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Background to the Study

To state that Nigeria is obsessed with the interest and material. Wellbeing of her sister African countries is to state the obvious. This is evident in the country’s foreign policy formulations and execution right from the time of her First Republic up to the present time. Nigeria’s self-image as more or less the most powerful country in Africa (especially in terms of population size and wealth), and hence the “natural” leader of the continent, has been the be most propelling factor for putting herself in the forefront of African affairs since the attainment of her independence in 1960.

Accordingly, Africa has remained the centre-piece of her foreign policy from the inception of her independence to the present day. Nigeria’s afro-centric posture can be adequately explained within the context of the power theory as a framework of analysis. The power theory relates to the elements of state power that are used by scholars of international relations to assess and compare the relative powers of states in the international community. Prominent among the elements are level of technological development, population, diplomacy, natural resources and economic power. Compared to other African countries, Nigeria is most blessed with these elements. This explains why Nigeria is widely regarded as the natural leader of Africa.

The possession of the elements of state power by a country does not necessarily imply a leadership position in a region. In view of this, Joseph Way as has warned against the bloated perception of Nigeria as Africa’s greatest power on the mere assumption that she is blessed with an abundance of the elements of state power. As he put it:

And even less true is the notion that such wealth, the object of our euphoria, can alone make for leadership…leadership abroad can never be sustained or .successful unless it is complemented by good leadership at home (Wayas,1979: 21).

Nonetheless, there is no disputing the tact that Nigeria, despite certain imitations, is recognized even internationally as the dominant power in Africa.

Thus, Shaw (1989:208) was emphatic when he said that Nigeria has always been primus inter pares in post-colonial Africa but international recognition of her power potential increased dramatically along with the price of oil in the mid 1970s. Overnight Nigeria’s image underwent a transformation from one of a sleeping giant to one of OPEC major.

Indeed, Nigeria’s economic power, political will and diplomacy have made it possible for her to play a unique role in African affairs. Nigeria under the umbrellas of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the United Nations Organization (UNO) spearheaded the international crusade that paved the way for the independence of Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia. She also played a leading role in dismantling the apartheid regime in South Africa. All these are consistent with her afro-centric posture.

In all, Nigeria has been actively involved in helping to resolve both intra-African and extra-African problems, lending credence to the fact that Nigeria is indeed Africa’s regional power. Becoming a permanent member of the Security Council is both necessary and desirable since that will put her in a better position to champion the cause of Africa both within Africa and in the international community.

But given the fact that the situation that initially necessitated the adoption of the afrocentric doctrine in the country’s foreign policy has been pursued to its logical conclusion with the granting of independence to all colonial territories in Africa, is it not time for Nigeria to substitute afro-centrism with Nigerianism? Or how can the country’s foreign policy makers still justify the continuity of afro-centrism in the country’s foreign policy drive in the 21st century? These posers constitute the main problem addressed in the paper.

Background of Nigeria’s Afro-centric Posture

Africa is the centre-piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy with events making Southern Africa the immediate focus” (Herskovits, 1978: 186)

Herskovits observation about the place of Africa in Nigeria’s foreign policy is apt. There can be no gainsaying the fact that African affairs constitute the focal point of Nigeria’s foreign policy. This became unequivocally certain and palpable at the end of the country’s 30-month civil war in 1970.Prior to that time, the commonwealth of which Nigeria became a full-pledged member on becoming independent in 1960, dominated her foreign policy calculations. It was the commonwealth, the world, and Africa in that order. The re-ordering in the early 1970s was essentially dictated by the lessons of the war. One of the lessons was the OAU’s overwhelming support and sympathy for the Federal Government cause on the one hand, and the shocking vacillation of the country’s so-called western allies on the other hand at the outbreak of the civil war. As Ofoegou (1978:27) notes:

It was however the Nigerian civil war which completely removed the commonwealth from the dominating position it had occupied in Nigeria’s foreign policy between 1954 and 1967 and replaced it with a new emphasis on Africa, a more realistic posture towards Europe and a genuine cultivation of the friendship of Russia and Eastern Europe

It is in the pursuance of the afro- centric policy that Nigeria has since the early 1970s, continued to commit a lot of her resources and time to African affairs. Much of these resources had gone into helping to wipe out the remaining colonial vestiges in Southern Africa and the dismantling of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Akinyemi (1979: 63) has given a succinct account of Nigeria’s commitment to African affairs during the Mohammed/Obasanjo regime:

Seventy-ve percent of the time and energy of the foreign ofce staff is consumed by African affairs. Ninety-ve percent of the technical and nancial assistance during this period was directed at the continent. Over 75% of the policy differences between Nigeria and other industrialized countries revolve around African issues, especially Southern Africa issues.

Nigeria’s afro-centric posture undoubtedly gained greater momentum during the Mohammed/Obasanjo regime (Akinyemi, 1979:154). The regime blazed the trail of its foreign policy activism in Angola (Akinyemi 1979:157). Thenceforth, anti apartheid activism became a major plank of Nigeria’s foreign policy. As the then Nigeria’s External Affairs Minister. Major General Garba (rtd) (1987:11) observes, “our action in Angola would epitomise this new orientation and emphasis (afrocentrism). Henceforth, Africa would be the centre-piece of our foreign policy….”

There is no doubt that the vigour with which Nigeria has been pursuing her afro-centric policy, particularly since 1975 had contributed in no small measure to the granting of independence to the oppressed peoples of Southern Africa by their respective white supremacist regimes. For example, Nigeria played a leading role in the events that culminated in the granting of independence to Angola, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Namibia in 1975, 1980 and 1990 respectively. Besides, Nigeria’s afro- centric dynamism contributed immensely to the dismantling of the apartheid system and the introduction of a non-racial democracy in the Republic of South Africa in April, 1994.

Reasons for Nigeria’s Afro-Centric Policy

Even though there have been some negative reactions at home to the country’s apparent over-indulgence in her afro-centric foreign policy, there is a consensus in the academic circles that the policy is justiable and worth embarking upon by Nigeria. Various reasons have been advanced by different scholars as to why Nigeria has been constrained to adopt the afro-centric posture more or less as an article of faith.

One, Gambari (1984), for example, has asserted that Nigeria accounts for 20% of Africa’s total population, providing one out of every six persons in the entire black diaspora. “Therefore, Gambari (1984) argues, making Africa the pivot from which the wheel of our foreign policy radiates is only natural”.

Two, Nweke (1985: 19) argues that afro-entrism could help the continent to achieve the ideals of pan-africanism with “a common ideological basis for the advancement both of national independence and collective security” Like Nkrumah of Ghana, Sir Balewa who later became the First Prime Minister of Nigeria had declared that independence for Nigeria world be incomplete without independence for all other African states. Nigeria’s attitude in this regard has remained unchanged since her independence up to the present day. For example, General Gowon (rtd) in his days as the Nigerian head of state used to stress the urgent need to free at east one African territory in every three years.

Three, the afro-centric character of Nigeria’s foreign policy is partly a response to the call for “the unity of African people in one independent political community, embracing all ethnic and national groups and free from political, economic and racial domination” (Nweke, 1985:19).

Although Balewa had rightly opposed Nkrumah’s idea of a pan- African government on the ground that it was “premature” in the early sixties, he nevertheless acceded to the view that pan-Africans could provide a comfortable solution to Africa’s problems (Gareau, 1962:480). Accordingly, since independence Nigeria has never wavered in her resolve to place Africa rst in her foreign policy drive.

Four, Africa’s security could be viewed to be coterminous with Nigeria’s national security (Nweke 1985:20). This implies that a threat to the national security of Nigeria or that of any other African country would be a threat to the security of the entire continent as the destinies and solidarity of all African states are inextricably bound up. In view of this, Nkrumah (1961: xi) had argued that the essential fact remains that we are all Africans and have a common interest the independence of Africa. The call for an African High Command (AHC) by Nkrumah and other eminent African statesmen was inspired by the need to nd a means for a collective African defence against possible extra-African aggression on the continent. For Nigeria, this point is particularly important since the country lays claims to the leadership of the continent. This then explains why Nigeria has been in the forefront of the African countries that have been brave enough to openly condemn foreign intervention in African affairs. While addressing the Khartoum Summit of the OAU in July 1978, for example, the then Nigeria Military Head of State, General Obasanjo (rtd) (Legum n.d.), warnedinter alia.

In the context of foreign intervention in Africa, there are three parties involved. These are the Soviets and other socialist countries, the western powers and we the Africans…. To the Soviets and their friends. I should like to say that having been invited to Africa in order to assist in the struggle and consolidation of national independence, they should not overstay their welcome. Africa is not about to throw off one colonial yoke for another.

Nigeria’s anti-colonial crusade and opposition to extra-African interventions in Africa manifested itself in her active support for the armed confrontations by the liberation movements against the white supremacist regimes in Southern Africa. Nigeria supplied arms, money, and other forms of material assistance to the liberation ghters in Southern Africa. At the continental level, a joint declaration was issued in 1965 to the effect that any act of external subversion would be collectively and rmly opposed by any means by the African states (Brownlie, 1971:17). Thus, afro-centrism as a doctrine could be seen as an integral part of the pan-African philosophy. This philosophy is expected to permeate the foreign policy of every African state. Nigeria’s afro-centric posture can therefore be rightly said to conform the ideals of pan-Africanism. That Nigeria’s inclination to panAfricanism is outstanding in Africa is understandable in the sense that Nigeria is the natural leader of the continent. It was with this in mind that Sir Balewa said “Nigeria will have a wonderful opportunity to speak for the continent of Africa” (Ogwu 1986 :101).

Five, arising from the last point is another reason for Nigeria’s afro- centric posture. This is that Nigeria’s afro-centric posture is aimed at the total liberation of the African continent (Nweke 1985:21). In this regard, Nigeria hopes to help eliminate all traces of imperialism and neo-colonialism on the continent by holding onto Africa as the corner stone of her foreign policy.

Six, an obvious reason for Nigeria’s afro-centric posture is the county’s perception of her self as the destined leader of the continent. This perception nds practical expression in the county’s leading role in African affairs. This posture has been adopted by successive governments of the country since her independence in 1960, and it is informed by the country’s disproportionately large population size and wealth. As Wright (1981:165) observes, “the common perception in the country (Nigeria) is to see Nigeria as Africa’s natural leader given its predominant size and wealth”. Internationally, Nigeria is indeed acclaimed as the beacon of Africa. For this reason, Herring had said: “from the standpoint of the west, the most acceptable forecast would be: as Nigeria goes so goes Africa” (As quoted in Akinyemi 1987:155.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Afro-centrism is consistent with the country’s leadership role on the continent. This posture has given Nigeria worldwide visibility and recognition as the dominant power in Africa. However, there is a tendency on the part of successive governments of the country to waste a lot of the country’s resources on other African countries without any element of reciprocity. This is a disservice to the country particularly the poor masses who cannot afford three good meals a day


1.3 Objectives of the study

  1. To understand the impact of Nigeria foreign policy on peace building within Africa
  2. To identify challenges facing the implementation of Nigeria foreign policy

3 To understand the relationship between Nigeria foreign policy and peace building in Africa


1.4 Research Questions

  1. What the impact of Nigeria foreign policy on peace building within Africa
  2. What are challenges facing the implementation of Nigeria foreign policy

3 What is the relationship between Nigeria foreign policy and peace building in Africa


1.5 Research Hypothesis

H0: Nigeria foreign policy does not have a significant impact on peace building within Africa

H1: Nigeria foreign policy have a significant impact on peace building within Africa

H0: There is no relationship between Nigeria foreign policy and peace building in Africa

H1: There is a relationship between Nigeria foreign policy and peace building in Africa











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