Foreign Policy is a set of carefully articulated goals and objectives which nation-states seek to realize and actualize in the conduct of their relationships with other states. It is also a series of responses which a nation-state offers to the demands which other states put before it. Foreign policy could also be defined as a set of continuously redefined attitudes and dispositions which a state brings to the external environment in which it has to operate in the conduct of foreign policy. For the purpose of clarity, it must be stated that anything „foreign‟ is something that is external or coming in from a country that is not one‟s own, while a „policy on the other hand, is a plan or a course of action agreed or chosen by an organization or government to pursue with the hope of attaining certain expected results/gains.
Right from independence, Nigeria‟s foreign policy has been determined by several factors. One of the most significant factors is that it is the most populous black nation on earth and this has compelled her to shoulder the leadership of the black world assuming responsibilities far beyond her borders. Some might say beyond her means. Even though Nigeria moved in a measured pace, there was no doubt that the political leadership of the first republic realized that the country had a legitimate claim to leadership and also that black people in Africa and the diasporas looked up to Nigeria. Although, in practice, the Republic of Ghana under Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972) painted Nigeria as an inactive giant with feet of clay, yet Nigeria was not found wanting when it came to defending the interests of Africans still under colonial domination or in confronting France when they were determined to continue with the deadly injurious policy of testing nuclear bombs in the Sah2ara against the wishes of the African people.
The foreign policy of any country at any given time is intricately related to its domestic politics. It, therefore, follows that a country‟s national power has direct relevance to its foreign policy. The country is big and relatively populous having about a quarter of Africa‟s population. This population although backward because of the level of illiteracy, constitutes a big market for foreign investment. The size of the country and its population has given it a strategic advantage that cannot be easily overrun.
Its location in the middle Atlantic astride major trade routes means that friendship with Nigeria was desirable. Nigeria‟s agricultural and mineral potential was great, possessing minerals such as oil, iron, columbite, petroleum, Uranium and gas. The educated middle class on whom a democratic regime could be built was considerably sizeable. The only draw backs were lack of political direction and cohesion. The country also had a fundamental flaw since it suffered from fissiparous ethnic pulls in different directions. This inherent weakness was later to manifest to manifest in the fratricidal civil war between 1967 and 1970. There have been various attempts made through constitutional device to tackle the ethnic fission apparent in the country but, there has been more of acting than action with the result that the situation has continued to deteriorate, thus, casting a shadow on the future of the country itself.
The Murtala Mohammed/Olusegun Obasanjo regime carried forward the policy of decolonization by its support for the MPLA regime in Angola and the provision of arms and materials for the intensification of the war of liberation in Southern Africa. The use of Nigeria‟s economic power as leverage against British interests in the case of nationalization by Obasanjo of British Petroleum over the disagreement on Rhodesia showed that Nigeria had come of age. There was no doubt that the threat of further action in the economic area was no longer to be taken for granted. This facilitated the coming to power of blacks in Zimbabwe. Since that time Nigeria‟s voice has been listened to carefully in the process of decolonization and removal of apartheid in South Africa.
The continuum of events occurring in succession leading from the past to the present and even into the future of Nigerian foreign policy since 1960 has constantly been changing, though the principles guiding her foreign relations remain the same. Nigerian leaders are largely responsible for these unstable external relations.
Since Nigeria‟s foreign policy is deeply rooted in Africa with strategic emphasis on political and economic operation, peaceful dispute resolution, and global non-alignment, Nigerian leaders also have their attention focused on successful implementation of these principles. However, the influence of personality on Nigeria‟s relations with other countries cannot be ignored as different leaders adopt different styles in conducting external relations.
Examining the complexity of all the attributes, behavioral, temperamental, emotional and mental that characterizes the leader both at the theoretical and practical levels is therefore important in understanding Nigeria‟s foreign policy. In this research however, the foreign policy and international diplomacy of Nigeria under President Olusegun Obasanjo‟s administration(1999-2007) shall be analyzed. Analysis of Nigeria‟s foreign policy shows that most if not all leaders operate within four concentric levels of national interest. The innermost circle represents Nigeria‟s own security, independence and prosperity and is centered on its immediate neighbors- Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, the second circle revolves around Nigeria‟s relations with its west African neighbors, the third circle focuses on continental African issues of peace, development and democratization; and the fourth circle involves Nigeria‟s relations with organizations, institutions and states outside Africa. With this in mind, each Nigerian Head of State or President works to ensure that no single part is affected in pursuing the country‟s foreign policy.
The assumption of power by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo served as a catalyst in the history of international relations as far as Nigeria was concerned. His government injected new innovations and dynamism into the Nations foreign policy affairs. Nigeria became a regional power and center of influence, particularly in Africa. As at inauguration in May, 1999, Obasanjo inherited a nation with a battered image and without credibility externally. This study examines Nigeria‟s foreign policy under President Olusegun Obasanjo‟s administration and his determination to regain Nigeria‟s lost glory and re-integration into the international arena. It provides a detailed background on the impact of Obasanjo‟s international diplomacy in rebuilding Nigeria‟s image as well as imparting vigour into Nigeria‟s international politics. Study shows that President Olusegun Obasanjo engaged in a shuttle diplomacy across the major capitals of the globe.
The nation has achieved significant gains through the regime‟s shuttle diplomacy. Apart from the psychological relief following its re-integration and accommodation into world affairs, Nigeria assumed the leadership of several international organizations notably the ECOWAS, AU, and G-77. It also hosted very important international summits including those of the Commonwealth Heads of State and government and the AU in 2004, the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in 2005, and severally the ECOWAS since 1999. The study analyses the domestic policies of the Obasanjo‟s administration and how it shaped the country‟s policy of partnership. It can be said therefore that the period between 1999 and 2007 Nigeria‟s foreign policy took a new turn in restoring the image of the country through a global shuttle diplomacy of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Therefore, the focus of this study is to examine the role played by President Olusegun Obasanjo in restoring the image of the country, analyze his foreign policy posture and give an appraisal of the successes and failures in terms of domestic and international repositioning.
Essentially, diplomacy is an established method of discourse or the art of managing international relations chiefly by negotiation or conduct of official relations among states. The fact that the Nigerian foreign policy and International Diplomacy in the Obasanjo years were re-invigorated cannot be over-emphasized. Obasanjo‟s administration created a sort of spark when it came to relations with other states. And due to the fact that he was highly respected when dealing with other heads of state, Nigeria was highly respected as well in the international system and that enhanced the pursuit of our foreign policy. The Nigerian foreign policy has the general purpose to ensure security, Autonomy, Welfare, and Status.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The blossoming Nigerian foreign policy of today is as result of Former President Olusegun Obasanjo‟s administration. Relations between Nigerian and other state and non-state actors in international politics from 1999 onward were based on democratic principles. The tit-for-tat diplomacy of late Gen. Sani Abacha, de facto President of Nigeria from 1993 to 1998 had greatly damaged the image of Nigeria. The government was accused of human rights abuses and was repeatedly condemned by the U.S State Department. There were breaks in relationships with many countries with threats of economic sanctions from others. Apart from this and most importantly, the government was characterized by an inconsistent foreign policy which was definitely not good for Nigeria and therefore made Nigeria a scorn in the comity of nations. The coming of President Olusegun Obasanjo and the various reforms which he embarked upon actually brought Nigeria out of her messy and shameful situation that late Gen Sani Abacha put the country into.
The main thrust of this research is to take an objective view regarding the foreign policy of Nigeria during the Obasanjo years and how these policies were executed, and also to compare it to the previous ways that Nigerian foreign policies were made and executed. It has been eluded by voices in the Nigerian system that Obasanjo‟s administration sort of “brought back to live” the Nigerian foreign policy and international diplomacy.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH
The research work focuses on the following objectives:
i. To examine Nigeria‟s foreign policy initiatives under Obasanjo;
ii. To identify factors that aided the re-invigoration of Nigeria‟s foreign policy and international diplomacy during the Obasanjo years; and
iii. To evaluate the impact of Obasanjo‟s administration on the execution of Nigerian foreign policy and international diplomacy.