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Nigeria: Regaining Our Voice In A Season Of Diplomatic Anomie

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I was in Victoria Falls,   acity in Zimbabwe, for a UNECA con￾ference. During my
cab ride into town
from the airport, the driver
(I don’t quite remember his
name now) at my prompt￾ing started a conversation
around the economy of Zim￾babwe under President Em￾merson Mnanagawa, better
known as “ Crocodile.”

He was eager to discuss the poli￾tics and economies of Zimba￾bwe and Nigeria drawing co￾maprisons. According to him, unlike what happens in Nige￾ria, the average Zimbabwean  is not allowed to discuss pol￾itics or economy of the coun￾try but he could, talking with
me because I was Nigerian.

Then he made a not quite sur￾prising comment about “Ni￾gerians,” he said “we’re cou￾rageous and smart.”He talked
about our prowess in football,
music , the arts , our stories on
corruption and how the entire
black race looks up to Nigeria
for leadership. He also said,
from what he gathered watch￾ing Nollywood movies, Nige￾rians would go to any length
to make money and had a scant
regard for life . His comments
got me worried and thinking.
Nigeria is home to the largest concentration of black people in the world.

We are the largest black immigrant group in the US, United Kingdom and Canada. Our country has nat￾ural resources, a lot of which
remian untapped.

We have a thriving film industry and a burgeoning creative econo￾my. We were in the the fore￾front of the fight against apart￾heid and the struggle for the
liberation of most african coun- tries. One of us, the late Chief
Moshood Abiola even cham- pioned the campaign for pay- ment of repatriation for all the
years of slavery .

It would be  naturalfor Nigeria and Nigeri￾ans to expect respect and love from its neighbours because of
how much it has invested in the
support of the cause of African
nations. Unfortunately recent
happeneings and hostilities by our neighbours and other countries may mean that we do some introspection and evaluate our diploma￾cy.

This aggression on dif￾ferent fronts – some eco￾nomic and others political is troubling. The recent de￾molition of part of Nigeri￾an embassy in Accra Gha￾na for instance. Some have  saidthe demolition may  havepolitical undertones.

A few persons alleged that
the dominance of Ghanian
economic space by Nige- rians is a contributory fac- tor. What however appears to be the key undertone is  theimputation that Nigeri￾an politicians are suspect￾ed to play a role in Ghana’s internal politics coupled with the boarder closure which nearly wrecked the
Ghanian economy.

The de￾molition, by a government
agency controlled by the ruling party in Ghana ap- peared as a troubling ex￾tension of the politics of resistance and rising na- tionalism which is sweep￾ing across the globe. No thanks to President Don ald Trump and Prime Min￾ister Boris Johnson, cham￾pions of this brand of  primitive nationalism .
The Xenophobic attack  of foreigners especial￾ly Nigerians in South Af￾rica, on the other hand is   thee dimension of the primitive nationalism .

South Africans do not care
about our contributions to
the anti apartheid strug- gle which is well known.

The average South Afri￾can sees the relative afflu- ence of Nigerians living in  their country as economic
invasion which should not
be allowed to thrive. Ni￾gerians own the major car dealership by blacks in SA, Insurance companies, up- scale restaurants , fash- ion houses and even em￾ploy black South Africans.

The result of this is that the
South Africans feel threat￾ened by the success of  “strangers” in their coun- try and so attack them.
Many miles across the world from South Africa a different kind of hostili￾ty was brewing. At the on￾set of Covid 19 epidemics Nigerians amongst oth- er Africans who reside and do business in Guang- zhou, the main commer- cial city of Guangdong Province,faced discrimi- nation and Stigmatization.

They were targeted for ha￾rassment, humiliation and
eviction from their homes.
This is despite the fact that
China and Nigeria share strong economic ties and
a growing trade relation- ship. Unfortunately many
Chinese believe that for- eigners including Nige￾rians have been giving  a lot of latitude in China
and may constitute threat
to economic prosperity of
the citizens of the coun￾try.

China’s diplomacy￾which is a fall out of do￾mestic politics, is strongly
hinged on economic state￾craft and citizens welfare , beyond seeking regional in￾fluence and global respect.

There have been numer￾ous other reports of dis￾crimination, racism , and ill treatment of Nigerians
in India, Ukraine, Rus￾sia, Malaysia, all of which point to a fast disappear￾ing international clout.
Most recently ,though embarrassing,Nigerians
resident in Indonesia went
to the Nigerian House in Ja- karta to protest over alleged
discrimination and viola- tion of their human rights  by Indonesian immigration officials.

Diplomatic relationships
between countries is often
times a balance of terror.
Countries weigh the po￾litical ,economic and mil￾itary consequences before
they act. Governments of￾ten consider the likely re- percussion of their actions or of their citizens against those of other countries and
this determines their for- eign policy and reaction  in a crisis. This is the rea￾son why few countries can  afford to play with United
States interest and that of
her citizens. Once upon a
time no country, including
those of the affluent West
could afford a face off with
Nigeria.

These days, how- ever, many nations includ- ing third world countries  appear not to care. Our
country has lost political
prestige, regional leader- ship and economic poten- cy. This loss of influence reflects on how our citizens are treated by others around the world.

One of the reasons these countries may illtreat our citizens may be because we ourselves do not seem
to value the lives of our people. At least this is the signal other countries get from the security and eco￾nomic developments in
Nigeria. unfortunately but
true , no country can do
more to protect the people
abroad than they do for the
people at home.

We must work harder to protect the
rights of every Nigerian,
especially the most vul￾nerable amongst us. Our country must live up to its billing by providing an en￾vrionment that gurantees
quality of life and living.

Very often Foreign Pol- icy is linked to domestic governance, especially the economic development of
the country. Our expec￾tation is that Nigeria’s in- ternational engagement should be driven primarily by domestic concerns such as raising standard of liv- ing of the citizenry , erad￾icating poverty, reducing
inequality, spurring eco￾nomic growth and gener￾al security of citizens.

This should guide the overarch￾ing direction of our Dip- lomatic engagements. Recent developments point to the fact that our diplo￾matic relations is becom- ing less and less assertive to the point that other coun￾tries do not know were we stand on international secu- rity or global governance issues.

Nigeria must reass￾es its foreign policy and re￾define its role as big broth- er and leader of the global black community. Our for￾eign policy handlers must
consciously uphold Nige￾ria’s historical role as lead￾er of the black race . Abdi- cation of that role is both a betrayal of trust and failure of leadership.

Our country must be ready to assert our
political and diplomatic leadership regionally and globally . We must be will￾ing to force those conversa￾tions as the need arises and compel respect for our peo￾ple by first treating our cit￾izens right. It is only then that the rest of the worldwill respect us and treat
our people with the digni￾ty they deserve, and that is the path to regaining our re￾gional and global influence.

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