Quite a number of Nigerians have become bothered about the sudden concerns of the Federal Government over the recent military coup that took place in the Republic of Niger leading to the ouster of the 63-year-old President Mohamed Bazou. While some have attributed the Federal Government’s actions to different reasons, some took exception to the speech of President Bola Tinubu, who as the Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States, stated, “There is no more coup in West Africa.” Tinubu also reacted to the Niger situation in another speech by stating, “I wish to say that we are closely monitoring the situation and developments in Niger and we will do everything within our powers to ensure that democracy is firmly planted, nurtured, well rooted and thrives in our region.”
While certain people considered these presidential declarations as just futile political speeches with Tinubu aiming to extend his influence beyond the border of Nigeria, others perceive his reactions as the right cause for Nigeria, more so that Niger Republic is a neighbouring country. Some, however, are of the view that the president should focus more on stabilising the country from its current economic quagmire.
The actions of any state on the international scene are solely determined by the foreign policy of such a state, and hence, Nigeria’s foreign policy has been anchored on two major principles as stipulated in section 20 of the 1999 Constitution. They are the promotion and protection of national interest, and the promotion of African integration and support of the continent’s unity. Also, in the seven cardinal principles of Nigeria’s foreign policy, Africa as the centrepiece, and good neighbourliness are both integral parts.
As regards Africa being the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy, this is due to the distinguished nature of Nigeria in terms of size, population, and vast resources. Being among the earliest African countries to attain independence, Nigeria has since been considered as a frontier in African politics. This implies that whatever happens in any part of Africa automatically becomes a concern to Nigeria.
Nigeria, through its bilateral relations with other African states, has been seen to have been performing the ‘Big Brother’ role just like the United States of America, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China are doing in their respective regions. In the same vein, using the concentric circle analysis, the West Africa region has remained the focal point for Nigeria in pursuing its foreign policy. This is why Nigeria has remained a major power within the West African region and a donor to ECOWAS.
With regard to good neighbourliness, the experience of Nigeria during the Civil War between 1967 and 1970 made Nigeria realise the necessity to shift focus on its neighbours by ensuring the security and political stability of countries such as Chad, Cameroon, Benin, and Niger in the West African region. During the Nigerian Civil War, some of these countries aligned with the Biafran forces, in the manner of providing humanitarian and technical support to fight the Federal Government. When Nigeria was eventually able to suppress the secessionist forces in ‘no victor and vanquish’ resolution, the experience influenced Nigeria’s decision to adopt a ‘good neighbourliness policy’ by ensuring that no border country will be left to political unrest to prevent any future external threats to Nigeria. This has since culminated in Nigeria’s national interest.
When one takes the expansion of the Boko Haram sect and its affiliated group, Islamic State in the West African Province, to some border countries (Niger and Chad in particular), it is in order for Nigeria to be concerned about the political situation of countries like the Republic of Niger.
It was in the same spirit that former President Muhammadu Buhari on August 3, 2022, donated N1.4bn to Niger for the purchase of armoured vehicles to tackle insecurity in the country. It is right to say that Nigeria has a responsibility of protecting and ensuring political stability in the West African region. This is one of the responsibilities of being a regional power.
- Collins Akinujomu is a student of Adekunle Ajasin University