Gulliver's Troubles: Nigeria's Foreign Policy after the Cold War / Jonathan Stevenson

Survival, Vol. 51, No. 2,. April-May 2009, pp. 209-210

Gulliver's Troubles: Nigeria's Foreign Policy after the Cold War, Adekeye Adebajo and Abdul Raufu Mustapha, eds. Scottsville, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2008. £30.95, 426 pp.

Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa's most populous country and after South Africa its wealthiest, has also long been one of its most exasperating geopolitical stories. On one hand, as the region's ranking military power, it has been singularly and admirably willing to put its troops in harm's way for the sake of regional security and stability. On the other, despite its aspiration of establishing a 'Pax Nigeriana' in Africa, it has shown no real taste for acting as an exemplar of the kind of good governance that would enable African countries to sustain security and stability. The first essay in the wide-ranging and well-conceived Gulliver's Troubles, written by Adekeye Adebajo, ably characterises this schizoid quality as a wishful 'hegemony on a shoestring', whereby Nigeria has sought to exert its capacity to project hard power without nurturing the political legitimacy required to consolidate its influence (p. 14).

The remainder of the volume seeks to explain what constraints have dictated Nigeria's half-baked foreign policy and how they might be loosened. The sensible analytic model the editors have established is that of concentric circles — immediate neighbourhood, West Africa as embodied in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), continental challenges such as development and democratisation, and relationships with states and organisations outside Africa — and the ensuing essays essentially follow this scheme. As a matter of form and editorial practice, quiet applause is due the editors for evidently insisting that each contributor conclude his or her chapter with a section that compresses and clarifies prior observations.

Substantively, the contributors deftly handle the expected domestic issues — the complications for political reform posed by the Muslim-Christian divide, the 'resource curse' of oil, and consequent internal political violence — and add a couple more novel and hopeful points, such as the relative competency of the Nigerian Foreign Service and its struggle against politicisation. Discussions of Nigeria's strategic competition with smaller Francophone countries and with France itself, as well as the deep and often fraught colonial roots of its relationship with the United Kingdom, are notably sophisticated and subtle. So, too, are Adebajo's probing chapter on Nigeria's interventions in the Liberia and Sierra Leone conflicts and Chris Landsberg's laudably textured and measured assessment of prospects for a 'concert of powers' between Nigeria and South Africa, notwithstanding their leadership roles in the formation of the African Union and the roll-out of the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

The part of the book on the global context features penetrating chapters on Nigeria's relationship with key multilateral organisations and its bilateral relations with the United Kingdom, United States, France and — inevitably — China. Concluding correctly that 'Nigeria's diplomacy is punching below its rightful weight' (p. 369), Abdul Mustapha distils a combination of committed constitutional and civic reform at home, more discriminating pragmatism in the region and wider strategic vision at the global level as the programmatic solutions. This fine book is a tour de force of scholarly teamwork, and should become a leading source on Nigeria's foreign policy.

Jonathan Stevenson

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