Nigerian Foreign Policy Under General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida

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Nigerian Foreign Policy Under General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida


Nigeria’s foreign policy under General Ibrahim Babangida was one in which Nigeria played active role in the crises in West African sub-region especially Liberia and Sierra-Leone. Nigeria’s involvement in the internal affairs of other countries got rekindled in 1988. First was to settle the border conflict between Burkina Faso and Mali. In this instance, Nigeria brokered a peace agreement acceptable to both sides but which was frustrated by France using Code d’ivore.

Nigeria renewed interest in global and African affairs throughout the period of General Babangida. Nigeria’s foreign minister shuttled between Tripoli and Abidjan each time there crises in Africa who are French speaking people. Nigeria negotiated more with former colonial powers than the country that crisis is emanating from. Our former colonial masters still exercise much influence than the other African countries.

Today, Nigeria has responded to virtually all the calls by the United Nations, African Union, ECOWAS and other bodies for peace and conflict resolution.

Also, Nigeria has as well responded to the calls of distress by countries that are undergoing one natural disaster or the other. Nigeria recently demonstrated such swift response by providing aids to earthquake ridden Chile and Haiti.

Chapter One


1.1. Background of the Study

Africa as noted by Chaplan (1966:376), “is an important strategic arena in contemporary world politics”. Osuntokun (1999:19) argues further “being the most populous black country in the world, Nigeria is being compelled to shoulder willingly and unwillingly the leadership of the black world. This led to Nigeria’s feeling that she had a responsibility far beyond her borders as noted by Joe Nanven Garba…” In all our dealings with international organisations we are guided not by selfish national interests, but a high sense of responsibility and concern for countries (particularly in Africa) whose needs in some respect are greater than ours”.

Ambassador Jolaoso stated further that Africa has always been the centre-piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy, with West Africa being the most crucial sector of this piece. He further stated that since foreign policy, represents the initiatives or responses by a country to issues which directly affect the interest of the country to that extent, it is related to the domestic as well as the international system.

Aghahowa (2007:59) posits that “the nature of man compels interaction and mutual dependence. According to him, man cannot survive in isolation, therefore, the associational tendencies of man manifest locally, nationally and globally.

Nigeria’s understanding of her leadership position in Africa compelled Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa to declare while answering questions on Africa’s involvement in the cold war:

“We shall make every effort to bring them together so that having been made aware of the danger we may find a way to unite our efforts and prevent Africa from becoming an area of crises and world tension”.

Nigeria in the African continent belongs to the global world of interdependence. Its relations externally can best be illustrated thus:

“If you drive a ford Escort, chances are that your transmission was made in Japan, your wiring in Taiwan, your door lift assembly in Brazil, your steering gears in Britain, and assorted other parts elsewhere?.

A states foreign policy is not operated in a vacuum.

How far has Nigeria been able to carry out this rather uneasy responsibility and what have been the obstacles to Nigeria’s proclaimed position as “the giant of Africa?”

It is the position of this research paper, therefore, to examine Nigeria’s foreign policy over the years and General Ibrahim Babangida’s era vis-à-vis development in the International system.

According to Mr. Kunle Adeyemi of the Ministry of External Affairs, Nigeria as a result of her size, status and economic potential has a number of corresponding responsibilities she cannot shy away from. This responsibility is more significant considering that one of every five African is a Nigerian while one of every six black persons is a Nigerian. This in fact is the basis of Nigeria’s historical responsibility to Africa and the black diaspora.

The foreign policy of Nigeria as a merchant state was to consolidate traditional external market for Nigeria’s cash crops, establishing favourable conditions for attracting foreign participation in the economy and then of course, adopting an international image required to attract and sustain the good will of foreign friends and donors.

According to Vital (1968:100) “while foreign policy traditionally speak of a well planned action as that most foreign policy behaviour of states shift from the general to certain specifics, because of the exigencies of time”. He further stated that, the realities of states behaviour decisions and policies being formulated in a disjointed fashion, largely in response to immediate pressures and event in a number of separate structures and issue areas. The resume here is that, while long term planning characterizes foreign policy of developed nations, majority of the developing countries like Nigeria deal with issues as they arise/approach.

While presenting a paper on Nigeria’s foreign policy at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NPSS) Kuru, Jos, Dr. A. Gana asserts that imperialism is the major obstacle to the realisation of Nigeria’s foreign policy practice negates her foreign policy principles because of her flirtation with imperialism and that, despite Nigeria’s non-aligned foreign policy posture, she is closely aligned to the West.

The many facets of Nigeria’s foreign policy to a given extent is influenced by the nature of its population. In the old era, nation’s power was calculated by its population. This was so because it determined the strength of nations particularly its influence on the number of mobilisable people for wars. Nigeria’s large population of more than 140 million people is attractive to the foreign merchant class. A commitment to non-alignment inspite of a pronounced pro-western streak as well as strong Afro-centrism and was not merely on orientation, it was also seen especially from the 1970’s as a national call for leadership of the Africa continent.

To some extent, this was backed up by certain notable foreign policy achievement in the areas of liberation of Africa from the shackles of colonialism, the anti apartheid struggle, the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, now African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and of course, Nigeria’s leadership role in various areas of international economic relations as they affect the African continent. One significant area where Nigeria displayed decisive involvement in the fratricidal war in Liberia is the initiative of Babangida that informed the ECOMOG operation in Liberia. This was of course a reflection of many interests and values. Again, General Babangida came up with Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in 1986

1.2. Statement of the Problem

It is evident that there is a general dissatisfaction with the conduct of Nigeria’s foreign policy. However, in the conduct of Nigeria’s foreign policy, there is an over emphasis on subjective factors. In this light, Nigeria’s foreign policy under General Babangida became problematic because of the level of Nigeria involvement in Regional issues. Many people viewed the ECOMOG operation as an undue disobedience of the international law of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries by the mediation committee members of ECOWAS and Nigeria in particular. This Babangida initiative has been criticised by many Nigerians because of the scale of involvement, particularly in a period of economic crisis, and more so when “Economic Diplomacy” became the major stand of foreign policy.

1.3 Objective of the Study

This research work is mainly seeking to do the following:

  1. Examine the background of Nigeria foreign policy of the post independence era.
  2. Analysing the foreign policy of Babangida’s regime and the factors responsible for its style and orientation.
  3. Identify the political and economic implications of Babangida’s foreign policy for the country.
  4. Examine the relationship between dictatorship and foreign policy orientation.
  5. Suggest lasting solutions for purposeful and result oriented foreign policy formulation and implementation.

1.4 Research Propositions / Hypothesis

for the purpose of this study, the following propositions are generated:

That the nation’s external image was an attempt at asserting Nigeria’s presence and importance in the sub-region.

That 5 members ECOWAS standing mediation committees was sponsored by General Babangida through the Banjul Summit to deal with the Liberian crisis.

That Nigeria’s extra-continental interference and interventions became an urgent necessity, and indeed a responsibility.

1.5 Significance of Study

The major significance of this study is that it will examine and highlight the reasons behind the foreign policy of General Babangida. It will also suggest some ideas on how political leaders can manage crisis to avoid repeating mistakes of the past. The research also hopes to contribute to the academic literature on Nigeria’s foreign policy through a coverage of a turbulent period in Nigeria recent history.

1.6 Scope and Delimitations of Study

While acknowledging the myriad of problems posed by the spectacle of the foreign policy of Nigeria towards other countries, this research limits itself to the issue of the Nigeria’s foreign policy.

Thus, for a time frame, we locate our research from 1985 to 1993 in order to achieve an objective, unbiased and elaborate analysis of Nigeria’’ foreign policy under General Babangida.

1.7 Research Methodology

The analysis of this study will be based on historical analysis, using secondary data.

Historical analysis is necessarily employed because we must look at the past in order to best appreciate and analyze the present and where, if necessary, predict the future analysis of secondary data will be useful in this regard.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Summary

It is true that Nigeria has many things in abundance which should elicit respect for her in international affairs.
Throughout the making of foreign policies in Nigeria, General Babangida’s regime infused serious intellectual content in foreign policy making, there is evidence to show that Nigeria recorded tremendous progress in foreign policy making and great respect accorded to an upwardly mobile country in international affairs. The characterization of our country as a medium power is enough to alienate our African brethren in a world in which they have been badly battered by imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism.

However, the way they are managed in this oil-era induced wealth that was completely dished back to the imperialistic countries.

General Babangida did not use his economic diplomacy to avoid expensive international political matter as evidenced by her involvement in the expensive ECOMOG operation in Liberia.

5.2 Conclusion

One significant area where Nigeria displayed decisive involvement in the internal affairs of a state is in the fratricidal war in Liberia. There is no doubt that it is the initiative of Babangida that informed the ECOMOG operations in Liberia. The move by Babangida was ostensibly an attempt to stop the carnage that was accompanying the civil war in Liberia. The Babangida initiative has been criticized by many Nigerians because of the scale of involvement particularly in a period of economic crises and more so, when economic diplomacy became the major foreign policy.

5.3 Recommendations

The conduct of foreign policy all over the world is a joint responsibility of the government public opinion and other related bureaucracies. The field of international politics should not be categorized with domestic affairs per se because most of its issues are very complex in view of different environment and involvement.

Foreign policy is not a field where military officers will do very well. This is because they did not receive training on policy formation and implementation. Foreign policy is a complex whole. It requires expertise and specialists to make impact in terms of international politics.

The nation’s foreign policy formulators need focus on pragmatic policy formulation and implementation.
Nigeria as a regional power should assert itself and play the role effectively using available professional human resources.

Similarly, a peaceful domestic environment is of paramount importance in achieving a meaningful foreign relations. This calls on the leaders of the nation and its foreign policy formulators to strive to maintain peace domestically by ensuring stability in the polity. This will eventually lead to pragmatic foreign policy.

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