Nigeria In The Commonweath, 1999 To 2007

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Nigeria In The Commonweath, 1999 To 2007


Nigeria external relations with the outside world started a long time before she gained her autonomy as an independent State. Her involvement in various international organizations has to a large extent brought her close to the front line of action in the world politics. This study therefore examines the participatory role and contributions played by Nigeria in the Commonwealth of Nations Organization. It is on the foundation of dependency theory that the theoretical framework of this study was built upon.

This study briefly analyses the contributions of the organization to the social, political, cultural and economic development of Nigeria as a member State in the areas of debt relief, democratic consolidation, education, sports and culture. In sum, it attempts to answer the question of many critics against the Commonwealth organization as to the whether Nigeria and other third world countries have truly benefitted from the organization.

Chapter One


Background to the Study

Nigeria’s relationship with the outside world started long before independence in 1960, under the colonial government, during which dependent Nigeria had no separate foreign policy outside of the British . During this time, the interest of Her Majesty, the Queen of England was the interest of the colonial Nigeria. The British Colonial government, through its Governor-General administered Nigeria’s foreign relations, which manifested in several ways, including the control of international trade, determination of import and export duties for Nigerians, use of British colonial offices in other countries as bases for carrying on with external relations, sending of Nigerian soldiers to fight in the Battle of Burma during the first world war, among other developments .

However on attainment of independence, Nigeria as a sovereign state began to conduct her foreign relations which marked the first distinct phase of Nigeria’s foreign policy under the administration of its Prime Minister the late Alhaji(Sir) Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (October 1960) January, 1966. Some scholars in their stock-taking and analyses of the outlook of Nigeria’s foreign policy, reach a consensus that the basic principles of the country’s foreign policy can be summarized as follows:

  1. Non – alignment with any of the them existing ideological and military power blocs, especially NATO and the Warsaw Pact;
  2. Respect for the legal equality, political independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states (in Africa);
  3. Respect for the doctrine of non-interference in the domestic affairs of all other states;
  4. Seeking membership of both continental and global multilateral organisations for their functional importance to Nigeria’ and
  5. That Africa would be the cornerstone of the country’s external relations.

Obviously, these principles form the core areas of Nigeria’s relations and participation with other countries, international organizations or associations of the world since independence such as the Africa union, ECOWAS, the non-Aligned movement, the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations. Balawa’s relations were pro-west, particular with Britain; Nigeria’s erstwhile colonial master. With the bloody military coup of 15, 1966, the last Major Gen. J.T.U Aguiyi Ironsi came to power, to be killed in a counter coup staged six months later. This development however brought Gen. Gowon administration to power who borrowed a leaf from Balewa by being pro-west in his foreign affairs. He entered into agreement with Britain, the United State and European countries. However, his administration reluctantly allowed the Soviet Union to open its embassy in Lagos.

In the process of time, in a bloodless coup Gowon administration was sacked which led to the assumption of power by late Gen. Murtal Ramat Mohammed and the Gen. (now chief) Olusegun Obasanjo. As his second in command and chief of State Supreme Headquarter, who’s served as great instrument in the history of international relations as far as Nigeria was concerned. His administration however injected new innovations, and dynamism into the nation’s foreign affair. With her involvement in international politics, Nigeria became a regional power and centre of influence, particularly in African. These however brought her to global recognition.

The common wealth, historically, was an evolutionary outgrowth of the British Empire. However though the evolution of the organisation started in 1867 when Canada attained dominion status, it was rather in 1931 when the statue of West minister was passed that the organisation was known as the British Common Wealth of Nation.
Conceptually, the Commonwealth of Nations is a free association of sovereign states comprising Great Britain and a number of its former dependences who had chosen to maintain ties of friendship and practical cooperation and who acknowledged the British Monarch as the symbolic head of their association. Thus, the ties that bind the commonwealth are highly diverse. Blood ties provide sentimental attachments to Britain while common judicial and educational systems as well as the use of the English language as official language provide strong ties for others.

These ties were further cemented and strengthened by trade and investment, currency agreements, population, migrations and sports. It is important to note that no former colony was bound to join the commonwealth as a precondition of independence. Whether or not any individual former colony became a member of the organisation was entirely a matter of free choice. Nevertheless almost all former colonies freely associated themselves by voluntarily becoming members of the commonwealth upon attainment of independence. Exceptions include Burma, Pakistan and the Irish Republic. The informal links between the countries of the commonwealth were further consolidated when in 1965 a commonwealth secretariat was established in London and a lean bureaucracy was developed to assist the Secretary-General of the commonwealth in responding to questions of peace, democracy and development, particularly in the developing member countries in Asia, Pacific, Africa and the Caribbean. Therefore, what began as Great Britain and the white dominions had gradually metamorphosed into a multiracial commonwealth with fifty-four nations and territories.

Hence, the study tends to explore the explicit relations between Nigeria and the Commonwealth of Nations before and within the period under review, 1999 to 2007. The contributions of the commonwealth organization to Nigeria in the areas as democracy, education and a brief note on other social welfare of the country.

Statement of Problem

A lot of scholarly materials and literatures have been made available on Nigeria’s relationship with the commonwealth countries. Arguably, most of these works has fail to form a coordinated literature on the relations among the parties involved; to adequately and in an elaborate way explain the role of the commonwealth in the development of Nigeria; reasons for joining the organization? It is obvious that Nigeria joined the commonwealth of nations due to the projected ideals which it holds and which are ultimately in consonance with the foreign policy objectives of the country. Decades after her membership of the association. Nigeria, however, is still uncertain about her roles and position in the association especially its vital ethical codes of conduct which include commitment to human rights, racial and economic justice, democracy and peaceful settlement of disputes.

Although, on a general note, strong criticisms as regards to the association’s impacts on its member states. This critic hold the facts that since no formal treaty nor a central authority, the organization to them is a total failures and is not worthy to stand as an association in the international arena. Notwithstanding, the structural institution and process through which functions are carried out, have to a great extent countered their claim of the existence of the commonwealth of nation as a free association with the spelt out objectives in the international political.

Nevertheless, this research work tries to address and give and oversight on the Nigeria commonwealth relations between 1999 and 2007, it tries to evaluate the contribution of the Commonwealth of Nations to the struggle for the democratization of Nigeria. It tries to answer some questions as to, how far has the commonwealth of Nation gone in the struggle for the democratization of Nigeria. It tries to answer some questions as to, how far has the commonwealth of nation contribute to the social welfare of Nigeria? Are there contributions made by Nigeria to see to the sustenance and growth of the association?. These and few other issues are viewed as the need links missing in many existing body of literature which this work tries to solve.

Purpose of the Study

Based on the foregoing, this paper examines the Nigeria-Commonwealth relations, 1999 to 2007. A background to Nigeria foreign Policy and the Commonwealth and Nigeria Debt Relief, with emphasis on the relevant roles commonwealth of nations played in the full restoration, as well installation of democratic rule in Nigeria which contributed to the restoration of Nigeria’s image in international politics as she took up a leading role in the association in the 1990s; the social welfare of Nigeria as regards to university education, poverty and few other achievement under the period of review and Nigeria role in maintaining, renewing and protecting the core values of the organization whose interest aligns with the country’s foreign policy.

Significance of Study

This study has a lot of promising significance to both students, scholars, policy makers and ministers in practice.

To students, this study will be of immense help to student of international relations, particularly those of them that are interest in the studies concerning the dynamics of international organizations. This will add to the pool of literature from which they could draws to enrich themselves.

To scholars and colleges, this study tends to add to the existing body of literatures and works already done in this area by other researchers; knowing fully well that the process of research is a progressive one and it is unarguably true that this study will spur the minds of other researcher to investigate more on this area.

Finally to policy makers, ministers and political analysts in practice, this work will provide a sought of guide for policy execution. It will aid in them decision and policy making.

Scope of the Study

This study maintains its focal point generally on the Nigeria – commonwealth relation between the period 1999 and 2007 which marks the transition of Nigeria government from a tyrannic military regime to a democratic civilian rule. It looks at the commonwealth influence in the Nigeria polity. It tries explain the participations, contributions and relevant roles played by Nigeria in the maintaining of the free association of independent states.

Methodology and Sources

In this study, the method of thematic analysis was employed as historical research method. Thematic analysis has been described as; “a method of analysis in qualitative research. This type of analysis is used because it allows for flexibility in the researchers choice of theoretical framework. Both secondary data and tertiary sources were used for the analysis of this data. The primary data were principally information from one-on-one intervals and discussions with some academic scholars. While the secondary data were from books, journal, monographs, conference papers, new papers, magazines and internet as well.

Organization of Study

The chapter one of this study introduced the background to the problem statement and in a nutshell described the specific problem which this study portends to solve likewise embodies the purpose, relevance, scope, methods and sources this research work employed, using dependency theory as the theoretical framework. It also embodies the review of some existing body of literature on this area and the gap this study desires to fill.

Chapter two briefly describes the Nigeria foreign policy and however explains the relationship that had existed prior to the time frame this research work covers, between the two variables of discourse. The Commonwealth and Nigeria Debt Relief; The membership, admission, suspension and readmission of Nigeria into the commonwealth is not left behind in this chapter; as well as the hosting of the 1965 conference in London brought about the creation of the commonwealth secretariat (the principle intergovernmental body of commonwealth, responsible for promoting cooperation among members).

More so, chapter three of this study looks at the major relations that existed within the two variables. Their constructive and contributive efforts to the democratization of Nigeria during the fourth republic, the common wealth summit in Abuja in the year 2003, as well as the organization’s contribution to the university education in Nigeria.

Chapter four, accesses, analyzes and evaluates the effectiveness and implication of the above mentioned issues in chapter three.

And finally, chapter five of this study summarizes, concludes, and recommends the discussion of the work done so far in this study.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations


This research work has been divided into five Chapters. The study’s aims as slated in the organization of the study in Chapter one, has been carried out with the investigation and discussions of the initially stated themes scattered in different Chapters of the study.

This Study with stated background on Nigeria Foreign policy and objectives of the Commonwealth of Nations, investigates the Nigeria and Commonwealth relations from 1999 to 2007. The former President, Obasanjo was able to transform, build and clean up the bad image which General Abacha’s administration created to and internationally recognized. It analyzed the 2003 Abuja commonwealth Summit and how it affected the Nigerian’s political and socio-economic sectors such as in the areas economy, education culture and politics. It also evaluated the Commonwealth and Nigeria’s debt relief and efforts of the organization in promoting democratic rule in Nigeria.


During the period of carryout this research work I can to understand that no scholar can exhaust can explicitly exhaust all that is needed in any given topic no matter how he/she tries. Instead, he unconsciously raises more research topics and questions for other upcoming scholars to tackle.

Having critically examined the relations between the Nigeria and Commonwealth of Nations, 1999 to 2007, we would come to realized that though more than a hand full of critics agitating for the seceding of Nigeria from the Commonwealth of Nations organization, they fail to critically study, observe and realize that Nigeria to a great length has benefitted from their relationship as members of the Commonwealth. Apart from this, Nigeria also benefitted immensely in this relationship which affected her educationally sector as more teacher at a time where sent from Britain and Canada to support in educating the populace and enlightening them on the need know their rights and privileges as citizens of the country. Even in the creation of Scholarship schemes that has taken a good number of Nigeria students to Commonwealth member nations like Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and so on. Nigeria as well benefitted from the Commonwealth countries, especially in the area of Debt relief in the global stage. The commonwealth created and to a great length implemented the programme for assisting member countries with huge and unsustainable debt profile to secure relief. Nigeria benefitted from this during the Obasanjo regime when Britain played an important part in its debt relief.

Notwithstanding, more scholarly works and critical analysis needed to be done in order to enhance a better understanding of the above slated relations.


In the light of the above analysis, the following recommendations are put forward, around which further dialogue on future actions and partnerships is now invited.

We recommend that:

  1. Though no country, in this era of globalization, can afford to isolate itself, Nigerian leaders should realize that charity begins at home. Hence, there is every need to improve on those issues that tend to weaken the country’s reputation among the comity of nations. Issues such as Corruption, ethno-religious crises and crimes have essentially rubbed the Country with paint-brush of shame.
  2. Though the Commonwealth of Nations is not initially tailored to meet the challenges confronting Nigeria, Nigerian leaders should always, where necessary, utilize the frameworks of the organization to advance its national interest as it did with the issue of debt overhang.
  3. Nigeria should learn to deploy and use experts in foreign relations. It is only when experts are deployed that the country’s foreign policy will be able to capture truly the national interest of the country and to evade, at the same time, forces that are bent on undermining such interest.
  4. The Commonwealth of Nations as an organization empower and strengthen cultural ministries and national heritage, cultural and arts agencies, and ensure cross-sector working, including integration of cultural considerations in other policy areas, for example, social welfare, trade, health and education.
  5. Recognize and work with local and indigenous cultural resources, languages and governance processes to ensure more sustainable economic, environmental and social development.
  6. Finally, the Commonwealth organization should promote investment in the creative industries, in cultural expression, and in the safeguarding of cultural assets, and the development of cultural policies, in recognition of the contribution of these to development.

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