08 Sep 2014

Pax Nigeriana needs clear vision to be achieved

Written by  Adekeye Adebajo

No. 310: Pax Nigeriana needs clear vision to be achieved / Adekeye Adebajo / Business Day
8 September 2014

Nigeria, which overtook SA this year as Africa's largest economy, has historically sought to promote Pax Nigeriana: leading regional integration efforts in the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and playing a creditable peacekeeping role in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan. West Africa's Gulliver, however, continues to struggle with challenges such as the Boko Haram terrorist threat, corruption and infrastructural decay.

Abuja's foreign policy continues to lack a clear vision. Nigeria, therefore, urgently needs to undertake 10 important steps to achieve its regional ambitions. As foreign policy is built on domestic strength, Nigeria must first devise a credible vision for its socio-economic development through a practical plan based on wide consultation and support from diverse stakeholders. Viable implementation mechanisms must be put in place to strengthen the capacity of the Nigerian state to achieve this vision, as well as to reduce corruption.

Second, Nigeria should ensure that it strengthens the training and capacity of its foreign ministry. More resources must be devoted to ensuring it has quality diplomats with solid interdisciplinary training, specialisation and linguistic skills, who can promote the country's interests effectively abroad.

Third, applying the principle of "concentric circles", Nigeria must prioritise in sequence its domestic security, particularly with Boko Haram forging alliances with terrorists in Mali and Somalia. This would involve Abuja's relations with its West African neighbours, its ties in Africa and its engagement with the rest of the world.

In West Africa, my fourth suggestion is that Nigeria privilege bilateral relations with the next two strongest economies: Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Abuja must promote regional integration and strengthen its military relationship with Accra, which proved so crucial to subregional peacekeeping efforts in Liberia and Sierra Leone. An effective partnership between Abuja and Abidjan would help bridge the Anglophone-Francophone divide that has hampered economic integration and military co-operation efforts in the subregion over the past 40 years.

Fifth, further afield, Nigeria should identify strategic partners in each African subregion — SA, Algeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo — to ensure more effective and better financially self-sustainable regional institutions. Abuja must also work with these countries to reduce France's pernicious military, economic and political role in Africa.

Sixth, Nigeria should leverage the fact that it has become Africa's largest economy to build strategic support for its representation on institutions such as the Group of 20 and seek to become a strategic partner of established and emerging powers such as China, Brazil, India, Japan, the European Union and the US through establishing effective binational commissions.

Seventh, all Nigerian troops deployed to peacekeeping missions abroad must meet United Nations (UN) standards of capability and self-sustainment. The system for providing resources to Nigerian peacekeepers should also be streamlined to ensure transparency and to eliminate corruption.

Eighth, Nigerian military and police officials must establish a more co-ordinated decision-making system before deploying troops to peacekeeping missions abroad. These decisions should be taken with proper political guidance. The foreign ministry must play the chief co-ordinating role in this process, while the National Defence College should play a supportive rather than a lead role. Nigeria must improve its interministerial co-ordination in such missions, while parliamentary oversight of the country's peacekeeping contributions should be urgently strengthened.

Ninth, Abuja must use its seat on the UN Security Council in 2014-15 to push consistently for a more institutionalised relationship between the UN and African regional organisations, as well as for more predictable funding to support their security efforts. Nigeria should also promote the provision by the UN of sufficient equipment, logistics and training for its peacekeepers, particularly pre-deployment and deployment training for national contingents; closer monitoring of the implementation of peacekeeping mandates in the field; and involving troop-contributing countries more in the planning, review and termination of peacekeeping missions.

Finally, Nigeria should lead and accelerate Ecowas's effort to establish a 5,000-strong brigade as part of an African Standby Force to be deployable by next year. Abuja must engage constructively with SA's efforts to establish an interim rapid-reaction force through the African Union, which should work under a UN umbrella to avoid the financial and logistical problems that have hampered past regional peacekeeping efforts.

Only through implementing these 10 steps, can Pax Nigeriana be achieved.

Adebajo is executive director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution.

This article is part of a series of fortnightly columns written by Adekeye Adebajo for Business Day every other Monday. It also appeared in The Guardian of Nigeria under the headline "10 ideas for achieving Pax Nigeriana" on Monday 8 September 2014.

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