ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE RETREAT ON THE REVIEW OF NIGERIA’S FOREIGN POLICY, MONDAY 1ST AUGUST, 2011
1. It is my pleasure to address this august gathering of International Relations experts and foreign policy practitioners at the start of the Retreat on the Review of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy. Let me start by thanking the Presidential Advisory Council on International Relations for organizing this important Foreign Policy Review Conference. I have every confidence that with the calibre of experts assembled for this exercise, a future of exciting possibilities lies ahead for our nation’s foreign policy pursuits.
2. At the dawn of our independence, our founding fathers rightly devoted attention and our nation’s scarce resources to the decolonization process and the eradication of racism from the African continent. To the extent that these were blights on the dignity of the black race, they were legitimate foreign policy pursuits for our country.
3. As President, I stand before you to affirm that our country did, indeed, play a leading and facilitating role in the emancipation of the African continent from colonialism and racial discrimination. These are achievements we can all be proud of.
4. As the most populous black nation on earth, it seemed our manifest destiny, is to champion the cause of African emancipation and integration.
5. To be sure, African renaissance remains an unfinished business, but the work that remains should not stop us from focusing on new priorities and challenges.
6. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no doubt in my mind that our post-independence foreign policy served our country well. The question that naturally flows from this assertion is why the need for a review if current policy is effective and serving the national interest? I agree with those who think that a review is necessary in order to fully capture emerging challenges and also to inject new dynamism into our foreign policy. I must caution, however, that the changes or adjustments we seek through this review should not merely be for the sake of change.
7. We should rather be looking at how we can deploy our foreign policy at the service of our nation’s domestic priorities.
8. In the era of globalization; at a time of grave challenges to national and international security, such as we face from terrorism and transnational criminal networks; at a time of massive poverty and youth restiveness in our country, we have no choice but to adjust and adapt the way we conduct foreign policy. As we respond to the forces of globalization, perhaps more than ever before, our diplomacy must be put at the service of our domestic priorities.
9. As you are all aware, the upheavals of the late 1980’s brought an end to bipolarity and ideology as organizing principles of international relations.
10. The rise of new economic powers outside the traditional economic centres of Euro-America has altered the landscape of international political economy and economic partnership arrangements, as we see happening in the ongoing dialogue between Africa and China, on one hand, and with India, on the other.
11. All these changes present both challenges and opportunities in the murky world of international politics. I expect this retreat not only to come up with ideas on how to re-design our foreign policy, but also strategies for achieving our foreign policy objectives.
12. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in my Inaugural Address of 29 May, 2011, I enunciated what I believe could form the outlines of our country’s future foreign policy direction.
13. In that Address, I indicated that, “Nigeria, in partnership with the African Union, will lead the process for democracy and development in Africa. In particular through support towards the consolidation of democracy, good governance and human rights in the continent”.
14. In taking a firm position on democracy, my objective was to challenge Nigerians to see democracy as the future of their country and for all of Africa. As a nation, we have taken the right decision to embrace democracy. Democracy is good for Nigeria because it can help us build a just, fair and inclusive nation. For me, there is no greater indignity, no greater disrespect for the values that bind us together as a nation than to deprive citizens of a say in who would govern them.
15. This is the philosophical basis of the marching order I gave to all our diplomatic Missions abroad in my Inaugural Address to “accord this vision of defending the dignity of humanity the highest priority”.
16. Since foreign policy is the externalization of domestic priorities and the aspiration of citizens, the big challenge for Nigerian diplomacy, is to articulate and vigorously market the country as a conducive environment in which to do business. Afterall, for a developing country like Nigeria, poverty eradication, job creation, economic progress and security are some of the top priorities on the national agenda which must necessarily drive foreign policy undertakings. The dignity of humanity must therefore be defended at home and abroad.
17. I believe economic diplomacy is entirely compatible with democracy promotion, for at least two reasons. First, building a strong economy will help us build a strong, stable, prosperous and peaceful country, where democracy will thrive and business will flourish, and where citizens can live and pursue their dreams with dignity under the protection of the law. Second, it is in Nigeria’s interest to promote the culture of democracy across Africa. Since it is the surest way to guarantee peace, justice and happiness in the continent.
18. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I do not mean to prejudge the outcome of your deliberations, but I feel I must share some of my thoughts regarding some general principles that have evolved from our historical experience as a nation. First, I believe our foreign policy must reflect the aspirations of a democratic Nigeria.
19. Second, when the issues are unambiguous as, for example, when the interests of Africa are as stake, we must be assertive but not dogmatic. Our objective should always be to negotiate the best possible outcome for Africa in the belief that when Africa does well, Nigeria’s interests would be well served.
20. Third, given the increasing inter-connectedness of the world, we would do well to pursue a robust multilateral diplomacy, but this should not be at the expense of our bilateral relationships. We should, therefore, continue to build and deepen our partnerships with friendly countries. In all cases, these relationships must be anchored on mutual respect and responsiveness.
21. As a responsible member of the international community, Nigeria must remain committed to the principles and purposes of the UN. It is in Nigeria’s interest to continue to share our peace-keeping experiences with regional and sub-regional organisations in Africa, including ECOWAS. In other words, our commitment to regional and international peace and security must remain as strong as ever.
22. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as Nigeria’s window to the outside world, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must constantly raise its game to match international best practices. This necessarily calls for periodic introspection and self-renewal, the objective being to ensure sustainable coherence and adaptability in a rapidly changing and competitive environment.
23. In other words, for it to be able to cope with Nigeria’s growing responsibilities on the world stage, the Foreign Ministry must itself be reformed to equip it with the competencies necessary to drive policy implementation.
24. Looking forward, the challenge should be to create a knowledge-driven, confident, nimble and globally competitive Service, which would be able to respond to the many challenges and opportunities in the external environment.
25. In conclusion, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I charge the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to embark on a comprehensive documentation of the various roles our nation had played globally in her determined contributions to human progress.
26. Such documentation will hopefully capture our past commitments, our losses, and gains, and help guide our future endeavours. It will also serve as a constant reminder to us as we refocus our reform objectives and aspirations. We need this documentation as quickly as possible so as to indicate what our founding fathers had done and to also use it to engage the international community more constructively.
27. I wish you well in your deliberations and hope that you arrive at very fruitful outcomes.
28. Thank you and God bless.