CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS OF ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY AS A DRIVER OF NIGERIA’S NATIONAL INTEREST
The de-ideologization of international relations following the disintegration of Soviet Union and seeming collapse of the socialist bloc has ushered in accelerated economic globalization. This process was initiated at the end of World War II with the creation of international economic institutions against Mercantilism. Hence, Aina (2006:2) remarked that “as a consequence, growing interdependence prevalent in the West since the 70’s and 80’s immediately spread across the globe and the capitalist rules came to dominate international economy changing along side, the political face of the world”.
States with weak economies in the present world order are trapped from growing unless they adapt fast to the new rules of the global regime. This new rule requires a refocusing of foreign policy priorities to economic issues targeted at internal development stratagem. In this process Nigeria is not left out in the transformation of her foreign policy thrust to largely economic diplomacy. A country’s foreign policy guides and shapes the behaviour of that country in international arena. According to Rosenau (1976) foreign policy may be “aggressive or submissive, long range or short range, economic or diplomatic”. Similarly, Asobie (1991:35) noted that “while foreign policy is the substantive aspect of external relations, diplomacy is the procedural aspect”. It is thus “the process of putting into effect foreign policies of nation states” (Petrovsky, 1998).
By Diplomacy we refer to “the management of international relations by negotiation, the method by which these relations are adjusted by ambassadors and envoys the business or art of the diplomats” (Nicolson,1950:15;Asobie,2002:47; Okodolor,2007:1).The process of negotiation leads to compromise as a means of solving political and economic problems in
international arena. Hence, Okolie, (2008:1) maintains that diplomacy is the art of making compromise in international political matters which promote rather than jeopardize the basic interest of a nation. According to Asobie it is the process of bargaining among states in order to narrow arrears of disagreement reached.
He further remarks that economic diplomacy may be defined in one of three ways:
- As the management of international relations in such a manner as to place ascent on the economic dimension of a country’s external relations. Thus, he noted that economic diplomacy is the conduct of foreign policy in such a manner as to give topmost priority to the economic objectives of a nation.
- Economic diplomacy as the appreciation of economic instrument in negotiation and bargaining with other
- As a set of strategies and tactics formulated and applied for the achievement of a fundamental restructuring of the existing international order (Asobie, 2002:47- 48).
Asobie’s above definition attests to the fact that at the base of economic diplomacy is the pursuit of foreign policy and the development principles through predominantly economic precepts (Okolie, 2008). Economic diplomacy therefore reinforces the effective implementation of economic reforms of Structural Adjustment Programme and National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy. Hence, Nigeria’s foreign policy since independence has experienced about five major shifts, which under Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1960-66) has been characterized as pragmatic. In his words:
So far as is possible, the policy for each occasion will be selected with a proper independent objectivity in Nigeria’s national interest. (Abubakar, 1960:3)
This is in sharp contrast with the militant and radical orientation of General Yakubu Gowon’s regime (1966-1975) and the dynamic, radical, nationalistic and even revolutionary reformist posture of General Murtala Muhammed/Obasanjo regime of (1976- 1979),Fawole,2003;Garba, 1979). The withdrawal of the military in politics in 1979 following
the election of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria induced the fourth shift which in the perception of the initiator was characterized in “Afro centric” terms. In his foreign policy thrust, President Shehu Shagari on March 18, 1980 decried that Africa remains the corner-stone of Nigeria’s foreign policy. According to him:
My administration is committed to the cause of the total liberation of Africa and the abolition of racism in all its ramification. We shall neither relax nor relent until all Africans and all black men are free…. We want a new world, where no man and no nation is oppressed, where men as well as nations are judged by the content and quality of their human resources rather than military or economic powers (Shagari ,1980:5).
Since Shagari’s ouster and the subsequent military regimes of Buhari/Idiagbon and General (Ibrahim Babaginda), there has been an oscillation from an assertive nationalist posture (Buhari/Idiagbon) to a retreat from Afro-centrism or continentalism to a personalized, tightly controlled sub-regionalist posture that relies on interventionism and activist foreign policy that divert attention from the strains and stresses of the economy, society and polity. This continentalism has remained a feature of Nigeria’s foreign policy since General Sani Abacha supplanted the Interim National Government of Ernest Shonekan in a palace coup d’etat in 1993. Although economic diplomacy was popularized under the regime of Ibrahim Babaginda, the fifth shift seems to have emerged with the administration of General Abudusalami Abubakar. In his address at the annual patrons dinner of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs held on December 12, 1998, he noted as follows:
This administration accepts the proposition that a sound economy is the bedrock of a strong and proactive foreign policy by any country. And for us, as nation at the cross roads of history the condition of our national economy will have a decisive impact not only on the sustenance of our democratic transition after 29 May, 1999, but also on our role in world affairs (Abubakar, 1998:3).
The above policy thrust underscores the primacy of economic issues over security matters in this era of global economic liberalization. Hence, emphasis shifted to adapting to the new competitive rules of the game. Despite all odds, Nigeria, attempts to survive and prosper economically by adjusting in line with the dictates of the new global regime rooted in capitalist hegemony.