opinionBy Hugo Odiogor
Diplomacy can be defined as the process by which a nation state relates or conducts its activities with other nation-states in the international arena, to achieve the set objectives of its foreign policy.
The actions, reactions and behaviours of nation states in the international arena are viewed and analysed from how it conducts its diplomacy which is either the visible or invisible processes of communication between nations. The ultimate the aim is to advance the strategic interest of nations, conduct dialogue and negotiations to extract concessions, promote cordial relations and avoid conflicts or to manage and end conflicts where it has arisen. The instrumentalist objective of diplomacy is seen by experts as one of the weapons that can be deployed by nations either in soft or hard form, to achieve their foreign policy objectives.
The history of a country, resource endowments, the geographical location of a country, leadership style and ideology, economic strength, technology and military might and ambition in the international system help to shape the content, quality and character of the diplomacy and diplomatic approaches adopted by nation-states.
Some of these factors have played out in favour of 'Nigeria. The question however, is how has the country been able to appropriate the benefits of this endowment or manage its deficiencies? That is the central focus of this analysis which takes its point of departure from the 9th brainstorming session of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island Lagos.
Participants at the brainstorming session got more than a fair dose of revelations of bureaucratic tardiness that has been the hallmark of managing Nigeria's diplomatic investment in Africa but more importantly, the hostile and negative vibrations from countries that had supposedly benefited from Nigeria's Father Christmas diplomacy.
For a country that had predicated its post-independence interactions with other nations "on Africa as the centre piece of its International relations", Nigeria has fared poorly in terms of the continental perception and appreciation of the contributions to the burdens of Africa.
BUREAUCRACY AT WORK
Bureaucracy all over the world is renowned for record keeping and adherence to precedents and rules, impartial, meticulous and faceless. It is regarded as the engine room of public service. Whatever maybe its limitations; the bureaucracy remains a repository of knowledge in public service and government business.
Even with the series of reforms that Nigeria's bureaucracy has been subjected to, it will take a long time to know whether the bureaucracy in Nigeria has adopted attitudes and practices that will take Nigeria into the 21st century.
The Director General of NIIA, Prof Bola Akinterinwa, who led the discussions told the audience that the brainstorming session was informed by President Goodluck Jonathan, directives to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to produce a comprehensive document of Nigeria's contributions to the Southern African countries during the anti apartheid struggle.
The Presidency, therefore, wants a cost benefit analysis of what Nigeria has invested in promoting development, peace and security on the international stage. This had become imperative as most African countries that run to Nigeria in times of needs often end up becoming Nigerian's greatest opponents in international organisations or competitions.
NIGERIA'S FATHER CHRISTMAS DIPLOMACY
Incidentally, most of these countries are major beneficiaries of Nigeria's Father Christmas diplomacy, which was laid out by Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who once said: "in offering foreign assistance to Africa countries, Nigeria never expected anything in return".
This has defined focus of Nigeria's "Father Christmas diplomacy" which has been the character of Nigeria's interaction in international arena. On call were Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, a former Director General of NIIA and Nigeria's External Affairs Minister during the Babangida administrator who manned that office during the regime of General Sani Abacha.
Others were Amb. Olu Adeniji the foreign affairs and later, Internal Affairs during the Obasanjo administration. Barrister Odein Ajumogbia, who was the Foreign Affairs minister under the Musa Umar Yar Adua's presidency.
Other notable personalities were Amb. Joe Keshi, Alhaji Haroun Adamu, Prof. Akin Oyebode, Prof Alaba Ogunsawo, Prof. George Obiozor, Amb. Michael Ononaiye, Amb. Akporode Clark, Amb Olu Otunla and other administrators and actors in the Southern African theatre. It was a commendable effort by Prof. Bola Akinterinwa who has vowed to make NIIA among the best foreign policy formulating institutions in the world.
The quality of the topics and papers presented, the depth of insight that was made available and the startling revelations that the civil service, which is the hub of the nation's bureaucracy, has over the years been tardy in its handling of issues of diplomacy and diplomatic practice between Nigeria and other countries.
Top among the revelation are:
Paucity of documentation of the various contributions that Nigeria had made in its foreign policy commitments. *Lack of public information at home and abroad of what Nigeria has done as the mass media was often excluded when such assistance are made.
- The exclusion of intellectuals in foreign policy planning and implementation by officials of foreign ministry.
- The in-fighting between career diplomats, civil servants and military/political actors.
- Over concentration of efforts on lobbying for posting at the expense of strategic thinking and thinking
Prof. Alaba Ogunsawo who was once Nigeria's High Commissioner to Botswana gave an in-depth analysis of Nigeria's contributions to the liberation of South Africa, From the struggle to decolonise Africa, the anti-nuclear bomb test in Sahara Desert, the anti-apartheid struggle, peace keeping roles and combating natural and man-made disasters Nigeria has been in the frontline of pro-African initiatives.
Hugo Odiogor is a Foreign Affairs Editor.