Appraising Tinubu’s foreign policy scorecard on 1st anniversary

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By Mark Longyen, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

“My primary foreign policy objective must be the peace and stability of the West African subregion and the African continent. We shall work with ECOWAS, the AU and willing partners in the international community to end extant conflicts, and to resolve new ones. As we contain threats to peace, we shall also retool our foreign policy to more actively lead the regional, continental, and global quest for collective prosperity.”

The above excerpt extracted from President Bola Tinubu’s speech during his inauguration on May 29, 2023, clearly enunciating and underscored the foreign policy focus of his administration as encapsulated in his Renewed Hope agenda.

At the heart of the administration’s foreign policy approach, dubbed the ‘Tinubu Doctrine,’ is a ‘4-D Diplomacy Strategy’ centred on promoting democracy, driving economic development, harnessing Nigeria’s demographic potential, and engaging with the diaspora community.

One year after Tinubu’s epochal inaugural speech, analysts have given the President a thumbs up for not just reinforcing Nigeria’s traditional Afrocentric foreign policy thrust but redefining it under the auspices of the 4D agenda.

According to them, Tinubu’s foreign policy focus is a success and consistent with the nation’s traditional three concentric circles, which prioritizes West Africa, Africa and rest of the world, and a non-aligned disposition.

For instance, Tinubu’s foreign policy initiatives are observed to have deliberately accorded the West African subregion, under the auspices of ECOWAS, topmost priority, followed by the African continent under the auspices of AU, and then the rest of the world.

The President, some observers argue, has matched his inaugural speech words with action in the implementation of the administration’s foreign policy, and is barking and biting, where necessary.

Notably, in the past twelve months, Tinubu has embarked on a string of strategic diplomatic trips to many countries of the world, seeking and sealing bilateral and multilateral partnerships in the national interest.

These trips were for multifaceted reasons, varying from expanding and strengthening Nigeria’s bilateral relations and multilateral partnerships, to defence and security, as well as to convince foreign investors to invest in the nation’s economy.

Scorecard as ECOWAS Chairman

The President’s debut official trip to West Africa was to Guinea-Bissau for the Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on July 9, 2023 for the 63rd Ordinary Session of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, where he was automatically admitted as the newest member of the exclusive club.

His status was quickly elevated when the ECOWAS member states unanimously elected him as Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, to succeed President Umaro Embalo of Guinea-Bissau, who had held the reins between 2022 and 2023.

In his acceptance speech, he read the riot act to terrorists and military putschists warning them that the threat to peace in the subregion had reached an intolerable alarming proportion and called for concerted actions from member states.

Tinubu warned that under no circumstance would ECOWAS under his leadership condone any disruption to democratic order in any member state in the subregion.

In what seemed like he had a premonition of what was to happen next, as well as a test of his will, military leaders in Niger Republic overthrew the government of President Mohamed Bazoum seventeen days after.

The Niger coup sparked an immediate outrage and reaction from Tinubu, who quickly convened an emergency meeting of the body where stringent punitive measures were taken against the Niger military putchists, including the threat of military action, should they fail to restore Bazoum.

This was, however, later diplomatically resolved with the subsequent lifting of sanctions on Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, in line with Nigeria’s foreign policy tradition of good neighborliness.

This age-long foreign policy disposition aims at strengthening and deepening bilateral relations with Nigeria’s immediate neighbours, which is strategic to Nigeria and West Africa’s economic and security interests.

On August 1, 2023, Tinubu made another short trip across the Nigerian border to the Republic of Benin for the 63rd independence anniversary ceremony of the country.

While this visit may appear ceremonial on the surface, deep down, it represented a significant step in the efforts by the two countries to consolidate their age-long relationship of good neighborliness.

Commenting on Tinubu’s West African foreign policy focus, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), former Nigerian Head of State and founding father of ECOWAS, lauded him for uniting the bloc under his leadership.

Gowon, who spoke recently at the inauguration of the Academy of International Affairs, a foreign policy think-thank founded by former foreign affairs minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, in Abuja, said that Tinubu as ECOWAS Chairman, had achieved a crucial foreign policy milestone by promptly taking measures to forestall the bloc’s disintegration.

He said that by rallying ECOWAS leaders together quickly during the Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger exit threat, and lifting the agonizing sanctions earlier imposed on them, Tinubu took the right step in the right direction that has kept ECOWAS as one bloc.

“I must commend President Bola Tinubu for all the foreign policy initiatives he made, which have kept ECOWAS together in the face of recent challenges.

“I implore the President to continue to ensure that Nigeria’s voice remains audible, and its influence felt in international relations,” Gowon said.

Corroborating Gowon’s view on Tinubu’s ECOWAS foreign policy approach, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, pioneer President, ECOWAS Commission, and current AU High Representative for ‘Silencing the Guns in Africa,’ expressed confidence in ECOWAS under Tinubu to resolve the Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger impasse.

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Chambas noted that Tinubu’s combined democratic and diplomatic credentials needed not be proved because all his life, he has stood for fighting for democracy, adding that his own personal experiences were also a testimony.

“He is very strong in his opposition to military interventions because, having elected democratic governments over any other form of government, including military intervention, is the only accepted form of governance globally.

“We also know President Tinubu to be a practical person and politician, who has his ideals and principles and will do what is necessary to keep ECOWAS united.

“I’m aware that he is already working actively with the ECOWAS President, Dr Omar Touray, to ensure that every diplomatic step is taken to keep ECOWAS united,” Chambas said.

Amb. Yusuf Tuggar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, while reinforcing the Afrocentric focus of President Tinubu recently, stressed that Nigeria’s core foreign policy thrust over the past year has been consistently Afrocentric.

Tuggar explained that this was driven through a three concentric circle application, aimed at achieving economic growth, peace and security within West Africa and Africa at large.

According to him, Tinubu’s administration’s newly defined foreign policy projection is encapsulated in the ‘4Ds’, namely Democracy, Development, Demography, and Diaspora.

“The 4Ds doctrine is being deployed to build alliances through diplomatic engagements and partnerships with other nations, multilateral institutions and the diaspora community.

“This foreign policy outlook heralds a new era of regional stability and collective prosperity for the sub-region and, indeed, Nigeria.

“Through these efforts, Nigeria can assume a stronger leadership role in resolving conflicts and driving economic growth across Africa.

“Mr President emphasizes the significance of engaging with regional organizations, such as the AU, ECOWAS and forging strong partnerships with international allies,” Tuggar said.

Curbing terrorism in Africa

As a bold step towards curbing the surging scourge of terrorism and violent conflicts sweeping across West Africa, President Tinubu recently hosted a two-day African high-level counter-terrorism summit in Abuja, attended by African presidents, AU President, UN deputy secretary general, among others.

The summit aimed at precipitating African-led and African-owned solutions against terrorism; strengthening regional response to terrorism threats; enhancing regional cooperation; producing a comprehensive approach and addressing conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, among others.

This bold move clearly underscores the urgency and seriousness with which Tinubu and other African leaders are tackling the continent’s spiraling insecurity situation, using regional platforms, such as the AU and ECOWAS, to address this existential threat.

Speaking at the event, Tinubu called for the establishment and strengthening of a regional standby military force to curb terrorism, violent conflicts and unconstitutional changes of government in Africa.

“Terrorism snaps at the very fabric of the prosperous and just society, which we seek to build for ourselves and our children.

“This violent threat seeks to frighten the farmer from his field, children from their schools, women from the marketplace and families from their very homes.

“We must, therefore, fight this threat together, combining determined national effort with well-tailored and regional and international collaboration,” he said.

Leveraging Paris climate change cum global financial pact summit

The President’s his first official trip outside the country, and the continent, was to Paris, the French capital, on June 20, 2023, to partake in the New Global Financing Pact Climate Change Summit.

The summit, which focused on the reform of multilateral development banks (MDBs), debt crisis, innovative financing, international taxes, and special drawing rights (SDRs), aimed at reshaping the global financial system and finding better ways to tackle poverty and climate change.

The pact was signed by world leaders to prioritise support for and investment in vulnerable countries, in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change, the energy crisis, and healthcare, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic on developing countries’ economies.

President Tinubu leveraged the event to engage in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy seeking support, collaboration and partnership with multilateral financial institutions and foreign investors, and rallying investors to take advantage of opportunities in Nigeria.

Tinubu also held a series of high-profile sideline meetings with world leaders, global business leaders, and chief executives of leading multilateral and development finance institutions.

They included the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) boss, Odile Renaud–Basso, and African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) President, Benedict Oramah, among others.

As a demonstration of his genuine commitment to addressing the existential threat of climate change issues, Tinubu has also recently established a Presidential Committee on Climate Action and Green Economic Solutions.

The committee is tasked with coordinating and overseeing all policies and programmes on climate action and green economic development in relation to the global climate change action plan, so as to mitigate their imaginable negative consequences.

Chaired by Tinubu himself, the presidential committee aims to remove the constraints to coordination, foster a whole-of-government approach to climate-action programmes, and provide an efficient governance architecture.

The committee is also saddled with ensuring that all relevant institutions in the sector are plugged into the President’s vision and are collectively implementing the Renewed Hope Agenda on climate action.

Sharing his view on the dividends of these efforts, especially the Paris summit’s benefits, Ayokunle Olubunmi, head of financial institutions ratings firm, Agusto and Co, said it offered Tinubu the opportunity “to put his best foot forward, present his plans, talk to foreign investors, market Nigeria, and gain the trust of the international community.”

He stressed that Nigeria urgently needed the help and support of the MDBs and the international financial institutions (IFIs) to bail it out its current economic quagmire.

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“Don’t forget that with all the policies the government is putting in place, some have negative shocks on the economy.

“So, we need those development banks to be able to support the economy, to cushion the impact, either by giving direct loans to businesses or advisories, or other supports,” the analyst said.

Leveraging the Delhi G-20 Summit

President Tinubu also embarked on economic diplomacy to attract foreign investors, where he succeeded in securing a whooping 14 billion dollars in commitments from Indian corporations, during the G-20 Summit in Delhi, India, which held in September, 2023.

This was a milestone foreign policy accomplishment because the President travelled to India, having in mind his uncompromising drive for foreign investment as top priority, taking along top government officials, businessmen and women in his entourage.

Addressing world leaders at the summit, Tinubu declared Nigeria’s commitment to promoting shared prosperity and security and called for global unity and cooperation in tackling pressing challenges, fostering inclusiveness, and establishing a fairer world order.

Reflecting on the theme of the Summit: ‘One Earth. One Family. One Future,’ Tinubu underscored the interconnectedness of global affairs and the need for collaborative efforts.

He noted that most contemporary global issues were international in character and could not be addressed without multilateral cooperation.

“Therefore, stronger collaboration, cooperation, and partnerships among diverse regions are the pathways to a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future for our world.

“A world that lives as one family, but is divided by staggering income inequalities, and uneven access to basic social goods by the vast majority of our people, cannot result in a peaceful and secure world, where shared prosperity is achieved.

“Nigeria is poised, able and willing to be a major player in this family of the G-20 and in shaping a new world, without whom the family will remain incomplete,” he said.

He also seized the opportunity to hold discussions with some world leaders, who are regarded as key partners in Nigeria’s economic diplomacy drive with a view to stimulating local investment and wealth creation.

These included German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, U.S. President Joe Biden; European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen; and World Bank President, Ajay Banga, among others.

Russia-Africa Summit takeaways

The second Russia–Africa Summit and Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum focused on strategising to enhance relations between Russia and the African continent, among other benefits.

During the summit, which held in St Petersburg, Russia, Nigeria was able to secure in a single stroke a whooping fortune of 14 billion dollars pledge of Foreign Direct Investment for the country.

Addressing the plenary session of the summit in St. Petersburg, the President, through Vice President Kashim Shetima, noted that Nigeria was entering a new era, and repositioned for greatness through strategic reforms and diversification of its economy.  

Commenting on the President’s string of multilateral and bilateral diplomacy during both the India G20 and the Russia-Africa summits, a civil society organization, the Coalition for the Revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company, gave the President a thumbs up.

“We thank Mr President for taking this swift initiative towards Nigeria’s industrialisation, as we pray that his tenure brings incompressible fortunes to Nigeria and for every Nigerian.

“Our immediate shared fortune is the pledge of 3 billion dollars by Jindal Steel and Power of India, which will see Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mills working again, after being abandoned at 95 per cent completion stage since 1994.

“Apart from the production of iron, steel, other valuable products that will be available in the course of operation of Ajaokuta Steel Plant will for instance include about 110MW electricity, hydrogen, 35000 cubic meter of oxygen per hour.

“Others are nitrogen, argon, coke oven gas, sulphuric acid, and many more multiplier effects on the Nigerian economy, so the table must turn at this time in favour of Nigeria and Africa,” the CSO noted.

The Johannesburg BRICS Summit

As a demonstration of Tinubu’s commitment to economic collaboration with like minds globally, Nigeria attended the summit of the BRICS states, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa; as well as Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as an observer, although she has yet to formally apply to join the group.

The President said at the summit that Nigeria was seeking foreign partnerships that would provide opportunities for all to engage in trade, prosperity and shared progress with no marginalisation.

Tinubu, through Vice President Kashim Shettima, reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to playing a major role in shaping global framework and governance in the areas of finance, climate change, digital economy and post-pandemic recovery.

“This endeavour aims to foster global economic governance reform while enhancing the representation and voice of emerging market economies or developing countries.

“We seek a partnership that provides opportunities for all to engage in trade, prosperity, and shared progress with no marginalisation based on geography, race and legitimate sovereign affiliations.

“These nations confront historical developmental vulnerabilities and challenges that are beyond their control. Thus, it is imperative for us to unite within regional groups and forge a novel form of international cooperation,” he said.

Milestone UN General Assembly outing 

Foreign policy analysts describe President Tinubu’s maiden UN outing and speech at the 78th Session of the General Assembly on September 18, 2023, as a milestone, exemplary, and aligning with his foreign policy focus.

The President’s speech highlighted five themes namely, the need for global institutions and other nations to see Africa as a priority; an affirmation of democratic governance as the best guarantor of sovereign will, and the challenges posed by terrorism and violent extremism.

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Other themes included the challenges of illicit mining and pilfering by extra-African powers and companies; and the threats posed by climate change.

The speech ingratiated the African and Nigerian publics to their own plight, as well as appealed to the sentiments of the developed world to partner with the developing world in a mutually benefiting relationship and equal terms.

“We welcome partnerships with those who do not mind seeing Nigeria and Africa assume larger roles in the global community.

“The question is not whether Nigeria is open for business. The question is how much of the world is truly open to doing business with Nigeria and Africa in an equal, mutually beneficial manner.

“Many proclamations have been made, yet our troubles remain close at hand; failures in good governance have hindered Africa.

“But broken promises, unfair treatment and outright exploitation from abroad have also exacted a heavy toll on our ability to progress,” he said.

Tinubu decried the menace of climate change and the pilfering of Africa’s resources with the active connivance of some countries and entities from the global North.

“African nations will fight climate change but must do so on our own terms. Africa is nothing less than the key to the world’s future.

“To achieve the needed popular consensus, this campaign must accord with overall economic efforts.

“Foreign entities abetted by local criminals, who aspire to be petty warlords have drafted thousands of people into servitude to illegally mine gold and other resources,” he stressed.

Commenting on the President’s UNGA speech, Prof. Jideofor Adibe of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, said the preamble of the speech spoke well to the different target publics.

“Admitting issues with domestic governance would be sweet music to the ears of the world leaders expecting the usual victim complex and begging bowl syndrome.

“The bit about broken promises, unfair treatment and outright exploitation from abroad will also play well with African and Nigerian publics,” the don said.

Nigeria-U.S. Relations

The U.S. has over the years been a very strong ally of Nigeria and Nigeria’s foreign policy under the Tinubu administration has been marked by continuity rather than any semblance of departure from the past.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, for instance, reiterated this disposition recently during the visit of a U.S. congressional delegation to Tinubu at the State House in Abuja, noting that Nigeria and the U.S. are partners bound by shared values of democracy, rule of law, and commitment to peace and good governance.

“I share my enthusiasm about deepening partnership between Nigeria and the U.S. We know in America that there is no greater or more important partner for the U.S. on the African continent than its biggest country, its biggest democracy, and its biggest economy. 

“We know the investments we make in this country in different sectors, and our partnership on security and counter-terrorism are not just for Nigeria’s benefit but for both of our countries’ benefit.

“You are a leader of particular character. You have the courage to do very difficult things, right at the beginning of your term. Something that many American leaders should look to.

“Someone who believes so much in their people that they can make difficult decisions and know that their country is resilient and strong to endure so that it can emerge stronger on the other side,” Booker said.

The U.S. has also recently announced the unveiling of an Open Skies Air Transport Agreement with Nigeria, which had provisionally been applied since 2000, that now establishes a modern civil aviation relationship between the two countries.

The agreement includes provisions that allow for unrestricted capacity and frequency of services, open route rights, a liberal charter regime, and open code-sharing opportunities.

Commenting on these developments, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, State Department, Joy Basu, recently lauded Nigeria’s foreign policies, stressing that the money policies were conducive for businesses to thrive, as well as strengthening and positioning the nation’s economy for overall growth.

“The U.S. is committed to fostering its collaboration with Nigeria in order to tackle myriad pressing issues and obstacles, which Nigeria, being Africa’s largest economy, is facing.

“We are working closely with the U.S. Treasury, Nigerian authorities and African central banks towards ensuring public and private sector economic restoration, stability and prosperity across Africa,” the envoy said.

In her view, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, said that over the past one year, Nigeria has witnessed progress from the reforms introduced by this administration to stabilize the economy with visible improvement.

“The Nigerian government has also been proactive in its foreign policy approach aimed at addressing security challenges in the country and the sub-regions as demonstrated by the hosting of an African counter-terrorism meeting last month.

“There have also been other notable initiatives such as the nationwide digital literacy programme and the expansion of the broadband infrastructure to bridge the digital divide and empower our people in this digital age,” she said.

Observers believe that Tinubu’s foreign policy has been remarkably consistent, pragmatic, vibrant, bold, brave, and uncompromisingly Afrocentric, gauged in the national interest.

They posit that Nigeria’s foreign policy focus under Tinubu has been a continuation and consolidation of the nation’s traditional foreign policy, predicated on an ‘Africa First’ mantra, and a reaffirmation of his inaugural speech pledge one year ago. (NANFeatures)

If used, please credit the writer and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) 

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