Nigeria in the World : Issues and Problems for the Sleeping Giant [Chapter 1] Nigeria's Foreign Policy

The concept of consultation in Nigeria's foreign policy dates back to the time of late Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa who, at times, consulted London to know what steps to take vis-a-vis certain issues. This analysis, however will be limited to the time of the Kuru Conference which the Foreign Minister, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, used as a forum to propound his doctrine. Akinyemi was quoted as saying that: "There is no disputing the fact that we have responsibilities to Africa. There should be no disputing the fact that Africa has responsibilities to Nigeria. If, when we say that Africa is the centre-piece of our foreign policy, we mean that Nigeria should identify with and defend the legitimate interest of Africa collectively and in African state, individually, then - it also means that Africa and African states should identify with and defend Nigerian interest." When the minister was also asked to justify Nigeria's stance on America's assaults on Libya in the Gulf of Sirte, he replied: "We must not and cannot allow states which, of their own free will, adopt policies that lead to crisis to assume that Nigeria will automatically be dragged into that crisis. That is not a position of subservience." In the first statement, it comes to saying that if Nigeria has to serve the interest of Africa or Africans, the entity or people served should also reciprocate. And the second raises the position of Nigeria as a leader. It would amount to a position of subservience for Nigeria to allow herself to be dragged into the conflict without prior consultation. This was what the minister had in mind by saying: "If we owe a responsibility to stand for and respond to Africa, we are owed an obligation to be consulted when the situations allow for consultation." Many problems are raised when these statements are closely looked into. First, that Nigeria owes "a responsibility to stand for and respond to Africa" may be true. If true, it is a self-imposed responsibility. It is a known fact that the size, position and material resources of Nigeria made the Francophone states to fear Nigeria and to develop cold feet when it comes to Nigeria assuming effective leadership in African affairs.