Africa as the Centrepiece of Nigeria's Foreign Policy is a concept that is premised on the understanding that Nigeria's engagement in the international system will be looked at through the binoculars of Africa. As Hon. Aja Wachukwu (Former Nigerian Diplomat) stated, 'charity begins at home and therefore any Nigerian foreign policy that does not take into consideration the peculiar position of Africa is unrealistic'. For the records, it’s the Adedeji Report of 1976 (Professor Adebayo Adedeji) that coined the concept: 'Africa as centre-piece'.
The issues that gave practical expression to this African-centeredness were the remnants of colonialism on the continent, apartheid in South Africa, liberation wars, ideological and proxy conflicts among others. Outside these politically pressing factors, the issue of a shared racial universe, of cultural neighbourhood, of shared historical experiences and the ideals of pan-Africanism further lubricated the wheels of this foreign policy conceptualization.
Under the framework of an Africa-centered foreign policy, Nigeria got involved deeply in the decolonization struggles in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa and in the process earning for itself the appellation a 'frontline nation', even though she was geographically far removed from the theater of the struggles which was in the Southern African region. Nigeria is central to the formation of ECOWAS, has contained the breakdown of social order in Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc, through its world acknowledged peacekeeping expertise, and has provided economic life wire to less economically resourceful countries. In terms of proactive engagement with major socio-political and economic issues of continental importance in the last fifty one years, Nigeria tower far above any other African country.
Since this phraseology appeared on the Nigeria foreign policy scene, it has continued to reproduce itself, like the ever recurring mathematical decimal. The foreign policy elite and political leadership of successive governments seems to be carried away by its philosophical allure rather than its rational ideation. In this sense, therefore, considerations of the economic benefits, continental political leadership, national interests, and military partnerships and strategic engagements are sacrificed on the altar of good neighbourliness and psychological gratification. I need to make a comment on the issue of psychological gratification. This issue has to do with the psychological construction and mentality of Nigerians that verge on bigmanism, show-off and materialism. Beneath all these however, lies a massively gigantic emptiness and inferiority complex. Most often, the flagrant display of materialism among Nigerians is a product of psycho-social insecurity. Exported to the international arena, in this sense, Nigeria wants to present an image of a big brother image before the other African countries.
This reason accounts for why inspite of the huge financial expenditures and massive loss of human and material resources in the Liberian and Sierra Leone wars, for instance, Nigeria has not been able to reap any economic benefits. To date, one cannot tell one single Nigerian company involved in the post-conflict reconstruction activities going on in these two countries. What major economic niche has Nigeria carved for herself in these post-conflicts countries? There is hardly anything one can point finger towards. Yet, the Africa-centredness framework has continued to maintain a stronghold on Nigeria’s foreign policy. The theories of concentric cycles and concert of medium powers all take their bearing from this perspective. In sum, the concept of Africa as a center piece of Nigeria foreign policy is also not grounded in considerations of economic growth and national development, and as such no matter how conceptually lush it may be, it remains substantially empty.
How Nigeria Has Demonstrated that Africa is the Centerpiece of her Foreign Policy
- Developing programmes for possible assistance to other African countries
- Fostering understanding among them other African nations.
- The belief in the sovereignty and equality of African states.
- Working towards de-colonization of African continents under colonial rule.
- Respect for non-interference in the domestic affairs of other African states.
- To support the then struggle against apartheid policy and its eradication in South Africa.
- Promoting friendly association among independent African states.
Reasons for the Adoption of Africa as the Centrepiece of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy
- Ideological rivalries: To remind Nigerians of the ideological rivalries that has penetrated Africa, to pursue and to unite African efforts in preventing Africa from becoming the theatre of world crises.
- Inter-territorial communication: To co-operate with African states for an improved inter-territorial communication and transport facilities of the continent.
- Decolonization of African states: Nigeria made Africa the centerpiece of her foreign policy because of the refusal of some colonial masters to grant independence to some African territories under the colonial rule.
- Location: Geographically, Nigeria is located in Africa and it is natural that African states should first receive Nigeria’s attention before other states of the world.
- Assistance: To provide assistance to other African states and foster understanding among them.
- Friendly association: To help in promoting friendly association, unity of purpose among independent African states.
- Opposition to aggression: To oppose any form of aggression and support the demand for the restoration of fundamental human rights in Africa.
Ways by which Nigeria Maintains a Friendly Relation with African States
- Active participation in economic union.
- Initiation of peaceful settlement of crises.
- Peaceful resolution of disputes with her neighbours.
- Establishment of bi-lateral economic/political relationship.
- Participation in peace keeping operations in Africa.
- Promotion of multi-lateral economic relationship.