Nigeria Foreign Policy (1976-1979)
Introduction Since independence, Nigerian foreign policy has been characterized by a focus on Africa and by attachment to several fundamental principles: African unity and independence; peaceful settlement of disputes; nonalignment and non intentional interference in the internal affairs of other nations; and regional economic cooperation and development.
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In pursuing the goal of regional economic cooperation and development, Nigeria helped create the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which seeks to harmonize trade and investment practices for its 15 West African member countries and ultimately to achieve a full customs union. Over the past decade, Nigeria has played a pivotal role in the support of peace in Africa. It has provided the bulk of troops for the UN peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), and many of the troops to the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS).
Foreign policy is the General objectives that guide the activities and relationships of one state in its interactions with other states. The development of foreign policy is influenced by domestic considerations, the policies or behaviour of other states, or plans to advance specific geopolitical designs. Leopold von Ranke emphasized the primacy of geography and external threats in shaping foreign policy, but later writers emphasized domestic factors. Diplomacy is the tool of foreign policy, and war, alliances, and international trade may all be manifestations of it.
Foreign Policy A country’s foreign policy, also called the foreign relations policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries. In recent times, due to the deepening level of globalization and transnational activities, the states will also have to interact with non-state actors.
The aforementioned interaction is evaluated and monitored in attempts to maximize benefits of multilateral international cooperation. Since the national interests are paramount, foreign policies the government through high-level decision making processes. National interests accomplishment can occur as a result of peaceful cooperation with other nations, or through exploitation. Usually, creating foreign policy is the job of the head of government and the foreign minister (or equivalent). In some countries the legislature also has considerable oversight.
Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, described human as a social animal. Therefore, friendships and relations have existed between humans since the beginning of human creation. As the organization developed in human affairs, relations between people also organized. Foreign policy thus goes back to primitive times. The inception in human affairs of foreign relations and the need for foreign policy to deal with them is as old as the organization of human life in groups. Nigeria’s Foreign Policy
From the dictates of the circumstances of Nigeria’s geographic contiguity Nigeria’s geopolitical and strategic situation, size and stature of her national power, Nigeria, is known for her Diplomatic option in the resolution (or at least in the management) of regional as also international conflict. On those occasions when Nigeria has picked up arms, they have been for peace-keeping or peace monitoring purposes it has never been involved in armed conflict with any sovereign and independent country since her independence in 1960.
Although prior to 1960, it was involved in other wars including the World War II, it did so under the British flag. In her conduct of foreign policy, Nigeria has always availed of functional vehicles in the nature of ECOWAS, OAU/ AU, UNO, OPEC, Non-Alignment and so forth. Her advocate of goodneighborliness and peaceful resolution of conflict among other things has earned her a place of pride as opinion leader in regional African affairs, and to some extent, in the world. Consequently, Nigeria has and has never failed to use her capacity to influence outcomes positively at least at the regional level.
It can also be stated that so long as Nigeria remains on track with her magnanimity towards her neighbours and does not abandon her belief in peaceful settlement of disputes as well as operate a foreign policy that is not perceived to be antagonistic to the big powers lurking around her borders, Nigeria could enjoy a period of relative peace. However, a non-antagonistic policy towards the big powers presupposes that Nigeria’s national interest will, or do coincide with those of the big powers operating in and around Nigeria or out-rightly in the international system.
This is certainly not so. Since independence different regimes have emerged in Nigeria: and in spite of their different orientations and leadership styles, the conduct of Nigeria’s foreign policy has been publicly proclaimed by them to be guided by the same principles which are also in conformity with the well-established principles of traditional law as well as the charter of the organization of African Unity OAU or AU). They are: • Sovereign equality of all states Respect of territorial integrity and independence of other states • Non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. • Commitment to self-determination and independence of other states • Commitment to functional approach as a means of promoting cooperation and peaceful co-existence in Africa and the whole world known as multilateralism. • Non-alignment to any geopolitical power bloc. Commitment to Africa as the cornerstone and nerve-center of Nigeria’s foreign policy. These are highlighted below 1.
Sovereign Equality of all States: As an independent sovereign state, Nigeria has always emphasized the principle of legal equality of all states. This is in conformity with her conviction that a well-ordered and peaceful society requires mutual and reciprocal respect for the interests and opinions of most if not all the national actors. The principle is also to protect the small and or relatively weaker states like Nigeria, which are highly susceptible to control, dominance and coercion by the more powerful and industrialized states.
Hence Nigeria, since the Balewa government in 1960 up to the present dispensation of Yar ‘Adua in 2007, has through her foreign policy pronouncements and actions that in spite of comparative advantage in size, population and resources over many other countries in Africa, particularly in West Africa, she would neither seek to dominate, other countries nor carry out aggressive military action against them comparative advantage in size, population and resources over many other countries in Africa, particularly in West Africa, she would neither seek to ominate, other countries nor carry out aggressive military action against them. Rather, Nigeria prefers to play a leadership role. This has governed Nigeria’s relation with Cameroun despite many provocations on Bakassi claim. 2. Respect of Territorial integrity and independence of other states. This is related to the sovereign quality of other states. It is in the belief of Nigeria that the independence of any sovereign state must be respected, and that the territorial integrity of any states must be jealously guarded and not jeopardized. . Non-Interference in the Internal Affairs of other states: This principle is perhaps one of those that have never been maintained by successive administrations in Nigeria. One of the reasons often cited for this is the protection of the nation’s security interests. This accounted for Nigeria’s intervention in the Chadian internal crisis involving Goukoni Wedeye and Hissain Habre in the 1980s. It was the lunch of the Nigerian government that the conflict in a neighboring state posed security problem for her.
On the other hand, Nigeria’s intervention in the Liberian and Sierra Leonean domestic crises was essentially to justify her regional power stations and perception of her leadership role in the subregion. 4. Commitment to Self-determination and Independence of other states: This is a principle that Nigeria has always maintained since independence. It is for this reason that she has remained persistent in her commitment towards decolonization in Africa and her active role in support of Liberation struggle particularly in Southern Africa.
It was indeed in recognition of this role in African liberation that Nigeria was consistently accorded the chairmanship of the United Nation’s Committee on Anti- Apartheid for several years. 5. Commitment to Functional Approach as a means of Promoting Cooperation and Peaceful Co-existence in Africa: This is the principle of multilateralism. Driven by her strong belief and commitment to this principle, Nigeria has sought membership in various international organizations at both global and regional levels.
Upon her attainment of independence in 1960, the country instantly joined the United Nations Organization (UNO). Nigeria also played active role in the formation of OAU in 1963, and propelled, in collaboration with Togo, the establishment of ECOWAS in 1975. The country has been playing a front line role in these organizations. For instance, she has been both chairman of the UN General Assembly and a member of the Security Council on different occasions.
Nigeria has also been chairman of both the OAU and ECOWAS on a number of occasions. 6. Non-alignment to any Geopolitical Power Bloc: It is a foreign policy principle when rejects formal military alliance with and routine political support for the west or the East in the post-world War II, Cold war international system. At independence, Nigeria under Balewa was perceived to behave in the principle of nonalignment. The belief was however, contradicted at the country was flagrantly allying with Britain, the erstwhile colonial power.
The most practical manifestation of alignment and pro-western policy of the Balewa government was the Anglo-Nigeria Defence pact of 1961 which was only abrogated in 1962 as a direct result of criticisms and violent protest by student organization. However, the experience of the nations civil war in which the Western countries were not fourth coming to assist Nigeria in the way she wanted changed the country’s perception about these countries and since 1968, up to the end of the civil war, Nigeria was playing an active role in the Non-aligned movement. . Another operating principle of Nigeria’s foreign policy is that Africa is the corner-stone and nerve centre of Nigeria’s foreign policy. In recognition the historical and geographical facts that Nigeria belongs to Africa and convinced of what Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe called “the historic mission and manifest destiny of Nigeria on African content”, the various Nigerian governments have been consistent that Africa must and would claim first attention in Nigeria external relations and occupation. Background to The Obasanjo Administration (1976-1979)
General Muritala Muhammed was assassinated on February 13, 1976, in an abortive coup. His chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, became head of state Although Brig. ?basanj? did not directly participate in the military coup of 29 July 1975, led by Murtala Mohammed, he supported it and was named Murtala’s deputy in the new government. As chief of staff of Supreme Headquarters, Obasanjo sought advice from Rogerlay of Akobi and thus had the support of the military. On 13 February 1976, he was marked for assassination along with Murtala and other senior military personnel by coup lotters, led by Army Col. Dimka. Although Murtala was killed during the attempted coup, Obasanjo escaped death as another officer’s vehicle was mistaken for his. The low profile security policy adopted by Murtala in guarding very important persons allowed the plotters easy access to their targets. The coup was foiled because the plotters missed Obasanjo and General Theophilus Danjuma, chief of army staff and de facto number three man in the country. The plotters also failed to monopolize communications, although they were able to take over the radio station to announce the coup attempt.
Obasanjo and Danjuma were able to establish a chain of command and re-established security in Lagos, thereby regaining control. Obasanjo was made head of state in a meeting of the Supreme Military Council. Keeping the chain of command established by Murtala Muhammad in place, Obasanjo pledged to continue the programme for the restoration of civilian government in 1979 and to carry forward the reform programme to improve the quality of public service. Foreign Policy Prior to Obasanjo Administration
At independence, Nigeria as a sovereign began to conduct her foreign relations under the political and governmental leadership of its Prime Minister, the late Alhaji (Sir) Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. His administration emphasized Africa to be centre-piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy. His own foreign relations business was pro-West particular with Britain, Nigeria’s erstwhile colonial master. With the bloody military coup of January, 15, 1966, the late Major-General J. T. Aguisi Ironsi came to power only to be killed in a counter coup staged six months later.
This development brought the retired General Yakubu Gowon to power. Gowon borrowed a leaf from Balewa by being pro-West in his foreign affairs. He entered into agreement with Britain, the United States and other Europeans countries. However, his administration reluctantly allowed the Soviet Union to open its embassy in Lagos. The Gowon-led Federal Military Government was sacked in a bloodless coup which led to the assumption of power by the late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed and the retired General (now Chief) Olusegun Obasanjo who was his second in command and Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters.
The assumption of power by these two strongmen served as a catalyst in the history of international relations as far as Nigeria was concerned. Their government injected new innovations and dynamism into the nation’s foreign affairs. Mohammed was prepared to counter the imperial moves of the Western Powers especially the United States who had emerged as a major power broker in Africa particularly in Angola. Britain and Portugal also became targets of the new military administration while not leaving Cuba, a surrogate of the Soviet Union both of whom were present in Angola, challenging the United States’ (US) presence there.
These Western Powers, Cuba as wells as South Africa became the targets of the Mohammed/Obasanjo military regime in Africa. One basic truth that must be stressed is the fact that this was the age of the Cold War during which the US and the Soviet Union were competing for military supremacy and searching for satellite countries who would support them in their bid to permanently polarize the world into Capitalist and Communist Blocs under the US and Soviet Union respectively.
Given the above situation the Obasanjo regime arose as a diplomatic gadfly ready to sting these powers in its resolve to emancipate African countries that were still under the tyranny of colonial masters; eradicate neo-colonialism, racism and apartheid on the African continent particularly in Portuguese colonies in Africa and racism/apartheid in Southern Africa. Nigeria’s foreign policy has largely been driven by domestic forces, especially by the presiding president or head of state. This was evident in 1960 when Alhaji (Sir) Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the then Prime Minister, made Africa the centerpiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy.
In his words, we belong to Africa and Africa must claim first attention in our external relations. Thus, successive governments have had to carve out their foreign policies (although, with focus on Africa) making the foreign policy of Nigeria a unique and dynamic one. While Nigeria’s foreign policy derives its backing from its demographic size of over 150 million people, its multiethnic population, its vast oil reserves and its reservoir of highly skilled and educated people, the leadership determines the conduct of external relations. From 1960 to 1966, Nigeria’s foreign policy was largely conducted by the Prime Minister.
The period, when critically examined, it was marked by caution and relative inactivity. As the Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa featured mostly in the conduct of Nigeria’s external relations. In fact, Nigeria’s relation with other countries was based on the dictates of the British government. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, being his own Foreign Minister, he operated the country’s foreign policy within the Commonwealth of which Britain was the head. However, this period paved way for the rise of Nigeria to the ‘Regional Power’ status in the latter years by spearheading the formation of the Organization of the African Union in 1963.
When Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s era is compared to the Obasanjo military regime, there are sharp differences than the similarities they share. For instance, the period covering 1976 to 1979 marked the formal articulation of Nigeria’s foreign policy and its centeredness on African countries. While Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s era was inactive on regional issues, the Murtala/Obasanjo era witnessed a confrontational foreign policy which challenged the domination of foreign powers on the African soil.
One important point to note is that the historical antecedent that shapened the foreign policy of Obasanjo had their roots military intervention in Nigerian politics in the 1960s. The first military government (January 1966 to July 1966) pitched her own foreign policy on reassuring all nations about Nigeria’s commitment to international obligations and tried to attract foreign investors to continue investing in Nigeria despite the coup d’etat. 2 The second military government (August 1966 to July 1975) touched the three most important areas of Nigeria’s external relations: West Africa, Africa, the Commonwealth and the World.
The emerging issues during this period help defined Nigeria’s foreign policy. The Nigerian Civil War, the problems in Southern Africa, the stand of the British government and the Cold War all forced Nigerian leaders under Gen. Yakubu Gowon to have a rethink of the country’s foreign policy. In essence, Nigeria made friendship with countries considered enemies of the West, that is, Russia and also recognized the people’s republic of China meaning that she is a non-aligned country.
Hence, the third military government (Murtala/Obasanjo regime – August 1975 to 1979) maintained a confrontational foreign policy so as to assert her position on the African continent. Nigeria challenged the activities of the US government in the Africa and worked on the integration of West African countries. Nigeria renewed her commitment to African affairs and this shapened her foreign policy towards African countries. The era gave birth to a confrontational diplomacy and the formal articulation of Africa centeredness of Nigeria’s foreign policy.
Nigeria’s foreign policy from 1976 to 1979 placed her in a position that made other African countries to regard her as the “Power of Africa”. She played the big brother role and pursued the policy of decolonization of African countries. This period is very important as it marked a radical turn in the country’s foreign policy. The period also made a progressive preparation of transferring power to the civilians to form a democratic government. This was a great feat in Nigerian political history
Nigeria leaders did pursue different agenda but these two governments Obasanjo regime and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s regimes shared a semblance in one angle but maintained different postures regarding Nigeria’s external relations. While the Obasanjo regime was concerned about restructuring Nigeria’s foreign policy to make the country become the “Giant of Africa”, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s was faced with the challenge of maintaining friendly ties with Commonwealth countries.
Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s inherited the ethnic problem of Nigerian unity since 1960 up to 1966 when he was removed from power. Between 1960 and 1966, the government faced serious ranging from inability to conduct free and fair election, inability to conduct a population census, massive corruption, and grievous financial problems which occurred as a result of corruption and over-dependence on the British government for aid. Despite the limitations in the foreign policy of Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, he played a dominant role in defining the path of Nigeria’s foreign policy.
The Foreign Policy Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration (1976-1979) During the Olusegun Obasanjo Administration of 1976-1979, Africa remained the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy, the country remained committed to the total liberation of oppressed people both on the continent and in Diaspora. It was during Obasanjo’s administration that the report of the foreign policy review panel set during Mohammed era was released. The panel identified five objectives of Nigeria’s foreign policy. These were: i.
The defence of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. ii. The creation of the necessary political and economic conditions in Africa and the rest of the world which facilitate the defence of the independence and territorial integrity of all African countries while at the same time fostering national self-reliance and rapid economic development. iii. The promotion of equality and self-reliance in Africa and rest of the developing world. iv. The promotion and defence of justice and respect for human dignity, especially the dignity of the blackman; and v.
The defence and promotion of world peace. The administration pursued a strong policy on decolonization in Southern Africa (Rhodesia, Namibia and South Africa). The Obasanjo regime adopted an open door-door policy for African exiles from Southern Africa, financed a number of manpower training programmes for people from Southern Africa who were nominated by different Liberation movements from the sub-region, and launched the Southern African Relief Fund in December 1976.
Her physical distance from Southern Africa notwithstanding, her commitment to the liberation struggle earned her an honorary award of ‘frontline state’. As part of Obasanjo’s Afro-centric policy, on the eve of the Lusaka Commonwealth Summit in 1979, the administration nationalized the British Petroleum Company, a move that spurred the Thatcher administration to organize the Lancaster Summit, which resulted in the independence of Zimbabwe. Nigeria, in 1980, sent troops to maintain and restore tranquillity in Chad.
Out of the six countries that promised to send troops, at the request of the OAU, to Chad, only three countries –Nigeria, Senegal and Zaire, actually fulfilled their promise, Obasanjo’s regime was characterized by clear vision, well articulated policies and decisive actions. In 1977, the new General Olusegun Obasanjo’s military regime made a donation of $20 million dollars to the Zimbabwean liberation movement. Nigeria also sent military equipment to Mozambique to help the new independent country suppress the South African backed RENAMO guerrillas.
Although officially denied by the Nigerian government, Nigeria is known to have also provided secret military training at the Kaduna first mechanized army division and provided other material support to Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe’s guerrilla forces during the Rhodesian Bush War(Renamed Zimbabwe in 1979) of independence against white minority rule of Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith which was armed and financed by the regime in South Africa. Although her economy and technology could not have supported it, Nigeria announced to a bewildered international community that she was launching a nuclear program of “unlimited scope” of her own.
To demonstrate her seriousness against multi-national companies in Nigeria that violated the economic/trade embargo on the racist South African regime, the local operations of Barclays Bank was nationalized after that bank ignored the strong protests by Nigeria urging it not to buy the South African government bond. Analysis of the Foreign Policy under Obasanjo’s Administration (1976-1979) The period 1976-1979 laid the foundation for an active Nigeria foreign policy. During this period there were more publication on Nigeria’s external relation than the previous years.
According to Robert (1991) Nigeria, Africa and the United States from Kennedy to Reagan: Nigeria has never exercised any significant degree of control over its neighbours; it has never played a decisive role in the affairs of any other state; it has never played a dominant role in any international issue area; and with the exception of a few extremely minor skirmishes on its borders, it has never used military force against another state… Nigeria did play an important role in mobilizing support for popular movement for the liberation of Angola in 1975.
Robert presents a true picture of Nigeria’s presence in the international community prior to the period of our study. It means therefore that apart from the Nigerian Civil War which generated hot debate from around the world, no other period prior to 1976 received more attention in Nigeria external relations than from 1976 to 1979. Robert’s work makes a good introduction to Nigeria external relations. Another important work is N. Davies (1978) The Angolan Decision : A personal Memoir. This work provides detailed information on Nigeria perception of the Angolan crisis.
To him, the Angolan crisis laid the foundation for the policy of confrontation which Nigeria adopted towards the United States and other world powers from 1976 to 1979. In essence, the memoir helped in shedding more light on the Angola crisis and its impact on Nigeria external relations. Conclusion Obasanjo’s administration had a clear focus of its foreign policy and it pursued it vigorously. His policy was afro-centric and the fact that the economy of Nigeria was buoyant also helped the administration.
It was at the forefront of the decolonization of other African countries that were still under the shackles of colonial bondage. It committed both funds and military personnel when needed to aid other African countries. Some of the policies of the administration however caused strained relations with other countries. One of such decision was the decision to nationalise the British Petroleum. In summary the administration maintained a focussed policy. References Akindele (eds) Nigeria’s External Relations: The First Twenty Five Years. Ibadan.
Ibadan University Press, 1986, P. 3-5. Bassey, A. , Decolonization and Independence: The Development of Nigerian-US Relations, 1960-1984, Colorado: West View Press Inc. , 1987, p. 193. Bull, Hedley and Adam Watson, (1982). The Expansion of International Society (London: Oxford University Press). Cox, Robert, (1997). The New Realism: Perspectives on Multi- Lateralism and World Order (New York, St. Martins). Davies, N. , The Angolan Decision of 1975: A personal memoir” Foreign Affairs 1978, Fall 1975, p. 13 Falola, T. and J Ihonvbere.
The Rise and fall of Nigeria’s Second Republic: 1979-84 London: Zed Books Ltd 1985, P. 196. Federal Ministry of External Affairs. Nigeria and Organization of Africa Unity: In Search of an Africa reality. Lagos: Third press publishers, 1991. Gambari, I “Domestic Political Constraints on Progressive Foreign Policy for Nigeria” Nigeria Journal of Political Science, 2 (1) 1980 P. 25. John, T. Rourke and Mark, A. Boyer, (2003). International Politics on the World Stage (New York: McGraw Hill). Morgenthau, Hans, (1973). Politics among Nations (New York: Knopf). Norman, D. Palmer and Howard, C.
Perkins, (2001). International Relations: The World Community in Transition (New Delhi: CBS Publishers and Distributors). Ofoegbu, R. “Foreign Policy and Military Rule” in O. Oyediran (ed) Nigerian Government and Politics under military Rule. London and Basingstoke: The Macmillian Press, 1979, p. 135 Ogunsanwo, A. , Nigerian Military and Foreign Policy, 1975-1979 Unpublished Manuscript, University of Lagos Pol. Science Dept. 1980, pp 190-201. Roberts, B. Nigeria, Africa and the United States: from Kennedy to Reagan, Bloomington and Indianpolis: Indiana University press, 1991, p. 57