By Owei Lakemfa
Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, stepped out on Thursday December 21, 2023 to explain to Nigerians the four-dimensional space built by the Tinubu administration for the country’s foreign policy. Tuggar, 56, a player in the oil and gas industry had in the last six years, been Nigeria’s Ambassador to Germany.
This opportunity of a wide audience including the diplomatic community, intellectuals, active and retired public servants to examine the new policy, was provided by the ever thoughtful and visionary Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria, ARCAN.
The ARCAN, led by Ambassador John Kayode Shinkaiye, one of the country’s greats in African diplomacy, asked me to chair the occasion which had the succinct theme: ‘The Foreign Policy Agenda under Tinubu Administration.’
Ambassador Shinkaiye said ARCAN decided to organise the programme because: “the formulation and execution of the foreign policy of the country is crucial as decisions made in this aspect of the Nation’s governance have far reaching implications for Nigeria, the West Africa region, the African continent, and even beyond.”
He said it is therefore important that the new government: “sets appropriate priorities and strategies and identify potential challenges that the government may face.” The country’s foreign policy, he posited, will be shaped by among other things: “a combination of domestic factors and imperatives, regional dynamics and global realities.” He added that understanding how these factors can affect issues like security, economic cooperation and foreign relations is very important to the success of the administration.
In my remarks as chairman, I said we must constantly assess and reassess our foreign policy because everything is in flux and nothing should be taken for granted.
Even warfare, I pointed out, has changed: “Fifty six years ago, it took Israel just six days to defeat the combined armed forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. In those six days, Israel captured Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Syria’s Golan Heights, the Palestinian Old Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza. Today, a stronger, better equipped, experienced and technology-driven Israel, fighting just a single Palestinian group, the Hamas, has in 78 days been unable to fully capture Northern Gaza.”
I argued that while the 4-D Foreign Policy; Demography, Development, Diaspora and Democracy, are commendable, they need to be thoroughly scrutinised. For instance, should the Diaspora component remain a separate entity or be part of our Foreign Ministry?
The Presidency, I pointed out, is so huge, and the daily, if not hourly challenges it faces, are so enormous, that: “it cannot effectively be the engine room of our foreign policy. That engine room, should be the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
I posited that building an effective Nigerian foreign policy requires four things. First, ensuring the welfare of Nigerians. Secondly, guaranteeing the security of Nigeria and Nigerians. Thirdly, building a strong economy and currency, and fourthly, defending and promoting the first three.
In conclusion, I suggested the holding of an all-inclusive retreat as was done at the April 1986 All-Nigeria Conference on Foreign Policy in Kuru in which all segments of society participated. I submitted that such a retreat will provide a Road Map with practical recommendations that will guide us, our incoming Ambassadors and Diplomatic outposts, not just for the next four years, but extending beyond the Tinubu administration.
Minister Tuggar submitted that: “With regards to Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives, they exist and remain immovable because they are enshrined in our Constitution; they are, in summary, to promote and protect Nigeria’s national interest, to promote African integration and support African unity, promote international co-operation for the consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect among all nations and elimination of discrimination in all its manifestations.”
He added that the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Tinubu further elucidated three objectives: “to protect against all forms of external aggression; promote the best possible outcomes for Nigeria in all engagements with other nations; improve Nigeria’s standing and dignity among the comity of Nations.”
Tuggar revealed that it is the constitutional provisions and these triple objectives of the Agenda, that were used to construct the 4-D Diplomacy Agenda of the new administration.
In breaking down the Agenda, Tuggar explained: “When we say Democracy, we are referring to a pathway to enhanced peace and stability in Africa and around the world.” He said unconstitutional changes in government: “calls for proactive diplomacy in order to reverse the trend and restore peace.”
Democracy in global institutions he argued, requires working for Nigeria’s permanent membership of the UNSC, G20 and all other relevant groupings where democratic norms, size of population and size of the economy ought to be the yardstick for membership.”
Development he said, seeks to use diplomacy to: “achieve double digit growth for Nigeria by combining Agriculture, Infrastructure and Industrialisation. Attracting foreign investment in agriculture would help to close the gap between metro and rural areas and a bifurcation that contributes to Nigeria’s poor showing on the poverty index.”
Ambassador Tuggar said we must use the demographic advantage of our youth bulge to generate income and growth, and leapfrog by using: “technology to skip certain stages and fast-track development.”
On Diaspora, he said: “Our approach is to ensure that we are not working in silos and I am happy to say that the agencies under the ministry have fully integrated the 4-Ds into their programmes.”
Emeritus Professor Anthony Ashiwaju who pointed out that there is an intersection between development and demography, said foreign policy ought to take a special note of boundaries.
Ambassador Olusola Enikanolaiye , the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs clarified that the Foreign Ministry is necessarily an extension of the Presidency; the Diaspora cannot be run without the Ministry, and that there is the need for synergy by all with the Foreign Ministry as a coordinating agency.
Dr. Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, Permanent Secretary of Labour under the Obasanjo Presidency and Information and Culture in the Yar’Adua administration, hoped that under the D-4 Foreign Policy Agenda, there would be strong financial support of our foreign missions and embassies. Agary said she had been to a number of Nigerian Missions, and in some cases, the diplomats do not get their allowances on time, sometimes stretching for months. For any foreign policy to succeed, she argued, the diplomats and staff must be adequately, properly and timeously compensated.
Minister Tuggar responded that the funding issue is being addressed and that some days before, the Foreign, Budget and Planning Ministries and the Wages and Salaries Commission met on ensuring adequate funding for the foreign Missions. He said security is fundamental to ensuring a good foreign policy but that the failure of the local government system due to interferences by some governors, has seriously affected security in the country.
Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), is a human rights activist, journalist, and author.