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Date Published: 04/26/10

The Problematic of Redefining Nigeria’s National Interest in the Context of Global Diplomacy By Idumange John Agreen 1  


Abstract: At independence in 1960, Nigeria evolved from the Commonwealth of Nations, joined the OAU IN 1963, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in 1971 and spearheaded the formation of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) in 1975. With her stupendous natural endowments in oil and human capital, Nigeria started to play a pro-active role in African continental diplomacy based on the ideological persuasion of the leaders. There is consensus that Nigeria’s foreign policy is unprogressive and stagnant because the leadership has not been able to define what constitutes Nigeria’s national interest. Critics posit that Nigeria’s domestic ecology does not support her foreign policy posturing as ‘giant of Africa”. Apart from blind ideological loyalty and the adoption of moribund foreign policy paradigms, Nigeria adopted an Afro-centric foreign policy anchored on the Concentric Circle Theory. This has been criticized because it negates economic diplomacy, which thrives on multilateralism. Over the past two decades, Nigeria has been benevolent to other nations while Nigerians are humiliated even among the contiguous States, subjected to xenophobic attacks abroad amidst apathy on the part of the home government. Nigeria exhibits false generosity abroad in order to create a wrong impression that the political economy is healthy. In Africa, Nigerians suffer rejection, deportation, imprisonment and other forms of maltreatment in other countries. The Citizens Diplomacy adopted by the present administration does not seem to have changed the poor perception about the country. Most scholars have attributed this to the inability of Nigeria’s leadership to define her national interest. Consequently, the nation has lost its competitive edge in African diplomacy. The paper examines the problematic of re-defining Nigeria’s national interest within the context of global diplomacy. The paper recommends that Nigeria should adopt multilateral diplomacy devoid of blind ideological loyalty which has characterized Nigeria’s diplomacy. While the philosophy of citizen’s diplomacy adopted by the present administration is essential, there is need for Nigeria to move closer to progressive nations in Europe, America and Asia. Nigeria’s national interest should be defined in terms of the welfare of the citizens and the health of the political economy.  


By any acceptable measure, Nigeria deserves to be called “Giant of Africa” by virtue of its stupendous resource endowments and population. In her 48 years of nationhood, the influence wielded by Nigeria through the instrumentality of foreign policy can better be assessed within the context of its regional and continental leadership aspirations. This ambition is the underpinning philosophy and consuming impetus for adopting the theory of four “concentric circles” as a defining parameter for Nigeria’s national interest. The inner most circles typify the defense of Nigeria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by ensuring peace around the contiguous states. The second platform is the West African sub-region while continental Africa constitutes the plank of the third circle. Nigeria seeks to promote peace, security and development within the context of democratic institutions. Using Africa as a launching pad, the fourth circle seeks to manage Nigeria’s multilateralism in the conduct of her foreign policy 1 .  

Nigeria derives her foreign policy objectives from two main sources namely: the Nigerian Constitution and the actions of the leaders, which are dynamic and reflective of the policy thrust of any administration in power. Thus Section 19 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states five foreign policy objectives. These include:  

  1. Promotion and protection of the national interest
  2. Promotion of African integration and support for African unity
  3. Promotion is international cooperation for the consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect among all nations and elimination in all its manifestations
  4. Respect for international law and treaty obligations as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication, and
  5. Promotion of a just world order.

In 1984 2 , the Ministry of External Affairs identified six main foreign policy objectives with emphasis on respect for the fundamental human rights, the principle of non-interference and non-alignment. Since national interest is built around the core values and ideologies of a nation, it is by far the most potent determinant of foreign policy.  

Russet and Stair (1992)3 categorized foreign policy objectives into core, middle range and long range objectives. Core values are the foreign policy aims that are related to the survival of the state and its citizens. The protection of the sovereign and territorial integrity of the nation and the lives and property of Nigerians at home and abroad remain the cardinal values that constitute her national interest. Middle range objectives within the framework of Nigeria’s foreign policy include such broad matters as economic development and social welfare, promotion of international cooperation, respect for fundamental rights and mutual respect among nations. On the other hand, long-range objectives are the dreams and aspirations of the state in the international system. While other objectives are subject to constant flux, core objectives are constant because they represent the national interest of the country. National interest is therefore, the core, concrete and constant objectives of a nation which translate into actions and define the relationship between independent states.  

Nigeria’s pursuit of and involvement in Africa’s affairs had cost the nation huge financial and human resources. Nigeria also played and is still playing an active role in the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD and the African Peer Review Mechanism. But in spite of these monumental achievements in Africa, Nigeria’s foreign policy is yet to define what constitutes her national interest.  

Statement of the Problem  

Since political independence in 1960, Nigeria has been widely regarded as the “Giant of Africa”, but Nigeria’s image abroad appears to contradict this posture. Most Nigerians are humiliated and sometimes given un-dignifying treatment abroad. Nigeria’s relationship with the contiguous states of Republic of Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger is equally not cordial in spite of official pronouncements to that effect. For example, Nigerians suffer incessant harassment at Lake Chad in the hands of Chadian soldiers. Nigeria also responded in 1983 by deporting about 700,000 Chadian from Nigeria 4 . Nigerian-Cameroonian Palaver over the Bakassi Peninsular has resulted in Nigeria’s ceding the oil-rich peninsular following the Resolution by the International Court of Justice. Amidst the growing disillusionment, there is now an increasing political and intellectual interest in re-defining what really constitutes Nigeria’s national interest in the light of contemporary global events. Nigeria’s foreign policy over the years seems to be static. Whereas Nigeria professes Afrocentric foreign policy, there are very acute challenges of the foreign policy paradigm.  Oyetunde (2008) remarked that:  

Unfortunately, for Nigeria, our foreign policy is static unprogressive and is not benevolent to most Nigerians.  For instance, the state security services that ought to be the eyes and ears of government an important component of our foreign policy instead some members of this distinguished body one found in beer palours discussing the current operations while foreign agents are taking notes 5 .

This has affected the patriotism exhibited by Nigerians abroad. Oyetunde further remarked:

In terms of helping citizens abroad, for example, an American can bet his life on getting help if he runs into any American embassy to seek solutions to a problematic situation. America embassy will willingly render help to her citizen first and deal with the situation later. On the other hand, a Nigerian citizen visiting the embassy for help will likely be given every reason possible not to render help in a foreign land. A Nigerian seeking help in a foreign land will most likely be left hanging. Perhaps, it is not surprising why a citizen of one nation is patriotic while a citizen of the other work against the interest of his nation; why a citizen of one nation exhibits political fervor while citizen of another nation shows political apathy…. (Adaramola, 2007: 4) 6


In most countries, Nigeria is represented by diplomats who have no idea of their functional responsibilities hence they cannot defend Nigeria’s national interest feverishly even in the face of brazen violations. There are serious allegations by Nigerians at home and in Diaspora that Nigeria’s foreign policy is designed to be benevolent to other nations but ruthless to fellow Nigerians. There seems to be consensus among critics that Nigeria’s foreign policy lacks internationalism and even fails on Pan-African measure. The foreign policy has historically exhibited stagnancy, political favouritism and cronyism contradiction about this foreign policy posturing. Generally, Nigerians do not even enjoy social welfare, and basic fundamental rights within the country yet Nigeria spent tens of billions of dollars to restore peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone without any tangible economic benefits to the nation. Nigeria parades a robust profile of peace keeping experience, yet peace has eluded the nation at home.  

Inno Ukaeje (2007) asserted that “Our false generosity abroad and penury at home are proof that we are pretending to be what we are not, because in reality we have been overstretching ourselves” 7 Nigerian is presently making huge efforts at peace- keeping ending the twenty-year old war in the Sudan. In Africa, Nigerians suffer rejection wherever they go.  Nigeria’s were subjected to xenophobic attacks in South Africa, tortured by the Gabonese security agents, and brutalized by the Libyan Government before deportation. While it may be asserted that Nigeria’s national interest tends to promote the core values and objectives of her diplomacy in principle, there is now an urgent need to forge a more pragmatic approach to issues rather than engage in populist and unrewarding ideological loyalty and nebulous diplomatic permutations. As Nigeria progressively loses its competitive edge in Africa, the nation needs to provide a more viable framework to articulate and implement a diplomacy that positively affects the collective esteem of the people and trigger socio-economic development in a sustainable manner.  

What is Nigeria’s National Interest?  

The generally acceptable view is that national interest is a manifestation of the core values, objectives and philosophy underlying the actions of the leaders. Whereas the grundnorm provides a veritable basis for the collective actions of leaders the preferences, predilections and sentiments of leaders. There are two schools of thought on the subject matter of national interest: namely the subjectivist and the objectivists.  

The objectivists’  school argues that “the best interest of a state is a matter of objective reality 8 . The subjectivists contend that what constitutes the national interest of a state depend on the preferences of the leaders, their idiosyncrasies and priorities. This national interest is inextricably wedded to the leadership of a nation. Apparently, leadership itself depends on the aggregate need disposition, ideology and perceptions of the role incumbents.  

In Nigeria, whereas it may be true that certain core values are pursued within the context of national interest, the perception of leaders always differ. Thus Obasanjo (1976) 9 defined the national interest of Nigeria as consisting of four components: namely:  

  1. The creation of a suitable political and economic environment in Africa and the World at large, which will facilitate the defense of the territorial integrity of African States
  1. The promotion of equality and self-reliance in Africa and the World
  1. Defense of social justice and human dignity of the Black man, and
  1. The defense and promotion of world peace.

Aluko (1981) defines Nigeria’s national interest as consisting of six important elements in order of priority. These include:  

  1. Self-preservation of the country;
  2. Defense and maintenance of the Country’s independence
  3. Economic and social well being of the people
  4. Defense, preservation and promotion of the ways of his especially democratic values
  5. Enhancement of the country’s standing and status in the world capitals in Africa, and
  6. Promotion of world peace.

The first three core national interest and they are not compromised irrespective of the administration. 10 One of the most constant national interests of Nigeria’s diplomacy is her interest in Africa. This led to the foreign policy orientation of Afro-centrism.  

Using Africa as the centre-piece as Nigeria’s foreign policy is rationalized on the basis that Nigeria is better positioned in Africa to identify with and defend the legitimate interest of Africa than any other nation. The assumption has been that the independence of Nigeria would be meaningless if it does not lead to the total liberation of all African States. Nigeria had wished to use her population, size and resources as advantage to contribute and facilitate the collective interest of Africa and this mandate was consummated as Nigeria’s historic mission.  While some Nigerians advocated that Nigeria should play in Africa the type of role which the USA is playing in the Organization of American States, some advocated reciprocity, since Nigeria should not be the ‘beast of burden” of all African states.  

Akinyemi (1989) convincingly postulates that:  

  If we say Africa is the centerpiece of our foreign policy, few mean that Nigeria should identify with and defend the legitimate interest of Africa collectively, then it also means that Africa and African states should identify with and defend Nigeria’s interest. 11  

One of the principles of Nigeria’s foreign policy is non-alignment, an outright rejection of any of the dominant ideologies of capitalism and communism. The position of Nigeria with respect to principle of non-alignment was stated in 1960 by the Balewa administration.  

We shall not blindly follow the lead of anyone; so far as is possible, the policy on each occasion will be selected with a proper independent objectivity in Nigeria’s national interest. We consider it wrong for the Federal Government to associate itself as a matter of routine with any of the power blocs. 12  

The non-alignment movement was formed in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1962 by developing countries. The aim was to ensure that developing countries do not come under the influence of either the Western bloc or Eastern bloc. The objectives of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) include the following:

  1. Opposition to the ideological division of the World into antagonistic power-blocs
  2. Eradication of racism and Zionism and all forms of discrimination on the basis of sex, colour, class religion or creed.
  3. Elimination of all vestiges of colonialism, neocolonialism and all forms imperialism.
  4. Promotion of world peace
  5. Opposition to nuclear weapon and halting the arms race and supporting efforts at disarmament.
  6. Peaceful resolution of national and international disputes
  7. To participate in making global decisions affecting their future
  8. Non-us of threat of force and non-recognition of situation brought about by the threat or use of force as well as its corollary-peaceful settlement of disputes.

In theory, Nigeria has succeeded in subscribing to the objectives of NAM. In practice however, successive governments had showed some degree of inconsistency in the pursuit of the foreign policy. During the Balewa administration Nigeria carefully excluded non-alignment from its foreign policy statement. Indeed, prime Minister Tafawa Balewa rejected non-alignment as a foreign policy doctrine when he averred: “Nigerian would not join the non-aligned group in all” Nigeria also refused to attend the 1961 Nonaligned summit in Yugoslavia on the excuse that Nigeria was not properly invited. 13  

The Problematic of Re-definition  

While it is difficult to define the national interest of Nigeria, it is even more difficult to redefine it because of the variegated diplomatic permutations and ideologies Nigeria has adopted over the years. Some foreign policy experts believe that Nigeria has no clear-cut political ideology and national interest. Part of the policy vacillation is attributable to the fact that foreign policy is inextricably linked to its domestic policy.  

Nigeria’s unhealthy domestic policy environment has narrowed down the menu of policy choices at the multilateral level. Nigeria is the 6 th greatest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, but the State of the domestic economy and the prevailing social conditions are not desirable. Nigeria is characterized by mass poverty, grave insecurity, dilapidated economic and social infrastructure, which has triggered the forces, of corruption, marginalization ethnicity and pre-bendal politics. The situation is generally believed to have been worsened by prolonged military rule and the unhealthy democracy midwife by the same authoritarian class.  

At independence in 1960, Nigeria was Pro-West, non-aligned and Afro-centric. Nigeria evolved from the Commonwealth of Nations and most of the intelligentsia were socialized in the African continent.  The thinking was that being the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria could play an invaluable role in the political and economic integration of Africa. Accordingly, Nigerian leaders manifestly declared Africa as the “Centre Piece”  of her foreign policy. Akindele (1979) 14 , observed that because of Nigeria’s Afro-centric diplomacy, the Murtala – Obasanjo regime spent about 75% of its time and resources to solve the problems of Africa. Nigeria’s commitment to Africa was so intense that Section 19 of the Constitution provides:  

The State shall promote African Unity, as well as the total political, economic, social and cultural liberation of Africa and the people of African birth or descent throughout the world… and shall combat racial discrimination in all its manifestations 15  

Adaramola (2001), lamented that Nigeria would still adopt a foreign policy principle that is restricted within the confines of Africa in this era of globalization. The contention is that because of Nigeria’s over-concentration on African issues, Nigeria’s foreign policy outside continental Africa is vague and not anchored on principles that would confer on Nigeria robust political or economic advantage. This foreign policy leaning has vitiated Nigeria’s ability to attract foreign investment from trusted nations in Western Europe, Australia, Asia, Israel and North America.  

Another problematic of re-defining Nigeria’s national interest is the ideological pretensions of the leaders. Nigeria continues to advocate idealistic policies of Non-Alignment rather than aggressively pursue and protect her national interest. For Nigeria to be great, she has to imitate the great powers, which are guided by economic interest in their diplomatic transactions. For example, China is opposed to the Security Council intervention in Darfur, Sudan because of the oil and other raw materials they obtain from the Sudanese Government.  

India - an idealistic non-aligned member has shed that cloak for realism and pragmatism. Realizing the importance of normalizing relations with the West, India is gradually replacing her Soviet-centric policies with Western-style economic policies. India is replacing her fleet of ineffective Soviet-defense apparatus with made-in-USA war machines. While Nigerian foreign policy formulators still re-echo the principle of Non-Aligned Movement, India is not only defying the basic tenets of the NAM and re-defining and re-ordering her priorities. Until Nigeria’s national interest is defined in terms of issues that will benefit the nation and unless Nigerian adopts an issue-based diplomacy and not obey principles that render the nation stagnant, her national interest will continue to suffer severe jeopardized.  

Nigeria’s Concentric Circle Policy within the West African sub-region needs to be complimented. A nation cannot play a super power role in outside when her citizens are plagued by insecurity, spiraling inflation, high unemployment index and macro-economic instability. Nigeria has restored peace in war torn Liberia, Liberia, Togo and Sao Tome Principe.  

Nigeria‘s national interest has become more complex to define because of the way the nation’s domestic policies are implemented. While it is true that the nation’s foreign policy cannot be boxed-up within the legitimacy of the State, it remains to be seen how effective Nigeria uses other non-State actors in articulating her national interest.  

There are very strong indications that Nigeria has not adequately funded her foreign missions. Whereas this trend may be attributed to politics of funding, it is proper to state that Nigeria’s foreign policy establishment is yet to enhance sectoral legitimacy by adopting a pro-active stance in explaining the fundamental objectives to stakeholders in the Nigerian project.  The leadership appears not to have a defined role for her Diaspora citizens in terms of their participation in the economic, scientific and technological development of the nation. Perhaps, the Diaspora intelligentsia has no role to play because the Nigerian leadership has not taken any step to stem the tide of “brain drain” of the critical segment of the populace.  

Even in the informal economic networks and regional integration of West Africa, Nigeria’s role in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nigeria’s role in ECOWAS was an initiative of Nigeria, which sought to provide an institutional framework for managing relations with its West African neighbours as well as attempting to reduce their dependency on their erstwhile colonial masters. As Danjuma (2007) asserted “Right now, we are becoming the United States of ECOWAS at a very great cost to us. We think this is unaffordable to us now because our needs as a country are numerous. 16  

During the second Republic, Shagari described Nigeria’s national interest as commitment to an Afro-centric foreign policy even though Nigeria was passive and unable to mobilize support for the OAU summit in Tripoli in 1981. The Buhari administration re-defined national interest as the development of mutual self help by states in the West African Sub region in the areas of economic development and national security. This foreign policy objective is predicated on the Concentric Circles Theory. Also, Nigeria’s active intervention in inter-African affairs and conflicts in the border wars between Mali and Burkina Faso.  

When democracy re-appeared in 1999, Nigeria intervened in the crises in Sao Tome and Principe, Togo, Guinea Bissau and Madagascar. Nigeria also provided the largest number of troops and police officers in the UN-AU hybrid force in Darfur, which is under Nigerian command.  During the period, Nigeria through its diplomatic efforts secured debt relief in October 2005 from the London and Paris clubs. This diplomatic bold initiative has been hailed as a diplomatic triumph with the nation. This is a classic case of how good diplomacy reinforces the implementation of Nigeria’s economic development agenda.  

Concentric Circles Theory (CCT) 17  

The CCT was first propounded as a methodology of delimiting and prioritizing the strategic boundaries of Nigeria’s national defense. The major idea underpinning the CCT was to provide effective defense necessities within the West African Sub region. The CCT paradigm has three basic components namely

  1. A military strategic dimension
  2. An economic dimension
  3. A political dimension

The first circle pertains to the defense of the territorial boundaries of Nigeria and the states that are contiguous, which would constitute a basis for the defense of West Africa and Africa. Under this paradigm African Continental interest assumes a third position while the first position goes to the defense of Nigeria and relations with the contiguous states. The Concentric Circle Theory advocates a foreign policy of reassessment, self-appraisal and defense of Nigeria’s strategic interest before West Africa and then the continent.  

The theory therefore locates the strategic interest of Nigeria in the inner core-which emphasizes the Nigeria’s strategic defense, economic and diplomatic interest as illustrated in figure 1  

Figure 1: The Concentric Circle Theory illustrated  

The CCT analysis is hinged on the economic viability and full mobilization of the resources of the country, in which the internal security forms the foundation for a realistic diplomacy. When Nigeria might have been able to cater for the core circle, it would then put into consideration the and economic viability of the contiguous states. The second circle takes into consideration the strategic interest of the states in the West African sub-region. The third circle involves Nigeria’s foreign policy involvement in the African continent. 18  

The Afro-centric foreign policy posturing was emphasized by Jaja Wachukwu (1961) when he averred that:  

Our foreign policy is based on three basic pillars; the concept that Nigeria is an African nation; it is part and parcel of the continent of Africa and therefore it is so completely involved in anything that pertains to that continent… we are independent in everything, but neutral in nothing that affects the destiny of Africa….  The peace of Africa is the peace of Nigeria, its tribulations are our tribulations and we cannot be indifferent to its future. 19  

Nigeria demonstrated her Afro-centric Diplomacy more in the area of the liberation of Africa. In 1961, Nigeria played a crucial role in the events that led to the suspension of South Africa from the Commonwealth. Nigeria made generous donations to the Special Funds of the OAU Committee. Under the Gowon administration, South Africa received robust moral and financial support. This was the era Gambari aptly described as “Naira Spraying Diplomacy”.  

During the Murtala-Obasanjo era, recognition was given to the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) led by Agostinho Neto. It should be noted that South Africa and the U.S supported UNITA and FNLA. Nigeria liquidated British economic interest by nationalizing the British Petroleum and the Barclays Bank, over the latter’s refusal to support Zimbabwe’s independence. When eventually Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980 Nigeria offered N10 million to Zimbabwe to celebrate her independence. The Buhari regime also donated money to SWAPO and the ANC, if the role of Nigeria in Liberia, Sierra Leone and other African Countries is estimated Nigeria’s Afro-centric diplomacy still remains a constant. 20 . The Buhari government also recognized the Polisario in Western Sahara, and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). It should be noted without doubt that the internal security threat compounded by religious dichotomy and over-dependence on crude oil and gas as the largest foreign exchange earner have posed intractable problems to the national interest of Nigeria. 21

Recently, Nigeria seems persuaded to adopt citizen-centered diplomacy in which her collective actions will be based on “reciprocal niceness”. The concept of reciprocity is conceived to have a broader meaning as it has assumed an audacious connotation, animated by the postulation that the international community should take responsibility for its actions towards Nigeria.

The Murtala-Obasanjo regime demonstrated tremendous will power in forging a dynamic diplomacy within the context of the NAM. The regime described non-alignment as “Positive Neutrality” which means taking a stand on fundamental issues and not to sit on the fence. Obasanjo was even more explicit when he posited that:

We [Nigeria] like other Third World nations, have chosen the path of non-alignment as a philosophy in the conduct of our foreign policy, which means in essence that we welcome the friendship and cooperation of all the nations, on the basis of mutual respect and complete sovereign equality 22  

Nigeria traduced the Great Powers in meddling with the tortuous issues in Apartheid South Africa since the essence of the Havana Declaration affirmed the struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism, Zionism and all forms of domination, aggression and occupation.

On several occasions Nigeria demonstrated the principles of Nam. In the 1964 Cairo declaration, non-aligned states were urged to support the admission of communist China to the UN. Consequently at the UN General Assembly in 1965, Nigeria voted in favour of the aforestated resolutions.

Critics are enthusiastic that within Africa, Nigeria is a “giant” in many respects and it will be difficult for Nigeria to conjure the courage to reciprocate every action of her often smaller and less endowed neighbouring States.  Besides, for the past two decades, Nigeria’s political economy is characterized by a cocktail of negative statistics such as a rapidly declining economy, deteriorating infrastructural base, unbridled violence, poor external image and internal insecurity. Onyearu (2008) posits that citizen-centered diplomacy will not be practicable because Nigeria may not have the moral integrity to reciprocate the actions of many nations.  

The nitty-gritty of economic diplomacy is the management of Nigeria’s bilateral and multilateral economic relations to expand areas of mutually beneficial. Economic diplomacy emphasizes co-operation as a sine qua non for economic development. To achieve this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in conjunction with the Ministry of National Planning were to formulate and implement bilateral economic scientific and technical co-operation matters. Based on this modus operandi. Akinterinwa (1991) broadly defined economic diplomacy as:  

A non-confrontational policy, a tactic adopted to create an environment of mutual understanding between Nigeria and her economic partners in order to enhance domestic economic growth and development. The tactic is predicated on the offer by Nigeria of more incentives to investors, information dissemination, the mobilization of all relevant actors, the posting of “competent”  economic diplomats to man trade sections of Nigeria’s mission’s abroad, and above all, the search for general understanding of Nigeria’s economic problems by the country’s principal trading partners. 23  

Economic diplomacy has guided Nigeria’s external relations with African countries and this is manifest in the areas of trade, economic co-operation and technical assistance. Nigeria has played invaluable role in the eradication of colonialism and apartheid in South Africa. Until 1994, when South Africa conducted her first non-racial elections, Nigeria is irrevocably committed to the objective of liquidating colonialism, imperialism and apartheid. Nigeria took practical steps to discourage colonial rule in Africa. Indeed Africa became the centre-piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy.  

However, the dynamics of world diplomacy has made it imperative for Nigeria to adopt multilateralism, with the welfare of her citizens and the health of her economy as her overriding national interest.


This paper has examined the problematic of re-defining Nigeria’s national interest in the context of global diplomacy. As a nation, Nigeria needs to pay more attention to developing our relations with China, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries in East Asia. Over the years, the nation has demonstrated lack of focus and inability to fully apply the principle of international diplomacy to her advantage in spite of her enormous contributions to world peace and security. Since Nigeria’s Afro-centric policy has come under the nugget of criticism, there is need to advocate a foreign policy reversal that while Nigeria can remain active in African Affairs, the nation should seek to enhance national development and welfare of the citizens.


  • Nigeria should adopt economic diplomacy or what is akin to dollar diplomacy.24, where by the economic interest of the nation and the benefit to her citizens is given priority. The philosophy of citizen’s diplomacy the present administration is pushing can only make meaning when the collective interest of Nigerians is protected at home and abroad.
  • Nigeria needs to pay significant attention in developing diplomatic relations with countries such as China, Singapore, Malaysia, among others.
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should give priority to expertise and professionalism in making appointments to foreign missions; deployments should be based on specialization rather than pure political considerations.
  • Emphasis should be on multilateral diplomacy and there is need for Nigeria to curry the friendship of progressive nations in Europe, America and Asia.

Nigeria is harassed by bad statistics in terms of power supply, poor physical infrastructure, low capacity utilization and poor Human Capital Development, with good governance, the nation still stands the chance of maintaining a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. There is therefore the need to re-defined her foreign policy to project her image and recapture her leadership role in Africa. The re-definition of the Nigeria’s national interest and the pursuance of such objectives is by far more potent in engineering change than rebranding. Nigeria must play herself to reckoning among the big powers, engage in a forward looking multilateral diplomacy to revamp her image and resuscitate the economic well being of Nigerians at home and abroad.  


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