Bola A. Akinterinwa
Foreign policy has been defined severally, but simply put, it is generally considered as an extension of domestic policy in different ways. As a prolongation of the domestic setting, the particular issue of agents of domestic revenues and maintenance of national security are necessarily raised. At the domestic level, and without whiff of doubt, national revenues and national security are taken as a desideratum and critical issues in political governance and foreign policy. They are critical issues because, without revenue, there will not be any funding for security. In the same vein, without security, the environment of revenue generation cannot be conducive. This simply means that revenue generation and maintenance of national security must go pari passu in ensuring economic growth and productivity in political governance.
In the context of international relations, a State must be solvent enough to be able to give development aid to another State. Solvency should not be simply seen in the context of cash liquidity alone. Solvency, in this case, also involves adequacy of technological capacity to share with others, unflinching political will to grant development aid to others, social or human security for the people as distinct from state security, and socio-political contentment.
And true enough in Nigeria, there are many revenue generation agencies: Customs Service, Immigration Service, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Ministry of Steel Development (MMSD), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), etc. These agencies generated N14.38trn to the Federation Account in the past two years. Hence they are quite important.
As regards the security agencies, they include the law enforcement agencies: the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), National Emergency Management Agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS), etc. All agents of both the revenue-generating agencies and security agencies operate in Nigeria’s international and domestic airports where they compete rather than collaborating. Unfortunately, foreign policy interests are compromised as a result.
Revenue and Security
The aviation authorities, as reliably informed, have a policy of selling all available spaces at the airports in Lagos without due regard to the implications for Nigeria’s foreign policy image. Two issues are noteworthy in this regard. At the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, a new terminal that has just been constructed and opened for aviation activities, does not provide for a mini diplomatic or protocolar office at the arrival and departure levels of passengers.
In this regard, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), has informed ‘the travelling public that flight operations have been moved from the Old Murtala Muhammed International Airport terminal (T1) to the new terminal (T2).’ More important, the FAAN statement says the ‘FAAN uses this medium to appeal to passengers to always get to the airport “at least three hours” before their departure time to ensure that check-in activities are concluded in good time.’ The directive was given by the Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo, on September 7, 2023. The directive was that the relocation of all airlines to the new terminal should be completed not later than October 1, 2023 to allow for renovation works in the old terminal. Some airlines are yet to comply with the directive, but this is not really the problem.
The problem is that there is no provision for a Protocol Office in the new terminal. One possible assumption can be that the Foreign Service Officers at Terminal One should operate from their old base, rather than having another desk office in the new terminal. The need to save costs cannot but be a main rationale in this case. Indeed, this consideration is further buttressed by the fact of existence of a main diplomatic lounge on the first floor of the old terminal. What is noteworthy here is the need to avoid any confusion of the diplomatic lounge with a protocol desk where information about very important people travelling out of Nigeria or arriving in Nigeria is processed for action. The protocol desk office does not have the reception luxury in the proper diplomatic lounge on the first floor of the old terminal.
From my enquiries, every space to be occupied by anyone or any agency, governmental or non-governmental, at the airport must be paid for. The Aviation Ministry is more concerned about revenue and not much about foreign policy dimensions. Additionally the Ministry undoubtedly expects that every Ministry of Government seeking to have an office space at the airport must arrange and pay for it. The implication of ‘this policy of non-payment no space allocation’ raises many issues of foreign policy.
First, since the official protocol office at the airports are under the supervisory authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, why is there no arrangement to ensure a well secured space at the airport? At the old terminal, what is called protocol office or desk at the arrival level is nothing more than an aluminum-glass fenced area, open to all passers-by. Even though it is very near Gate D where there are different uniformed security agents controlling the access to the arrival hall, the strategic importance of the office and its location is yet to be well appreciated by the people and officially-recognised by other government ministries, departments and agencies.
Whether one likes it or not, any international airport, like any land border frontier, is always the first point of contact and source of first impression of any incoming passenger: what is the aesthetic look of the airport, the functionality and cleanliness of facilities at the airport, the friendliness shown by immigration and customs agents, safety of baggage, social and official courtesies shown, quality of intra-airport transportation, availability of airport communications, etc. If any in-coming foreigner develops a negative impression on arrival, it may take greater efforts to re-polish that impression thereafter. This is why business transaction in any international airport in Nigeria should always be taken very seriously. And it is against this background that the second issue, which is about inter-agency rivalry, is undertaken for further analysis here.
I was at the Murtala Muhammed airport on November 6, 2023 to receive a guest. Some security agents refused to submit themselves for checking and the other security agents similarly refused to let them pass. The security agents that refused to identify themselves appeared to be armed and they forced their way through. A bit of violent hullaballoo occurred thereafter. The questions in this case are: why is there no operational framework for all security agents working for the same Government of Nigeria in the same place? Should they know or not know that they are working for the same purpose? Should they know themselves in the same airport? If a security agent is an intelligence officer, must he identify himself or herself in an open manner? Will his identity be well protected by unnecessarily introducing himself as a security officer? Shouldn’t there be a mechanism for inter-agency cooperation at the international airport? This is one problem that has the potential to unnecessarily taint Nigeria’s image abroad.
Thirdly, the reported directive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Chargés d’Affaires of Nigeria’s diplomatic missions abroad is a different kettle of fish entirely. The directive, signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Adamu I. Lamuwa, and dated November 3rd, 2023, was purportedly meant to lock out Nigerian diplomats who are either required to return home but have not done so, or those of them that are ready to return home but who have not been paid their entitlements to enable them fly back to Nigeria. Perhaps this is not really offensive. What appears to more irritating is that Nigeria’s plenipotentiaries abroad have reportedly called out Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusufu Tuggar for allegedly inciting junior workers to lock Ambassadors out of their offices and residences and stop them from using their official cars.’
This story is most unfortunate because of the circumstances that might have warranted the Honourable Minister’s directive. There is no disputing the fact that whenever there is a change of government, the new incumbent President would want to change his principal representatives abroad. It is a diplomatic tradition. The main problem however has always arisen at the level of political ambassadors who, in many cases, actually behave unprofessionally or in ways incompatible with the status of a diplomatic agent. Unlike career ambassadors, political ambassadors often bypass the Foreign Ministry, preferring to relate directly with the Presidency.
There was the case of Nigeria’s ambassador in Gabon in 2005. Political ambassadors might be those refusing to return home as directed. Could they be ambassadors-designate who are itching to resume duty and therefore are pressurizing the incumbent ambassadors to quickly return home by inciting junior staff to embarrass their Principals? Is it even possible for the junior members of staff to embarrass any ambassador since the junior ones are likely to be mostly locally-recruited staff? To what extent can the home-based junior members of staff be used to attack their bosses?
Without doubt, there has always been a friction between career diplomats and political diplomats. The careerists uphold the diplomatic tradition while the political ambassadors are guided by their own political interests. They operate in the manner of a holier than thou. Thus, while it is normal to ask ambassadors to return home for whatever reason, this must always be done with decency and due respect. More often than not, when ambassadors complete their tour of duty, or are recalled for consultation, or are given a Siberian treatment, the returning has hardly been promptly funded. The delay has generally not been the fault of the diplomats.
Whatever is the case, the directive of the Permanent Secretary has also raised the questions of revenue and security: what is the cost of bringing home the ambassadors? What is the security implication of the embarrassment of the ambassadors, if true, by the junior staff?
Foreign Policy Implications
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has come up with a new diplomatic doctrine, called the ‘4D Renewed Foreign Policy Doctrine.’ The four Ds, which are Democracy, Development, Demography and Diaspora, are conceived to be quadrilateral pillars of a new foreign policy the details of which are yet to be made crystal clear. PBAT’s conception of Democracy in Nigeria is that it is ‘essential for regional stability and human rights protection.’ Considered as an essential need, Nigeria ‘should actively support democracy in West Africa to prevent military takeovers and address security challenges while pursuing strategic autonomy.’
As good and welcome supporting democracy may be, it is not democracy per se that should be addressed first, but the attitudinal disposition of politicians to democracy. There are no problems with the democratic structures, or with the provisions of the electoral code in Nigeria. The fundamental problem is with the manipulation of the code. There is therefore the need to first train the minds of the political stakeholders. Perhaps more importantly, PBAT has described Nigeria’s foreign policy under his administration ‘Nigeria’s 4D Renewed Foreign Policy Doctrine.’ The notion of 4D is understood but the understanding of the factor of renewal of foreign policy doctrine needs further expatiation. This is necessary because there is no known Nigeria’s foreign policy doctrine already predicated on the identified foregoing 4Ds. What is known as a foreign policy doctrine so far is Professor Akinwande Bolaji Akinyemi’s Consultation Doctrine which was propounded at the second national conference on foreign policy in Kuru, in 1986. The first conference took place in 1961. The doctrine has it that for any country seeking the help of Nigeria in whatever circumstance, there must be prior consultation with the Government of Nigeria. In other words, it is being argued that Nigeria’s foreign policy support cannot be taken for granted. Nigeria must be carried along before any support is to be given.
Consequently, PBAT’s foreign policy can be rightly described as a truly ‘renewed diplomatic strategy.’ And true enough again, it is a re-strategy, which qualifies to be rightly considered as a doctrine. As postulated, PBAT has created a strong linkage between foreign policy and development, underscoring the strong place foreign policy occupies in any country’s development agenda. In the eyes of PBAT, foreign policy can ‘build partnerships, facilitate trade and investment, and develop capacities for sustainable development.’ He cannot be more correct in this case.
In the same vein, PBAT is positing that ‘Nigeria’s diplomacy should harness its large and youthful population, positioning it as an economic asset and a force in global decision-making.’ With an expected population of about 377 million by 2050, ‘Nigeria can drive economic growth, industrialization, and job creation while seeking greater global representation.’ Additionally PBAT also believes that by harnessing ‘Nigeria’s diaspora communities to positively impact foreign governments and improve the country’s international image, the objective of national development can be achieved especially by “learning from other nations” successes, engaging diaspora communities, enhancing consular services, and leveraging skilled citizens for knowledge transfer and investments in Nigeria.’
In sum, unlike the first doctrine, Consultation Doctrine, which requires whoever wants whatever support from Nigeria to first consult with Nigeria or to carry Nigeria along before embarking on any foreign policy endeavor, PBAT’s foreign policy is fresh. It is not a renewed foreign policy doctrine. It is not about economic diplomacy or development diplomacy per se. Economic diplomacy underscores development by attraction of foreign direct investments and promotion of international trade. It is also different from Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari’s foreign policy concentric circles and Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji’s constructive and beneficial concentricism. Professor Gambari wants prioritization of Nigeria’s foreign policy operations by dividing the world into concentric areas. Ambassador Adeniji underscores the need to articulate the foreign policy objectives pursued in each concentric circle. And perhaps more importantly, Ambassador Adeniji wants the foreign policy to be constructive in design and implementation approach and beneficial to all Nigerians in outcome.
PBAT’s new foreign policy doctrine, even though it is primarily aimed at development like all others, the dynamic pillars are not the same. PBAT is capitalizing on the use of democracy, demography and the Diaspora as instruments of economic growth and development. Thus, PBAT’s Renewed Foreign Policy Doctrine is the pursuit of national development using democracy, demography and Nigerians in Diaspora as the catalytic instruments. As good as the new foreign policy doctrine may be, the extent to which the pillars can seriously respond to international problems appear to be limited.
For instance, the two main and critical problems in the world of today are the Russo-Ukrainian war and the Israelo-Gazan war. Nigeria’s foreign policy attitude to the Russian-Ukrainian war never reckoned with the national interest of Nigeria, contrarily to the country’s policy of non-alignment, under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Nigeria simply followed the American lead and instruction. As regards Israelo-Palestinian conflict, Nigeria is neither a Muslim State nor a Christian State. Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution as amended, provides for a secular state, but the conflict has sharply divided the country into Muslim and Christian proponents. The Christians support the Israelis and the Muslims support the Palestinian Gazans. In this case, to what extent can the 4Ds of the new foreign policy be useful in dowsing the tension in Gaza? One cannot but agree with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who has called for a re-thinking of democracy in Africa. And perhaps, most importantly, Nigeria needs a foreign policy of national restructuring. The notion of Nigeria must first of all exist in the minds of the so-called Nigerians, because it is when there is Nigeria that is generally acceptable, that the culture of patriotism can be developed and that the 4Ds can be consciously promoted and adhered to. The Nigeria of today cannot boast of true Nigerians. To put it more bluntly, Nigeria must truly exist first as a nation and as a people before any foreign policy doctrine can be appreciated.