By INNOCENT ODOH |
On Tuesday, February 16, the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs organised an induction course for the Nigerian Ambassadors-designate, Consuls and Charge d’ Affairs, to fine-tune them on the foreign policy objectives of Nigeria and the diplomatic niceties required to project them to the outside world.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in his message to the prospective envoys, urged them project Nigeria’s image in a positive light and uphold standards that will bring honour to the country.
Speaking virtually, President Muhammadu Buhari said “you must not forget that you have been posted to your respective bilateral and multilateral Missions to represent and project Nigeria as a great and indivisible nation and a very attractive investment destination.
“In our effort to achieve realistic development oriented domestic and foreign policies, the government has identified nine (9) priority areas to guide our policy directions and thrust within the time frame of 2019-2023.
PMB said : “These are: build a thriving and sustainable economy; enhance social inclusion and reduce poverty; enlarge agricultural output for food security and export; attain energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products; expand transport and other infrastructural development; expand business opportunities, entrepreneurship and industrialisation; expand access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigerians. “
He also admonished them to promote trade, human capacity development, foreign direct investment and other areas of cooperation with countries at national and multilateral levels to support Nigeria’s national growth and development.
The words of the President were as persuasive as they were forward- looking, yet the issues he raised would challenge even the most imaginative diplomats judging by the myriad of challenges Nigeria faces at this critical time of the misfortune of COVID-19.
The sum total of robust foreign policy objectives of a nation, according to experts, is a reflection of the vitality of the domestic policies of the nation. The strength of a nation outside is also a measure of the strength, cohesion, unity of its people and ultimately the economic power and political stability of the nation.
Nigeria, in recent times, has been beleaguered by some internal combustion marked by renewed ethnic clashes in parts of the country. The country is also tottering on the wave of perennial insurgency, unending banditry and kidnapping that has reached industrial scale with the latest victims being hapless students of Government Science School Kagara in Niger state, and others who were kidnapped by yet to be identified gunmen on Tuesday, February 16.
The country is grappling with youth unemployment of nearly 30 per cent owing to a troubled economy with the population growing at 3.2 per cent while the economy is still struggling to exit a second recession. Inflation has hit 16.47 per cent in January amid diminishing Foreign Direct and even domestic investments. This quagmire has necessitated insinuations in some quarters that the ambassadors may find it difficult to sell Nigeria to the outside world.
A senior Lecturer with the Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Abuja, Dr. Sheriff Ghali, does not sound confident about the diplomatic posturing of the federal government.
He told LEADERSHIP Sunday that charity begins at home, stressing that the Nigerian government must build a thriving economy, make deliberate efforts to fight insurgency and unite the people the more, otherwise the ambassadors may not really have anything new to tell the international community.
“I don’t think these envoys have anything to show to the international community that is new. But the only way and manner they can convince the international community is when the government at home changes the way and manner the domestic policies are being implemented. They need to face national challenges seriously and deal with them at the domestic level.
“The international community is very much aware of Nigeria, the international community is very much aware of the challenges bedeviling Nigeria. So, before the envoys can represent Nigeria, there has to be a change in the way and manner Nigeria will handle the issues of banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram insurgency. That is the only way to change the narrative at the international scene otherwise things will remain the same just the way they were ten years ago,” he said.
Despite the mounting challenges, however, Nigerians remain optimistic that the nation’s future is bright in the international community as many nations are beginning to open more doors and windows of opportunities to Nigeria courtesy of the diplomatic exploits of the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.
One of the ambassadors-designate, who pleaded anonymity, said “Nigeria is leading in Africa as the largest economy. It is the centerpiece of global focus on the continent and the bastion of hope. Nigeria is blessed with enormous human and materials resources and the investment destination for most nations.
“China is looking towards Nigeria, Europe is looking towards Nigeria. So, our work is already cut-out for us. The government has selected a team of experienced, dedicated and patriotic people as envoys and we will swing into action immediately to show the world our strength, resourcefulness, our talents and our vision.”
The International arena is burgeoning with massive opportunities but the major task is for the Nigerian government to build a competitive economy through investment in manufacturing so that the nation can have products to sell to earn foreign exchange. The current government has invested in infrastructure development but more appears needed to breach the gap. Therefore, the task before the envoys is to look out for areas where they can harness global resources and apply the right strategy to negotiate favourable trade relations from partners at bilateral and multilateral levels.