted at Nigerian traders.
It provides that a foreigner must have US$300,000 in its deposit account before it can operate in Ghana.
The Ghanaian government and citizens have often harassed, beaten and forcefully shut down Nigerian businesses, ignoring the ECOWAS protocol on free trade, to which Ghana is a signatory. Over the penultimate weekend, things boiled over. A private individual accompanied by Ghana state security personnel, demolished buildings in the compound of the Nigerian High Commission in Accra. Nigeria was accused of failing to renegotiate an expired lease. This is an earth-shaking diplomatic oddity!
Though President Nana Akufo-Addo has personally apologised to Nigeria, the sheer temerity that informed this infraction on our sovereignty by a private citizen shows the level of disregard to which all things Nigerian in Ghana, South Africa and other African countries have sunk.
While Nigerians live in fear in other African countries, African nationals living in Nigeria are thriving even more than most Nigerians.
Our foreign policy thrust must change. While we should maintain an open door to Africa, we must do so with Nigeria’s interests first and uppermost in all our doings. We should place more emphasis on advancing our economic interests.
Countries with large populations such as China, India and Donald Trump’s United States of America are single-mindedly pushing the economic angle while de-emphasising the political one, at least for now.
Nigeria’s population is growing out of control. To provide for them we must break new economic frontiers. Africa is a fertile hunting ground for economic goods. We must join the hunt in a manner that forces other African countries to respect our people and interests just as we do theirs.